Day-by-day SaaS Free Trial Playbook

day-by-day saas free trial playbook

Today, I want to share the SaaS free trial best practices followed by different companies to help you create your free trial strategy. Welcome to the playbook.

What is SaaS Free Trial?

A SaaS free trial is a period during which users can use and test a product without any cost.

This trial period allows potential customers to explore the features, functionality, and benefits of the software before committing to a paid subscription.

It is a widely used and effective strategy for SaaS companies to attract new users, show value, and convert trial users into paying customers.

How A Free Trial Period Should Look Like?

A well-structured free trial period should be designed to gradually introduce users to the software, highlight its value, and guide them towards a decision to subscribe. Here’s what makes a successful free trial period:

Elements

  • A smooth onboarding process
  • Feature highlighting to introduce users to both core and advanced features
  • Regular communication with automated emails, personalized messages
  • Personalization based on user behavior and intent data
  • Resources such as tutorials, webinars, and guides
  • Support availability through FAQs, live chat, email support, or dedicated account managers
  • Clear and compelling reasons to upgrade

Benefits

  • User acquisition without credit card commitment
  • Show of full value and benefits of the product
  • Increased likelihood of converting trial users into paying customers
  • Early and frequent user engagement leading to higher retention rates
  • Collection of valuable user feedback for product and process improvement

Outcomes

  • High engagement with active use of the product throughout the trial period
  • Positive user experience with easy and beneficial use of the product
  • Informed decision making with a clear understanding of the product’s value
  • Increased free trial conversion with a significant percentage of trial users upgrading
  • Valuable feedback that helps improve the product and trial experience

Day 1: Onboarding and First Impressions

It starts when a user signs up and starts the trial. Some companies starts it immediately upon sign-up and some others asks for it.

The first day of a free trial is for setting the tone and ensuring a smooth start for new users. Either way, the first day of the free trial is about:

  • Onboarding the user
  • Setting up the product
  • Not boring them
  • Tips and triggers to try further

Personalization

Understand the use case to personalize the product experience for the user. It can be through a quick survey or question.

personalize product experience example
personalize product experience example

LiveChatAI asks about the use case in a short pop-up to personalize the free trial.

Welcome Message

A warm and informative welcome message is no longer something people even read, but it is a must-have element for a welcome. You can still use your chance to take users attention and give a message.

saas free trial welcome message example
saas welcome message example

For instance, Fireflies.ai welcomes users with a clear and friendly message that outlines what to expect and how to get started. This message should:

  • Welcome the user
  • Provide a brief overview of the product and its main benefits
  • Include a call-to-action (CTA) to start using the product, such as “See Demo” or “Try it out.”
  • Offer support contact information for any questions or issues

Setup Guide

Providing a step-by-step setup guide is essential. This could be in the form of a checklist, video tutorial, or interactive guide. Look at how companies like Fireflies.ai and LiftOS use checklists to guide users through initial steps.

saas free trial welcome checklist example
saas free trial welcome checklist example

LiftOS offers a welcome checklist and welcome space in different formats to help users get started with the product as fast as possible.

saas free trial setup guide example
saas free trial setup guide example

Similarly, Fireflies.ai also have a checklist box on their dashboard to help people get started.

saas free trial checklist for getting started example
saas free trial checklist for getting started example

Their checklist includes essentials to use the product effectively, like:

  • Transcribe your first meeting (value)
  • Install browser extensions or mobile apps (better usage)
  • Add teammates for collaboration (team-level adoption)
  • Integrate with other apps (e.g., Slack, CRM, Notion) (productivity)

Quick Start Tips

Offering quick start tips helps users get value from the product immediately.

quick tips for saas free trial example
quick tips for saas free trial example

LiftOS offers a Welcome Space with a tips to how to use the workspace and pages effectively.

start guide example for saas
start guide example for saas

LiveChatAI provides a quick start guide, like a setup checklist, to give users tips on how to create their first chatbot.

template library example for free trial
template library example for free trial

Also, offering templates or quick start materials are also some kind of tips to help users understand the value faster. Retable has a library of templates for different use cases and purposes.

offer basic features and adoption materials during trial
offer basic features and adoption materials during trial

LiftOS offers a template library for different productivity purposes for teams.

Support

Providing support through interactive tutorials and a rich library of resources can significantly enhance the SaaS free trial experience. Ensure users know how to get help if they need it. This can be through:

  • FAQs
  • Live chat support
  • Email support
  • Dedicated account managers or onboarding specialists
intercom help center for saas onboarding example
intercom help center for saas onboarding example

tl;dv follows a very common practice for support which is an Intercom chatbot and help center implementation right in their product.

onboarding support elements example
onboarding support elements example

LiftOS offers a set of support materials, which is also a very effective way for users to choose the way they feel better. It includes:

  • Slack community
  • Feedback option
  • Changelog view
  • Roadmap view
  • Help center

Example Implementation for Day 1

  1. Send Welcome Email
    • Subject: “Welcome to [Your Product]! Let’s Get Started”
    • Body: A warm greeting, brief product overview, CTA to start using the product, support contact info.
  2. Provide Setup Guide
  3. • Include a checklist similar to the Fireflies.ai or LiftOS example: a checklist with bullets about value, better usage, adoption and productivity.
  4. Highlight Key Features
    • Emphasize core functionalities with tooltips, triggers, templates, etc.
  5. Offer Tutorials and Resources
    • Link to tutorial videos or a help center.
  6. Ensure Support Availability
    • Highlight how to access live chat, email support, or dedicated onboarding specialists.

Day 3: Engaging with Core Features

If users are still active on day 3, it’s important to deepen their engagement by showcasing the core features of your product and illustrating real-world benefits.

Feature Highlight

Focus on one of the core features of your product and demonstrate its value. Provide a mini-tutorial or guide to help users understand how to use this feature effectively. This can be done through:

  • In-app pop-ups or tooltips
  • A short video tutorial
  • Detailed step-by-step guides
advanced features highlights
advanced features highlights

Fireflies.ai highlights their premium feature, AskFred in their dashboard.

video tutorial example for saas free trial
video tutorial example for saas free trial

LiveChatAI provides a video tutorial for their advanced features.

advanced features upgrade example
advanced features upgrade example

tl;dv keeps a limited use of AI reports and triggers an update for more.

Case Study

Share a relevant case study that shows how another company or teams benefited from your product. This can help users see the practical applications and advantages of the feature. Include:

  • The problem faced by the user/company
  • How your product’s feature solved the problem
  • The results and benefits gained

tl;dv sends a mail where they explain how different teams use tl;dv and invite you to discover more.

Day 7: Analyze Intent Data and Follow-Up

By day 7, it’s important to assess user engagement and customize your follow-up actions accordingly.

Analyze Intent Data

Collect and analyze data on how users have interacted with your product so far.

  • Login frequency
  • Feature usage patterns
  • Completion of onboarding tasks
  • Other intent signals
usermotion customer and intent fit score
usermotion customer and intent fit score

UserMotion helps you collect the intent data for the users during free trial. It sends alert and signal summary when there is a high intent that can be used for the follow-up messages.

convert free trial users into paying customers get usermotion demo

Personalized Follow-Up

Create personalized messages for each user segment to enhance their engagement.

custom messages and in-app popups to leads
custom messages and in-app popups to leads

Day 10: Encouraging Deeper Engagement

On day 10, focus on enhancing user engagement by implementing lead scoring and providing personalized insights.

Implement Lead Scoring

Evaluate user interactions and assign scores to gauge their likelihood of conversion:

  • High Scores: Frequent logins, extensive feature usage, and completion of onboarding steps.
  • Moderate Scores: Regular logins with moderate feature usage.
  • Low Scores: Infrequent logins and minimal interaction.

Segment Leads

Categorize users based on their lead scores:

  • Hot Leads: Users with high scores, indicating strong engagement and conversion potential.
  • Warm Leads: Users with moderate scores who may need further nurturing.
  • Cold Leads: Users with low scores and minimal engagement.
high intent leads in saas free trial conversion usermotion
high intent leads in saas free trial conversion usermotion

Collect Feedback

Ask for feedback to understand user experiences and gather insights for improvement.

feature feedback survey
feature feedback survey

Provide Personalized Insights

Send custom insights and recommendations to each user segment:

  • Hot Leads: Offer a usage summary and advanced tips. Example: “In the past 10 days, you’ve used [Feature] extensively. Here’s how you can get even more value from it.”
  • Warm Leads: Suggest ways to enhance their experience. Example: “We see you’re using [Feature] frequently. Did you know you can [Advanced Use Case]? Here’s how.”
  • Cold Leads: Offer support and easy wins to boost engagement. Example: “It looks like you haven’t explored [Feature] yet. Here’s a quick guide to get started.”

Day 15: Conversion Push

The final day of the SaaS free trial period should focus on reminding their trial has ended, summarizing the user’s journey, making special offers, and providing clear next steps for conversion.

Reminder

Remind users that their trial is about to/has come to the end.

free trial ends alert example
free trial ends alert example

Retable puts a banner on the dashboard remind that when the user’s free trial has ended, they won’t have an access to their files.

remind users their trial has ended example
remind users their trial has ended example

AnnounceKit puts a red warning about the expiration of the free trial period.

Trial Summary

Summarize the key activities and benefits the user has experienced during the trial. Highlight:

  • Usage statistics
  • Achievements and milestones
  • Positive outcomes

Special Offer

Provide a special offer such as a discount or extended trial. Example: “Upgrade to a paid plan within the next 3 days and get a 20% discount for the first 3 months.”

free trial offers cta example
free trial offers cta example

Retable also makes an exclusive offer to their free trial users.

Next Steps

Clearly outline the steps to upgrade to a paid plan, making the process as straightforward as possible. Include:

  • Detailed instructions or a direct link to the upgrade page
  • Information on the benefits of upgrading
  • Contact information for any additional support or questions

Key Takes

  • A SaaS free trial is a period during which users can test a product for free to explore its features and benefits before committing to a paid subscription.
  • A well-structured free trial period should gradually introduce users to the software, highlight its value, and guide them towards a decision to subscribe.
  • Regularly analyze user intent data to understand engagement levels, such as login frequency, feature usage patterns, and completion of onboarding tasks.
  • Segment users based on their behavior into highly engaged, moderately engaged, and low engagement categories to tailor follow-up actions effectively.
  • Implement lead scoring to evaluate conversion potential and provide personalized insights and recommendations to different user segments, enhancing their trial experience.
  • As the trial period ends, summarize key activities and benefits, offer special incentives like discounts or extended trials, and provide clear, actionable steps to increase your free trial conversion.
convert free trial users into paying customers get usermotion demo