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The Problem w/Free Trials
Just about every program we find for the first time and consider using (or paying to use) will use the exact same tactic to hook us into at least creating an account; FREE TRIAL!
Let’s get one fact out of the way. They really want us to create an account so they can get their hands on our email addresses. This way, if we decide not to commit after their free trial scheme, they will email and email and email us incessantly, in the hopes that this will wear us down. All it does is annoy us. Then we mark them as spam. Click the “unsubscribe here” link that always seems to me like it doesn’t really work. Do you feel that way, too? Those emails do nothing to help you. Then again, maybe it does. Maybe they find the conversion rate of people being harassed via email increases their chances of new users?
Going back to this “FREE TRIAL” scheme that has been used probably since the internet was invented and companies started putting their goods and services on the world wide web? I’ve noticed a huge problem I have with this. The first one is the length of time these free trials last for. They just don’t make sense.
In today’s world if I see a free trial that is 14 days I don’t even bother looking any further into whether or not this new platform will be helpful to me. When I see 14 days that signals to me that this company doesn’t care about the user. They only care about the bottom line. They don’t care whether or not I truly like their product. It’s all about getting me to pay for entry as fast as possible. If a company really wanted me to get to know them and truly test their product then 14 days will not do.
For instance, I’ve heard nothing but great things about Ghost. An open source, not-for-profit, company that is similar to Substack or any other email marketing platform. I wanted to check it out. See what all the “hype” was about. Then I was hit with the “start your 14-day trial now.” And I’m sure many will argue that because it’s a not-for-profit company they need to make their money somehow to pay for upkeep, etc. Okay, but as popular as it is (and I know some pretty big names in the tech industry alone who use them and likely are paying close to $500 monthly because of their email sizes) I would expect them to be able to “afford” either a FREE tier or a free trial that is much longer than 14-days. If for nothing else than the fact that not everyone is releasing emails at such a rate that 14 days will fall into their usual cycle. And no one who has an email list wants to risk losing some just so they can “test” Ghost outside of their usual email cycle. Also, with the idea of testing something in two weeks like an entirely new email platform, that comes with a lot to be done. Email design. Exporting and importing the list. Do I even bother setting up automation? I mean, come on! 14 days is insulting. I actually have a life outside of your need for my money so I can’t just stop everything so I can rush and test it all to come up with a decision. But maybe that’s what you want? To rush us into submission so that by the end we figure “well, everyone else gloats about it so I might as well.” Not to mention the fact that Ghost not only doesn’t have a FREE tier (like MailChimp and MailerLite and now ConvertKit) but their starting package is up to 500 emails for $9.99 only if you pay annually. Yikes! This is not an email to go into what I like and don’t like about email marketing services. I can go on and on about that. I’m just using this example of how a 14-day trial just isn’t long enough.
And that got me wondering what would be long enough? In today’s day and age where there are at least a dozen other carbon copy platforms that are doing exactly the same thing but what they are offering might be slightly better, what would keep me loyal to one and eventually agree to pay monthly/annually? In the case of something like Ghost which is anticipating users who may only email their list once a month (at the very least) I would appreciate a 90-day free trial. 3 months. How unprecedented would that be if all companies who offered a free trial did that? I know some who will offer 30-days (not bad but again, not enough time).
One positive for the company with giving us prospective users that long to make up our minds is that instead of hounding and harassing us daily during those two weeks with emails about how awesome your platform is, you can spread those emails out. Give us some breathing room to actually use the damn thing! If I’m going to go through the trouble of creating an account and (in most cases) divulging my credit card information (to be charged later) then trust me, I’m going to prioritize putting your platform through its paces. Maybe I’m a unique case in this way? But I don’t go around creating accounts just so I can enjoy my 14 days then bounce. That’s such a silly waste of time.
Something else I will say about these trials that I’m sure many will agree with me on and that’s the credit card situation. Immediately, you want those digits. And we all know why. With the busy lives we all have, and boy is my life busy every single day, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve signed up for something, forgotten (cause life!) and before I know it I’ve been charged. Now, if you’re like me with a busy life, I don’t have time to check my account daily for unrecognizable charges. I check maybe once a week (if that). And that is, I’m sure, what they are hoping for. And I’ve noticed, if the charge is for an annual fee, most of the time they won’t refund and will simply cancel my account so they won’t charge me again in a year, but “you’re welcome, you can use us for the next year!” Uh, no, not acceptable. What I would much rather prefer is to have a 90-day free trial where I create a user account but don’t have to provide a credit card. I am then prompted at the end of the 90-days to provide one or my account will be deactivated. Simple and easy for both parties involved.
Lastly, about these abhorrent 14-day trials which seem less like a “free trial” and more like a scam every time I see them. If you’re going to arbitrarily charge someone after the 14-day free trial and they catch it within a week, I think the full amount should be refunded regardless if it’s monthly or annual. There should be a no questions asked guarantee. And the ability to cancel for that full refund should be honored through your website. Don’t ask me to sign-up and give you my credit card online then further annoy me by saying “to cancel you have to call us.” Are you serious? Again, why are you doing this? We all know the drill already! And yet everyone does it. You are not going to sweet talk me with your discounts and deals into staying “just a bit longer.” If anything, your continued harassment of me by forcing me to call you to ask if you would pretty please cancel my account only makes me so angry that I’m now going to tell everyone I know to never do business with you (even those who I know will likely never need your kind of business anyway).
These are things I’ve started to look at now whenever I need to create an account to test something out. How lovely would it be to test something without having to create an account, give out personal information, and pay through the nose? The things of dreams. But now I check how long the free trial is? Do they have a free for life option? If I want to cancel, just what hoops do I have to jump through? What does the monthly vs annual cost if I have to eventually pay?
But I always start with the free trial. And if it’s 14-days I just don’t bother anymore. I can’t tell you how many programs and platforms I’ve not tried and saved myself the heartache. You should try it sometime and maybe if enough of us say “14-days has got to go!” then new companies will realize it truly isn’t enough and give us the right amount of time to build trust.
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