Should I Offer a Trial for My Membership Site?

trial for membership site

Trial memberships are a great way to acquire new customers and market your product. Use them to generate leads and get new customers hooked on your product. Show potential paying members what you have to offer, and get them wanting more! Is a trial membership right for you business? Read on to find out.

Trial offers have proven to be successful for countless subscription-based businesses—offline and online. 

Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, YouTube Premium, Audible, PlayStation, and LinkedIn Premium, are some of the most popular subscription-based businesses that offer a free trial for their service. 

Here's the catch; free trial offers are not for everyone. Like every other marketing strategy, it is not foolproof and comes with its own pros and cons.

To help you decide whether or not offering trials is a good strategy for your site, here are some of the things we'll talk about in this article:

Are Trials for Membership Sites a Good Idea?

trial for membership site

Yes. For many membership sites, trials are a good strategy to use. We have already established that.

It is an efficient and incredibly profitable way for your subscription-based service or site to generate new sales. Not to mention how it lowers your customer acquisition costs.

However, is it a good idea for YOU? 

The answer to that depends entirely on your preference, budget, and marketing strategies. 

Offering a trial period allows you to SHOW your potential customers what you have to offer instead of TELLING them. 

Instead of spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on advertising, you can just give them a live preview or demo of your product.

Put yourself in your customers' shoes. Would you buy something just because the salesperson tells you it's great? Or would you rather see it for yourself first?

Would you buy a car without a test drive? Or clothes without fitting them? 

It's the same thing with subscription-based businesses. Your customers will treat your product or service as an investment. 

That is why almost every single one of them would want to try it for themselves first. 

Almost every membership site owner would agree that offering a trial period gets more leads and convert more sales at a faster and higher rate. And it increases customer satisfaction.

But not every trial offer is the same. Let's look at each type of trial offer and how they differ from one another.

The Different Types of Trials for Membership Sites

Here are some of the trial offers you can try:

  • Limited time trial offer
  • Limited access trial offer
  • Free-trial offer
  • Discounted-rate trial offer
  • Service-based trial offer.

The best part is, you don't necessarily have to pick just one from these. You can try a combination of two or more. 

Limited-Time Trial Offer

With this type of trial offer, you can give your potential customers free access to everything on your membership site for a limited time.

You can offer a one-week, two-weeks, or even a 30-day free trial so they can try your product or services for free. 

In addition to that, you can also make a limited-time trial offer at a discounted rate. Or, you can offer free services during their trial period if they commit to buying a membership. 

Limited Access Trial Offer

Similar to the limited-time trial, you can also use limited access in combination with other offers.

Here, you can offer your potential customers a sneak peek or a preview of your membership site, course, product, or service without giving them access to the whole thing. You can easily do this by using WishList Member’s Sneak Peek + Partial Display feature.

For instance, if you're offering an online course, you can allow trial members to access only a certain number of lessons.

Or, if you're offering a trial of your product or service, you can give them access to only some of the most basic features. 

Pro tip: you can use CourseCure to easily create a fully-customizable online course.

Free Trial Offer

free trial for membership sites

This is one of the most common trials offers we see today. It is often used in conjunction with limited-time or limited-access offers. 

As the name suggests, free trials are—well… free.

Discounted Rate Trial Offer

discounted rate trial for membership site

Your trial offer doesn't always need to be free. You can also offer it at a discounted rate.

Service-Based Trial Offer

free service trial for membership site

Lastly, there are service-based trial offers where you can give your customers access to your service for free or at a discounted rate for a limited time.

Naturally, you would want them to sign up for your membership site at the end of the trial period, so make sure that the service you're offering is enticing enough to keep them hooked. 

And make sure that you overdeliver once they do sign up.

Pros and Cons of Trials for Membership Sites

Just like with any type of marketing, trials for membership sites have their pros and cons. Let's look at some of them.

Pros of Trials for Membership Sites

Save $$$ on Customer Acquisition

customer cost per acquisition

If a person decides to go for a trial period, their feet are already halfway through the door. It is now up to you how you can deliver what you promised to get them all the way in. 

Most of the time, you can let your product or service sell itself during the trial period. 

The good news is that once they're in the trial period, it will save you hundreds of dollars because no additional marketing is necessary. Of course, that is if what you're offering is enticing enough to make them become a full-fledged member.

Higher Customer Satisfaction

customer satisfaction

Few people who take advantage of a free trial are bitterly disappointed after converting because they know exactly what to expect based on their trial experience.  

Such a degree of honesty helps you give your customers more transparency and prevents them from having unrealistic expectations. That also means fewer complaints and cancellations.

Reduces Their Fear of Commitment

letting go of fear of commitment

Memberships are a commitment. And most of the time, customers can feel a fear of binding themselves to a monthly or yearly payment.

By providing a free or low-cost trial, you empower your market to see what they're missing and reduce their anxiety about committing by demonstrating what they're missing out on.

Gather Feedback

gathering reviews

Trials for membership sites are also ideal for gathering feedback on your services and products. 

It's the perfect opportunity to gain the market's feedback and valuable insight so you can make better and more informed business decisions.

More Valuable Leads for Your Email List

building email lists

Another advantage is that you can get more valuable leads. These people have already taken the time to view your product and test it out for themselves.

That means they already know you, and they will most likely feel more inclined to become a member after the trial or at some point in the future.

In our Memberships and Podcast episode with Jan Koch, he talks about how valuable email lists are to every business, and how you can build a massive list

WishList Member integrates with many popular email service providers including ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, and Campaign Refinery.

These integrations allow you to create tags and lists automatically based on user engagement with your membership programs.

For example, when a user signs up for a trial membership, you can automatically add them to your contact list and tag them as a trial member. Then, when they upgrade to a paid membership, the “trial” is removed and replaced with their new membership level.

Cons of Trials for Membership Sites

While risks are inherently minimal for offering trials, there are still some that you should consider. 

Potential Loss of Time, Money, and Resources

Before offering a trial for your membership site, be sure to consider if your budget can afford it. 

You should also consider those who are just trying to get in the free trial period but have zero intention of signing up to be a member. 

You can try to alleviate these risks by doing some or a combination of the following tips:

  • Offer a discounted fee trial – that means you still get a portion of sales in exchange for their access.
  • Filter who gets in the trial period – you can have your customers fill out a form or a quiz so you can filter who gets to be a part of the trial. 
  • Protect valuable content – offering a limited access trial can help you protect valuable content without giving away the whole thing.
  • Limit the trial duration – it will take a lot of testing, but if you can find the perfect duration to help your customers make an informed decision, that'll benefit you greatly.

Should You Run A Free Or Paid Trial?

free or paid trial for membership site

Most trial offers to run for free. But that doesn't mean that you should do it too. 

You can always choose the discounted rate or even offer a trial for a minimal fee. 

Instead of just providing them with a free trial, you may consider charging a small charge to increase their psychological “buy-in” to membership site.

Charging a minimal fee is also a great strategy if you want to filter out those just looking to get something for free and those who are truly interested in becoming members.

Ultimately, the answer will always be up to you.

When Should You Not Offer a Trial for Your Membership Site?

The answer will depend on what you're offering. 

For instance, if you're offering an online course, a trial period might not be your best option. That is because your audience might finish the whole course before the trial is over. 

However, there is always a way to get around that. You could protect or drip-feed the latter or a certain part of your courses and exclude it from your trial. 

Another example will be if you're offering a service. For instance, you're offering a free garage door repair for members who are in their trial period.

You may want to consider a different strategy than a trial. Or, you could charge a minimal fee to balance out the costs.

You could also offer a basic level for your membership site where trial members can get access to a scaled-back version of your whole offer.  

At the very least, it gets people inside your membership site and your community, which may encourage them to get the full version after the trial. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Offering a Trial

questions to ask yourself

Before you jump the gun on that trial offer, here are some questions to ask yourself. The answers to these questions will help you make an informed decision.

  • How long should the trial period be? Your audience will need enough time to really dip their toes in and determine if what you're offering is something they won't be able to live without. At the same time, you want to make sure that it's not “too long.”
  • Can you afford it? Definitely consider if giving people free access to your product or your service is something you can afford and something that will benefit you in the long run.
  • How long will conversion take? When it comes to running a business, time is money. Consider the length of time that it will take for your trial members to become paying members.

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