The Membership Guys

Should I offer a trial for my membership site?

When it comes to offering trials of your membership site or online product, opinions tend to be divided between those who consider it a smart strategy and those who believe you shouldn’t give anything away, no matter what.

We’re big fans of utilising trial periods as part of your pricing strategy; however we recognise that they’re not something which will necessarily be right for everyone – so if you’re still on the fence, here’s some food for thought to help you determine whether to implement trials into your own strategy.

The benefits of offering a trial for your membership site.

When considering whether to join your membership site or purchase your online course, your potential customer has a great number of questions going through their mind…

  • Is this person or company really as good as they say they are?
  • Will this membership site be everything they promise it will be?
  • Have I really understood what they’re offering?
  • Is it going to be worth the money?
  • What happens if I’m not happy or have made a mistake joining?
  • Are they just going to take my money and run?

Now try as you might to address these and the multitude of other concerns a potential member might have through your sales page copy, emails etc; there will almost always still be unanswered questions, so in truth anyone joining your site is taking a little bit of a risk.

That’s why top-level marketers such as Jay Abraham espouse the importance of “risk reversal” – incorporating a strategy that seeks to eliminate the risk a user takes when choosing to do business with you. Often this materialises in the form of money back guarantees, but trial periods are also a great method of risk reversal that enables you to address potential customer concerns that could be getting in the way of your sales.

The most important thing is that a trial gets people into your wheelhouse and gives you an opportunity to prove why your membership site is one that they need to be a part of. By giving people just enough time to get stuck into your product, to become introduced to your business and your community, you stand a better chance of making them want to stick around.

You’re also able to create the “fear of disconnect”, by showing people what they’re missing out on if they don’t continue on into full membership of your site beyond their trial period.

Should your trial be free or paid?

The natural inclination tends to be to make trial periods free; but there is a case to be made for charging a nominal fee instead. Even when charging an amount as small as $1, requiring an exchange of monies for your trial rather than just giving that time away free could increase the psychological “buy in” somebody has to your product.

It can also be a means of filtering out the freebie hunters who have no intention of ever becoming a full member, as for some that token payment would be too much of a barrier to bother with.

Another consideration is that while most membership systems do enable you to offer trial periods, the method by which they do so would still require customers to input their payment details which would then be charged at the end of the trial period if the customer doesn’t cancel.

While you and I fully understand why this is a necessity; there’s every chance that if you’re offering a free trial, the fact you still require credit card details or a Paypal transaction could make your potential customer unnecessarily suspicious that your free trial will be a bait and switch, or that they won’t be able to cancel.

A $1 trial, or similar nominal payment, takes this away since it’s more understandable to your customers that you obviously need them to enter payment details to make that initial payment.

This is one of those areas where results will vary according to your audience, so it’s definitely something you’ll want to split-test.

But if I offer a trial, won’t people just download everything and then cancel?

This question comes up a lot when the topic of trial periods is being discussed. Ultimately we need to understand that if someone wants to get their hands on your content without paying badly enough, they’ll manage it.

Furthermore if someone is setting out with the intention of screwing you over, then they’re probably going to be more paranoid about you screwing them over too, so will likely be overly paranoid about providing their payment details when signing up.

While I’m not questioning that your product and your content have value, for most of us running membership sites or online courses we’re dealing in digital materials, so if someone does download or watch all your content during their trial period it’s unlikely to have cost you anything.

If you weren’t offering a trial, then the people who might be inclined to try to cram all of your content in as quickly as possible would probably be ones who only stick around for one month and then disappear anyway; so you’re not exactly going to be losing high value customers if these people use their trial to pack everything in.

Ultimately if someone is able extract every ounce of value from your product in just 14 days, 30 days or however long your trial is; then you have a larger problem to deal with in terms of what you’re offering.

When not to offer a trial

Typically if your product is an online course rather than a membership site, a trial likely won’t be your best option as it’s far more likely that someone could breeze through your course during their trial window. In fact they may see doing so as a challenge.

Often course owners will drip feed their lessons in order to either prolong membership length or to give students more time to engage with the content – again this is an approach for which a trial would be ineffective.

An alternative strategy you could try is having a basic/free level of membership whereby people register an account on your site in order to access a scaled back version of your offering on a permanent basis. This at least gets people into your community and gives you a means of exposing them to your core offering and encouraging them to upgrade their membership.

Easy to test and implement

Any membership plugin worth its salt has the ability to offer free or paid trials to users. It is basic functionality that is typically easy to implement, and so you can easily set up a test to see whether a version of your offering with a trial sells better than without. If you’re still undecided, you could always do a test-run by only offering the trial to existing subscribers on your email list who haven’t yet signed up for your site rather than making it available to the public.

With all of this in mind, there should be nothing stopping you from experimenting with adding trial periods to your sales strategy.

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