3 Reasons People are Gaming your Free Trials

People aren’t abusing your system. You’re not engaging prospects and converting them into customers. But we can fix that.

I hear complaints about people “gaming the system” or otherwise abusing SaaS Free Trials all the time.

They’re signing-up with alternative email address to get more time in the trial, they’re sharing logins to keep from exceeding the number of seats available during the trial, etc.

Whatever it is they’re doing, the knee-jerk reaction by the vendor is almost always to blame the customer / prospect and then put the burden back on them. I just covered this in some depth in my piece on keeping Bots out of your Free Trial.

But here’s the reality for you as a SaaS vendor, and it may be a bitter pill to swallow:

People aren’t abusing your system… you’re failing to create an experience that engages prospects and converts them into customers.

I’m blaming you!

Good news, though; when it’s your fault, you can fix it. When it’s someone else’s fault, it’s harder to fix.

To fix it, we have to understand why people game the system, and there are basically three main reasons:

  1. They can’t figure out how to get value from your product in the time allotted in the trial. If that’s the case, see my article on the Best SaaS Free Trial Length.
  2. They get value from your product, but it’s not enough value to justify the price. Either you’re attracting the wrong customers – those who can’t/won’t pay the fee for the value received – or you’re not delivering on the right value for that crowd. Or the product is somehow less-than-desirable and they’re unwilling to pay for it even if it delivers the value they wanted in the first place.
  3. They don’t get value from your product yet, but they think they will. Somehow, someway. So they try it… the trial expires. They try it again. Maybe it’s your promises on the site, maybe they’re making up in their mind what they’ll get… but somehow what you’re promising isn’t being delivered.

What about people that just want Free Stuff?

Could it be that they just want free software, and can effectively get it?

I’d say that falls under the second option above; but if that’s happening, the easy thing to do is blame the freeloaders.

The hard thing to do — as the vendor — is open your eyes to the reality that you’re attracting the wrong people to your product (or, said another way, you’re in the wrong market).

You get to choose your customers!

We have to get away from this “vendor as victim” mentality and look for the root cause of issues like people gaming your Free Trial.

Secret Method to Learning Why They’re Gaming the System

But how do you figure out what the reason is… whether one of those or a different, less-typical reason?

Well, and this might seem to go against what I said in that my post on Free Trial extension requests being a bad sign – but why don’t you be very explicit about offering a Free Trial extension from the very beginning?

Let them know that all they have to do is message you and give a reason and you’ll extend the trial. Do this in-app, do it via email and other external channels. Just do it.

Then take that reason they give and learn from it. Or even better, use that to start a conversation with them and get more context.

Now, this may seem like it goes against what I said in that post on “free trial extensions being bad” in that I’m suggesting you tell them you offer extensions if they want one, but it doesn’t and here’s why.

Don’t get me wrong, Free Trial extensions absolutely are a bad SIGN… something isn’t working. Something is off. And in this case, too, an extension request would be a sign of something bad.

The problem is, right now, you don’t know what that bad thing is so telling them to contact you for an extension – and engaging with them to learn more – is a PERFECT way to understand the bad sign the extension request is surfacing.

Follow my guidelines for doing an extension the right way and then fix this glitch.

I go into a lot more detail on different strategies and tactics around SaaS Marketing, Pricing, Growth Hacking, etc. on my Sixteen Ventures site.

I help grow SaaS companies at Gainsight by focusing on Customer Success. Follow me on Twitter @lincolnmurphy.

I originally posted this to LinkedIn, but I updated it for Medium.

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