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How to derisk trial experiences

Let’s say your software as a service product is the bee’s knees. Your company eats its own dogfood. Your software does what it promises. Your customers sing your praises on message boards and your churn rate is low.

So what’s the problem? Your PM tells you that:

  1. 60% of users who complete the trial period become full-time subscribers
  2. 4% percentage of visitors to your site choose to start the trial at all

Your mission, content designer, is get more users to trial the product1. How do you approach this?

Mitigate the risk of action

One instinct is to reach for your bottle of hyperbole and pour it on thick. Users just don’t understand how great our offering is! But here’s another approach to consider.

One reason a user might not take an action, even if that action leads to something they want, is the perception that the action carries some risk. Doing nothing, after all, is risk free. Doing something, however, can trigger risk-averse users to start tripping. Here’s stuff I always think about before I click Start trial:

  • Is this going to take forever to sign up?
  • Is the price really the price?
  • What if this experience sucks?
  • Am I going to get spammed with marketing emails?
  • Do I need to hand over a credit card number?
  • Will I be billed automatically if I forget to cancel?
  • Do I really want to do this now?

Netflix’s approach

This approach by Netflix is great. They show how long the trial is and when the user can expect their first bill. They also promise to send a reminder three days before the trial ends so you can bail out safely.

Cancel anytime before 10/11 and you won’t be charged.

For a risk averse user, this copy helps them feel like Netflix is on their side. They aren’t trying to trick your into handing over your credit card and forgetting about the subscription.

They say trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback. This small gesture helps users take a step in the right direction.

Next time you’re stuck on how to drive a particular user action, see if you can remove from risk from the process.


  1. This is jargon. I could have said start the trial for the product” but might as well use the argot of the trenches.↩︎

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