Let’s talk a bit about membership site trials. This is a common pricing strategy used by membership sites to acquire new members. It’s worth a second glance to know whether it’s right for your site. Here’s why.
• Gives people a chance to try out your membership and make sure it’s right for them (hint: a great way to reduce refunds!).
• Helps people to understand your whole gig. If you’re in an industry where membership sites are rare, membership site trials are even more important.
• Best way to really show what you’re made of. There aren’t any better ways to go “behind the scenes” than this one.
• Acts as a no-risk entry point for people who are on the fence about your site, your expertise, and/or whether they “need” to join a membership site in the first place.
• May cause a disruption in an already-established community, especially if there’s no screening process to ensure the ‘right’ people join during the membership site trials.
• Can cause additional customer support issues if trial members have a lot of questions, can’t cancel themselves or forget to cancel in time.
• Limited trial options with some plugins and platforms.
• Less investment by new members may mean unnecessary turmoil.
That said, the advantages of running membership site trials usually outweigh any disadvantages. However, it can take some experimenting to find the best kind of trial for your site. As one of the easiest and most surefire types of promotions, it’s a strategy we recommend most membership site owners consider.
Membership Site Trial Cheat Sheet
How long should my trials last?
This is up for debate and can vary substantially based on your market and the type of membership site you have. What are your monthly deliverables? How much do subscribers pay each month? How much work is it for someone to go through your content?
Membership site trials often last a week, two weeks, or 30 days. Our most successful sites have hosted trials for 14 days. This is typically enough time for someone to capture a real understanding of your site. It also allows them time to explore the content and get to know the community. At the same time, they don’t feel like they’ve learned all there is to learn. Most site owners release new content on a weekly or biweekly basis. Doing so ensures that trial members will have an opportunity to witness fresh content delivery.
How much should I charge for a membership site trial?
The key to membership site trials is to get people in the figurative door. As such, trials are usually free or only $1 so that the option is really a ‘no-brainer.’ We advise you to start with $1 trials. This ensures people have a horse in the rodeo, so to speak, and that they aren’t just hunting for freebies. It also guarantees that you have valid payment details without raising a red flag (“Why do I have to give my payment info when this site says it’s free?”). Keep in mind that most membership software requires payment details to be entered during the trial even if it is free.
Once you’ve tested basic membership site trials, it’s time to experiment with other pricing structures. For example, 14 days for $14. Our suggestion is to find a program that auto-bills after the trial is complete if a person doesn’t cancel. This is the easiest option and increases retention. If someone has to re-sign up for membership, they are far more likely to drop it rather than pony up the few extra minutes.
Can I use the membership site trials as a promotional tool?
Absolutely! Trials can be used as a promotional tool or as a front end offer on your sales page. You may want to consider using trials as a:
• Promotion at the end of your email sequence if someone hasn’t yet hit the ‘join’ button.
• Public promotion once per quarter or biannually.
• On your landing page so that everyone goes through the trial first
• As an incentive to join your mailing list.
• Re-engagement campaign to attract old subscribers.
• Bonus offer for another product or service you offer (Buy X, receive a $1 membership site trial).
Really, trials can be used in so many different ways. It’s up to you to find the strategy that appeals most to your audience while providing the best ROI.
How do I make sure people stick around after the trial?
We’ve heard stories of membership site owners who garnered hundreds of new members with a trial promotion. Yet two weeks later, that crowd disappeared. The initial excitement wasn’t worth the ultimate letdown.
Remember, the success of a trial isn’t about how many people join. It’s about how many convert to full paying members. Thus, it’s absolutely critical that trial members receive the same VIP service as any full paying member. While they may have limited access to content and be given an abbreviated onboarding process, they should still see some high-quality content. They should also receive some one-on-one attention in the very beginning. If 100 people join your trial and 40 decide to cancel before it ends, you have 60% trial retention. You want over 60% trial retention for this to be a viable promotion option, with 70-80% trial retention ideal.
Other Points to Consider
• Adjusting the onboarding process for trial members so that it coincides with the length of the trial.
• Send a reminder email to members before their trial is over.
• Weigh how much of an impact the influx of new members may have on your current community, especially if this is an ongoing promotion.
• Decide whether you want to screen prospective trial members before granting them access (this is especially important for cold audiences).
• Track the cost of acquisition if you’re running paid ads to your trial offer.
There are a lot of considerations when setting up membership site trials. Don’t let the extra work deter you, however. They can be an extremely effective promotional strategy when done right. If you’d like help setting up your trial, or want to discuss how a membership site can boost your business, click here and reserve a spot right away.