What’s in it for Me? The Strategy Behind “Free Trials” for PM Cloud Apps

There’s a bounty of great services and products in the world, but they come with a price. And for ballers on a budget, it’s smart to think twice before ponying up.  But what if someone offers you a free trial?  Would you grab that opportunity like two free tickets to Barbados?  Or would alarms go off in your head, screaming “Scam! Scam!”

We were raised with the cautionary tale, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”  And when it comes to free trials, most require credit cards to sign up.  Some even charge you first, with the promise of a money-back guarantee.  No wonder consumers nowadays are so wary of the so-called free trial–most aren’t actually free.

However, there’s still some out there that offer genuine free trials such as Clarizen, the cloud-based online project management software for managers and teams.  According to their CEO Avinoam Nowogrodski, Clarizen doesn’t take anyone’s credit card number when they sign up for a free trial so as to “avoid friction that is often caused when companies collect credit card information before an actual purchase.”

Clarizen caters to teams or companies, but most of those who sign up for a free trial are non-decision makers who have no access to corporate funds. It’s a strategic decision to lure in the end-user in hopes of eventually accessing management.  In today’s cloud era, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate one product from the rest.  A true-blue free trial could be an easy way for Clarizen to get a foot in the door, working from the bottom up.

It’s not just Clarizen using this tactic.  As the cloud collaboration tool draws out in this infographic titled “The Value of a Free Trial,” about 34 percent of free trials usually last about a month, with 43 percent who offer free trials actually requiring people to submit their credit card information.  And the value of a free trial on the service providers part, boils down to about $30 per month. 

Nowogrodski believes that free trial is a long term investment.  You gain the trust of consumers by giving them access to the full service without having to invest anything.  If they like it, there’s a five to eight percent chance that they will pay for the service.  If you think  five to eight percent is pretty low, there are roughly 4,000 – 5,000 companies who register for Clarizen’s free trial each month, what it means is that they convert roughly 200 – 400 users into actual customers every 30 days.

This is just one example of the end-user’s growing importance in an enterprise structure where software rules.  If services can be provided via the Internet, the company saves money and ultimately time.  In today’s tablet era, productivity is increasing with the promise of connected devices and ready access to the cloud.  Delivering that access to a company’s employees (the end user) will be an increasingly important factor for any business.

The consumerization trend has certainly impacted business in more ways than one, ushering in the BYOD movement, changing the way market research is gathered, and turning advertising tactics on their heads.  The end user has more access to data than ever before, and work-related data is no exception.  If Clarizen can get into a company at the ground level, there’s an increased chance that the cloud service provider can work its way up to the decision makers.

“We certainly feel that this model is a strategic marketing approach for us and may work for other software products on the market as well. We can control the sales cycle and there is no risk to the potential customer. It is a great way to allow people in a systemic way to try before they buy – and we are pleased with how well it’s been working for us,” Nowogrodski said about how greatly free trials benefited and how it can benefit others too.

Other cloud services with free trials


If Clarizen is not for you, there are other collaborative services, such as Smartsheet, that offer a 30-day free trial without asking for your credit card info.  All you need is an e-mail address and your full name and your Smartsheet account will be created.  No hassles, no risk.

Planbox is also a great choice if you’re a student or a non-profit organization, because you will be discounted.  As for the free part, there’s a free package which features unlimited projects, access to Planbox’s full set of features, unlimited storage and support.  But only two accounts can be registered for the package, which means this good for those writing a thesis with a partner, or a project that involves only a small number of people.  Planbox offers a 15-day free trial for the $20/month package for 5 users, $40/month for 10 users, and $80/month for 20 users.

If a 30-day free trial is not enough time for you to decide whether to continue using the service, TeamlabOffice offers a 45-day free trial.  The collaboration tool features automated notifications so everyone working on a project can stay on top of things.  It also has a calendar that everyone on your team can view so you’ll know which one of your teammates will be online or know when to expect a teammate to log in.  Plus, if you have a multi-lingual team, you can set the language requirements for each member of the team.  You can select English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Latvian, Italian, Chinese Simplified, Ukrainian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal or Brazil), Greek, Turkish, Czech, Vietnamese, Finnish, and Azeri.