Between a fiercely competitive marketplace and dialed-in consumers, today’s home improvement businesses have their work cut out for them. It’s no surprise that conversations often turn to exploring new strategies for capturing a greater market share. And while some conventional advertising methods may now fall short in terms of achieving the desired impact and immediacy, one tried and true approach still offers powerful potential: the free trial. Let’s take a closer look at why this seemingly old-fashioned marketing strategy holds up.

A Soapy Start Finds Success…

Soap manufacturer Benjamin T. Bobbitt is credited with originating the free trial back in the 1800s when he began promoting his products by offering them for free. Customers loved it — the promotion and the soap — and thus was born the contemporary free trial concept.

Just how effective are free trials hundreds of years later? According to one report from social sharing experts GetSocial, effective enough for a staggering 93 percent of web-based companies and startups to offer free trial periods of up to 30 days.

But small businesses are not alone in enticing consumers to try new products and services through free trial offers. Rather, they’re following in a tradition embraced by companies as diverse as Burger King, MasterCard and The New York Times. On the question as to whether or not free trials are a worthwhile investment, Forbes attests, “A free trial is a great marketing tool and a solid step toward establishing goodwill with new customers.”

….With a Catch

Study results published last year in the Journal of Marketing Research reveal some interesting insights on the efficacy of “wildly popular” free trials and how the consumers who use them differ from standard consumers. According to authors Hannes Datta, Bram Foubert, and Harald J. van Heerde, this disparity “influences usage and retention behavior, responsiveness to marketing activities, and ultimately how long the consumer will remain with the service.”

In what specific ways? For starters, free trial customers have retention rates of just one-third that of regular customers. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle, and not necessarily a very good one. Why? Because these same customers are also more responsive to future marketing efforts. In other words, while free trial customers might not directly translate to higher sales, they’re ultimately more “malleable” and open to ongoing marketing outreach. The takeaway? The impact of free trials is not limited exclusively to the trial period, but also extends to how you follow up in the days, weeks and months afterwards.

Of course, you can’t folBetween a fiercely competitive marketplace and dialed-in consumers, today’s home improvement businesses have their work cut out for them. It’s no surprise that conversations often turn to exploring new strategies for capturing a greater market share. And while some conventional advertising methods may now fall short in terms of achieving the desired impact and immediacy, one tried and true approach still offers powerful potential: the free trial. Let’s take a closer look at why this seemingly old-fashioned marketing strategy holds up.

A Soapy Start Finds Success…

Soap manufacturer Benjamin T. Bobbitt is credited with originating the free trial back in the 1800s when he began promoting his products by offering them for free. Customers loved it — the promotion and the soap — and thus was born the contemporary free trial concept.

Just how effective are free trials hundreds of years later? According to one report from social sharing experts GetSocial, effective enough for a staggering 93 percent of web-based companies and startups to offer free trial periods of up to 30 days.

But small businesses are not alone in enticing consumers to try new products and services through free trial offers. Rather, they’re following in a tradition embraced by companies as diverse as Burger King, MasterCard and The New York Times. On the question as to whether or not free trials are a worthwhile investment, Forbes attests, “A free trial is a great marketing tool and a solid step toward establishing goodwill with new customers.”

….With a Catch

Study results published last year in the Journal of Marketing Research reveal some interesting insights on the efficacy of “wildly popular” free trials and how the consumers who use them differ from standard consumers. According to authors Hannes Datta, Bram Foubert, and Harald J. van Heerde, this disparity “influences usage and retention behavior, responsiveness to marketing activities, and ultimately how long the consumer will remain with the service.”

In what specific ways? For starters, free trial customers have retention rates of just one-third that of regular customers. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle, and not necessarily a very good one. Why? Because these same customers are also more responsive to future marketing efforts. In other words, while free trial customers might not directly translate to higher sales, they’re ultimately more “malleable” and open to ongoing marketing outreach. The takeaway? The impact of free trials is not limited exclusively to the trial period, but also extends to how you follow up in the days, weeks and months afterwards.

Of course, you can’t follow up on something that never happened to begin with. Which is why laying the groundwork toward a comprehensive free trial experience is also critical. (Not to mention that in the era of the informed consumer in which everyone’s looking for the “hidden costs;” the right legwork has the potential to mitigate this impediment.) Building visibility of your trial is an essential part of the process, as is making sure consumers actually engage with your product in a meaningful way during the trial. Because while getting a consumer to agree to a free trial is not a guaranteed sale, getting that same consumer to interact with your product brings you one step closer to a conversion.

The End of One-Size-Fits-All

Ultimately, free trials are just one of many possible approaches aimed at nudging prospective consumers in the direction of your home improvement business. Money back guarantees, 100 percent guarantees, and product discounts all offer their own distinct incentives for everything from boosting consumer trust to generating initial signups to improving your products. Identifying which of these approaches will yield which desired outcome is as much about understanding your business and consumers as it is about implementing the actual promotion.low up on something that never happened to begin with. Which is why laying the groundwork toward a comprehensive free trial experience is also critical. (Not to mention that in the era of the informed consumer in which everyone’s looking for the “hidden costs;” the right legwork has the potential to mitigate this impediment.) Building visibility of your trial is an essential part of the process, as is making sure consumers actually engage with your product in a meaningful way during the trial. Because while getting a consumer to agree to a free trial is not a guaranteed sale, getting that same consumer to interact with your product brings you one step closer to a conversion.

The End of One-Size-Fits-All

Ultimately, free trials are just one of many possible approaches aimed at nudging prospective consumers in the direction of your home improvement business. Money back guarantees, 100 percent guarantees, and product discounts all offer their own distinct incentives for everything from boosting consumer trust to generating initial signups to improving your products. Identifying which of these approaches will yield which desired outcome is as much about understanding your business and consumers as it is about implementing the actual promotion.