Freemium or free trials: Why not both?

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The recent OpenView-Chargebee 2022 report had SaaS benchmarks as its focus, but also touched in passing on a topic I’ve been curious about: reverse trials, a pricing model that offers SaaS companies a middle ground between freemium and free trials. Let’s explore. — Anna

A binary choice?

As more SaaS companies adopt product-led growth (PLG), a sales method in which user conversions are driven by the product itself rather than a sales team, founders are often faced with a pricing model dilemma. If their startup opts for a freemium model, most users will never get a taste of the premium features reserved for paying users. But if the company offers a time-limited free trial, users who don’t become customers at the end of that period might be gone forever.

There are many other pros and cons to freemium and free trials.

As OpenView partner Kyle Poyar told me, “freemium models tend to drive more acquisition and more signups to your product, for example, while free trials have fewer signups but have a higher conversion rate from free to paid.”

As a result, founders often think they are facing a binary choice, Poyar said. In an interview, Airtable head of growth Lauryn Isford told him that these two choices are often thought of as prioritizing user growth (with freemium) or revenue growth (with free trials.)

Poyar, however, doesn’t think freemium versus free trials is the only alternative. For companies to “get the best of both worlds,” he and OpenView advocate for the reverse trial model, exemplified by Airtable. But what are reverse trials all about, and are they for everyone?

Psychology 101

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