Free or Paid Trials: Which is Right for You?

Do free trials attract more customers? Do parents find paid trials off-putting? How to figure out what works for your business.

What are free trials and who uses them?

Free trials offer potential customers the chance to try an activity before committing to more sessions. Loved by parents as they reduce the risk of paying for something upfront that their child may not enjoy, they can pose challenges for organisers that aren’t well equipped to convert free trial customers into paying customers.

Approximately 1 in 5 class providers currently offer free trials to customers. These are typically activity organisers who run classes, and are most common for martial arts, dance, music and drama classes. Find out more about free trials here.

What are paid trials and who uses them?

Paid trials are a convenient way for families to try a single session of a termly class without the immediate commitment of paying upfront for the full term. 34.9% of termly class providers offer a paid trial option, and its most common across music and drama categories.

A family can experience the class, and make sure that it’s right for them before making a longer-term commitment. However, unlike free trials, paid trials ensure that you still get paid for your time while still providing the comfort some parents seek before enrolling in a full term activity. Read more about paid trials here.

Class Providers: Split of Trial Types

Class Provider Trial Types

Of the two options, more class organisers offer a paid trial (34.9%), while 22.4% opt for free trials instead. Just over 1 in 4 class providers (the remaining 42.7%) chose not to run trials at all. This is likely in cases where the organisers choose other pricing models, where there is already more flexibility for parents.

Some types of activity - like arts & crafts or baby & toddler groups - significantly favour paid trials over free trials, and use trials less in general. This is likely reflective of the lower average price point of these activities. Categories like learning and music & singing on the other hand, often have a higher termly price, and so have more options for parents to try before they buy. Find out more about how much you should charge for a term here.

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Figuring out your conversion rate

Keep a record of how many people take a paid trial and how many of them go on to become a customer. This will help you work out your conversion rate and plan how many trial spots you need to offer to result in a new customer.

For example, if you get one customer who books the full term out of every five who attend a trial, your conversion rate is 20%. To fill ten new spots in a class, you’ll need to offer fifty trials.

 
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Should you run free trials or paid trials?

Just like free trials, the success of paid trials rests on your conversion rate (the percentage of parents that go on to book a full term after attending a paid trial). The higher your conversion rate, the more full-term paying customers you will secure.

To make sense of which model is best suited to your business, you need to consider what the ultimate conversion rate will be and weigh up the benefits and challenges of each in relation to your activities.

By charging for a trial you’re likely to encounter more parents committed to booking a full term compared to free trial customers, and this means you’ll enjoy a higher conversion rate. Conversely, the number of families trying a paid trial is typically lower than a free trial as more families are likely to give your class try if there’s no cost.

To make sense of this, consider the following examples:

 
 

Pauline’s Paid Trial

Pauline’s class runs paid trials. Her conversion rate for paid trials is 50%, so half the families that try the class go on to book a term. Each term, 20 families try a paid trial so she welcomes 10 new children to her class

 

Fiona’s Free Trial

Fiona class uses free trials. 1 in 4 families go on to book a free trial (a conversion rate of 25%). Each term, 40 families try a free trial, so she also welcomes 10 new children to her class.

 

In both examples, the result is 10 new paying customers. Fiona gets a double the amount of families coming along, so her early classes are fuller, but this also means she has to support the cost of families attending for free. She also misses out on the paid trial booking revenue from the twenty trials Pauline runs,

So, which should you choose?

Free Trials

Pros:

  • Good for higher priced long term classes.

  • Extremely attractive to new customers.

  • Effective way to fill empty spots in classes while getting new customers.

 

Cons:

  • You’ll need to spend time following up with families to secure bookings

  • May attract families who are just interested in doing something for free

  • More likely to lead to no-shows

 

Paid Trials

Pros:

  • Good for higher priced long term classes

  • Extremely attractive to new customers

  • Attract families who are more committed to a long term booking

 

Cons:

  • You’ll need to spend time following up with families to secure bookings

  • Can disrupt classes as you need to leave spots

  • May be less attractive to families than free trials

 

Ultimately, you should consider your business’ individual needs, and what you feel comfortable with. Trials, whether free or paid, provide a great way to give parents a chance to try - and to fall in love with - your classes. We recommend always keeping track of your conversion rate, and how much getting a new customer is costing, and be led by this.

Read more about pricing models for kids’ classes here.

 

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