Have you used or are you using “trial” offers as a marketing strategy? If so, how are your results in converting your free trial user to becoming a paying customer? I have heard from small business CEOs who are looking for help with this problem.

Brett Farmiloe is a SCORE content partner who has some great suggestions. He is the founder & CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search. He enjoys converting insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.

To help business owners convert trials into paying customers, Formiloe asked marketing strategists and business leaders for their best insights. Here are some strategies he received:

Establish trust with customers. Eli Patashnik, of iFax, suggested that when converting free trial users to paying customers you should focus less on the transaction and more on the relationship at hand. Your free trial users found your product and needed your product for a reason, so how can you demonstrate a level of trust that shows just how valuable your services are to their long-term business or personal success? It is not always about attaining paying customers, but retaining them; retention comes from a relationship and a continued promise to deliver.

Highlight what makes you different. Vanessa Atan, Markitors responded, When a potential client gets the opportunity to test your product or service, don't hold back on showcasing the features that make your offering different from the competition. Not only does this introduce your best work to a would-be paying customer, it also lets them somehow predict what it would be like when your premium features are no longer available to them. Add that to providing stellar customer support during the trial phase, which is especially important if you're operating on a fully remote basis. With all of these in the mix, it won't be a surprise when the user finds your service indispensable and signs up even before the trial period ends.

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Reward customers for referrals. Guy Katabi, Lightkey shared that at Lightkey, they have our invitations program that can provide any user up to 6 months of free Lightkey Pro when they refer their friends and family. It offers the ability to send invitations to your friends and colleagues and for each valid and activated invitation your license expiration will be automatically extended by 45 days. By offering an incentive for free continued use of our software for customers to try, they will continue to realize how helpful the software is when used in their favorite programs, like Microsoft Word and Gmail. We make it easy to take advantage of our free license extension by providing step-by-step instructions for our invitations program right on our website.

Add in a discounted membership trial. Jeff Goodwin, Orgain suggests that brands offering a trial period or version can sweeten the pot by discounting the paid membership fee for a period of time. This will encourage trial users to take advantage of the exclusive rates and most likely land you a conversion because a discounted upgrade is hard to pass up for the average consumer. Reaping the benefits of a paid membership at a bargain price will be extremely attractive to customers, especially the lot that has used your services for a significant period.

Make every customer count. Natalya Bucuy, from LiveHelpNow suggested that when trying to convert trial users into paying customers, it is important to remember one thing: the free trial is a time for customers to test products and services, but it's also the time to test the way your company treats customers. Don't treat free trial customers any differently than paying customers. Show them that they matter and that you care about their business. Provide extreme personalization of service, check-in with them often, and follow up, asking for feedback.

Send personalized emails. Charlie Worrall of Imaginaire commented that if your product really adds value, they'll want to become a paying customer. However, there are ways to promote keeping a subscription. One way to help is to make sure that you automatically send personalized end-of-trial emails. This email reminds them that their free trial is up and they're going to have to start paying. There is the option of setting up the process to automatically start paying after their free trial.

Give a true taste of your business. Layton Cox, a media and entertainment consultant, suggested that the traditional marketing funnel starts with awareness, moves to interest, then to consideration, which leads to intent, ultimately turning into a conversion. Free trials help take prospects from interest to intent to purchase. A free trial needs to help walk the prospect through all of the aspects of their consideration criteria. At this phase, the customer needs to know: "Does this product do what I need it to do?" A lot of free trials give everything away in an attempt to answer this question, but that isn't necessary. All the customer needs is the knowledge the product can do what they need it to do.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.