You can have droves of people following you on Facebook and thousands of newsletter subscribers, but those people won’t do you any good if you’re not converting them into paying customers. You need a conversion strategy.

3 Kinds Of Free Accounts

Not all free accounts are the same, but there are some common variants of free. Three of the most common kinds of free accounts are:

  1. Ad supported – Some companies are opting to help monetize free accounts by selling and displaying advertising to their free users.
  2. Freemium – Freemium accounts are provided free of charge, but have limits placed on the features that are available. Once a user decides he needs the advanced features, he must upgrade and pay a premium.
  3. Trial – In other cases, SaaS companies will offer a 30, 60 or 90 free trial. This allows people to begin using and (and hopefully become addicted to) the product. Sometimes the trial account is also used as part of the freemium model. For example, Hootsuite offers a free account and then offers a free trial of its premium product.

SaaS companies face some unique challenges when it comes to converting people from these free accounts to paid users, I wanted to share some of the tricks I’ve learned along the way, as well as some of the advice that was given to me.

Converting Free Users into Paid Users

Converting free users into paying ones means you need to pay attention to their behavior and engage each user in real time.

Here are five tactics to help you convert free users to paid users:

1. In-App Dynamic Messages

Offer personalized in-app messaging to handle common customer concerns or questions before they become issues that would make people stop using your app.

In-app always provide communication in the context of a user’s interactions with your product, so users are thinking about and interacting with your app when they get the message. These personal messages can help you promote new features, answer common questions, anticipate issues, and target upsell messages at the right time.

2. Use an Email Drip Campaign


While drip campaigns are not as in-context as in-app messages, they can work. For a drip campaign to be effective, it needs to be well-timed and relevant. When this occurs, it can deepen your relationship with a user.

After an in-app welcome message, a welcome email is the next thing a new user should get after signing up. The purpose of the welcome email is (of course) to welcome new users and help them through the onboarding process. Some points to keep in mind for this welcome email are:

  • Make the e-mail personal
  • Let your users know you’re glad to have them
  • Tell them how you are going to solve their problems
  • Use a call-to-action back to send them back to your product so that users take the next step in the onboarding process

After the welcome email, you can continue to send emails to your users to encourage adoption. Your goal with this type of campaign is to get users to see the core benefit of your product as soon as possible because people will pay you if you offer something they need. While these can be done effectively, they can also be poorly executed. Drip campaigns run into certain problems:

  • First, they assume a rate of adoption that might not actually match that individual user’s behavior.
  • Second, if people see too many emails from you, they start to mentally block them out or delete them without reading.

You can avoid these problems by having emails triggered by an individual user’s behavior instead of some predetermined rate of activation. This ensures that your emails are as targeted and personalized as possible.

3. Measure and Increase Customer Engagement

Engaging customers can directly affect your conversions. Identify a set of actions that indicate a user is seeing success with your product and begin tracking those for each user. Look for patterns in your data and use this information to anticipate whether users might upgrade or leave.

Are you seeing lagging numbers for a certain user? Maybe a message sent to them while they are using your app could turn their relationship with your product around.

Do you have a very engaged premium user? It may be a good time for an upsell or cross-sell.

4. Use a Sales Team

Depending on your product and its price point, you might be able to have a salesperson do some legwork for you, too. To make your salesforce even more effective, equip them with the information you’ve collected while tracking behavior and engagement – they’ll spend less time getting to know the customer and will be better prepared to close the sale.

5. Make Your Free Plan Good, But Not Too Good

This seems contradictory at first. Wouldn’t you want customers to have the best experience with the free plan so that they are more likely to upgrade? The problem, of course, is you don’t want the free plan to cannibalize sales of premium plans.

If you give away too many features with the free plan, customers just won’t need to pay for the premium plan. On the other hand, you don’t want to give them too little, or they wouldn’t even be bothered to sign up in the first place.


Hootsuite has a nice way of doing it. The free plan has plenty of features, a set number of social profiles and some basic analytics – all the features a normal user would need. But, as the number of profiles you have grows or if you start using it for your business, you’ll need more accounts linked, the ability to collaborate, and better analytics.

Final Thoughts

Increasing the number of visitors to your site does nothing if they don’t convert eventually. All you’re doing is spending more time and money acquiring new visitors. Instead, try some of the ideas we shared here.

Want to take a deeper dive into converting free users to paid ones? Download our eBook, The Marketers Guide to In-App Messaging.

Read more:

Personalization Across the Buyer’s Journey