evaluation playbook
activation playbook
adoption playbook

Converting free or trial users into paying customers

Monetizing users can be tricky. In this playbook, we’ll go over the strategies and techniques you can use to convert free users of your app into paying power users.

What you’ll learn: 

  • What the key components of identifying your product-qualified lead (PQL) are.
  • How to leverage user data to flag PQLs accurately.
  • Which strategies are needed to optimize team communication around PQL alerts.
  • What essentials to know for creating and implementing a robust automation system for PQL tracking.
  • Why it’s important to have a comprehensive testing and rollout strategy for your PQL automation.

What you’ll need: 

  • A clear understanding of your product's aha moment and the user personas.
  • Access to user data and a data analytics platform (like Appcues, Mixpanel, or Heap Analytics).
  • Integration of your data platform with your CRM (like HubSpot, Salesforce) or automation tools like Zapier.
  • A team communication platform like Slack.
  • Alignment within your team regarding notification preferences.

Suggested playbooks to check out before starting this one:

6 steps to convert free or trial users into paying customers

Step 1: Define why users signed up for your service.

  • Understand the different user personas and their objectives behind using your service. Our "Creating user personas" playbook can be a great resource for this.
  • Your goal is to recognize the user's needs and align your product's value proposition with those needs.

Step 2: Identify users who have experienced the aha moment.

  • Your aha moment is when users realize the value of your product. These users are more likely to upgrade to a paid plan since they’ve experienced the product’s value.
  • Refer to our "Identifying your product's aha moment" playbook if you're unsure about yours.
What’s a good activation rate? Aim for an activation rate between 20% to 35%, in line with our Product Experience Benchmark Report. If your activation rate is below the benchmarks, optimize your onboarding process using some of the techniques we’ve covered in other playbooks, including in-app messages for guidance, task-oriented onboarding checklists, and goal-oriented product tours.

Step 3: Highlight the advantages of upgrading to a paid plan.

  • For each user persona from Step 1, create a list of benefits they'll receive upon upgrading. Make these advantages specific to their goals.
  • For instance, for Canva users who use Instagram templates, try pitching a paid plan allowing direct scheduling to Instagram without the need for downloading.
  • Use our Upgrade Prompt Worksheet for planning.
Appcues Upgrade Prompt Worksheet

Step 4: Personalize the upgrade prompt.

  • Use the information from Step 3 to tailor your upgrade prompts. Show upgrade prompts through in-app prompts and emails.
  • For example, HubSpot uses a modal window to prompt HubSpot marketing customers to try and upgrade their account to include HubSpot sales.
Source: HubSpot's upgrade prompt
  • Another example is Slack’s upgrade prompt that communicates the limitation of the free account. The benefit to upgrading to a paid account is being able to search through and see older messages.
Source: Slack's integrated upsell prompts
  • Personalization is crucial here—the more relevant the upgrade benefits appear to the user, the more likely they are to consider upgrading.

Step 5: Implement regular reminders.

  • If you operate on a trial model, remind users when their trial period is nearing its end. We also suggest a post-trial email letting users know that their trial has ended. Offer to extend their trial or talk to someone from your team.
  • For freemium plans, periodically remind users about the advantages of upgrading.
  • These reminders can serve to nudge users towards considering a paid plan.

Step 6: Incorporate a human touch (optional).

  • If you have a sales team, use personalized emails to invite users for a call.
  • The most effective time to reach out is right after users hit their aha moment. Congratulate them for reaching this milestone and offer to discuss how they can extract more value from the product.
  • This personal touch can foster a deeper connection between the user and your product, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Looking for more Playbooks? Go back to the Product-Led Growth Flywheel →