Convert Free Users to Paid

How to Convert Free Users to Paid

One of the biggest challenges as a WordPress membership site owner is figuring out the best way to convert your free users to paid users. After all, one of the benefits of running a membership site is building an income funnel.

And with the current trend of freemium pricing strategies becoming more popular, the option of offering your users a freemium subscription choice is the perfect way to bring more people into your sales funnel. 

In fact, offering your content in a freemium plan is often much more effective than free trials.

Pros and Cons of Freemium Plans

To your users, when they see that you offer a freemium plan, they know that they’ll still have access to your content that won’t end when a free trial period ends. This gives them a sense of security and lowers the barrier to entry.

Of course, this all sounds wonderful in theory. But in practice, it can create an entire set of new problems for you and your team. For example, as your number of users begins to increase with a freemium plan, there’s a good chance that your costs for customer support will go up.

And, depending on your exact business model, you may even see your infrastructure costs increase. While rising business costs aren’t necessarily a bad thing (it helps signify growth), watching your costs increase while your revenue stays flat can ultimately begin sinking your ship.

So how do you solve this problem? How exactly can you more effectively convert free users to paid users on your membership site?

The key is figuring out the exact steps that will convert them. And that’s what we’re doing to look at in this guide.

Let’s take a look.

Understand Exactly Why Users Pay For Your Content

Before you can successfully convert your free users to paid, you first need to have a full understanding of why people pay for your content in the first place. If you haven’t already surveyed your paid users, it’s a good idea to create a survey to present to a key segment of your paid users. Knowing what your users want will allow you to set a foundation for success in your content planning.

Don’t feel like you need to be overly official when you survey the people who already trust you. You can do this with a simple email send.

Even better, consider doing the surveys in a more personal way, by talking to your key users one-on-one over the phone or via video conference.

The ultimate goal of doing surveys is to fully understand who people decide to pay for your tool. Every effective survey follows the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle.

Some of your questions will be things like:

  • What specific value do you gain from our content?
  • What’s your favorite part of what we do, and why?
  • If our site disappeared tomorrow, where would you go to solve the same problem that brought you here?

It’s important to segregate the results of your survey based upon the specific paid plan that each user subscribes to. This will assist you in determining the value of specific features you offer to specific user types in cases where you have multiple levels of paid membership opportunities.

Identify Which Free Users Are Gaining Similar Value As the Paid User Base

After you’ve drilled down to the top features that are valued by your paid members, the next step is to dive into your analytics and identify behaviors that are similar between your paid users and free user base.

For example, let’s say that you have certain membership features that you gate based upon a specific pricing structure. When you look at the usage analytics of your free users and understand the value your paid users derive from your content, you could conclude that your users prefer long-form content rather than quick five-minute videos.

Perhaps you would decide that offering short snippets of your content in five-minute videos works perfectly to bring in more free users because they are previews (teasers, really) to the long-form content that’s gated behind your paywalls.

Of course, some people will never go beyond watching your short snippets that they can access for free. But when you understand that the vast majority of your paid members decided to join due to the quality of your long-form content, you can use that information to convert more free users to paid.

The key here is consistency in how you produce and promote your content on your membership site. If your free users are only ever able to access your short video snippets that promote your long-form content, and they enjoy what they’re learning, they are much more likely to sign up for a paid plan that allows them to take in everything you have to say.

What Is the Best Metric to Track Free-to-Paid Membership Conversions?

Of course, the most obvious metric to track your membership site success is your overall free-to-paid user conversion rate. However, this is a high-level metric that doesn’t really show you what’s going on underneath the hood of your membership site.

After all, what does a 5% free-to-paid conversion rate really reveal to you other than showing you the overall health of your membership site?

Instead of just looking at overall conversion rates, begin tracking individual free user segments. You should do this after you’ve identified which segments of your free users are most likely to gain benefit from making the upgrade to one of your paid plans.

In a case like this, if you’ve already identified your user segments and correctly derived the value they receive from your product, it becomes much simpler to find specific benchmarks for success beyond an overall free-to-paid conversion rate.

Building a Strategy That Converts Free Users To Paid

The final, and perhaps more important, piece to the puzzle of success as a membership website owner is creating the perfect strategy that converts free users to paid.

And here are five specific ways that you can begin building a strategy that works for your specific business model.

1. Nurture All of Your Free Users By Showing How Many Benefits They Get With Paid Plans

Every single one of your free users needs to understand, and know, exactly what they’re missing out on by remaining a free member. And the most effective way to do this is by directly telling them in a way that cannot be misunderstood.

One great way of doing this is by sending an email (or, preferably, a series of emails) that nurtures and educates free users about the specific paid features they can receive, and the benefits of receiving them.

Of course, these emails can easily be automated once you find the “magic sauce” of the right sequence of messages that converts users from free to paid.

Just remember that whenever one of your free users enters into a segment that you’ve identified as one that’ll likely cause them to convert, they should be automatically entered into this type of drip email campaign.

This one strategy alone will do wonders for your goals of converting free users into paid users.

2. Use Testimonials, Stories, and Real-Life Accounts From Your Paid User Base

This strategy is typically referred to as social proof. And it goes a long way toward your ability to establish credibility and trust with people who have just recently discovered you.

Rather than simply educating free users about all of the features and benefits they’ll get from a paid membership, go a step further and allow the users who already pay for your content to do that convincing for you.

The easiest way to do this is by capturing the responses your paid users gave you during the surveys you conducted, as mentioned earlier in this guide. Use these powerful words as testimonials to help convince your free base of users to consider upgrading to a paid plan.

3. Unlock Your Paid Features for a Limited Time Only

Simply talking about the benefits that your paid members receive is a great thing. And social proof helps make those benefits more tangible to people who haven’t discovered them yet.

But there’s a strategy that goes a level deeper toward convincing people to become paid members: Allow your free users to experience all of the benefits of a paid membership for themselves, without any risk.

You can do this by unlocking specific paid features on your site for a limited time, or for limited use. This will give free users the experience of being a paid member for a given period of time. And the benefits they’ll experience first-hand often become the strongest push for free users to upgrade and continue enjoying those benefits after the limited-time, free offer expires.

When trying to decide on timeframes or usage limits for your paid features, remember that you’ll need to be frugal enough for all of your free users to experience what they can gain by upgrading. At the same time, you can’t offer so much free content that users have no reason to make an upgrade.

4. Create an Offer They Can’t Say No To

When you nurture and demonstrate value propositions to your free users, you’ve taken huge steps toward converting them from free to paid users.

But why stop at that point when you can go even further?

The idea here is to create an offer that’s simple: An offer that compels your free users who’ve already experienced the added value of a paid membership to act upon what they’ll be able to unlock when they upgrade.

You want to craft an offer that free users simply can’t refuse. This could be an idea as simple as 30% off of their first year, or 50% off of their first month.

Another idea is to allow full seven-day access to a premium plan for only $1. This severely lowers the barrier to entry, while getting free users to walk through the door and start providing their payment details.

And this is one huge friction point you’ve just removed on the path toward conversion.

It’s also a great idea to add personal touches to an offer. Maybe use a customer-specific coupon code that contains the user’s name. This has a positive psychological impact on a lot of people, and could be a simple way to get them on board.

5. Create Urgency

You won’t convert many free users to paid ones without a great offer. But the final step is to create a time limitation. This practice triggers urgency in your users to give a paid plan a try before the offer goes away.

This works best for massive discounts, such as 40% off the first year as a premium member. To get your free users to act right away, they’ll need to upgrade before the time limit expires. (within 48 hours, for example).

Use this strategy sparingly, however. If you constantly try to create urgency with deep discounts, you’ll end up falling on deaf ears.

When Your Results are Disappointing

In spite of using all of the strategies contained in this guide, it’s still possible that you may not see a meaningful rise in your free-to-paid conversion rates. And if that happens, it’s time to quickly identify the major reasons why it’s happening.

There are two distinct possibilities:

You Give Too Much Value With Your Free Plan

If this is the case, you aren’t giving users enough motivation to feel like they need to upgrade. And if that’s happening, you’ll want to look more closely at your free and paid structures to figure out the right features and usage limits that should be gated behind paywalls.

The Free Plan Attracts Unqualified Users

Perhaps your free plan attracts people who aren’t likely candidates for upgrading to a paid plan. To determine if this is the case, you’ll need to study where exactly these users are coming from.

You may have website copy or marketing materials that are attracting the wrong kinds of users. By simply changing some of those elements, you’ll be able to attract users who are more likely to make an upgrade.

Without fully understanding, and appealing to, your target audience, you’ll never be satisfied with your conversion rates.

Converting Free Users To Paid 

In this guide, we’ve laid out the best steps for:

  • Gaining an understanding of why users pay for your membership
  • How to identify the free users who will most benefit from paid memberships
  • Tracking the correct conversion metrics
  • Putting together a strategy for converting the free users you target into paid users

Remember that it’s always important to respect your users and understand how you can add meaning and value to their lives. Then, present the value you offer in the most compelling way that you can.

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