Guest Column | October 3, 2019

How To Turn Free Software Trials Into Sales

By Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriter

Software Analytics

How do you get people to give your software a try?

Maybe you require a person-to-person online demo. Or perhaps you let them download a free "trial version” of your software (with a few features omitted).

No matter how you get them to give your product a try, the rubber meets the road when you ask them to actually open up their wallets and buy.

What's the best time to ask for the money?

Well, obviously you make a major sales effort at the time you deliver the trial product. This means you go over all the benefits of your product, make it easy for them to order immediately, sweeten the pot with a price break or a special deal, clearly explain how to order, etc. You know the drill.

But what happens to all those free-trial prospects who don't order after they take your software out for a trial spin? Do you throw up your hands in despair, or do you have a well-designed program in place that keeps on trying to turn the prospect into a paying customer?

Certainly, email is a fabulous way to keep the selling process going.

For starters, the costs involved are extremely low and you don't have to worry about spamming issues. (Hey. These people "opted in" when they asked for a free software trial. You have every right to contact them with a friendly follow-up message!)

Of course, the trick is handling the email message correctly, and if you stick with me, I'll show you how to get started. To make things clear, I'll be quoting from an email that I wrote for Adobe (back in the plasticine era) that was meant to convert free-trial downloaders into paying PageMill customers.

Here are five points to remember next time you put an email together . . .

1. Handle The Addressing Correctly

This means you should give some thought to the "FROM" line. I often use the word "Team" in the FROM line. It makes it sound as if there's a group of bright, energetic, enthusiastic people standing behind the product. (In Adobe's case, there is.) It's also important to put some real benefit in the "SUBJECT" line. The SUBJECT line is like envelope teaser copy in a direct mail campaign. Handle things right and your email will get read. For example:


FROM: The Adobe PageMill Team

SUBJECT: Adobe PageMill limited-time offer!

And don’t forget to add a benefit in the preview line under the subject line.

2. Get To The Point Quickly

No time for dawdling. You have to let the reader know that you already have a relationship with them (so they won't think they're getting spammed) and tell them what the deal is. Get to the point quickly, and then lay out the offer clearly. I like to set the specific offer apart from everything else by placing it between fine-ruled lines.

3. Create A Sense Of Urgency, Then Start Selling With Energy And Passion

Just because it's email, it doesn't mean you have to give up your enthusiasm. Have three cups of coffee, sit down at your computer, and let it rip. Here's a subheadline from the Adobe email plus a bit of the body copy that follows it:

"Why you need Adobe PageMill now . . .

If you've put Adobe PageMill through its paces, you've already discovered that it's the only tool you need to design, build, and manage your Web site. Forget about struggling with HTML code . . . (Our built-in HTML Editor lets you add and format HTML directly.)" ETC.

4. Use Bullets To Communicate Information Quickly

Don't just list features. Don't just list benefits. Make sure each line combines features and benefits!

Take a closer look at what Adobe PageMill includes . . .

  • Site management tools specially designed to make your life easy
  • Font-face support that lets you choose the most attractive font for any text
  • Interface enhancements that streamline your work environment and save screen space. (What you see is really what you get!)
  • Full support for Java and ActiveX
  • Enhanced frame-features that let you create attractive borderless
  • frames

5. Make It Easy To Order And Include Your Guarantee

Just like in direct mail, you want to make the ordering information extremely clear and to the point. Take a look at this example:

"Here's how to order risk free . . . It's easy. Just call 1-800-123-1234 or order from our Web site: You can use any major credit card. Either way, all you pay is just $99 (plus $XX shipping and handling). What have you got to lose? Your Purchase is backed by our moneyback guarantee: If you're not absolutely delighted with XYZ, return it within 30 days for a full, no-questions-asked refund (less shipping and handling.) We look forward to hearing from you soon and urge you to order now while this special offer is still in effect!"

Because email is such an important part of the online-marketing mix, paying attention to all the details is crucially important. Handle things the right way and you can dramatically increase sales.

About The Author

Ivan Levison is a direct response freelance copywriter who specializes in writing motivating emails, landing pages, lead-generation letters, and more for software companies. CLICK HERE for a partial list. Ivan can be reached at