Welcoming new users into a paid online community when a free trial is offered


What are some innovate ways to help welcome and integrate new users in a paid community where a free trial is offered?

Let me provide my specific example, current solutions, and potential issues.

We have a virtual community where runners share their training, goals, questions, etc. We do charge for the community, which comes with coaching and a training plan. We also offer a free trial for 14 days for users to test the training plan and to experience the value we provide. We generally get about 5-6 free trial signups per day. We're still very new (few weeks), but our conversion number is about is about 20% right now.

It's our assumption that the more involved and integrated we can get users into the community, the more we can increase our conversion rates. So, the question/issue becomes, how do we welcome these users and help them feel comfortable in the community?

Potential issues

  1. With so many free trials and such a low conversion, I don't want to publicly welcome every user. This is a lot of welcoming. And if 1 out of 5 users never join long-term, existing members aren't going to be excited about welcoming people all the time.
Our current plan of action
  1. We send out a welcome email and a sequence emails to every new user based on their actions. Haven't logged in, haven't shared, posted, etc. We also try to call every user after they signup. Very rarely do we get answers from phone calls and emails are hit and miss.
  2. We've created a new customer "road map" that we send to new users that introduces them to the community, what it's all about, etc. We also include some expectations and norms.
  3. We're working on creating some sort of badge/reward system, but it may be a while before we finish development.

Anyone have any innovative ideas, things they've tried, or sites/info that has some good examples?

Thanks in advance!


asked Feb 11 '13 at 06:23
Jeff Gaudette
45 points
  • I don't have any suggestions, it sounds like you are doing a really great job. 20% conversion rate is great, so is 5 to 6 free trial signups per day. It sounds like you are doing really well... congrats! – Joel Friedlaender 9 years ago

4 Answers


20% from free to paid conversion is awesome. Congrats. In similar scenarios, I've seen 1-5% as more common.

I would recommend what Patrick MacKenzie has written about Lifecycle Emails. Basically, he lays out a strategy on how to connect and engage with less active customers and how to potentially get them more active.

Longer term, you should get familiar with the 1% (or 90/9/1) Rule:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1%25_rule_%28Internet_culture%29 to understand that a very small percentage of your users will be the most active ones. The sooner you can build that core, the better.

I would recommend that you engage with your currently active users as quickly as possible. Read about how Reddit started. In their case, they used various fake accounts to push traffic, so not ideal but it worked.

answered Feb 11 '13 at 12:52
Casey Software
1,638 points


The best approach I have seen for overall engagement is the wait and greet approach. This is seen in some very active forums, groups etc. The admins wait to see the first true contribution that is made and take the time to make sure you get a reply, comment, like etc very quickly often with a note of welcome. This, when done well, can develop a culture of welcoming new users.

Some sites go so far as to have a large page of, not a rule as such, a community guideline, that says "we were all new once - be nice to the new guys". So as the site grows the 1% that are your most active users will do the welcoming for you.

One other thing you might like to do is consider polling trial users at the tail end of their free trial and asking them how they have enjoyed it. Some, and I stress this, some companies find that getting a sales call to the user to let them know the free trial expired and asking them how they liked it can lead to more sales. Often the approach is to pretend that they must have forgotten (they haven't they were insufficiently motivated to become full members) but you (or your sales person) says that this oversight is quite fortunate for them because today there is a X% or $Y discount if they are interested. I would expect to see further sales from such an approach.

Also congrats on the 20% conversion rate. Hope it keeps going well for you.

answered Feb 14 '13 at 00:14
Matthew Brown
416 points


Congratulations on your success so far.

As for welcoming people, I'm thinking that you might want a new-member section where people who want to can introduce themselves and that will give you an opportunity to greet them. Not everyone will want to to that, so this allows members to self-filter.

Otherwise, if you allow members to create a profile (name, goals, PBs, etc), then by monitoring these, you can also have the opportunity to greet them.

answered Apr 15 '13 at 01:15
Steve Jones
3,239 points


As others have mentioned, 20% is great. What you're doing sounds good, but I do have a couple suggestions base on my own experience:

  1. If you're not using A/B testing, you should be. If you want more info about that, leave a comment and I can give you some recommendations. It's not super creative, but it's very effective. I do much of my company's website optimization, and every few months we'll test something that ends up being worth tens of thousands of dollars a month to our company.
  2. Make sure your emails are optimized for mobile. Depending on who you listen to, mobile email opens comprise 25-40% of total email opens. I can't speak for the industry as a whole, but approximately 60% of our emails are opened on a mobile device. A well optimized email can definitely impact conversion. On that note, I should point out that in my business which has a very similar model as yours, users that opened an email were 3 times as likely to convert, and users who clicked through a link were 4 times as likely to convert. Focus on driving engagement with your emails. If you need any suggestions on that, let me know. That's the other part of my job. ;)
answered Feb 11 '13 at 13:52
Jeremiah Prummer
441 points

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