The conversion process from visitor to paying subscriber or member can be long and complex and often has a high churn rate. After all, credit card information is much more valuable than an email address or time spent browsing.

To get more paid subscribers, you need 2 things: more visitors and less friction to buying. Here are 8 ways to achieve those objectives and ultimately increase your paid subscription conversion rate.

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1. Have a large top-of-funnel

Many paid subscription or membership sites have lots of content hidden in a members-only area for the exclusive use of their paying customers. While exclusivity can attract buyers, hiding all your great content behind a paywall makes it hard for visitors to understand the value of your offer, especially if some of that value is your support or education.

A large top-of-funnel demonstrates that value and attracts more visitors, which leads to more trial users and eventually more buyers. Publish lots of great content where everyone can see it, and offer many different types of content as well to appeal to a wide variety of potential users. For example, slides and videos appeal to visual learners and make content fast and easy to consume, while ebooks and white papers provide detailed information and allow users to consume the content at their leisure.

Once you’ve made a few of each kind of content, pay special attention to the numbers of views, downloads, comments and shares, and then produce more of what your audience likes best.

2. Don’t restrict the top-of-funnel

Asking for credit card information at the beginning of a free trial or freemium restricts the top-of-funnel and reduces conversions, since visitors are wary of giving away their payment information before they fully understand the value of your offer. Free trials not requiring credit card information tend to get much higher conversion rates than those that do. A 2012 study by software conversion firm Totango found that within Software As a Service (SaaS) companies surveyed, those that did not require a credit card had twice as many paid users after the first 90 days.

3. Include your offer on pages of your website that attract most-likely-to-buy visitors.

To increase paid subscriptions, you want to get more new users onboard as fast as possible, but sign-ups from visitors who never intend to buy are useless. So it’s important to focus on getting the right new users to sign up. How do you do that?

  1. First, identify which pages your ideal customers visit or are likely to visit.

  2. Then place your paid subscription offer on that page in some form.

  3. Then test, test, and test some more until you find the highest converting combination of headlines and subheads, sales copy, call-to-action, design, placement, and other factors.

4. Focus on active evaluators

If you offer a freemium or free trial, some users are already predispositioned to buy from you. These active evaluators use your product often and explore what they can do with it. This group is the foundation of your conversion rate, so you don’t want to lose them.

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Your goal is to help these users understand the full range of your product’s capabilities and value, so they don’t want to go back to living without it or investigate the competition. Personalized mails, surveys, and chats can show you how they use the product and how you can help them make the most of it.

5. Nurture potential users.

This group is somewhat active in their freemium or free trial use, but not as much as the true evaluators. Potential users may buy from you eventually, once they realize the true value of your product or become so dependent on it that upgrades and add-ons are worth it.

Your goal is to nurture these users so that you are already top-of-mind when the problem you solve becomes more evident or painful. Email marketing and excellent customer support are two ways to do that.

6. Proactively help at-risk subscribers

The biggest group of subscribers, at-risk users are hardly active in their free trial at all. They expressed interest by signing up, but then forgot or chose not to invest the time and effort to test drive your offer. A proactive approach will help you retain more of these subscribers and move them through the funnel to potential user and finally buyer.

7. Test free trials or freemiums

These tactics help SaaS companies and membership sites gain lots of users, but they’re not the same, and not all free trials or freemiums are created equal. Here are some things to keep in mind when you test these different models.

Free Trials

Free trials are most often test drives limited by time, but they can also have limited features and support. The time limit adds urgency and the nature of the trial is transparent, putting users in a buying frame of mind.

However, because users have only a certain amount of time to try the product, this model requires some nurturing to keep conversions high. As the author of this article states:

“You need to not only walk them through your product and show them how it all works and make sure their engagement is high, you also need to be emailing them with tips, tutorials, testimonials, videos, anything that will convince them to come back and USE YOUR PRODUCT.”

When testing a free trial model, you have to decide if you’re going to limit it by time, feature, or both. Most free trials are limited to 7, 14, 30, 45, or 60 days. The key is to give your subscribers plenty of time to use the trial but keep the period short enough that it doesn’t lose any urgency.

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Where free trials are limited by time, freemiums are usually limited by feature, which means they’re free forever up to a certain point of usage or capability. That keeps your best features paid, but it’s hard for users to fully grasp the value of your premium product, so they’re not sure if it’s worth paying for. And many users will simply keep using the product within the free parameters and never become paid subscribers.

When testing a freemium subscription model, you want to make sure your model fits your product, industry, and ideal customer. These 7 types of freemiums are worth a look, but don’t be afraid to come up with your own unique model.

So how do you choose between a  free trial and freemium?

You ask lots of questions and test everything. Neil Patel’s article on how Spotify gets paying subscribers is a great resource.

8. Test annual and monthly payment options

Some companies emphasize the convenience and ease of monthly payments with no long-term contracts; others focus on the better value of paying for a year at a time. Still other websites offer both options to appeal to more users. Testing these options helps you reduce friction at the bottom of the funnel to retain as many buyers as possible.

Your Turn

How do you keep your paid subscription conversion rate high? We’d love to hear what works for you. Let us know in the comments!