30-day Trial vs Marketing Screens

Posted by Kirby Turner on August 18, 2005

I read a blog post that has me thinking about the trial version of SMTP Diagnostics. As the story goes, a person was unhappy with the nag screen popping up as he was trying the trial version of a software program. Annoyed at the popups, he decided to uninstall the application even though the gentleman liked the program.

The ISV that published the program in question found the blog posting and explained the company’s reasoning for displaying the popup screens in the trial version. This is the part that really got me thinking about the trail version for SMTP Diagnostics.

I didn’t like the trial mode model used in SMTP Diagnostics when I first released it and I still don’t like it. For starters, it is too confusing. In trial mode, the software will disable itself after 10 runs or 30 days which ever occurs first. While I’m not a fan of nag screens, which I prefer to call marketing screens, I believe just such a screen makes more sense for SMTP Diagnostics over disabling the software.

I would love to hear your thoughts. What would be YOUR preferred approach to encourage users to buy the product without interfering too much with the user experience?

Here’s one idea I am playing with in my head: Eliminate the current model all together and instead use marketing screens. The user will see the marketing screen every 5 times that the program is run. Also, the user will see the marketing screen every 5 times a test mail is sent within a single run. Lastly, the test mail will include a tag line at the end of each message saying something like “Sent using the trial version of SMTP Diagnostics.”

The benefit of this approach is that the program will continue to work even if it has been installed for months. The current approach does not allow for that. Under the new model, users who rarely use SMTP Diagnostics can get away with running the trial and clicking OK to close the marketing screens. Users who use SMTP Diagnostics on a regular basis will hopefully agree to buy a license to eliminate the popup screen and remove the trial version tag line in the email message.

What do you think of this approach? Or is there an approach I should consider?

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