Using the freemium model for business growth


The freemium model has turned the traditional software sales model on its head, swapping out upfront payments for a friendly “try before you buy” invitation. It’s become a go-to strategy for tech companies, not just for its budget-friendly allure, but for the solid foundation it lays in building a loyal user base and driving revenue growth. And it’s not just about giving away a free version of the software—it’s a smart business move that’s proven to drive success and growth in a competitive landscape.

Yet, there’s an art to freemium that goes beyond just offering something for free. It’s about understanding its finer points and implementing best practices to nudge free users towards becoming paid customers. This article dives into the merits of the freemium model, discusses effective monetization strategies, outlines how to build a persuasive conversion funnel, and provides a glimpse into how real-world freemium models have hit the mark.

What is freemium?

The term “freemium” derives from the fusion of “free” and “premium” and represents a multifaceted business model, marketing strategy, and pricing approach that offers a basic product or service at no cost. This fundamental version typically encompasses a limited set of features and functionalities. To unlock the full spectrum of capabilities, customers must upgrade to a paid version.

Commonly associated with Internet startups, app developers, and industries such as media and gaming, the freemium model aims to attract a wide user base by providing free product and service tiers. Subsequently, it seeks to convert these users into paying customers by introducing premium features that enhance the user experience and require payment.

The freemium model has gained prominence in the software industry due to its ability to facilitate rapid business expansion. It achieves this by lowering the entry barrier for potential customers while still allowing companies to generate revenue from users who opt for additional paid features.

Freemium vs free trial

Freemium and free trials are distinct approaches to attracting and engaging customers. Freemium offers a basic product or service for free, with the option to upgrade for premium features. This model seeks to amass a broad user base and then convert them into paying customers.

On the other hand, free trials provide full access to premium features for a limited time, aiming to showcase the product’s value before requiring payment. Both strategies have their merits, and their effectiveness depends on the specific business and target audience.

Advantages of freemium

The freemium model has gained popularity as a compelling strategy for businesses seeking to grow rapidly and increase brand awareness. The following benefits of the freemium model explain why it has become an attractive choice for both businesses and customers:

Increased customer acquisition

Freemium models can attract a large number of customers by offering a basic version of the product or service for free, resulting in an efficient customer acquisition rate. This can help businesses to grow their customer base rapidly and reach a wider audience. Offering a complimentary version allows businesses to eliminate entry barriers, enhancing customer access and making it effortless for individuals to engage with the product or service.

Enhanced brand exposure

Freemium models help businesses to increase brand awareness and visibility by exposing their brand to a large number of potential customers. The freemium model offers businesses a unique opportunity to leverage organic word-of-mouth marketing. By providing users with a free version of their product or service, businesses can generate positive buzz and enthusiasm, which can lead to satisfied users sharing their experiences with their social circles. This amplified reach can foster further interest and potential conversions.

Increased sales opportunities

The freemium model paves the way for upselling and conversion prospects. Once users acquaint themselves with the free version and recognize its value, their inclination to explore the premium version’s added benefits increases. For businesses, this transition from free to premium serves as a pivotal conversion point, fostering revenue generation and prospective long-term customer relationships.

Strategic advantage

In competitive markets, the freemium model can supply a decisive edge. It enables businesses to distinguish themselves by offering a no-cost entry point, making potential customers more likely to choose a product or service they can try before making a commitment. Furthermore, in the absence of free alternatives from competitors, businesses offering the freemium option gain a significant advantage, albeit diminishing over time.

Feedback-driven product enhancement

Through the free version, businesses can amass valuable user feedback regarding their experiences, choices, and pain points. This feedback loop facilitates ongoing product refinement, aligning the product with user expectations and requirements. This iterative improvement process bolsters the product’s overall competitiveness.

Driving lead generation and serving as a marketing channel

The free version serves as a potent tool for lead generation and marketing. As users register for the free version, businesses can utilize user data for targeted marketing initiatives. Moreover, businesses can nurture these leads by providing useful resources through content marketing, updates through email marketing, and incentives to transform them into paying customers.

Global reach and scalability

For digital tools, the freemium model offers a pathway to global reach and scalability. It enables businesses to connect with a vast and diverse customer base without the constraints of geographical boundaries. This scalability is an advantage for SaaS companies and digital platforms, as they can accommodate a growing user base without necessitating significant infrastructure changes.

Monetization strategies for freemium

Monetization serves as the linchpin of the freemium business model, where the primary objective is to transform free users into paying customers, all while delivering value to both user categories. The key to unlocking paid customers is implementing customer-centric monetization strategies. Here are a few monetization tactics to bolster conversions and foster revenue growth:

Paywalls and feature limitations

Within the freemium model, a cornerstone of monetization involves implementing ‘paywalls’ and feature restrictions. This strategy offers a free product or service with restricted access to premium features or content. When users encounter these limitations, they’re prompted with a paywall, asking them to consider an upgrade to unlock the full functionality. Skillful placement of paywalls is essential, striking a balance between allowing free users to experience premium features while showcasing the value of the paid version.

Usage limits for free users

Employing usage limits is a powerful catalyst for free users to contemplate upgrading to the premium tier. By implementing reasonable yet constraining boundaries on product usage frequency or content access, businesses can instill a sense of urgency and a desire for uninterrupted use. As free users deepen their engagement and reap the benefits of the product, they may encounter these predefined usage limits, prompting an evaluation of the potential gains associated with upgrading to the premium version. Regularly reaching these usage thresholds can make it more obvious that the premium upgrade offers substantial value.

Tiered pricing for diverse user needs

A strategically designed tiered pricing framework is a flexible monetization strategy, catering to the different requirements of users. By presenting multiple pricing tiers, each enriched with distinct sets of features and benefits, businesses can effectively address a broad spectrum of customer preferences and widen their scope to engage a more extensive customer base. Success here hinges on precisely articulating the distinct value offered by each pricing tier and tailoring them to specific user groups. For instance, a basic tier may serve cost-conscious users in search of essential features, while higher tiers can target power users or businesses with broader demands.

The best monetization strategy for a freemium business will depend on a number of factors, including the type of product or service being offered, the target market, and the desired customer experience. It is important to experiment with different strategies to find the one that works best for your business.

Crafting an optimal conversion funnel in the freemium model

Within the freemium model, the conversion funnel guides free users towards becoming paying customers. It provides a deliberate path, acquainting users with premium features, articulating the paid version’s value, and motivating their transition to loyal customers. Let’s delve into the essential components of a finely-tuned conversion funnel and its role in propelling conversions and revenue expansion:

1. Initiate awareness and seamless onboarding

The initial stage of the conversion funnel focuses on raising awareness about the premium version’s advantages. During free version sign-up, onboarding assumes a pivotal role in acquainting users with core features. It’s important to highlight the value and user-friendliness of these features to ensure a positive initial experience, setting the stage for users’ perception and guiding their decisions within the funnel.

2. Progressively introduce free users to premium features

Following users’ familiarity with core functionalities, the next stage in the conversion funnel is a gradual introduction to premium features. This may involve offering access to select premium features for a limited time or through periodic promotions highlighting the benefits of an upgrade. By providing a glimpse of the premium version’s offerings, businesses spark curiosity and desire in users.

3. Convey unique value

Conveying the value of your premium version to customers is crucial to them making the transition. Clearly communicate the benefits, features, or services available upon upgrading. Use targeted marketing, personalized messaging, and informative content highlighting the premium version’s specific advantages. Emphasizing how the upgrade addresses pain points, boosts productivity, or elevates the overall user experience resonates with potential paying customers.

4. Foster engagement and assistance

Within the conversion funnel, ongoing user engagement is key. Proactive communication, support, and tailored interactions cultivate a sense of appreciation. Swiftly addressing concerns and inquiries instills trust and confidence in your brand. Additionally, leveraging user data to provide targeted offers based on preferences and usage patterns adds a personal touch.

5. Provide a compelling CTA

The conversion funnel culminates in a call-to-action (CTA), encouraging free users to make the leap. Place the CTA strategically. It should be complemented by enticing incentives, spurring users to upgrade . These enticements could include time-sensitive discounts, exclusive access to premium features for a limited duration, or supplementary bonuses upon upgrading. The goal is to instill a sense of urgency and reward for their decision to upgrade, making the choice more alluring.

Real-world successful freemium models

While not a recent innovation, the freemium model has gained substantial traction in recent years, notably through its adoption by global tech giants. Here are some instances of its application by Internet-based companies:


Skype facilitates global communication through free text, audio, and video features. While its core functions are free, advanced services like calling landlines or mobile phones are available at competitive rates, especially beneficial for international calls.


Spotify lets both free and premium users access the same music resources. Free users encounter ads and skip limits. Music enthusiasts appreciate the quality and control offered by paid subscriptions. This company boasted a 46% conversion rate with $100 million paying subscribers in 2019.


Primarily a workplace tool, Zoom video conferencing platform took on a new role during the pandemic, connecting billions worldwide. While offering a free service with 100 participants and 40-minute limits, paid plans starting at $150 provide enhanced business features. Remarkably, the company saw a 326% revenue increase between 2020 and 2021.


Canva thrives on the freemium model, with a $40 billion IPO valuation. As an Adobe Photoshop alternative, it provides user-friendly graphic design software for free. Professional add-ons are available through a $13 per month Pro plan and a $30 per month Enterprise plan for businesses.

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