Our guest contributor for today’s blog is Reenu Saluja, Senior Partner Technology Strategist.

As a Microsoft partner, one of the most important factors in driving success for your business is ensuring that potential customers can easily evaluate and test your solutions before making a purchase. Microsoft AppSource offers two powerful options to facilitate this process: test drive and free trial. These offerings allow customers to evaluate your product or solution without making a long-term commitment, which helps to build trust and confidence in your product and increase the likelihood of conversion to a paid subscription.

In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits of each option and provide guidance on how to effectively use them to showcase your solution's capabilities and attract new customers.

Test drive vs. free trial: which option is right for you?

Before we dive into the technical details, let's take a quick look at the differences between test drives and free trials, and when each option is most appropriate.

A test drive is a short-term, interactive demonstration of your application or solution that allows potential customers to experience its features and functionality in a guided environment. Test drives typically last anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours, and may include pre-configured scenarios or guided walkthroughs.

A free trial, on the other hand, is a longer-term evaluation period that allows potential customers to use your application or solution in their own environment for a set period of time (usually 7-30 days). Free trials may offer full or limited functionality, depending on the nature of the application or solution.

So, which option is right for you? The answer depends on a few factors, including the complexity of your application or solution, the target audience, and your overall marketing strategy. Test drives are typically best for applications that can be demonstrated quickly and easily, and are targeted at a broader audience. Free trials, on the other hand, are better suited for more complex applications that require more time and effort to set up and configure, and are targeted at a more specific audience.

Test drive: a powerful tool for demonstrating solution value

A test drive is a live, cloud-hosted environment that allows potential customers to experience your solution's functionality without any setup or installation required. When a customer initiates a test drive of an app, they are redirected to a pre-configured instance of the app that is hosted in the partner's subscription. The test drive environment is typically isolated from the partner's production environment and may have certain limitations or restrictions, such as a time limit or limited functionality.

To qualify for test drive, your app must meet certain technical and functional requirements, and it must have a listing in Microsoft AppSource. App partners should consult the test drive documentation for a full list of requirements and guidelines.

When setting up a test drive, it's important to consider the following best practices:

  • Keep it simple: Focus on showcasing your solution's core features and benefits, rather than overwhelming users with too many options or settings.
  • Provide guidance: Include clear instructions and guidance to help users navigate the test drive environment and get the most out of their experience.
  • Monitor usage: Use analytics and usage data to track how users interact with your solution during the test drive period. This can help you identify areas for improvement and refine your messaging and marketing strategies.
  • Handle concurrent users: Occasionally, some issues are being reported when multiple users access the test drive environment at the same time. Partners need to make sure that no data is being modified by multiple users concurrently. To handle this, you will need to grant a read-only security role to users that allows them to experience all functionalities without making any changes to sample data. You also need to check the possibility of re-importing the test drive data after the user has disconnected by using flows in Microsoft Power Automate (Note: This data refresh is not handled by Microsoft-hosted test drive. This is a major limitation for test drive experiences.).

Free trial: an effective way to convert prospects into customers

A free trial is another powerful option for demonstrating your solution’s value and driving customer acquisition. Unlike a test drive, a free trial allows users to install and use your solution in their own environment, giving them a more comprehensive and customized experience.

By offering a free trial, you can help potential customers evaluate your solution’s fit and suitability for their unique needs and use cases. This can be particularly effective for solutions that require significant configuration or integration with existing systems, as it allows users to test these aspects in a real-world setting.

When setting up a free trial, it's important to consider the following best practices:

  • Define clear parameters: Clearly define the trial period and any limitations or restrictions on usage during the trial. This can help prevent users from abusing the trial period or misunderstanding the terms of the offer.
  • Provide support: Offer comprehensive support and guidance to users during the trial period, including documentation, tutorials, and customer service options.
  • Convert to paid: Include clear instructions and calls to action for users to convert their trial into a paid subscription. This can help streamline the conversion process and increase the likelihood of long-term customer retention.

By leveraging test drive and free trial offerings on Microsoft AppSource, you can provide potential customers with a compelling and interactive experience that showcases your solution's value and features. Following the best practices outlined in this post will help you optimize your offerings for maximum customer engagement and conversion, driving long-term growth and success for your business.

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