PPC Ads: When ‘Free’ Still Feels Risky

Sam Cooke once sang that the best things in life are free – like flowers in spring, robins that sing, and CRM software. OK, fine, maybe not that last one.

We all love free things, or at the very least, are intrigued by them. So given the two ads below about free CRM software, which one do you think outperformed the other in a split test?


Made a decision? Here are the results:

Ad 1 outperformed Ad 2 by a whopping 106 percent increase in CTR. Let’s dissect both ads to better understand why.

About the Losing Ad

The losing ad makes the fatal mistake, a mistake all too common among software providers, of assuming that a free trial or a free-but-limited sample will automatically win the prospect’s desire to engage in the service.

But free is never “free” when there is time, effort or transfer of information involved. Even if the software is free, the person’s time, frustration, and lost productivity is not free if your software’s “free trial” ends up being a mistake. So the “free” trial actually feels risky when the offer is made without some prior reassurance and salesmanship.

Also, the losing ad tries to sell the prospect on the benefits of CRM vs. the benefits of their CRM service, which is also a huge mistake. If prospects are searching for CRM, they’re already sold on the benefits and just want to know what makes your CRM software better for them.

About the Winning Ad

Where the losing ad failed, the winning ad hit a homerun. Instead of just banking on the power of free, the winning ad directly addressed the major concerns of the prospect (besides price):

  • How long will this take to setup? Answer: “60 Second Setup”
  • Will my sales team find it accessible? Answer: “Mobile ready”
  • Will it work with our other must-have/go-to software? Answer: “Gmail and Outlook-ready”

With that in mind, is it any wonder that the winning ad crushed the previous best-performing ad?

So what “fatal mistakes” are your ads making when it comes to persuading searchers? If you don’t know, and frankly not knowing is pretty common when you’re an “insider” in your industry and company, you might want to test a different approach. Who knows, you might just hit a home run with your new ad.

About the author

Named one of the top 20 most influential PPC experts by PPC Hero, Noran is a digital marketing consultant, columnist, speaker and instructor. She is a board member of the local Los Angeles chapter of SEMPO, as well as an Associate Instructor of the Master Certification in Conversion Optimization Course at Market Motive.

She specializes in analyzing the PPC customer journey, creating buyer momentum and optimizing their experience from click to conversion. Her passion for understanding today's customer is a key driver to her analysis of industry trends and keeping up with the latest in PPC, voice of customer, analytics, and conversion optimization.

In addition to writing for publications such as SES Magazine and ClickZ, Noran is also a frequent speaker at the SES conferences, the Internet Marketing Conference and the Online Marketing Summit.

When Noran is not online, she is either traveling or diving with sharks in the Red Sea.