It clearly works sometimes.
Two great case studies are Zoom and Slack:
- In the case of Zoom, 55% of their $100,000+ a year customers start with a free host session. More here: 5 Interesting Learnings From Zoom. As It Gets Ready to IPO. | SaaStr
- In the case of Slack, only 8% of their revenue is freemium per se — but free users are the largest source of leads for their 575+ $100k+ deals. More here: 5 Interesting Learnings From Slack. As It Gets Ready to IPO. | SaaStr
Overall, this strategy works well with products that are incredibly simply to deploy.
This strategy works less well when there is a lot of business process change involved, and a lengthy deployment period. In those cases, the self-service option often works “worse” than a human-driven one.