How to Convert Free Trials into Paying Customers With the Dinner Party Strategy

Learn how you can implement the dinner party strategy and use it to power your onboarding emails and boost your conversions.

How to Convert Free Trials into Paying Customers With the Dinner Party Strategy

It is said that the best way to become good at anything is by learning from the best and in this article, we are going to learn from one of the best Email Marketers that I know - Val Geiser.

Val Geiser is the Chief Email Officer at Fix My Churn and she created the dinner party strategy to help businesses build onboarding email sequences that will convert free trials into paying customers.

As the current growth lead at Engage Messaging, I have had the rare opportunity to speak to many founders and growth marketers from different companies and for many of them, their business model falls under any of these categories:

1. Freemium model - They offer a free forever plan with limited access and the customer is expected to make a payment to upgrade and access more features.

2. Free Trial model - During a free trial, the customer is given complete access to all features and this period can last between 7 to 30 days, depending on the product. When the free trial period is over, the customer is expected to make payment and upgrade their account.

This is what we will cover in this article:

1. Why Onboarding Emails are Important

2. The Dinner Party Strategy explained

3. How to Implement the Dinner Party Strategy for Your Business

Why Are Onboarding Emails Important?

According to Val Gieser, "the key to customer retention starts at onboarding."

I completely agree with her because the goal of every onboarding strategy is to build a relationship with new users, offer them value and turn them into paying customers.

Onboarding emails are those emails you send after a new user creates an account on your platform or app, or when a new subscriber joins your email list.

Onboarding emails are a crucial tool that you can use to teach your customers about the value of your product which will, in turn, convert them from trial users or freemium users into paying customers.

Even though many founders and growth marketers understand how important it is to get their onboarding email strategy right, they still struggle with getting the desired results from their onboarding email sequences.

For some of them,

1. They are not sure of the kind of emails to write, and

2. They feel overwhelmed by the idea of using their customer data to power their onboarding email strategy.

But not anymore!

This is exactly why Val Geiser created the Dinner Party Strategy.

Let us dig in shall we?

The Dinner Party Strategy Explained

One thing I love most about this strategy is the way Val Geiser used the dinner party analogy to make the concept very easy to remember and implement.

When planning a dinner party, you are expected to do the following things:

1. Give your guest a Warm Welcome,

2. Serve them Appetizers,

3. Serve them the Main Course/Dish,

4. Serve them the Side Dishes,

5. Serve them Dessert, and

6. Invite them to come back for another party.

For your onboarding email sequence, this is how the dinner party strategy applies:

1. Warm Welcome Email:

When you're hosting a dinner party, you need to make sure you greet your guest and make sure they are comfortable - the same rule applies to your welcome email.

Your warm welcome email is the beginning of a beautiful relationship with a customer who has just created an account on your platform or app.

This is not the time to force your product down their throat. Your goal is to make these new customers feel welcome and comfortable after signing up.

Here is an example of a warm welcome email from the CEO of PayStack:


2. Appetizers = Value Email:

After you have greeted your guests and made them feel at home, the next thing to do is to offer them appetizers like drinks, and snacks.

In direct correspondence to your onboarding sequence, at this stage, your goal is to offer pure value to your new customers.

According to Val Geiser, "value is giving your new customer what they need, not your product."

At this stage, you should make it about them and their goals - if you are talking about a feature, do it from a value-based perspective.

Here is an example of a value email from PayStack:

3. Main course = The Product Email:

After you have offered your guest the appetizers, it is now time for the main dish.

At this stage of your onboarding email sequence, your goal is to focus on selling the benefits of your product and the best way to do this is by focusing on your top three features.

When talking about your product, focus more on what matters to your new customers, and don't forget to add a call to action that takes them back to your product.

Here is an example of a product email from Miro:

4. Side Dish = The Extra Value Email:

Your guests have finished eating the main course/dish, but that alone doesn't make a good dinner party - you have got to serve a side dish.

As Val Geiser mentioned, "product-focused emails alone don't make for good onboarding."

At this stage, we must offer more value to our new customers by teaching them what we know and helping them accomplish their goals.

Here is an example of an extra value email from Framer:


5. Dessert = The Bonus Email:

Your dinner party is starting to round up and your guests are preparing to go home but you can get them to stick around with an enticing dessert.

At this stage of your onboarding sequence, free trials are ending and you can use this opportunity to offer a bonus to your customer.

Bonuses can mean different things to different customers but as an example, you can offer the customer a free month if they join a referral or affiliate program, you can offer them a discount code for when they upgrade, etc.

But as Val Geiser warned, "if you don't know that price is the reason why customers are not purchasing yet, don't make it one."

Here is an example of a bonus email from Lumina:

6. The Invite Back Email:

As a good host, you are expected to invite your guests to come back next time for another dinner party and if they had a good time, they will most definitely agree to come back.

The same thing happens when building your onboarding email sequences.

When a trial ends, you can offer the customer an extension on their trials, invite them to come back to your product, or get them to engage with you via email and tell you what worked and what didn't.

Here is an example of an invite back email from Shopify:


How to Implement the Dinner Party Strategy for Your Company

To successfully implement the dinner party strategy for your business and build onboarding emails that will convert, you need to follow these checklists:

1. Create Unique Customer Segments

To get started, you will need to study your customer journey to identify touchpoints and track the data of all customers who have signed up or created a new account.

After that, you can use this data to create unique customer segments of customers who have signed up or created an account.

Engage allows you to keep track of your customer data, and use that data to create unique customer segments or groups.

2. Write Compelling Email Copy

Using the dinner party strategy, you are expected to prepare the content for the six emails on your onboarding sequence.

This is where growth marketers shine as they are expected to write compelling copy for each email on the sequence.

Make sure that for each email, your subject lines are on-point and your call to action is in the right place.

3. Launch The Onboarding Email Sequence

Now that you have written the content for each email on the sequence, the next thing to do is to launch your onboarding email sequence.

Val Geiser advised that when trying to figure out the cadence or the time-frequency between each email on the sequence, the Fibonacci sequence is a perfect example to follow.

I wrote an article that explains how you can use the Fibonacci sequence to launch better email automation sequences.

With Engage, you can set the goal for the sequence (convert trials into paying customers), select the right triggers, set the right cadence, and launch your onboarding email sequence.

set the goal for your automation sequence


launch your onboarding email sequence


4. Study The Results and Keep Improving

After you have launched your onboarding sequence, remember that what works for one business might not work for yours, but by learning from our results, we have the opportunity to improve and increase our conversion rate.

Engage gives you the ability to study the results from your onboarding sequence and allows you to duplicate the sequence and run multivariate tests.

study the results from your onboarding sequence


It is time for you to take action and get started with implementing the dinner party strategy for your own onboarding email sequence.

If you have any questions or if you need any help implementing this strategy, feel free to let me know by sending me an email at [email protected] and I will happy to help you out.

See you on the inside!