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Black Propeller Doubles Growth and Reduces Billing Time by 95%

Black Propeller is an award-winning digital marketing agency founded in 2013. In 2020, when Black Propeller decided to move from billing its clients based on a percentage of spend to a fixed monthly retainer, it was a no-brainer to get a subscription management and billing platform to fully automate its billing processes, saving hours of manual time and energy. This change would allow the company to focus more energy on growing its customer base.

We sat down with John Thornton, Black Propeller’s CEO, to understand how the company benefited from automating billing with Recurly. 

How did Black Propeller select Recurly? 

John: We did extensive research on the different platforms available for recurring subscription management and billing, and we narrowed the options down to the three we thought were the best fit for our needs. The three options were Recurly, Chargebee, and Chargify. We demoed all three platforms and had multiple sales presentations for each. Ultimately, we chose Recurly for several reasons.

1. The direct integration with QuickBooks. Seamless integration with our accounting software was a must-have.

2. Recurly's user interface was much cleaner and intuitive compared to the competition.

3. Recurly's customer list is impressive and instilled a lot of confidence that we were partnering with a winning solution.

What was Black Propeller using before Recurly? What motivated the switch?

John: Over the last eight years, we've used several different billing solutions. We used Stripe for a few years and then moved to QuickBooks Payments. Until 2019, our pricing structure was variable (based on a percentage of ad spend). We were using spreadsheets and data integrators to semi-automate billing, but it was fairly cumbersome. 

Once we moved to a fixed monthly retainer pricing model, we knew we had to find a subscription management and billing solution that was fully automated. Stripe offers this solution, but it’s a payment gateway first and foremost. It lacks the features and UI of a robust platform like Recurly. Plus, the fixed processing fee was too rigid and expensive for us. 

Many of the same issues existed with QuickBooks. Accounting is what it does best. Its recurring payments feature is very basic and its processing fees were fixed and expensive. What ultimately sold us on Recurly was the cost savings we'd experience by using a payment gateway like CardConnect where processing fees are not fixed but vary based on merchant/credit card provider.

“The money we save in processing fees more than covers the cost of using Recurly. It's a no-brainer.”

John Thorton, Founder and CEOBlack Propeller

How has Black Propeller benefited from using Recurly for its subscription management and billing needs?

John: Recurly has fully automated our billing, saving us hours of time, and has provided us insights into billing and revenue metrics that we never had before. 

“Previously, we spent up to 20 hours per month on billing. Now we spend less than an hour per month.” 

John Thorton, Founder and CEOBlack Propeller

Another major benefit is that Recurly allowed us to easily and securely collect our clients’ payment information. We never have to handle credit card information. We also love the fact that our clients have a portal they can visit to update their billing information and access all of their invoices. 

Lastly, we love that Recurly has connections with all of the major credit card providers to automatically update outdated or expiring cards. This functionality has greatly impacted our revenue recovery process. We no longer have to chase down unpaid invoices, which saves us a lot of time (approximately five to ten hours a month, which for us is huge!) and stress.

“The flexibility to use the payment gateway of your choice or even multiple payment gateways alone makes Recurly worth the investment. The savings in processing fees vs. Stripe more than covers the difference in cost.”

John Thorton, Founder and CEOBlack Propeller

How has Recurly made Black Propeller more efficient? 

John: We spend a lot less time on billing. We have a clearer picture of the financial health of our business and our growth trajectory. We are able to measure our performance in customer retention much more precisely. Prior to Recurly, we weren’t able to track churn rate or customer lifetime value. Being able to easily keep an eye on metrics like churn rate, MRR, and ARR has helped us better understand our business and ultimately optimize for faster growth

We loved the new insight and analytics that we were getting from Recurly so much that we integrated this data with ChartMogul to dig even deeper. Accounting software like QuickBooks doesn't show metrics like MRR or churn rate in any of its native reports or dashboard. We were tracking these metrics manually with spreadsheets until we started using Recurly.

"Now that our subscription metrics are integrated directly into our billing platform, we lean on them heavily for insights into the health of our business."

John Thorton, Founder and CEOBlack Propeller

What does Black Propeller’s tech stack look like? 

  • HubSpot (CRM)

  • QuickBooks (Accounting)

  • ChartMogul (Subscription analytics)

What does the future hold for Black Propeller? 

John: Our goal is to reach $1 million ARR by the end of 2021, and Recurly is going to be a major factor in helping us get there.

"The year Black Propeller started using Recurly, we doubled our revenue and there's no doubt that Recurly had an impact on that growth.”

John Thorton, Founder and CEOBlack Propeller

What would you say to a brand considering Recurly?

John: I'm not sure why more agencies aren't using Recurly, but I think it's only a matter of time before the secret’s out. I suspect many agencies use Stripe for subscription billing, but there really is no comparison. 


Agencies may not think of themselves as an ideal use case for a subscription management and billing platform, but Black Propeller has seen impactful results from partnering with Recurly. Automating previously manual billing processes has enabled the agency to double its growth and reduce its time spent on billing by 95%. 

What could you do with 95% more time to devote to your customers? Learn more about what Recurly could do for your business by booking a demo today.

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