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How Disciple Media is powering the global creator economy with Recurly

Overview

Since 2015, Disciple Media has empowered community managers, business owners, influencers, and coaches to build and manage their own private community platforms and fuel the creator economy. The company creates a suite of tools designed to help individuals grow, engage, and monetize their communities, powered by code-free integrations with apps like Zapier, Mailchimp, and Thinkific. In addition to its web-based app, Disciple’s mobile app gives creators the ability to manage events, subscriptions, a robust content and media library, in-app purchases, live streaming, and more to help them turn their passions into full-time work. 

Becoming a subscription-based SaaS company

At first, Disciple built its business around an agency model. “We started with creating apps for big artists like Odesza and Luke Bryan,” says Frankie Feast, Disciple’s Finance Director. 

But after it realized it could use its technology to help scale the global creator economy, Disciple decided to adopt a SaaS business model to make its products more accessible. To achieve its vision, the company needed a solution that could support its bustling growth. First, it went with a more manual approach. “In the early days, we tracked new customers that we signed and customer churns on sticky notes. We had a big wall of deals, bookings, and revenue,” Feast recalls.

As it acquired more customers, Disciple moved on to managing subscriptions in Stripe. But like the wall of sticky notes, it quickly became unwieldy because Stripe couldn’t support managing add-ons, which are integral to Disciple’s pricing and packaging plans. 

That’s when the company knew it needed a dedicated subscription and billing management platform. After a brief stint with Chargebee, Disciple chose Recurly for its flexibility, transparency, and ease of use, especially with its plans and add-ons.

“Recurly allowed us to easily create a base plan and à la carte pricing model, which we use now. And as we think of new pricing plans, Recurly will be there to help set them up,” says Feast.

Offering scalable solutions for the creator economy

Disciple offers two main plans: its web plan and its mobile plan, both of which are managed in Recurly. “Our web plan is self-serve, so people can start building their communities right away,” says Feast. “It starts off on a seven-day trial, and then if the customer wants to sign up for a paid plan, they sign up to a hosted page that’s linked to Recurly through the API.” Recurly has helped Disciple experiment with different trial lengths to optimize for increased conversions; right now, over 90% of its trials are converting to paid plans. 

Feast adds, “Recurly has been integral in helping us sort out our pricing plans and decide how we actually wanted to move our business forward. We wouldn’t be able to function as a business without it.” 

As a rapidly growing global business, Disciple leans on Recurly’s multi-currency support to configure payments in different currencies, including GBP, USD, and EUR. Since using Recurly, Disciple has grown from $0 to over $4 million in annual recurring revenue. 

Tracking growth through extensive integrations

Disciple’s tech stack revolves around Recurly to grow and maintain its business. Below are just some of its most powerful integrations:

  • Stripe, GoCardless ACH, and PayPal to process payments

  • Xero for billing data

  • Avalara to automatically manage taxes in different territories

  • ChartMogul and Leapfin for analytics and reporting

Recurly’s ChartMogul integration in particular has helped Disciple’s finance team paint a quick, accurate picture of where the business stands at any given time. “I tried to create my own dashboard to figure out what our ARR was, but the formulas got so extensive,” says Feast. “So I asked myself, ‘What plugs into Recurly?’ With the ChartMogul integration, it now takes only fifteen minutes to get all of our key numbers, like LTV, net revenue retention, and churn.” He adds, “The finance team chooses our software partners based on who’s integrated with Recurly. It’s how we found Leapfin to manage our revenue recognition.”

When it comes to tracking, Disciple relies on Recurly’s Slack integration to have important information at its fingertips. “We pull data from Recurly into Slack so we can track declined payments, churns, new deals, and upsells. We’re a long ways away from sticky notes on a wall,” says Feast.

As our customers grow, so do we—and we wouldn’t have grown to this level without Recurly. I can’t imagine managing 600+ customers in a Google Sheet.

Frankie Fiest, Finance Director

Recovering revenue through deeper customer connections

Disciple uses Recurly’s advanced dunning features to design campaigns that prevent customer churn. “It takes a lot of work to get someone signed up, onboarded, and launched. So if they don’t pay, we don’t want to just cancel their subscription right away,” Feast explains. 

To avoid canceling customer’s subscriptions, Disciple follows a fourteen-day dunning process to help recover revenue. If a customer doesn’t respond after fourteen days, only then will a member of Feast’s team reach out to them directly. This method helps the team stay efficient without sacrificing on adding a human touch to their customer outreach process—especially when it needs it most. And its efforts have paid off: since July 2020, Disciple hasn’t lost a single customer due to involuntary churn, and it’s annual recovery rate is 48%. 

Georgia Hunter, Disciple’s Management Accountant, also relies on Recurly’s detailed reporting to help inform their dunning strategy. “Every week, I look at reports around upcoming renewals and payments, and then check back the following week to see which of those upcoming renewals have actually paid for their subscriptions,” she explains. “I also do an export specifically on our add-ons. Reports in Recurly are easy to export and you can filter and manipulate the data as you wish.”

Hunter adds that Recurly’s reports make it easier to deliver targeted customer support. “If a customer comes to us with a question about their subscription, we can quickly get back to them about it. And If they need to update their billing information, we can simply send them a link and it’s all taken care of.”

Conclusion

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and The Great Resignation, the creator economy is showing no signs of slowing—and Disciple has its sights on becoming the go-to product for community building with Recurly by its side. “People are giving up their day jobs to become full-time creators,” says Feast. “That’s what Disciple is helping people do, and Recurly is helping us do that.”

When asked what his advice for other companies looking to solve similar problems would be, Feast responds: “You can't be a SaaS business without a subscription management platform. And it can’t just be something you build in-house because there are people out there, like Recurly, who do it a lot better than you ever could.”

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How Disciple Media is powering the global creator economy with Recurly case study cover