The art & science of subscriber acquisition

43% of trials convert to paid subscriptions with Recurly.

12 min. read

Get your guide

What’s in this guide?

  • The art of subscriber acquisition: How to identify your ideal customer profile and understand how your subscription product or service meets their needs through storytelling, branding, content creation, visual messaging, and more

  • The science of subscriber acquisition: How to use data effectively to inform your marketing programs, purchase journeys, conversion triggers, and more

  • A breakdown of the core pillars of subscriber acquisition: free trials, coupons and promotions, upsells and cross-sells, and gift subscriptions

  • Key acquisition metrics–such as customer acquisition cost and customer lifetime value–you should monitor closely and frequently to gather unique insights on marketing investments, subscriber behavior, and billing events

The key to growth lies in having the right subscription management platform.

We understand the struggle in acquiring new subscribers–you’re asking for a recurring payment, which means your business value needs to be clear and long-lasting from the very beginning. For subscription businesses, acquiring new subscribers (and re-acquiring lost subscribers) requires a library of consumer insights and testing plans to truly understand what subscribers want. The flexibility to test, iterate, and optimize is essential to successful and scalable subscriber acquisition methods. The right subscription management and recurring billing platform makes all of this easy. From free trials (should you require a card or go cardless?) to upsells and cross-sells to gift subscriptions, you need to offer potential subscribers a variety of incentives when it comes to making that conversion decision.

Creating the perfect mix of pricing, packaging, and promotional know-how and data-driven insights is the secret to exponential business growth.

Art & science of subscriber acquisition landing page image

Every month, Recurly powers the services of more than 50 million active subscribers.

This means we are gathering data from millions of consumers about how they interact with their subscription and what they’re looking for. This guide on The art and science of subscriber acquisition is a compilation of those insights to share the rewards and challenges of subscription commerce and how you can leverage and overcome these findings to create a robust acquisition plan. Also included in this guide is how to track and measure the results of your program to continually optimize your business strategy and anticipate potential roadblocks. 

Download Recurly’s guide on The art and science of subscriber acquisition today to supercharge your acquisition and growth strategy. 

Interested in learning more about our guide? Here’s a quick preview of what you can expect.

Acquiring customers is a complex undertaking, involving numerous decisions related to various aspects of marketing—decisions based on both instinct and data, art and science. 

To start, the business needs to have a clear idea of who their ideal customer is—a buyer persona—and how the subscription product or service meets their needs. At these early stages, a business won’t have a wealth of sales data on which to rely, so research and well-founded assumptions are used instead. This is the ‘art’ and these insights allow the business to design a subscriber acquisition strategy for creating awareness and converting prospects to subscribers. ‘Art’ comes into play in the form of storytelling, branding, content creation, visual messaging, and more at this stage, too. 

As the business implements its marketing programs and wins subscribers, it acquires data on subscriber purchase journeys, conversion triggers, which marketing investments are most effective, and which plans or products subscribers purchase most frequently. Analyzing this data is the ‘science’ side of the equation. Subscription businesses are uniquely positioned in that they gain new data every month from their subscribers’ and prospects’ activities—meaningful, actionable data on trends and patterns that reveal the factors driving subscriber satisfaction. The business then iterates and optimizes, producing improved results each cycle. Having the flexibility to make changes easily to plans and pricing in response to data and new learnings is critical to subscriber acquisition.

The rewards and challenges of subscription commerce

While subscriber acquisition is key for any company, subscription businesses face an additional challenge in that they are asking for a recurring purchase, which requires them to consistently ensure subscriber satisfaction. At the same time, those subscribers who are acquired provide greater lifetime value to the subscription businesses due to the recurring nature of the relationship. For this reason, subscription businesses tend to expend more time and resources on acquiring customers than other kinds of businesses do because there is a potentially higher return on the investment, as well as a longer period over which to amortize the acquisition costs. As with any investment of time and resources, subscription businesses must be thoughtful about their subscriber acquisition strategy to make sure their marketing spend is optimized. Fortunately, there are a number of different strategies and tactics which subscription businesses can employ to capture prospects’ attention and entice them to convert.

Free Trials: Card required or cardless? 

A free trial allows prospects to test or sample your product or service before committing to a subscription. This can be an effective subscriber acquisition tactic especially if the value of the service is best experienced first-hand. One decision you’ll need to make is whether or not to require the prospect to submit payment information in order to start their trial. 

Fill out the form above to download the rest of the guide.

Learn how Recurly can automate and scale your subscription billing

Book my demo Try it free