6 Ways to Acquire More Customers for Your Subscription Business

Customer acquisition deals with the art of growing your business. Here are 6 strategies, with examples, you can apply today to your subscription business.

Acquiring Customers

Customer acquisition deals with the art of growing your business. For your subscription business, executing well on customer acquisition exponentially adds benefit: As you on-board more subscribers, you add more volume to your Monthly Recurring Revenue, you generate more data points around average customer Lifetime Value, and purchasing becomes significantly easier.

There are tons of ways to go about acquiring customers, and they’re generally centered around 6 main methods: free or “organic” social media marketing, paid social media marketing, affiliate or partner programs, working with content creators and social influencers, maximizing lead capture, and email marketing.

Below, we’ll preview these 6 major strategies, provide some examples, and supply you with suggested reads/videos to watch to help you get started down the road of growing your customer base:

Social Media (Organic)

Social media is where we spend our lives. Last August, Facebook had over 1 billion users in a single day. Today, it represents the modern form of ‘word of mouth’ marketing, and is one of the most powerful mediums for customer acquistion.

Let’s first talk about organic social media marketing; that is, social media marketing without the use of paid or otherwise boosted ads. If you’re bootstrapped (not well funded), this is the place to start.

Where to Start

If you’re not the most tech-savvy person, there’s good news: simply creating these pages is a great place to start.

As online shoppers, most of us expect to find our favorite brands on social media, but according to one Buffer study, only 23% of them actually have made their way online. And this is a huge opportunity loss. When you consider that 70% of people trust brand recommendations for friends, which can exist in the form of ‘suggested pages to follow’ or Facebook feeding up pages that your friends like in your timeline, it’s a no brainer to build strong social profiles and encourage your customers to interact with you. This can immediately lead to an increased opportunity to target the friends of those who follow your page.

Want to learn more about trust? Check out this Forrester study on consumer trust: 

Forrester

What to Do

  1. Start by creating a Facebook page (a dedicated, public facing page – not a profile for you business), and making a Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (be sure to follow us on Pinterest!), and Youtube account. If there are other social networks you think your business could benefit from, like Snapchat, explore those as well.
  2. Get the basics done. Create a header and profile images, make a few posts to make the page feel “live”, and invite friends, family and any existing customers to like your page.
  3. Create a posting schedule. KissMetrics suggests posting on Twitter at 5pm and on Facebook at 1pm. Bit.ly suggests 1-3pm for Twitter and 3pm for Facebook. Whichever study, or studies, resonate most with you, dedicate a time during your week to schedule posts or create a social cadence calendar.

Here’s an example:

3:00 AM 6:00 AM 9:00 AM 12:00 PM 1:00 PM 3:00 PM 5:00 PM 9:00 PM 10:00 PM 11:00 PM
MON Pinterest Twitter Blog
Twitter
Blog
Twitter
FB Pinterest Twitter/FB
Pinterest
Insta
Insta/Vine Videos to 8AM
TUE Pinterest Twitter Email
Blog
Twitter
LinkedIn
Blog
Twitter
LinkedIn
FB Pinterest Twitter/FB
LinkedIn
Insta
Insta/Vine Videos to 8AM
WED Pinterest Twitter Blog
Twitter
LinkedIn
Blog
Twitter
LinkedIn
FB Pinterest Twitter/FB
LinkedIn
Insta
Insta/Vine Videos to 8AM
THU Pinterest Twitter Blog
Twitter
LinkedIn
Blog
Twitter
LinkedIn
FB Pinterest Twitter/FB
LinkedIn
Insta
Insta/Vine Videos to 8AM
FRI Pinterest Twitter Blog
Twitter
Blog
Twitter
FB Pinterest Twitter/FB
Pinterest
Insta
Insta/Vine Videos to 8AM
SAT Pinterest Twitter Twitter Twitter
FB
FB Twitter
Pinterest
Insta
Twitter
Pinterest
Insta
Pinterest 8-11PM
SUN Pinterest Twitter Twitter Twitter
FB
FB Twitter
Pinterest
Insta
Twitter
Pinterest
Insta
Insta/Vine Videos to 8AM

(You could copy and paste this into an excel or Google Spreadsheet, then build a specific calendar of content next to it, describing the posts and context for each posting time on each network). 

Suggested guides:

Social Media (Paid)

Once your pages are created, you can begin implementing paid advertising. The behemoth of paid advertising is just that – a dense, but extremely rewarding operation. All of the social media platforms listed above now have some form of advertising available.

Facebook (And Instagram)

Facebook is probably the most powerful social network to advertise on, and they’ve recently added the ability to create Instagram ads alongside your Facebook ads. Studies show that sponsored stories perform better than normal display ads, and by leveraging the amount of control Facebook provides you in terms of targeting an audience, you can create highly targeted, compelling ads for specific groups of customers.

Check out these Facebook ads for different subscription services to get a little inspiration:

Bombfell Facebook Ad Taste Trunk Sidebar Ad Freshly Facebook Ad

Twitter

Like with Facebook, Twitter ads offer a unique way to weave your subscription into the day of your target customer. Check out the suggested guide at the bottom of this section to learn more about how Twitter ads work. Here are a few examples of compelling Twitter Posts:


BirchboxKlover

Pinterest

Pinterest also allows advertising through a reservation style “Promoted Pin,” which became available at the beginning of January 2015 for US based advertisers. You’ll need to make your account a Business Account and get approved to purchase Promoted Pins (can take up to 3 weeks).

Pinterest has some unique rules for promoted pins, including no hashtags, CTAs, and the pins must be from your own created board, not a group board. Check out the guide below for more information on how to create promoted pins:

Affiliates & Referral Programs

Remember the power of that word of mouth marketing we mentioned earlier? Affiliate and referral programs are geared to capturing more of just that.

Affiliate Programs

Affiliate programs are performance-based programs that incentive sharing by offering a commission on each referral. Affiliate programs can be great way to keep the connection you make with bloggers and influencers lively and keep them incentivized to continuously push traffic to your store. You’ll create a set of assets of your affiliates (such as ads and ad copy), create a reward scenario (say, $5/commission per sign up), and you’ll likely need to implement a special tracking code in your store to accurately monitor successful referrals from affiliates.

Several affiliate programs exist that you can use for your subscription business:

Referral Programs

Referral programs are similar to affiliate programs, but are offered to your customers. Cratejoy has a referral app built directly into their dashboard, providing customers with a progress tracker they can keep track of as their friends sign up. You’re able to set goals, customize the tracker, and reward customers with free boxes.

Learn how to set up Cratejoy’s referral program. 

SuggestedGuides:

Bloggers, Influencers, & Youtube Celebs

Before reading this next part, scroll back up to the Forrester research findings from above, where they detail the most trusted sources for consumers. What do we see under recommendations from friends and family? Reviews.

Reviews exist in two forms: consumer reviews (your customers online) and professional reviews (Forrester lists places like CNET, but for subscription boxes, this is more along the lines of MySubscriptionAddiction and similar review communities). Using these professional reviews in your marketing arsenal is essential. We’ve broken down these professional reviews into 3 categories: bloggers, social influencers, and Youtube Celebrities.

Bloggers

Bloggers are the major content creators online. They may have blogs focused on being a mother, exercising, a special type of dieting, gaming, or something else completely. The benefit of working with bloggers begins with identifying how close they are to your niche – or your definable, unique position in the market.

When searching for bloggers, keep that niche in mind. Create a spread sheet or use a CRM to begin cataloguing potential contacts. If you’re using a spreadsheet, start by defining the set of your rows and provide yourself room to fill out contact, mailing, and progress information.

Here’s an example:

Channel Type @handle # of followers mailed? posted? email name ad 1 ad 2 city state zip

Social Influencers

Social influencers can be catalogued in the same way. The difference between social influencers and bloggers exist in the form of content they produce; while bloggers primarily specialize in written content, social influencers may specialize in another form of content, such as Vine videos or Instagram pictures. You can use the same spreadsheet above to keep track of your outreach with these connections.

YouTube ‘Celebs’

Youtube ‘Celebs’ is just a unique way of describe Youtube channels with large numbers of followers. The big difference with YouTube celebrities is that, more often than on other channels, they’ll request payments for reviews or videos. Of course, this depends on the size and qualifications of the channel.

Using the spreadsheet above, catalogue the same information for Youtube channels, but consider adding a row for Pricing.

How to Make Contact

When making contact with all groups in this category, we suggest offering a non-committal first message:

Hi there, My name is [NAME] from [COMPANY] and I absolutely love your channel. I wanted to find out if we could send you a box to check out! We think you’d really enjoy the goodies inside and would love to hear what you think 🙂

Often, these connections will share, post and tag you in reviews that come from offering a free box. Of course, you can also directly request a review, by adding something like “Also, would you be interested in sharing a review with your audience?” Generally, though, we’ve seen higher reply rates from these connections when you don’t directly ask for a review until after the first message.

Lead Capture

Lead capture describes the process of finding and acquiring leads for your business. Leads can be understood as people being in the step before becoming a customer. Leads exist in the form of emails or other types of contact information from prospective customers.

Opt-Ins

There are many forms of opt-ins, including pop-ups, floating side/bottom bars, welcome mats/gates, exit-intent opt-ins, and in-content opt-ins. Here are a few examples:


Scroll Welcome Mat Exit FLOATING Incontent

Each type of opt-in has the same purpose: easily grab that bit of customer information that allows you to market to them down the road. These opt-ins are “top of funnel” for your business – they gather the leads that eventually turn into subscribers.

Contests

Contests can be an extremely effective way of lead gen. Running contents for your monthly box, extended memberships, or products you feature from partnerships are all great ways to incentivize people to join your community. Here’s one example of a contest that garnished 100s of targeted, qualified leads:

King Sumo App Giveaway Exmaple

Newsletter Sign-Ups (Other)

Though it may not be the biggest source of leads, it’s important to have the option to opt-in to a newsletter across your site and social media. These are the fields visitors can drop their email into quickly to join your newsletter. These can be featured in your side bars, footer, or header of your website.

SuggestedGuides:

Email Campaigns

Using the leads you’ve gathered during lead capture strategies, developing cohesive and compelling email campaigns is the next step to acquiring customers.

Leads can be contacted in two main ways in terms of emailing:

  1. Bulk or Promotional emails (occur on set days for special promotions or reasons)
  2. Automation or Drip Campaigns (A series of emails that are sent when someone joins a list)

Bulk & Promotional Emails

Bulk and promotional emails can be thought of as those special emails we design and send one by one. They’re sent to remind leads of special deals or provide sneak peeks, incentivizing people to take some specific action, like subscribing to your service:

yogi surprise email

Automations

Automations, also called ‘work flows’ or ‘drip campaigns’, are pre-defined emails set to people when they join a specific list. These can apply to subscribers, leads, and/or cancelled customers. Each automation may include 4-5 emails that are sent over a several week period, encouraging top of mind interest behind your business.

Automation

Suggested Guides:

Chasing Down Customers for Your Subscription Business

Each top-level approach covered here can be explored much more deeply on an individual basis. When considering the implementation of each for your subscription business, use the suggested resources to grab additional information and examples.

Questions or comments? Add yours below and let us know how we can make this guide better.

How useful did you find this article?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

5 Responses

  1. James Maljaars

    Hey Jesse,

    I’m just wondering how much to pay a smaller YouTube influencer (10,000 subs or 50,000 subs). Would you go with pay-per-view, pay-per-click, etc.

    Thanks!

  2. Alex

    Hey Jesse,

    When talking about facebook you mention creating a dedicated, public facing page – not a profile for your business. Are you saying to create a personal profile instead of a facebook business page? Because if I take a look at the Prospurly facebook it looks like it’s a business page?

    Thanks!

  3. Acky

    Hello Jesse,

    Great and really helpful post for Business Owner like me. Getting new customer is very important parallely you also need make sure that you are retaining existing customer. Once the customer visit you..he/she should be yours.

    I have also found this helpful android TrueRatingApp and using it’s in my salon &SPA, it’s effective and cheap customer management app . I can now easily capture my customer review and feedback which directly helped me to improve my customer experience.It’s really easy and simple to use. I would suggest this to other business store as well. http://www.trueratingapp.com

    http://www.trueratingapp.com/blog/improve-customer-experience-in-salon-and-spa-with-trueratingapp/

Leave a Reply