Some products are naturally subscription products.
Others that have traditionally sold on a one-off basis are being transitioned to a subscription model.
Either way, the subscription model provides recurring revenue to the companies behind these products.
In this article, we share mini case studies to give you ideas for improving your subscription efforts. Read on for examples from computer software, a newspaper, coffee subscription service, and telecommunications company.
This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
According to Gartner, three quarters of companies that sell direct to consumers will offer subscriptions by 2023. And the recurring revenue model is popular in B2B as well, with everything from consulting services to computer software sold on a recurring revenue basis.
So if you’re reading this article, your company likely already has a subscription-based product offering or is considering launching one soon.
To help you make those efforts a success, here are specific examples of successful subscription marketing efforts.
A major newspaper engaged MECLABS Institute to optimize offer pages and increase its subscription rate (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).
The original offer page used a template CMS (content management system) structure that did very little to leverage the brand’s well-known name. The unbranded template was used throughout the conversion process.
The MECLABS team hypothesized that the brand could have a positive impact on conversion and designed a treatment to test against the control. The treatment slightly adjusted the CMS template to emphasize the well-known brand. The branding was made more prominent throughout the entire conversion process.
The team ran the treatment against the control in an A/B split test. By simply emphasizing the well-known brand name, the treatment subscriber path increased subscriptions 40%.
You can learn more about this experiment, along with many more, in Subscription Marketing Discoveries: 26 marketing experiments to help you boost recurring revenue from MarketingExperiments (MarketingSherpa’s sister brand).
Call intelligence platform Infinity is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business that generates 100% of its revenue from a subscription model.
Since a case study with one of the company’s biggest clients has been resonating with prospects in sales pitches, the homepage prominently featured the case study. It dominated the space above the fold, and greeted visitors to the homepage for over a year. It was so prominent that a visitor might think they were on the homepage for the case study subject, Sky, instead of for Infinity.
Creative Sample #1: Before version of most prominent element on computer software company homepage
After a year, the Infinity team started wondering if someone visiting the site for the first time really would be interested in the same thing as a prospect further down the funnel in a sales pitch.
“Using [our] own platform for leads via the phone, and Hubspot for leads via form fill, [we] identified [the] top 20 conversions to see what was connecting with site visitors,” said Andy Vale, Head of Content, Infinity. It turns out that very few of these visitors had actually looked at the prominent case study, with many going to the ‘About Us’ corporate page and then more specific pages for their industry.
“After looking closely at the website's behavior flow in Google Analytics, a few clear patterns emerged, that led to a new homepage designed to deliver an experience more likely to convert,” Vale said.
The most clicked page was “About” the company followed by a product-focused page. So the team replaced the case study as the primary piece of content displayed on the home page and instead used a headline and body copy explaining what the company did, which linked to a page covering Infinity's primary use case of call tracking.
Creative Sample #2: Redesigned homepage for computer software company
The team did notice that case studies as a whole were still performing well, so they placed a carousel of different case studies across core industries next on the homepage.
Creative Sample #3: Case study carousel on computer software company’s homepage
When a visitor hovers over an image in the carousel, an excerpt from the case study appears along with a call-to-action link to “Find Out More.”
For example, hovering over the image for The Telegraph newspaper reveals the phrase “The results are immediate, and we are learning things that we didn’t know before.”
Many journeys of prospects that converted showed that those prospects visited pages aimed specifically at key persona types. So copy about personas along with links to more information were placed towards the bottom of the home page, to help visitors get to pages tailored to their role faster.
Creative Sample #4: Information targeting visitor personas on computer software company’s homepage
After a year, these changes increased visitor retention on the site by 24% year-over-year. This helped Infinity drive a 251% annual increase in clicks on their homepage as more people could find relevant pages quicker. The new homepage contributed 37% more opportunities from organic traffic and doubled the revenue the homepage was generating.
“Knowing the pages that are receiving traffic is only the start of optimizing your buyer journey. Viewing full journeys and seeing where potential buyers arrive, click, call, or exit, is crucial to understanding how you can influence every step of the process. You'll find where your biggest opportunities are and get a better idea of what people are trying to find and how to help them quicker,” Vale advised.
A subscription offering requires an ongoing relationship with the customer. One Click Coffee seeks to maintain that ongoing relationship by keeping a finger on the customer’s pulse to make sure it’s offering continues to deliver value.
“We’re the only coffee subscription that sends out a survey after every box to find out what users thought of the coffee,” said Pollyanna Ward, Director, One Click Coffee.
The specialty coffee subscription service uses insights from the survey to strengthen relationships with the roasters and producers to help them grow and roast better coffee. It also helps the One Click Coffee team decide what coffee to include.
Ward attributes the survey as one reason the service has a retention rate of 97%. Happy customers are crucial to the company’s model, since there is no advertising spend and the company relies on word-of-mouth marketing and organic social media.
“[Don’t] underestimate the power of your existing customers. When looking for research, you don't need to spend hours Googling and looking for reasons why people buy. Just keep asking your customers who are with you now,” Ward said.
“[And don’t] cheapen your offering. Subscription models start to experience high churn rates the greater they grow. That's normal with every business that scales. But if you can keep providing the great subscription box without having to reduce fees, then you're on to a winner,” she said.
Nextiva’s subscription marketing efforts include content marketing through blog posts, which are promoted on social media.
The large telecommunications enterprise was using images and stock photos in its social media to promote the blog posts. “The increased frequency of video consumption made us believe that using videos was the best way to promote our blog posts rather than plain images. Also, animated videos are cheaper to produce since most of it is text-based and only requires a fraction of the time and effort [compared to] traditional videos,” said Yaniv Masjedi, Chief Marketing Officer, Nextiva.
Creative Sample #5: Animated video in LinkedIn post for telecommunications company
The animated videos boosted social media engagement metrics. “In LinkedIn alone, we saw a jump of 113 percent in audience engagement. Our promotions on Facebook and Twitter also saw an increase in the engagement rate [of] 43.5 and 94 percent, respectively,” Masjedi said.
“Effective subscription marketing requires marketers to stay on top of the minds of their audience continually. I recommend posting at least once daily in social media and twice to thrice a week for blogs,” he advised.
“Content marketing is a great tool to nurture existing customer relationships and build credibility as an industry leader. When a business provides its audience unfiltered access to information, it positively improves the public's perception of them,” he said.
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