Ways to Build Your Subscription Base

June 16, 2017


In our previous posts, we discussed the reasons why you might want to consider offering a subscription box, as well as determining what kind of subscription box model to use.

After deciding to offer a subscription box, and determining what model to use, you’ll need to determine how to build your subscriber base. Here are some tips:

Use and build on your existing customer base.

If you already have customers and want to add a subscription box to your product offerings, you are ahead of the game. These customers are already buying your products, so it’s likely that a portion of them will be willing to buy a subscription box.

In 2009, San Diego-based ShipStation customer Paleo Treats began offering Paleo desserts to online customers. A few years ago, owner Nik Hawks wanted to jump on the subscription box trend.

“We started offering a subscription option in 2014, and have experimented with different ways to present it,” says Hawks. “At first we front-lined the subscription, making it the default option when you purchased. That worked well to get lots of subscriptions, but it created more hassle in the long run. Many customers were accidentally subscribed and then were upset when they saw a second box was getting shipped and they were getting charged for it.”

Ultimately Hawks found that “very few people were interested in subscribing to an expensive dessert as their first purchase, so we make it an option for everyone but use email to follow up and actually present it properly.”

To build their customer base, Hawks and his team market online and through email, find customers through Google and Facebook, ask customers to subscribe to the company’s newsletter, then give them a tour of the website.  They have a blog that offers information ranging from paleo subjects to five-day water fasts, how to be a better uncle, why you should skip breakfast, and more. The company also offers a variety of one-page .pdf paleo recipes.


“These things add value to the point where eventually we build a relationship with the customer and the subscription offer becomes a natural part of that progression:  Paleo desserts made super easy,” notes Hawks.

Once customers are at the subscription level of the relationship, Hawks and his team have found that customers often want something customized, so Paleo Treats started offering a custom box only available to subscribers.

Target competitors’ customers and do face-to-face marketing.

Austin, TX-based ShipStation customer Sock Club launched in May of 2012.

As mentioned in our previous article, founders Noah Lee and Dane Jensen had read a 2010 Forbes online article about a successful subscription box company, Blacksocks, based in Switzerland. With their interest piqued, they researched the market, and found only a few competitors.

“When we were getting our start, we began our marketing efforts by focusing on SEO and landing at the top of the search rankings for our category,” says Lee. “That focus evolved into pay-per-click, display ads, paid social, and then even further into traditional channels like radio advertising, and most recently into podcasts, social, and email.”

In addition, the company has always believed in connecting with customers face-to-face. “We have always been proud to be part of the Austin community. When you’re small and getting your name out there, it’s helpful to start where you are. In the early days we began going out to local farmers markets to sell socks and connect with customers face-to-face. To this day, we are out at two different farmers markets almost every weekend,” says Lee.

The company’s subscriber base is fluid depending on the season, but to-date has ranged between 15-20,000 subscribers.

Use social media to gain customers.

In our prior post, we included Singles Swag, a Boca Raton, FL-based monthly subscription box service that provides unique beauty, food, health and lifestyle items for single women.

When SinglesSwag launched (May, 2016), no other companies were offering subscription boxes for single women. CEO Jonathan Beskin had to create his subscriber base from scratch.

While working on his MBA, Beskin had learned about subscription box companies, and began researching them. He settled on the niche of single women, where potential customers already existed and were identifying themselves, especially on Instagram. The data proved the market existed, but no one was filling the need.

Beskin was not familiar with Instagram, but taught himself how to use it, and through trial and error, gained followers and sales. He learned that posts about products didn’t convert to sales or gain additional followers as well as posts that offered empowering messages to single women, about growth and relationships. Beskin also worked with Instagram influencers to increase followers and sales. As of this writing, SinglesSwag has 115,000 Instagram followers.


Recently Beskin has added additional marketing channels because he is looking to spread the SinglesSwag messaging to as many people as possible. New marketing tactics include Facebook ads, web re-targeting, podcasts, working with additional influencers, and email.

Obviously Beskin is making all the right moves. SinglesSwag has over 10,000 subscribers.

Consider Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing is an excellent method to advertise and generate sales for your business – especially if you are working on a limited budget. Simply stated, affiliate marketing enables you to leverage third parties (affiliates) to advertise and sell your product for you! It as a low-cost customer acquisition tool as you only pay a percentage to the affiliate when they make a sale. If the affiliate’s efforts don’t lead to a sale, then you pay nothing.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusing information about Affiliate Marketing. Many companies incorrectly think it’s a shady method of generating traffic. This misconception is an old hangover from the early days of the Internet before we had the robust tracking mechanisms we have today. With the recent rise of social media, blogging, and sophisticated performance marketing and campaign tools – affiliate marketing has come out of the shadows.

To get started you’ll want to evaluate and join an affiliate network. There are some great articles and free webinars online to demystify this low-risk sales method. Give it a try!

Get Started

Whether you are adding a subscription box to your current offerings, building a better box or creating a new type of box, there are many ways to build your customer base. These tips from successful companies should help you move quickly towards growing subscription box sales.