MarketMuse Uses Smart Promotions to Fuel Subscriber Growth


MarketMuse is a fast-growing SaaS brand known for helping marketing teams build content strategies, accelerate content creation, and inform content decisions. MarketMuse has unlocked new potential in its ability to increase new subscriber acquisition through a smart promotion strategy, testing with trials and promotions, and improving the onboarding process to decrease time-to-value for its subscribers. All these efforts are adding up to huge increases in new subscribers. We sat down for a virtual fireside chat with MarketMuse’s VP of Marketing, Elizabeth Irvine, to learn more about how MarketMuse uses Recurly’s robust subscription management and billing platform to fuel its efforts.

How has MarketMuse used Recurly to acquire new subscribers?

Elizabeth: Using Recurly, we create coupons for partners and website promotions where we offer a certain percentage off. It’s so much easier than what we did previously where we had a referral partnership requiring us to manually validate each signup and a cumbersome form for the referee to fill out. Now, we simply give partners a code to share, and that code can be appended to a URL where it carries through the full signup process. It’s a seamless experience that mimics an ecommerce promo code. 

In the past, because we were using a payment processor only (Stripe), we struggled with managing recurring subscriptions in an automated way. We also missed several expirations, resulting in lost revenue. Now that we use a fully-featured subscription management and billing platform, those struggles are a thing of the past.

“I’d definitely recommend Recurly. It’s really easy to find what I need on the platform, even though there's a lot there.”

Elizabeth Irvine, VP of Marketing

How did promotions positively impact new subscriber acquisition?

Elizabeth: I'm heavily focused on promotions and looking at redemptions, understanding what's working and what's not. We've experimented a lot in the past year after launching our self-serve product. When the pandemic started in the spring of 2020, we started leveraging promotions and coupons. We tested a three-month free trial so prospects would have enough time to try it out. The test resulted in a huge spike in new users.

Having the flexibility with coupons to change the timing and to hone in on specific subscriptions helped us figure out what works. In terms of adding the promo code to the URL, we don’t have enough data yet. But we pushed for that functionality because we knew the impact would be immeasurable. Now it’s just a matter of time. 

How has MarketMuse’s experimentation with promotions influenced your strategy?

Elizabeth: We're doubling down on referrals and an affiliate program this year, as well as offering rewards and incentives for existing subscribers to refer new customers. In both these programs, we’ll incorporate codes from Recurly, of course. We’re particularly excited about the referral program as the audience that we sell to is a very vocal and close community, so when they like something they definitely share it. 

We also spent a lot of energy optimizing our trial experience so that onboarding is more clear and provides more direction about what users should be doing to get the most value from their trial experience. We had a really structured onboarding flow at first, but people were like, "just let me in," so we provided options that were structured or unstructured so they could get in, try MarketMuse out for free, and do whatever they wanted with little direction from us. We also provided a new checklist to provide some basic structure. When they go through the checklist, they unlock a coupon that can be used toward the purchase of a monthly or annual subscription. Our goal, especially with the checklist in the trial, was uncovering the “aha” moments that the platform offers within those and simplifying it as much as we could.

What did you learn from testing free trial length versus a signup discount?

Elizabeth: We found that the churn rate was much lower when we provided a general discount upon logging into MarketMuse vs. when we offered free trials—that’s because once people are in, there’s more incentive for them to get started and use the product right away. The goal was to simplify coupon redemption as much as we could and to show value as soon as possible while also creating a sense of urgency. 

The time to value was huge for us. We wanted to get people through the free trial elements quickly and have the incentive of a coupon at the end of the checklist to seal the deal. Recurly plays a critical role to help us make that possible.


MarketMuse’s success in acquiring new subscribers through smart and strategic promotions is an important lesson for all subscription-based brands to understand the power of promotions in their subscriber acquisition efforts. Through experimentation and optimization, MarketMuse continues to fuel future growth and momentum.

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