John Sheehy

Practical Application of the Subscription Lifecycle

The subscription lifecycle (or journey) is an oft written about framework for describing the aspects a business needs to track for acquiring and retaining customers for a subscribed product. It is not a formal academic framework, so it can be confusing to wade through the various interpretations: four-stage methodology, five stages, four phases, five phases, etc. 

The various discussions are similar, providing a basic overview of standard techniques. Your favorite generative AI tool can produce something close… but I would expect that, given the foundational nature of the subscription lifecycle. Some can trace the subscription back to the 16th century, and while I am not sure that is the best place to start, it illustrates that world culture is familiar with this framework. 

So, that leaves us with the following… how can we add to this discussion and not regurgitate it? That answer lies in the ability of our platform, Advantage, to deliver on all aspects of the subscription lifecycle. We often get asked “what type of platform is Advantage?” There are several answers with some nuance depending on the context, but a common answer (and one you will see while browsing our site) is a subscription management platform. And as a subscription management platform, you would hope we can cover the full subscription lifecycle! (If you are not an avid reader of our blog, you might want to take a look at the posts Is Subscription Management the Same Thing as Recurring Billing? and 5 Key Considerations When Choosing a Subscription Management Platform).

For simplicity, we think of the subscription lifecycle in four phases/stages. Let’s look at each and how Advantage can support your business throughout.

Acquisition

The acquisition phase marks the beginning of a subscriber's journey. The goal here is to attract potential customers. Key activities supported by Advantage include:

Offering Compelling Products and Services

  • This might mean bundling products together (e.g., print plus digital), a continuity (e.g., a monthly book series), or a tier membership program (e.g., gold, silver, bronze). Ultimately, you need to offer your targets products and services they need or want

Pricing. Pricing. Pricing 

  • Advantage supports thousands of different pricing-related permutations that you can tap into—pricing for different periods of service, pricing for different currencies or geographies, special pricing for specific segments, pricing discounts for different types of customers, etc.

Communication

  • When customers are onboarding your products, ensure they are receiving communications about those products and confirmation of their purchases. Advantage can handle that communication, or it can notify your messaging platform in real-time to send the communications.

Billing and Fulfillment

The billing and fulfillment phase involves core financial and distribution handling. Key activities supported by Advantage include:

Billing

  • Once the order is created, you want to make sure that invoices go out and any payments are made. Advantage supports both invoice reminders and autocharge models with a host of complimentary features.

Fulfillment

If it is a physical or digital product, once that order is placed, it needs a smooth transition to the next step. Like a gatekeeper, Advantage can grant/maintain digital access and provides the tools for physical distribution to your mailers and printers (while providing inventory management).

Financial Record Keeping 

  • Advantage maintains a double-sided ledger for detailed accounting, including earned and deferred income that can be easily integrated into your accounting system.

Engagement and Retention

During the engagement and retention phase, subscribers are actively engaged with your products and/or services. Key activities supported by Advantage include:

Customer Support

  • The Advantage system provides all the information needed for your customer service representatives in a highly customizable interface, allowing countless potential transactions. Your reps can quickly respond to any customer questions while also transacting any requested updates. This includes recording any customer interactions for future reference and analysis.

Churn Prevention

  • Ultimately, some percentage of your subscriber base will want to cancel. Advantage provides retention tools to assist in those efforts. Whether it’s performing the cancellation and providing the appropriate refund, offering a lower price to encourage them to stay on, adjusting the content mix to better match their interests, or simply clarifying any issues they are experiencing, Advantage supports a full set of tools to assist.

Renewal and Expansion

The renewal and expansion phase determines if you can continue the relationship with your subscribers, either through renewal opportunities or by expanding the customer’s services. Key activities supported by Advantage include:

Renewal Notifications

  • Advantage offers a comprehensive renewal framework for both renewal notices and autorenewal situations. You might want to offer your subscribers different renewal choices depending on their current attributes (current price, length of being a subscriber, etc.) to maximize the renewal efforts being sent. As an autorenew subscriber, many of them are likely on autocharge, so Advantage will handle the associated payment. For those not using autocharge, those subscribers will fall into the invoice notification flow.

Upselling

  • As a business, you may occasionally want to offer your customers additional products and services. Advantage allows this during virtually any interaction, such as a phone call, email notification, renewal notice, billing reminder, distribution event, and so on. The trick here is optimize the upsell opportunities for your customers by identifying the right combinations of when + who + where!

Whew! Although the subscription lifecycle is straightforward, the activities a business must engage in are constant and varied--and every business has its own “special sauce” for each phase of the subscription lifecycle. This is why Advantage is built with flexibility in mind. In fact, no two clients of ours use the same techniques across their markets and products/services. Once we can all agree on the basic principles of the subscription lifecycle, we can begin to understand which technology platforms most closely align with business strategies. Advantage ensures that every business can effectively navigate the intricacies of the subscription lifecycle by recognizing the unique needs of each client. 


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