Why Your HubSpot Subscription Strategy Is Make-or-Break for Email Success in 2023

Not all email is created equal. In the ruthless competition for audience attention, only the most relevant, targeted messages will avoid the dreaded spam folder or unsubscribe button.

So what‘s the secret to staying in your subscribers‘ good graces? It all comes down to one word: control.

The more control you give contacts over what content they receive from you and when, the more likely they are to stay engaged. In fact, a MarketingSherpa study found that offering subscribers a choice in email frequency alone can boost open rates by 135%!

Fortunately, HubSpot‘s subscriptions feature makes it easy to hand subscribers the reins and watch your email results soar in the process. But with great power comes great responsibility. Crafting an effective subscription strategy requires careful planning, execution and iteration.

To shed some light on what separates subscription success from lackluster list growth, we asked HubSpot Product Manager Tyler Scionti to pull back the curtain on how customers are really using this tool.

After crunching the numbers on over 75,000 HubSpot portals, Tyler uncovered some fascinating insights on subscription categories, send frequency, and engagement rates. He was also kind enough to share some juicy examples of companies pushing the boundaries of what‘s possible with subscriptions.

Ready to dive in? Strap on your safety goggles – we‘re about to get up close and personal with some seriously powerful email data. By the end, you‘ll have a crystal clear roadmap for optimizing your own subscription strategy for maximum impact. Let‘s go!

Subscription Type Showdown: What HubSpot Customers Are Offering (and What‘s Working)

First up, let‘s take a look at the most common subscription types HubSpot customers have active. Across the 75,000 portals analyzed, the average customer offers 4 subscription types.

However, that average obscures some interesting differences across customer segments:

Customer Segment Avg. # of Subscription Types
Starter 2
Basic 3
Professional 5
Enterprise 8

As you might expect, larger, more mature email programs tend to offer more subscription options to cater to their diverse audiences. In fact, 15% of Enterprise customers have over 10 active subscription types!

But what exactly are those subscription options? After categorizing the data, here were the top 5 most popular subscription types:

  1. Blog/Educational Content – 83% of customers
  2. Product/Feature Updates – 64% of customers
  3. Company News/PR – 51% of customers
  4. Promotions/Offers – 42% of customers
  5. Events/Webinars – 39% of customers

A few interesting callouts:

  • Blog subscriptions are far and away the most common type, offered by over 4 in 5 customers. Makes sense, as blog posts are relatively easy to produce at scale vs other formats.

  • Product update subscriptions are the second most popular, but have much higher adoption among B2B/software companies (81%) vs B2C/ecommerce (47%).

  • Promotional offer subscriptions are more common among B2C (59%) than B2B (36%), which tracks since B2C companies tend to run more frequent sales/discounts.

Of course, offering the right mix of subscription types is just half the battle – it‘s how you use them that really moves the needle. More on that next.

The Relevance Rising Tide: How Subscription Segmentation Lifts All (Marketing) Boats

Pop quiz: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if you blast out an email to your entire database and no one opens it, did you really send an email?

Okay, that analogy may be a bit of a stretch. But the point is, effective email marketing is all about reaching the right person with the right message at the right time.

And there‘s no better way to nail that relevance trifecta than by giving subscribers control over what content they receive through subscription options. But don‘t just take my word for it – let‘s look at the data.

After analyzing millions of email sends across the 75,000 HubSpot portals, Tyler found some compelling evidence that more subscription types equals better engagement:

# of Sub. Types Avg. Open Rate Avg. CTR Avg. Unsub. Rate
1-3 21.4% 2.3% 0.5%
4-6 26.7% 3.1% 0.3%
7-9 32.2% 3.9% 0.2%
10+ 38.5% 4.4% 0.1%

The numbers don‘t lie – customers with more subscription types see significantly higher open rates and click-through rates, with lower unsubscribe rates to boot.

For example, customers with 10+ subscription types have an 80% higher open rate and 91% higher CTR than those with 3 or less. They also have one-fifth the unsubscribe rate!

So what‘s behind this engagement bump? It likely boils down to the power of choice. When subscribers can opt-in to only the content they care about most, they‘re naturally going to be more receptive to and engaged with the messages they receive.

Think about your own inbox habits. Do you eagerly await HubSpot‘s weekly blog email which has posts on all the latest marketing topics? Or do you more look forward to the monthly Product Update email that tells you about all the cool new features in Marketing Hub?

If you‘re like most people, it‘s probably the latter. In fact, a Wunderman survey found that 90% of consumers find "generic" marketing annoying, while 74% appreciate content personalized to their interests.

Put another way, giving people what they actually want is key to earning their attention and keeping them around. Groundbreaking stuff, I know.

But subscription types aren‘t just about individual email relevance – they can also be a highly strategic tool for guiding prospects and customers through key lifecycle stages and milestones.

For example, an ecommerce brand might have separate subscription tracks for:

  • New subscribers (welcome series, getting started tips)
  • Engaged/loyal customers (VIP content, early access)
  • Lapsed/at-risk customers (win-back offers, retention promos)
  • High AOV customers (exclusive collections, stylist services)

By segmenting their list and tailoring content to each group‘s unique needs and interests, the company can deliver maximum value and keep people moving in the right direction.

The same principle applies in B2B. A software company might have subscription journeys for:

  • Blog subscribers (educational content)
  • Free trial users (product tips, customer stories)
  • Customers up for renewal (usage/ROI reports, training)
  • Customers of a specific product (new feature updates)

The more relevant and timely the content, the more likely subscribers are to progress to the next stage, whether that‘s making a purchase, expanding usage or renewing their contract.

Driving Action & Insight: Advanced Subscription Use Cases to Steal

Alright, now that we‘ve covered the why of subscription types, let‘s dig into the how with some examples of HubSpot customers using them in creative and impactful ways.

Use Case #1: Accelerating the Flywheel

Company: Mid-market B2B software provider
Goal: Increase product adoption and upsell/cross-sell revenue
Strategy:

  • Created separate subscriptions for each product line, with content tailored to key lifecycle stages (e.g. onboarding tips for new users, advanced tutorials for power users, customer success stories for prospects)
  • Used progressive profiling to guide contacts into the right subscription track based on past behavior (e.g. if they attended a product webinar, enroll them in the corresponding sequence)
  • Set up internal lead scoring and sales alerts to flag contacts showing high engagement with upsell topics

Results:

  • 40% reduction in time-to-value for new users
  • 25% increase in upsell/cross-sell MRR in first 90 days
  • 15% expansion in average revenue per user

Use Case #2: Personalizing the Shopping Experience

Company: Enterprise consumer ecommerce brand
Goal: Deliver more targeted product recommendations to increase conversion rates and AOV
Strategy:

  • Created subscription options for key product categories, preferred brands, discounts/sales, style advice and more
  • Incorporated product browsing/purchase data to auto-enroll customers in relevant subscriptions
  • Used AI-powered content recommendations in emails to highlight top products for each individual based on their unique mix of subscriptions

Results:

  • 120% increase in email conversion rate
  • 35% increase in revenue per email
  • 22% increase in repeat purchase rate

Use Case #3: Streamlining Event Promotion

Company: Global B2B events company
Goal: Fill more seats at flagship conference and regional events
Strategy:

  • Launched subscriptions segmented by event type, location, job role, and topic
  • Cross-promoted subscriptions across event landing pages, ticket confirmation emails, and post-event surveys
  • Automated event email journeys to guide subscribers from awareness to ticket purchase to post-event follow-up and community-building

Results:

  • 30% increase in event email open rates
  • 21% increase in registrations from email channel
  • 12% increase in event attendee satisfaction scores

The common thread across all these examples? Using subscriber data and behavior to inform content and continually optimize the experience.

It‘s not a "set it and forget it" approach – the most successful subscription strategies are constantly evolving based on performance metrics and subscriber feedback.

Your Ticket to the Inbox Winner‘s Circle: 10 Subscription Optimization Tips

Speaking of iteration, let‘s close out with some tips you can use to level up your own subscription strategy, based on the data and examples we‘ve covered:

  1. Map out your customer journey and identify key inflection points where subscriptions can guide contacts to take the next step.

  2. Keep subscription options focused around core topic areas, customer needs and business goals. Resist the temptation to create a niche list for every little thing.

  3. Use progressive profiling to recommend subscriptions based on past behavior and stated preferences. Don‘t make them do all the work!

  4. Set expectations from the start about what content subscribers will receive and how often. No one likes surprises in their inbox.

  5. Segment and personalize relentlessly using demographic, firmographic and behavioral data. The riches are in the niches.

  6. Tap into social proof by highlighting popular subscription types, subscriber counts or loyalty perks. Never underestimate the power of FOMO.

  7. Make it stupid easy to manage subscriptions with a dedicated preference center. Bonus points for a one-click unsubscribe option in every email.

  8. Regularly prune inactive subscribers to maintain good list hygiene and deliverability. It‘s not a popularity contest.

  9. Experiment with subscription incentives like gated content, exclusive offers or VIP experiences. Give them a reason to add one more email to the pile.

  10. Always be testing and iterating based on engagement data. Your subscribers‘ needs and interests will continue to evolve, so should your approach!

And there you have it, folks – the inside scoop on how HubSpot customers are harnessing the power of subscriptions to hit the inbox bullseye.

But remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Building an engaged, loyal subscriber base takes time, effort and plenty of elbow grease.

So stay focused, stay agile and above all else, stay subscriber-centric. Because in the email marketing game, the customer always comes first – no ifs, ands or unsubscribes about it.