How to Market your Subscription Box on any Budget (Including No Budget at All)

Let’s be honest; there are a lot of costs associated with starting a subscription box. First, you have to source and purchase the products to put inside your box, design and order the boxes, and set yourself up with all of the online tools to get your business off the ground. Depending on your niche, that can mean putting up some serious cash. Which is why setting aside money for marketing can sometimes be a tight squeeze.

Luckily for you, there are ways to market your subscription box on any budget (including no budget at all). In this blog post, we discuss the best marketing strategies for budgets whether you have $0, $250, $500, or $1000 to spend per month.

I’ve got $0 to market my subscription box! What should I do?

Let me guess, you’ve got big dreams and a small wallet? More time than money? We’ve all been there! Without any real budget to put towards marketing, your best bet is going to be to rely on the power of social media and the Cratejoy Marketplace to get new subscribers. 

Social Media

When money is tight, social media can be a GREAT way to get the word out about your subscription box business. Not only is setting up an account free on these platforms, but millions of people are using social media sites every day. Did you know that Instagram users are 70% more likely to make mobile purchases? Or that Pinterest is the number-one driver of social media traffic to subscription box websites? The point here is that you want to soak up all the free marketing goodness you can from these free platforms.

The first thing you are going to want to do is set up accounts on all of the major social networking platforms: Instagram, Facebook & Pinterest. Be sure to use a clear photo for your profile picture and write up a compelling bio for each of your accounts. Then you can start sharing content that resonates with your audience. 

Social Media best practices:

  • Do not set it and forget it. Social media is not a crockpot. You cannot set up your social media channels and expect them to grow and thrive without a lot of nurturing. This nurturing comes in the form of updating your status regularly, sharing images and content that is relevant to your niche, and focusing on creating a community around your brand.
  • Engage your audience. It’s one thing to set up your account profiles and throw up a few status updates and images, but it’s completely another thing to actually engage and start conversations with your followers. The secret sauce is in the engagement. You’ll want to make sure to ask your followers questions, listen to their answers, and respond to their inquiries. Let them know that there is a real person behind your brand. People love that.

Here are a few guides to help you with your social media efforts:

Cratejoy Marketplace

With $0 in your marketing budget, you’d be remiss not to list your subscription box on the Cratejoy Marketplace. The Cratejoy marketplace is like Amazon, but for subscription boxes.  Listing your subscription box on the marketplace doesn’t cost anything extra if you are a Cratejoy merchant (or $39/mo if you aren’t).

Want to hear something exciting? The Cratejoy marketplace received over 40 million pageviews last year! That’s a lot of potential eyeballs on your subscription box over the course of the year. In fact, we’ve found that merchants who list on the marketplace get to $1,000 in gross monthly revenue twice as fast as those who don’t list at all. So if that’s not enough compelling info for you, I don’t know what is!

If you are a Cratejoy merchant, all you have to do to list your box on the Marketplace is create a listing for your box in your Cratejoy dashboard. You can do this by clicking on Listing on the left-hand side of the page.

Learn more: For step-by-step instructions, check out our blog post on How to Create a Marketplace Listing.

The most important elements of a winning marketplace listing are having compelling photos and a solid product description. I’m not saying you need to go out and get a fancy camera or hire a photographer (because HELLO, you are strapped for cash!), but you should make sure that your pictures are light, bright and clear. Here’s a blog post about How to Take Photos for Your Marketplace Listing.

Once you’ve completed your listing, you’ll want to submit it for approval. Each marketplace listing is manually reviewed prior to going live. The approval process can take anywhere from 24-48 hours.

Learn more about the Cratejoy Marketplace: 

I have $250 to spend on marketing my subscription box. Now what?

If you’ve got a couple hundred dollars to spend on marketing, you’ll definitely want to use it wisely. Three of the most effective ways that you can spend $250 to acquire more customers is through influencer marketing, setting up an affiliate program, & getting your happy customers to refer your box

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is the modern-day celebrity endorsement. We live in a time when a teenager with a YouTube channel has more influence than a magazine that’s been around for 25 years. Groovy times, right?  Believe it or not, that’s actually good news for you. Because it means you have access to influencers easier than ever before.

Lots of subscription box merchants have had great success in working with bloggers, YouTubers, & Instagrammers. In order to make this work for your box, you’ll want to start out by finding influencers in your niche. Reach out to them and ask if they’d be interested in promoting your box in exchange for a free box. If your box is $25, you can afford to find 10 influencers per month!

Learn more about Influencer Marketing:

Set Up an Affiliate Program

One other avenue you’ll want to consider is setting up an affiliate program. An affiliate program allows bloggers and influencers to earn a commission each time they send you a sale. The nice thing about affiliate programs is that you don’t have to pay a dime to the influencer unless they bring you a sale. It’s a win/win.

Use Affiliate Marketing Software

When it comes to marketing, affiliate campaigns are some of the hardest to execute on your own. Luckily, for a small monthly fee, you can grow your business almost on autopilot without having to manage dozens of spreadsheets, payment processors, or find your own affiliates.

Tools like LeadDyno make it easy for small business owners to set up their own affiliate marketing program with an easy-to-use landing page, intuitive dashboard, and automated welcome emails for your affiliates. (Warning: Be sure to know your margins before setting up your affiliate program to ensure that you are actually making money on these deals.)

Referral Program

If you already have a handful (or more) of subscribers, then you can set up a referral program very easily in Cratejoy and get your customers to market for you. The way a referral program works is that you offer customers an incentive in exchange for recommending your box to their friends and family. You can offer them an incentive for referring a certain number of friends – for example, “Refer 5 friends and get a free box!” or “Refer a friend and you both get $5 off.”

You’ll want to make sure that you know your margins before setting up this referral program to ensure that you are still making money on each of these boxes. It’s one thing to get new customers, but if you aren’t turning a profit, that excitement will be short lived.

Oh yeah! I have $500 to spend on marketing my subscription box.

I hate to break it to you, but unless you have at least $1,000 to spend each month, FB & Instagram ads may not be worth your while. But if you’ve got $500, you can try out Google Ads.

Here is the biggest difference between Google & Facebook ads. With Google Ads, you can target people who are ready to buy your product. For example, you can place ads for keywords like “buy [your niche] subscription box.” You’re getting in front of potential customers at the exact time that they are ready to buy. Unfortunately, with FB & Instagram, these people aren’t looking for your box; you are just showing them your ads in the hopes that they buy your box, which makes it more of a prospecting ad.

Set up a Google Adwords Campaign

If you’ve got $500, you should head on over to Google Adwords and set up a few campaigns with different ad variations to see which ones perform the best. If you need help on how to set up Google Adwords for your subscription box, check out this Google Ads webinar we did in the Subscription School Facebook Community.

Best Practices for Google Adwords

  • Target keywords which indicate buyer intent. Because you have a limited budget, you’ll want to make sure that you are targeting the keywords that are most likely to give you sales. Targeting words which show “buyer intent” will greatly increase the quality of the traffic clicking on your ads. Keywords and phrases that include the words “buy,” “get,” or “subscribe” will deliver your ads to people who are looking to take action at that moment.
  • Use Search Network Only. Google gives you several options where you can display your ads. In order to get the highest quality, targeted traffic, you will want to select ONLY “Search Network.” This means that your ads will only show up in search results, instead of on partner websites.
  • Make sure your landing page is relevant to ad text. Google assigns what is called a “Quality Score” to each ad based on how relevant the ad is to the landing page. The higher your quality is, the lower your cost-per-click will be.

I’ve got $1,000, baby! How should I market my subscription box?

Congratulations – you’re finally making some cheddar and now it’s time to turn up your marketing efforts. If you’ve got at least $1000 to spend on marketing each month, Facebook ads & Instagram ads are a great way to go. Facebook & Instagram ads can be effective because they allow you to target people who like your niche & other pages in your niche.

Facebook Ads & Instagram Ads

Full disclosure: when it comes to Facebook & Instagram ads, there is some trial and error involved in finding the perfect ad & audience set. You will likely have to burn through some money before you find a winning combination. However, once you find a winning ad set and audience, it’s all about small tweaks to fine-tune your conversions.

Facebook Ads Best Practices:

  • Identify your audience. Before setting up Facebook ads, you’ll want to make sure to have a clear picture of who your ideal customer is, what they like, and what they do online. With this information, you can then create a highly-targeted audience for your Facebook ads. For example, in the screenshot above, you can see that this campaign is targeted towards 25-45-year-old women who live in the United States & are yoga lovers and engaged shoppers. This audience would be perfect for a yoga or fitness box. The more you can fine-tune your FB ads audience, the better conversions you will see.
  • Use compelling images (or video) in your ad. The goal of your Facebook ad is to make the person stop scrolling and pay attention to your ad. One way you can do this is by using very compelling images. These images can be photos of your box, flat lays or lifestyle photos. If you are just starting out and don’t have photos to use, Facebook does have a repository of stock photos that you can use for your ads. You will want to try out a variety of images and see which ones perform best.
  • Monitor your ads closely. As you get started with Facebook, you’ll want to monitor and tweak your ads regularly. We would recommend, letting your initial ads run for a few days so you can have enough data to make some informed decisions about which ads are performing and converting best.

Learn more: Check out this case study (How We Brought Facebook Acquisition Costs Down by $190), then watch our Facebook Ads 101 webinar.

Instagram Ads Best Practices:

Because Instagram ads are created within the same dashboard as Facebook ads, you’ll want to adhere to the same best practices for FB ads listed above, as well as the more specific Instagram ad best practices listed below.

  • Make the photo look like a photo, not an ad. Because Instagram users are used to seeing lifestyle photos and candids in their feed, you’ll want to make sure to use an image that looks like it belongs in the feed. A staged product shot will not get nearly the same type of engagement as a lifestyle photo that includes the product.
  • Use emojis in your headline. Believe it or not, using emojis in your ad headline actually increases the clickthrough rate!
  • Test sponsored Instagram Stories. Instagram has something that Facebook does not: Instagram Stories. These are 15-second videos or static posts that show up at the top of a user’s feed. Users can swipe up on these stories and be taken to your website to learn more or make a purchase.

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