Product lessons from a profitable, $20M ARR subscription app — Jesse Venticinque, Fitbod

Jesse Venticinque tells us why we should listen more to non-subscribing users and why word-of-mouth should be core to your growth.

Product lessons from a profitable, $20M ARR subscription app — Jesse Venticinque, Fitbod
David Barnard

David Barnard

Published

If you’re trying to figure out why users aren’t turning into subscribers, what better way to learn than by running user interviews?

The trouble is, user research tends to focus too much on super-users. And as much as we can learn from engaged subscribers, it’s the users who aren’t engaged who can perhaps reveal the most important insights. What’s the key problem you can solve for them to move them further down the funnel?

In this episode of the Sub Club podcast, Jesse Venticinque, Co-Founder and CPO at Fitbod, highlights the importance of establishing an ideal customer profile, the science of growth and the factors it entails, how to incentivize word of mouth, and why paid marketing is an accelerant.

Establishing a science of growth

Establishing a science of growth is what Jesse Venticinque — co-founder and chief product officer (CPO) of fitness app Fitbod — has been trying to achieve with product and design since first breaking into what was in 2016 an underdog industry in the app space. “Our unique approach — leveraging AI and ML to produce customized strength training prescriptions — seems scalable, it’s a large problem, and we have this unique tech,” Jessy explains. “That was how we gained confidence.”

Praised by Apple’s Editor’s Choice and raved about by customers (including the Sub Club team), Fitbod boasts more than 5 million downloads and over 40 million logged workouts in the past seven years. During this time, Jesse and his co-founder Allen Chen haven’t stopped applying what Jesse defines as “maniacal focus on product retention.”

On top of this, the Fitbod founders were willing to challenge the status quo which has for too long been centered around snake oil sales. A critical facet of their funding was finding investors who aligned with Fitbod’s objectives — even and especially when they were in the early consumer SaaS subscription space. But it’s wise to avoid seeking funding until you have product-market fit nailed down.

Why word-of mouth should be central to your growth loop

Understanding the viral growth loop — and how important word-of-mouth was and still is to Fitbod’s growth — has always been high on Jesse’s list of priorities. He says that when a product can “totally blow [users] out of the water,” by not just meeting but beating expectations, word of mouth kicks into high gear. 

At the same time, Fitbod is exploring other avenues for different growth loops, including content that is both user-generated and blog-based. Besides having the right product-market fit by tapping into a “secret hiding in plain sight,” as Jesse puts it, offering rewards via referral mechanisms has been crucial for an app that isn’t a naturally social product. 

By offering free referrals, you can understand and measure growth loops in a way that would be more difficult via word of mouth alone. Word of mouth is difficult to measure when there’s no hard data.

Focus on metrics you can measure — such as when users are canceling before the end of their subscription period, and how long accounts are remaining dormant. This helps to verify hypotheses about how to boost growth.

But retention is only one part of the puzzle. Focus — what Jesse calls “leverage” — is the linchpin of conversion and activation. If and when retention is solid, you need to look at short-term, immediate business metrics for more movement. That’s Fitbod’s primary focus at the moment.

Jesse highlights the importance of establishing an ideal customer profile (ICP). Once you understand your ICP — and have that critical product-market fit — you’re able to scale and, in turn, own the market for the ICP. After you’ve achieved this, you can build for the non-ICP to move toward mass user adoption.

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