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Scaling a Subscription Business through CRM — Wendy Czayka, Head of CRM at Blinkist


Reading time: 7 minutes approximately

Subscription services have become a common feature of modern life; ranging from playing music on Spotify to ready-to-cook meal kits with HelloFresh. Today, more and more companies have embraced a business model that can lead to reliable recurring revenue.

Wendy Czayka (Wendy), Head of CRM at Blinkist, works for an app that offers users the key insights of bestselling non-fiction books as part of a subscription service. In this article, Wendy shares the challenges CRM experts face when trying to build customer relationships alongside selling a subscription. 

What’s Inside?

  1. The Role of CRM in Blinkist’s Subscription Model
  2. Trends in Modern CRM
  3. Wendy’s Career Journey
  4. Final Thoughts
  5. Lessons Learned

The Role of CRM in Blinkist’s Subscription Model

Blinkist is a subscription service that focuses on making non-fiction content more accessible; by taking non-fiction books and distilling them down into key insights. With this, customers can expect to arrive at important learnings more quickly and efficiently. CRM plays an important role in conveying the value proposition and helps users to build a habit.


Wendy explained that – We need to encourage users to learn and engage with the product and in part, this is done through our CRM and product onboarding. In this journey, we ask them about what content they’re interested in and also factor in what type of titles they engage with very early on. If we know users are interested in psychology, parenting or career development, for example, we can recommend titles from this category and continue to steer them towards the learning they’re looking for.

When it comes to building a relationship with customers, these are the elements that Wendy and the CRM team at Blinkist are mindful of:

Reaching Users

Users can access and browse the product on Blinkist without registering an account because we want them to have the freedom to explore and become familiar with our product before deciding to sign up. While deferred account creation is beneficial for customers, it creates a challenge to drive lag conversions and engagement from a CRM point of view. We can reach users via email only once they’ve registered for an account, so we need to get creative with our channels or incentivise customers to sign up with their email through a discount or value-led approach.

Demonstrating Valu

We promote the different levels of access customers can have with Blinkist because we have a freemium model that gives users access to one free curated piece of content a day. Our free title, the Free Daily as we call it, can provide a lot of value to our users already and CRM plays an important role to remind users of the daily title via email or push. Depending on the engagement we see, we can then also trigger timely and relevant upsell messages to encourage users to upgrade to our monthly or yearly Premium subscription and with this get access to our whole library.


We have had great success with discounting, but we also don’t want to discount too readily, as this can diminish the perceived value of the product. We’re constantly testing different discount levels across markets and channels and pair them with relevant messages about why a user should purchase a Premium subscription.


In CRM you monitor tons of data, but especially for a content app like Blinkist we can track the type of content users have engaged with, such as genre, title, time spent listening or reading and much more.

The important consideration for us is to understand how to use the data we collect. Collaborating with our Data Science and Business Intelligence (BI) team means researching which pieces of data can best be leveraged and how they can be translated into meaningful and personalised campaigns.

Measuring Success

Every CRM team should have a ‘Northstar metric’ that they’re optimising for. For Blinkist, the entire company is aligned behind the key metric of content engagement, and we’ve seen that if a user engages with content four times in a month then they are more likely to be retained. Having this guidance of four content engagements a month can help us plan how our lifecycle is structured to make sure we’re pushing customers to reach this milestone.


When I asked Wendy about the changes she feels are coming to CRM, these were some of the areas she pointed to:

1. Automation 

When we run a test, we’re already thinking: is this scalable? How will we automate it? Modern CRM tools give you the power to focus less on manual campaign development and enable you to invest that energy elsewhere. Automation will only get more advanced, the challenge here is to maintain a personal touch.

2. User Fatigue

It is a privilege to have a 1:1 relationship with users but it is challenging to cut through the noise. Customers are bombarded with distractions on their phones or in their inboxes, and it’s easy to get lost amongst the other brands vying for attention. While everything you send should be informed by data, make sure you stay innovative with your type of message and base it on user behaviour to help you stand out.

3. User Protections 

Apple and Google have made significant changes to data collection and permissions to safeguard the customer from unwanted messages and tracking, which is likely to continue. This is great for users but limits the ability of CRM to effectively reach users and have an impact with messages. More than ever it’s important to look at alternative channels and make sure you have a compelling reason for customers to want to interact with you.


Wendy’s Career Journey 

Before joining Blinkist, Wendy worked as a freelance Senior Account Manager in London for a range of agencies. Her work focused on multiple marketing capabilities, ranging from branding and experiential events to digital and CRM advertising – ultimately helping her to become a marketing generalist.

One of the biggest takeaways from this career phase was her understanding of the campaign development process. She said – How do you develop a concept? How do you create a campaign? Who is your target audience and what message are you trying to convey? How do you measure success? As I worked with creative and conceptual teams I gradually grew my expertise in this process which helped immensely when I returned to a full-time CRM role. In this process, you’re working under a lot of time pressure and juggling multiple campaigns, which is a reality every CRM expert knows well.

Wendy decided to specialise in CRM again because of her affinity for the discipline – I always liked that CRM has a significant and measurable impact on a user’s experience. The 1:1 relationship you have through CRM is unique in marketing. It is a privilege to pop up in someone’s inbox or on their phone, she said.


Wendy chose to work at Blinkist – where she has supported optimising the CRM funnel for the last four years – because she believes in their mission to inspire people to keep learning. Blinkist wants to make learning more accessible for people who are starved for time or are just naturally curious, and she liked the potential for CRM to help motivate customers to seek out the knowledge they’re looking for.

Final Thoughts 

Before ending our conversation I asked Wendy for one piece of advice she would like to share. Here’s what she said:  

Prioritisation is key. One of my favourite quotes from Brené Brown is: If you have more than 3 priorities, you have no priorities. And there is a lot of truth in this. Limit your priorities and as a result, create the most valuable work you can. CRM Managers are at the intersection of multiple teams in a company, so single out a few key things you want to focus on every day. And with this be set up for success.

Lessons Learned

1Thorough understanding of the campaign development process and how it helps you connect with users can be a key skill for CRM experts 
2Be aligned with how you measure success – define your Northstar metric and align your efforts with stakeholders across the business to make sure you’re focusing on the right actions 
3Access to users is becoming more challenging and competition is increasing, so follow a data-informed and creative approach to convey the value of your product or service to customers  

Next steps

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