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When one thinks of subscription services, the first thought that comes to mind is newspapers or magazines. While periodicals may have established the subscription model over a century ago, more and more businesses are successfully adopting it. From razor blades to socks, the subscription service model is more popular than ever.

If your business is not benefiting from this model, perhaps it should consider doing so. Here are some things to keep in mind as you ponder starting subscription services.

Flexibility is King

Whatever product or service you are selling, from toiletry goods to clothing to software, ensure your customers have optimal choices to decide for themselves what they need. You have to be able to rapidly adapt to the needs of your customers.

Ensure that the level of subscription is not set in stone, to the point the customers cannot modify it if their needs change. The more flexible your subscription terms are, the better chance you have of getting people to sign up for your products or services. You can also offer different tiers of subscriptions to cater to different customers. Basic tiers are less expensive and offer fewer benefits, while higher tiers are for your power users who want the most out of what your company has to offer.

Be Unique

With all the competition out there in the subscription business industry, you’ll have to do extra research to ensure your business is offering something unique that customers can’t find elsewhere.

Subscription businesses face the unique challenge of creating a product or service that customers will want to order again and again. That significantly narrows down your possibilities, since it eliminates big-ticket items and one-time purchases. Because subscriptions are recurring purchases, you’ll have to work extra hard to convince customers that your product is unique and valuable enough to warrant repeated purchases.

Feedback is Everything

Today’s subscribers, beyond quality and convenience, are looking for community. The feedback from fellow subscribers, therefore, is critical. Ensure you have systemic, automated feedback mechanisms built into your subscriptions so that you can determine the satisfaction levels of your customers as early as possible.

Monitor their feedback as well, and be an active part of the online community, which is reviewing and discussing your products and services. This will enable you to address issues before they become serious, and it will help you build brand loyalty as well.

Provide Peace of Mind

Some customers are wary of subscription services because they’re afraid of getting into a long-term contract. Many are also worried about canceling the service, because they may have had a bad experience in the past with a company that made it very difficult for them to cancel.

To ease these worries, offer some type of guarantee for your customers. It may be a money-back guarantee if they’re unhappy with their products or services, or it could be as simple as promising that canceling the service is easy and hassle-free. Customers should feel comfortable signing a contract because they know they’ll be receiving quality products and won’t be locked into anything they’re not happy with.

Monitor Your Business

In order to build an effective business model, you have to know who is, and who isn’t purchasing your services. Do everything you can to collect metrics on sales; you should know the demographics of your subscribers, their level of interest in your product, and the exact types of subscriptions they are interested in.

You should also know why people cancel subscriptions as well. This information will help you determine whether your services are meeting muster, and whether or not there is a market for you to introduce new products or services.

Pamper Your Subscribers

Beyond the sense of community, you must also give your subscribers the feeling that their subscription is something of value. Consider offering exclusive sales or discounts to your subscribers, so that they feel they are getting their money’s worth.

Consider having an expert or even celebrity come in to curate the goods or services available to subscribers. For instance, if your business sells fishing flies, consider having a well-known fly fisherman talk about the dry fly collection that will be available for a certain month. Activities like these will help you maintain subscribers, and build on your customer base via word of mouth.

Help Subscribers Use Your Products

One of the best ways to increase demand for your products is to help people better understand how to use them; this will increase interest in the products themselves, as well as your business, as subscribers seek additional information about what you have to offer.

For example, if your subscription services provide rare herbs and spices each month, consider posting recipes, or videos, showing how to use them to cook a terrific meal. The more people understand how to use your products, the more interested they’ll be in maintaining the subscription.

Never Stop Learning

You will not thrive unless you continue to adapt and improve. As you monitor the satisfaction of your subscribers, you should always be thinking about what more you can provide, in terms of additional products or services, to maintain their loyalty or build your subscriber base.

Use their feedback to beta test new products, services, or subscription terms. Do not ever grow complacent with your current customer satisfaction, you should always be thinking about what your company could do to increase satisfaction and grow the number of subscriptions.  

Final Thoughts

Subscription businesses are one of the newest forms of business, and many companies have seen incredible success with this model. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges. Competition is stiff within this industry, so it’s important to do your research and make sure you’re offering something that adds value to your customers’ lives. Unlike most other companies that can survive with one-time-purchase customers, subscription companies are completely reliant on customers ordering again and again.

Despite its challenges, starting a subscription business can be incredibly rewarding. As long as you know what you’re getting into and stay focused on the customer, you could be on your way to a multimillion-dollar business.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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