The tactics to create a subscription box growth plan are simple, but the work is not easy.*
If you are building a subscription box business, this process will help you define the steps to creating a subscription box growth plan. If there are decisions you have yet to finalize with your business, this process will push you to do so.
It doesn’t make sense to build a growth plan if the foundation of your business is unsettled or undecided.
This is the process I take clients through at Subscription Box Marketing. It will take you through branding, customer research, finding your audience, optimizing your website, creating an engagement plan, and retaining customers. For the most part it is a linear process, but there are a few steps that might send you backward a bit to sort out details before you can proceed.
Before you dive into a growth plan, it’s vital to solidify your branding. Branding is much more than a logo – it’s the overall look of your brand, it’s your brand voice, it’s your values, it’s who your company is at the core.
Once you make decisions with branding, stick to them. I’ve seen sub box owners completely change their target customer or logo or product offering based on one comment from someone else. Be flexible, but not that flexible.
Do you fully understand your target audience? If so, use this as a refresher and gather ideas to solidify your audience. If not, get ready — this is a process, but a critical one to the success of your business.
A lot of sub box owners create their box with the idea that they are their own target market, but that may not be the case.
There are many avenues you could take with customer research, but here is a basic outline to get started, with the lean startup methodology at its core:
Put together an MVP
Put together 5-10 test boxes and send them to people that you believe align with your target audience. You don’t need to line up vendors or figure out where you’re sourcing products for the long term. Go to retail stores and buy items that you would include in your box for the sake of putting together sample boxes. Yes, it will cost more money to buy retail than to figure out a bulk purchase, but right now you are in the testing phase.
Don’t worry about having a fancy, designer box. Find simple, plain boxes that will hold your items. You can still create a nice unboxing experience by using tissue paper, ribbon, or other packaging that makes sense for your brand. Find inexpensive tissue paper at Hobby Lobby (use a coupon!) or Marshall’s/TJ Maxx, and include a handwritten note.
You can charge your test customers for the box if you want to. But if you can afford it, I would encourage you not to charge your test customers and then ask them what they’d be willing to pay after their unboxing experience.
Find your target market
Find people that seem to align with your target market. This can be done with a few simple social media posts. Explain the basic idea of your business and who you are looking for. Be sure to include that the recipients are expected to provide feedback!
Plan your surveys
Before you send any sample boxes, create two surveys. The first is one to send each person before you ship their box. The goal of this survey is to collect demographic information, understand their expectations, and gather first impressions. This information is extremely valuable because it will help you find more people like them if you determine that they are, in fact, part of your target audience.
Your second survey will ask them to review each item as well as the overall experience and gather ideas and suggestions for improvement.
Send the MVPs
Once people complete the initial survey, send their MVP box. After a few days, follow up by email to ensure they received it. Then send the link to the second survey. Even better, get on the phone and debrief the experience with them. Listen for to their tone and gauge their level of excitement for your box.
The information you collect should help inform your decisions going forward. Did people find value in what you sent? Did they like all the items? What did they dislike? What was confusing? How would they explain your box to someone else?
Find Your Audience
Once you have a solid understanding of your potential customers, it’s time to figure out how to reach more people like them. There are two ways to find your audience: Ask your beta testers where they spend the most time online and test your marketing in channels where they hang out.
For example, test $10/day on Facebook and Instagram ads, and test $1/day with AdWords. Spend time on other social channels and see who you can get connected with. As you discover where your audience is spending their time, learn more about that channel and continue improving on what you’re doing.
Gauge responses on each channel, and look at the stats. Look at clicks, engagement, replies, etc. Test, then scale as you find what works.
Optimize your Website
Having an optimized website is important to your growth strategy because this is the destination for your online marketing efforts. You might find a treasure trove of people in your target market, but if they land on your website and get confused, misdirected, or overwhelmed, they’re going to bounce in seconds.
Optimize your website by having a clear Call To Action (CTA) “above the fold”, make it easy for people to see what’s in the box (be sure to include some photos!), and clearly define the benefits of your box. Also, have CTAs throughout the home page and internal pages, too. You want there to be multiple opportunities for a website visitor to enter your sign up workflow.
Build an Email List & Nurture Sequence
Even with great ads and an optimized website, a lot of traffic won’t convert on the first (or second or third) exposure to your business. But, if you capture their email address when they hit your site you get permission to nurture the relationship and connect with them again and again.
Start the relationship off on the right foot by offering a lead magnet of some sort. A lead magnet is a well-designed PDF that offers valuable information to people in your niche. It could be a list of tips, a guide for doing something, a workbook, or a short ebook. (Get some ideas here and here.) Deliver this valuable information in the first email of your nurture sequence.
Facebook Group Invite
A good follow up to a free lead magnet is to invite people to join your sub box Facebook group (if you have one). Note: Do not restrict your group to just subscribers! By making it open to anyone you give your brand more visibility and build a community around your core values.
Capture information about your Facebook group members by setting screening questions that people are required to answer before requesting to join. Note: Once you approve a member to join your group, you cannot see the answers to their questions again! I recommend either taking a screenshot of the information (especially if you’re mobile only at the time) and transposing it in a google doc, or copying and pasting the info into a google doc before approving their request. There are also paid applications you can plugin to automate this for you.
Continue to Nurture the Relationship
The next few emails in your nurture sequence should tell a potential customer more about your subscription box – it’s value and benefits – share testimonials from customers, and provide entertainment. Tip: Study how others do this! Some of your favorite bloggers, speakers, or brands probably have you in the middle of a long-term nurture sequence and you don’t even know it! Pick one person that you subscribe to and search their name in your inbox. Go back to the first emails from them and read every single one. Look at their subject lines, email content, value-adds, and CTAs. You’ll learn a lot!
End with a Strong CTA
End your email nurture sequence with an urgent promotion (like a discount that expires after 72 hours) and a very clear button or link to sign up.
Consider Additional Nurture Sequences
After the initial welcome email sequence, you will want to consider creating another evergreen nurture sequence so people have a way to stay connected to you over time. But that’s a topic for another day 🙂
Be sure to check out this article on the lemonStand blog: 5 Emails That Subscription Retailers Should Be Sending With Examples
Create a Retention Plan
Now that you’ve brought in so many customers, work hard to keep them! A few quick tips for retention:
- Respond to customer service requests within 1 business day or same business day
- Consider integrating a chat app like LiveChat or PureChat (both integrations available with LemonStand)
- Send feedback surveys after each box ships (ask people to rate each product and the overall experience)
- Look for unique ways to surprise and delight your customers, like welcoming them with a personal video through Bonjoro
- Get more ideas about retention here, here, and here
Connect with Other Sub Box Entrepreneurs
Viewing that process as a whole can be daunting. Take it one step at a time and work to make incremental progress. Join our Facebook group, Subscriptionpreneurs, for support, ideas, and a community of like-minded subscription box entrepreneurs!
*Listen to this great podcast from Tim Ferriss about simple vs complicated and easy vs hard.