Subscription Box - How do I start?
“Where do I start if I want to start a subscription box?”
It’s a natural, albeit broad, question. The thought of starting a business is exciting, lucrative, and downright “cool” these days (thanks, Silicon Valley), but actually getting started can be tough.
Our reply to this question is centered in what kind of box you’d like to start and what makes it compelling. Before a single box is shipped, you need to understand the foundation of your business. What is your place in the market? What is at the heart of your brand, and how does that compel consumers to subscribe?
There are two key things to understand here: your niche and you’re positioning.
Niche (NOUN): A small, specific market for products and services.
Positioning (NOUN): Where your product stands in the market and in the mind of the consumer in relation to other brands.
Step One: Decide on your subscription box niche.
Unfortunately, you (usually) can’t sell to everyone. Too broad of marketing and you can confuse and lose customer interest. For that reason, narrowing your focus and determining a specific niche can help convert more customers.
“The riches are in the niches” – Eric Musick
Once you determine your niche, Eric recommends to “Niche down again.” A niche should be specialized and specific. It should be highly definable. For example, instead of saying your niche is “food”, tell me what KIND of food your niche involves like, vegan desserts or organic office snacks.
Step Two: Understand Your Positioning
Positioning is a lot like defining your niche but involves understanding where your product stands in the mind of consumers.
Questions to consider when thinking about positioning:
- What makes your product unique from others?
- How is your product similar to others?
- What makes your subscription box stand out from others?
- How can you make it stand out from others? I.E. Give away a vacation every month.
- What problem does your product solve?
- Will customers want to receive this subscription month after month?
Researching your competition helps you to see the holes in their game, and that's where you can really niche more to improve your positioning.
It will also help you determine if your idea is compelling in the mind of consumers.
“Whether it's the FabFitFun, for example, you go into their site, they have a traditional subscription box model. They’ve got deep pockets so their value proposition is that you'll have a guaranteed amount of $200 worth of stuff for 50 bucks. That's their value prop and [they] do everything really well… to really differentiate yourself, don’t try to copy others but offer something and position yourself differently. Don't try to be another FabFitFun, that already exists…you got to figure out a better way to have a unique value prop and that's where your work is. That's where your job is to have that unique offer and solution.” ~ Eric Musick
To further understand where you are in comparison to others, Yebo suggests the following:
- Using a spreadsheet or working in a grid, write the following terms across the first row (i.e., A1, B1, C1, etc). Bold these once completed.
- Website URL
- # of Products (The number of products included in their box)
- Frequency: Monthly? Quarterly?
- Unique Value Propositions
- Starting A2 and going down the column (i.e., A2, A3, A4, etc) list out all the competitors that come to mind immediately. Some figures may require a bit of guesswork.
- Fill in the grid
- You now have a competitive landscape. Think back to the questions above and revise as needed.
- Step Three: Reflect on Your Box
At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what your box involves, the products it might contain, and what makes it similar and different from others. From here, you can decide if the idea is worth pursuing and moving on to something like a prelaunch or presales campaign.
Bonus Step: Prelaunch Packaging
A subscription box isn’t the same without the box. So when should you order printed subscription boxes?
Set a subscriber goal. At Yebo we recommend setting your subscriber goal of 50 to 100 subscribers and ordering in bulk about a thousand or more boxes. This may seem like a lot but as your subscriber base grows you will notice your supply will quickly disappear. If you are just starting off, start with a prototype. Use a plain box with some branded stamping or stickers on it. Subscribers love to be part of a startup campaign and are usually willing to overlook the first prototype. Just let your subscribers know it’s a prototype box and that new boxes will be coming in the future. Eric recommends that “You want to get out of there as fast as possible but in the beginning, it’s just one option.” When Eric launched Louis and Léa, he was able to hit his subscriber goal within the first month. Let’s be realistic though hitting your subscriber goal may take you just a few months if you are dedicated for the long haul.
To start a successful subscription box business, you need to find your niche, and once you have done that, dig deeper into your niche. Discover where you fit into the market and how your box offers a solution that makes you stand out against the competition. Lastly, reflect on whether it’s going to be worth it and if you are going to be in it for the long haul.
About the Yebo Group
YEBO! is a custom box and packaging company located in Orange County that services a broad spectrum of manufacturing, distributing, and marketing companies. In fact, we've serviced clients from local start-ups to global brands. We've made this a hallmark of our success by partnering with our clients. Simply put, we're not just a vendor but a qualified extension of your marketing team. To learn more about custom protective packaging, call (800) 356-0267 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Anthony, aka " No box left behind Martinez", can be found cutting in line to get your next order out.
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