Welcome back to our three part series concerning the essential foundations of a subscription-based company. In the first part, we looked at unique selling points and why they are necessary in order to stand out in the increasingly crowded market of subscription services. Additionally, we examined some popular subscription-based companies and identified how their USPs have negated some of the specific disadvantages they face.
In this part we will consider the pre-launch campaign, discuss why it is an essential foundation to any successful subscription-based company and look at the specific ways it can be tailored to a subscription service.
Image taken from Dollar Shave Club facebook page
The aim is to reach out to potential customers, inform them about the upcoming product, convince them that they want it and tell them how and where they can get it
To start with the obvious - having an exceptional product is a great advantage on your competition but only if other people know about it and know where to buy it. Without this key detail, there will not be as many sales as there otherwise could be. Likewise, an average product can experience exceptional sales if enough buzz can be generated around it. In a lot of cases, people will buy into a product simply because they see others talking about it and promoting it, regardless of whether the product is the best on the market. In an ideal world your company will be selling the exceptional product, but if that is not the reality an exceptional pre-launch campaign can decidedly level the playing field.
In essence the pre-launch campaign of a subscription-based company will be very similar to any other company. The aim is to reach out to potential customers, inform them about the upcoming product, convince them that they want it and tell them how and where they can get it. This can be achieved in a number of ways but the most popular is to guide potential customers to a pre-launch landing page that informs them about both the brand and the product. The page will subsequently ask for the customer’s email address, which is then added to a newsletter to keep them in touch with the brand and keep them interested in the product.
Simultaneously there will be posts on various social media channels aiming to create more interest, with each post directing customers towards the landing page. In some cases, sending products to certain social media influencers before the launch date for them to push and promote on their channels can also be extremely effective.
Image taken from Parfumado facebook page
None of the tactics mentioned so far are specifically tailored to subscription services, so let’s now take a look at what techniques subscription-based companies can employ to ensure there is as much exposure as possible pre-launch:
1. Make use of the community aspect of subscription services. All of the most popular subscription-based companies have built a community feature into their service. This usually takes the form of a blog or magazine published through their website or app, and covers topics directly to do with their product and other topics related to the general theme. Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, for instance, publish articles to do with men’s grooming, men’s health, fashion and, on a wider scope, gender identity issues, cultural norms, stereotypes etc., and there are a number of advantages for doing so.
a community spirit will increase the perceived value of the brand and lower the perceived risk of buying into it
For existing customers, the community aspect will create a feeling of membership and hence increase a sense of belonging and brand loyalty. For new customers, the knowledge of a community spirit will increase the perceived value of the brand and lower the perceived risk of buying into it - i.e. “there’s a large community of other people enjoying this brand/product, it must be reliable/top quality/worthwhile…”
In terms of the pre-launch campaign, the community feature is a good way to generate interest. Exclusive content can be offered to early subscribers including tips and tricks of the trade, interviews with industry experts, reviews of products etc. And as already mentioned, for new and potential customers, the invitation into a community atmosphere will help to ease any concerns they may have, making them more likely to give their email address.
Image taken from Harry’s facebook page
2. Give a cash incentive. Exclusive discount offers are a great way of generating interest in a pre-launch campaign. For a subscription-based company, an obvious incentive for customers would be to offer a jump up the pricing program for early subscribers. Many companies will offer differently priced packages within their subscription - a gold, silver or bronze package, for example - and therefore, silver subscriptions could be offered for the price of bronze to early subscribers for the first one/three/six months etc.
3. Advertise through other subscription boxes. A lot of people don’t just sign up to one subscription service, many get the taste for it and enjoy receiving multiple boxes of products through their letterbox. To catch their eye, why not place an advert for your upcoming subscription-based company in the box of another company? This way you know that your marketing is being directly targeted towards an audience that already enjoy the subscription experience, and consequently could be more likely to sign up.
As with the USP, demonstrated in part one of this series, the pre-launch campaign can be used to nullify a specific disadvantage that subscription-based companies face. Specifically, the threat that a subscription package may become stale and fail to keep up with changes in trends and tastes. The best antidote to this issue is information - information about customers; about their age, their gender identity, their interests, their income etc. - because information makes it possible to predict how customer's tastes might change.
If you know how your customer's tastes will change, you can adjust the contents of their subscriptions boxes to keep them fresh and up to date
The pre-launch campaign is a great way to harvest this information. When signing up during the pre-launch, encourage the customers to fill in a survey with relevant questions about themselves by offering an incentive for doing so. With enough surveys filled in, there will be sufficient information to discover who your "average" customer is and consequently predict how certain trends will affect their tastes over the first few cycles of their subscription. If you know how your customer's tastes will change, you can adjust the contents of their subscriptions boxes to keep them fresh and up to date. Note that the information obtained during the pre-launch will most likely only provide information for accurate predictions for a period of a few months - we will cover how you can continue to gather information beyond the pre-launch in the next article.
So not only does the pre-launch campaign get a subscription-based company off the ground, it can even be the source of valuable information that is required months after the launch has taken place. In the final part of the series we will look at the role of the e-commerce platform for subscription-based companies, and how it continues the work of the pre-launch campaign in generating information and keeping customers engaged.