Passion, customer impact, focus, feedback and service are crucial for maximum subscription and membership growth. For an example, take a look at PopSugar and their subscription box, PopSugar Must Have. While I recommend you subscribe to learn more about building your own subscription program, here’s five “Golden Rules” you can use immediately from a recent interview with Lisa Sugar, PopSugar’s founder and CEO.
Golden Rule #1: Choose a Product to Sell That You Can Be Passionate About
PopSugar got its start with a simple blog about things Lisa Sugar was passionate about – celebrities and fashion. Because of her passion, she was able to pour herself into a business that just continues to grow.
The amount of time it takes to oversee all the nuances of a subscription business can be overwhelming, and that’s where passion is needed to find the energy and focus you need to keep going. Lisa is a great example. Even with a team of more than 450 employees, Lisa is still curates each box herself. “Our editors are testing products all day long,” she shares, and she and her head merchant review each new product launch and new brand that her editorial team sends her way. She also frequents trade shows to scour the floors for ideas. That’s passion!
Golden Rule #2: Choose Items for Each Box That Fulfill a Need or Want of Your Subscribers
What you deliver to your subscribers must create excitement and engagement. Lisa chooses to offer her subscribers more premium options than other boxes. Her subscribers pay more, but they receive full-size items of great quality. “I think it’s very much quality over quantity. We definitely pride ourselves on thinking long and hard about what we’re putting in the box and if it is higher quality, maybe we have one less item than we would one month to the next because of that.”
“I like to say nothing in the box should go to waste, so if for any reason something isn’t for you, it would be a great gift for someone else. The idea is that you can really act and use everything and if for some reason you personally can’t, hopefully a friend or co-worker can, or you give it to somebody as a birthday gift later,” says Lisa.
Golden Rule #3: Have a Plan for Member Retention
Member retention is the byproduct of engaging your subscribers so they continue to find value with your subscription. With PopSugar Must Have, members receive various seasonal offerings. They also get early access into knowing teasers for the next month’s box.
Like I always say, turning your subscribers into a “vibrant tribe” is key to your membership growth. Lisa adds, “We’ve actually done some really fun things where we’ve reached out to those loyalists and offered additional boxes, sometimes free, that are advertising-funded but still curated the same way a regular box would be.” Contests that include working with brand partners are another activity that PopSugar includes in its retention arsenal. “Being able to come up with fun, creative ways to work with a really great brand partner who loved what we were doing with the box, who then let us create a special, fun additional box with the same types of items and brands that we love working with – that is something that is exclusive to the loyalists who have been a part of the Must Have box family for a while.”
Golden Rule #4: Pay Attention to Customer Responses and Feedback
Understanding what your customers like about your subscription and want in the future is crucial to your membership growth. With PopSugar, “we really look at all the data and we look at what they’re responding to. We do a survey after every box that goes out to figure out their favorite and least favorite items. We really take that information to heart, so we can see if we sent too many of one item, or if they’re really loving that we do a home category, because a lot of other boxes don’t have the home category covered. And making sure we have that right mix for the right month. We spend a lot of time looking at that kind of stuff and really gaging how we’re doing.” Lisa adds, “We’ll go into forums and we’ll look at the reviews and the unboxings and we’ll see what they say there, as well as our own data. Then, even looking at brands they want us to work with or brands that they’ve loved so much they would be happy to see it again. We make note of all that.”
Golden Rule #5: Make Customer Service a Priority
Too many subscription companies put so much energy into the product they deliver that they overlook the actual human beings who have chosen to become their subscribers. It’s easy to lose customers when they experience even a simple frustration. One common challenge in the subscription economy is failed credit cards. Failed credit cards, like credit cards that are expired, can quickly cause involuntary churn if it becomes a frustration to the customer. One thing Lisa has in place to meet that challenge is a “lot of engineers in house. We actually consider ourselves a very serious tech company, because between the media end of the business and all the apps and other products that we have as a company, we want best in class for making it as easy as possible to manage your subscription services with us. We have evolved one click type of implementation for signing up and then making sure that we can reach back out to people if billing is a problem in a way that it’s super easy for them to re-sign back up.”
These golden rules can produce staggering, successful results for you, like PopSugar. If you have a golden rule to add, please comment on this post! You may find yourself mentioned in a future article, and your input is always valuable.
About Lisa Sugar, Founder & President
Lisa Sugar is the founder & president of POPSUGAR Inc, a global media and technology company that is parent to lifestyle media publisher POPSUGAR and monthly subscription box POPSUGAR Must Have. Together, these brands attract a monthly audience of over 100M visitors worldwide, as well as 3B content views and over 300M video views. Her book, POWER YOUR HAPPY: Work Hard, Play Nice & Build Your Dream Life (Dutton; September, 2016), chronicles what she’s learned on her journey building the company. Prior to POPSUGAR, Lisa served as a media planner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and at Young & Rubicam and began her career at Showtime and Fox. Lisa graduated with a degree in psychology and English from The George Washington University. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs – a Jack Russell Terrier and a Terrier Mix pup.
You can discover more from the full interview with Lisa Sugar on the Membership and Subscription Growth podcast. Subscribe to the podcast to discover the keys to recurring revenue growth from successful entrepreneurs in the subscription economy. Previous and upcoming guests include Robbie Kellman Baxter (author of The Membership Economy), Amir Elaguizy (CEO of CrateJoy), Dustin McAdams (CEO of PupJoy), Perry Marshall (Founder of Perry Marshall & Associates), Liz Cadman (Founder of MySubscriptionAddiction.com), Deena Bronz (Co-founder and CEO of KitNipBox), Tim Broom (Founder of ITProTV), and Georg Richter (Founder of OceanX)!