The Right Way to Launch a Subscription Business
The launch of a new subscription business, for me, has always been one of the most exciting parts about building a new subscription box. A good launch will create an invaluable amount of momentum for your business, but it’s very important to understand that the ‘launch’ is an extensive process, not a single day or task.
Your launch will serve a variety of purposes from validating your concept to collecting leads and building anticipation. I’ve been involved with 5 different subscription box launches (and observed dozens of others) and the ones that saw significant success out of the gate were the ones that planned their launch over a series of important phases. Below I’ve outlined a handful of steps that I believe are crucial to a successful launch. Are you ready to learn how to launch a subscription business the right way?
Phase 1: The Launch Teaser.
Often referred to as a ‘pre-launch’, this is the beginning of your launch process. By this time you should have a solid brand (at minimum a logo), some good marketing copy and you’ll probably want to have a pretty good handle on what your product is going to be (even though you won’t be revealing everything at this time). The launch teaser is a landing page that’s meant to give potential customers just enough information to get them excited about your upcoming product. Below is an example of a good launch teaser page (click on it to expand). As a reference point, the below page received a 19% visitor to email conversion rate.
Why are these elements important?
- Completed brand, professional logo: Too often I see people skip to the teaser phase with an unfinished or unprofessional logo/brand. Remember, this phase is about getting people excited. A professional logo and brand adds a layer of legitimacy and creates the perception that your team has the ability to execute on a really cool product!
- Tagline that describes what it is: Come up with a clever tagline that at least implies what your product or service is. Ours is currently ‘A Yoga Inspired Monthly Surprise’ (although I wish we went with “A Yoga Retreat in a Box!”).
- A reason to care: In other words, answer these questions: Why is this something I should opt-in to? How does it relate to me and why should I be excited about it?
- Call to action: Tell them what to do! In this example, we’re implying that you have to put your email address in to get invited. I also think the ‘get invited’ CTA adds a sense of scarcity.
- Exciting incentive: If anyone is on the fence about putting in their email address, usually an exciting incentive is enough to push em’ over! The lifetime subscription gimmick worked really well and yes, we made good on that!
Getting a solid teaser page live is only about half of this phase! There are two other important steps in this phase: Driving traffic and lead nurturing.
The key here is getting support from influencers of the community/niche you’re building a product for. Need help choosing the right niche? Read my guide on how to select the right niche for your business.
The first step is to create a list of around 100-300 bloggers/influencers (remember, stick to your niche). Contact each of them individually, tell them about your concept and ask for their support (preferably in the form of a shoutout or e-mail notification to their readers/audience). Offer to send them a courtesy box when you do your first shipment – feel free to reserve this offer only for influencers you feel are the most significant. I find it’s also important to acknowledge their value and apologize for not being able to offer more at this time. All of this is so much easier if you actually have a compelling product. For Yogi Surprise, the concept of a ‘Yoga Retreat in a Box’ was really interesting to the yoga influencers we reached out to.
Since the teaser phase is run for up to a month, it’s important to keep your email list engaged during this time so they don’t lose interest. There is actually a great opportunity here to build more anticipation and excitement, turning your leads into even better leads. I suggest an email each week to your growing list featuring new teasers (release something new about what they can expect), countdown updates (how many days left till launch), and other types of anticipation building content.
Phase 2: Start Taking Pre Subscribers (Founding Membership Sales)
Generally I would start Phase 2 after about 1 month of running Phase 1, but you should aim to get at least 2,000-5,000 emails from your teaser page before opening up to pre-subscribers. The day you start collecting your first orders should feel more like opening the flood gates. If you’ve got crickets on your first day, it’s likely you skipped one of my steps, failed to build anticipation or simply didn’t collect enough interest.
For Phase 2, the idea is to announce that you’re now taking pre-subscribers. I like to call these ‘Founding Member Subscriptions’. At this time, you don’t need a full website, but it’s important to have a good landing page that now provides enough information for someone to make a purchase decision (no more teasing people!). Below is an example of a landing page. I’ve made notes on key elements that make up a successful landing page (click the image to expand).
The main goal of Phase 2 is to collect revenue to fund your business and to see how well your list is converting so you can accurately estimate how much product to order for your first shipment.
I recommend running Phase 2 for about a month and a half. For example, if you open up for pre-subscribers on October 1st, your very first shipment should go out November 16th. It’s important to make this clear and set expectations – as long as you do this properly, you’ll only get a minimal number of complaints from the people that pre-subscribed early on. By the 2nd week in October, you should now have enough cash in the bank to place your product orders. It’s likely you’ll have under 1,000 subscribers for your first shipment, this makes the lack of generous lead time to vendors manageable.
When it’s time for your first shipment, don’t forget to send out the boxes you promised your influencer partners! For your first shipment I recommend sending out as many courtesy boxes to influencers as you can. This will create some great momentum for your official launch and help ensure even more success for your second shipment!
Phase 3: The Official Launch
I like to save Phase 3 till AFTER your first shipment to the ‘Founding Members’ has gone out. For Phase 3 you’ll now launch your full site.
This is a good time to follow up with your influencers again (who hopefully now feel good about the partnership after receiving the courtesy box). Ask them to announce your official launch. It might even be a good idea to create a new promo code in celebration of your launch (make sure not to make it as good as your founding member discount).
This is also a good time to make a second announcement to your original leads list, just make sure you’ve scrubbed the list of people who already become customers, Zapier is a great tool for this if you’re using Mailchimp.
Good luck! Please keep in mind, this guide doesn’t include everything, think of it like a blueprint and be creative – this is not the only way. Just remember that professional execution is key. Take your time to do things right.
We haven’t launched yet and I have a few questions based on your post.
(1) How did your founding members reach the landing page to make pre-purchases? Was it a link on the pre-launch site or was it a link that you sent via email?
(2) I’ve been reading the guides on Subscription School and attended several webinars. There is a lot of info and I want to make sure that I understand all of the business systems that I will need. As I understand it, I need Cratejoy, payment processing service (Stripe), CRM (Solve360), accounting software (Quicken), customer service platform (ZenDesk), email platform (Mail Chimp) and shipping platform (Ship Station). Is this correct? Am I missing anything? Is there anything that I don’t need for launch?
Thanks for your help!
Thanks for reaching out. Once we completed the ‘teaser phase’ and had a good amount of email leads (this phase should last for about 1-1.5 months), we moved onto the pre-sales phase. When we opened up for pre-sales we launched by sending out a special email notification to our leads. We offered them a special ‘founding member’ discount and created a sense of urgency and exclusivity by stating that we were only shipping 500 boxes the first month. I hope that helps!
Hello Mr. Jameson Morris!
Your content is awesome! I have been reading your posts in hopes of launching my own subscription box.
A little about me: My name is Gospel Choi and I am currently a student at Baruch Zicklin school of business majoring in entrepreneurship (top 10 undergraduate entrepreneurship schools in the country). I have so many questions I wish to ask you but I know that you are a busy person.
Of course, by me just asking you questions, that wouldn’t be of help to you much. I wish to help you in anyway I can. One thing I can offer you is, setting up a day in my marketing class (100 students) where you can share your wisdom with students in a top business college. In return I ask if you could mentor me as I launch my own subscription business while answering questions regarding management. Please feel free to respond in your given time.
I appreciate your time in reading this message and I hope to speak with you soon!
Great article. Thank you for the informative tips. I soft launched my teaser page today and have over 600 leads. Very exciting. For my particular box, there will be some issues with lead times for the boxes coming from overseas. Do you have any tips on how to deal with this? Also, if you haven’t nailed down the contents of the founding member order, what can you email them about to keep them engaged.
This is excellent post and very useful in many ways. Can you please tell us how you set up the launch page?
What company did you use for your launch page?
I used Launchrock, but there’s better options now :) Cratejoy, I believe has a pre-launch feature now.
I used Launchrock at the time, but I don’t recommend them anymore. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen at Kickoff Labs though – check them out!
This post is very useful, I’m from Malaysia and came across box subscription concept few weeks back, been doing online research both overseas and locally. I’m still working now but wish to startup box subscription business with my wife will handle it. I’m crafting out the business model and product idea, and wish to say thank you to you personally after reading your post. Thanks!!
Thanks Desmond! Glad my content has been useful.
Thank you! Love to hear that my content has been useful!
Hello Mr Morris, this is really valuable information. I am also setting up a subscription business and i’m in the process of planning phase 1. I am currently designing the logo and the landing page. My question is this: do i need to create some noise or build up to the launch of the landing page or do i wait until the first day of the landing page going live then i create the buzz?
I’m worried that if i do create a buzz before the landing page is up, there is nothing for people to go and see. Maybe i could create some curiosity? How did you manage to create a buzz for your landing page, if you did?
Hi Pearl, apologies for the late response. Yes, step one is getting the landing page up – otherwise you have nothing to promote ;)
Hi Pearl, no you’re right – get the landing/teaser page up first! You need something tangible to promote or your efforts will likely be wasted ;)
Like Deena I have a similar question, on your pre oder page does that connect to your store or do the orders you collect have to be manually submitted?
On your subscriber page do these emails go to your mailchimp or do you need to integrate them on the list?
I’m getting everything set up to start collecting contacts so I want to be sure in 6 weeks that I have everything set up that needs to be in place. Thank you so much for any help.
Is it common to pay for ads on facebook during the pre-launch phase??
I’m not sure a lot of people do this, but I think it’s a great idea. It’s way cheaper to buy an email lead than a paying customer + the leads you’ll capture doing the pre-launch phase will convert way better. I definitly suggest spending on leads during the pre-launch phase!
I see you mentioned Lauchrock,Kickoff Labs, etc, but which opt-in/Landing page service did you use for Yogi Surprise?
Thanks for the info.
Hey Bret, I used LaunchRock for Yogi, but I can’t recommend them anymore because of lack of support and responsiveness on their part. Really impressed with what I’ve seen from Kickoff Labs though.
thanks! I’ve tried to work with Launcrock template or a blank but can’t seem to get it looking the way I would hope. Your Yogi pages look great, by the way. Since we’re here, do you have any interest in some consulting a new concept? thanks for the response.
How did the conversations go with the bloggers/influencers that helped drive traffic without sending them product for review?
Hi Jameson :)
Everything is proving so helpful to me
I just have one question
Where would I get a custom-made box with my logo like the ones we see?
You are SUCH A GEM! What a fabulous, informative blog you have! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us! <3
This post has been very helpful. I have tried following your advise. However, what do you do if no bloggers/influential reply to you? I have messaged so many and have heard nothing back. I feel when you are not known at all, bloggers or social media influencers do not really want to know you. So what do you do if you have no social media bloggers/influencers to give you bit of exposure?
I’m from Québec, Canada, I just discovered your website and I’m soooooooo glad I did! :)
Thank you so much for all the information you are GIVING! Really. I can’t get over the fact that you are just sharing all of your experience for free!
Much appreciated! Merci beaucoup!
Have a good day,
I know this is an older post, but I was just wondering if you could clarify when to secure products? Do you talk to vendors and negotiate before any type of pre-launch? Do you put together a prototype box first with actual products you’ve procured? Or do you wait to procure products until you have pre-subscribers to show vendors that you actually have a good customer base? Thanks so much!
Hi Jameson, thank you so much for your blog posts- they’re super helpful! I’m writing this to you at the end of 2019 and I am thinking of starting a subscription business. Do you think the market is oversaturated and I’m kind of late? I know it’s never too late to do anything, but I am just curious if you think it is more difficult to start now than in 2015. Thanks!
it’s a while since your post – but still worthy, thank you. Glad to find it for some more details we have to focus on.
We will start a pre-launch in a couple of weeks and are MEGA excited how it will go.
I’m a little confused when to do the official launch after the presale.
Do I set up my presale for a limited amount of days? Like two weeks and then close shop until I send my first set of founders boxes out and then launch my site for everyone once the founders have received their boxes?
Also, should I order more products than the presale founders for when I launch so I already have the product on hand for the official launch?
I know I’m coming in to this pretty late but am surprised to say I have a subscription box idea that I haven’t seen anyone else do yet, excited!!
1. Do you have anywhere on your site that speaks on where to go to get customized packing for your subscription boxes or manufacturers for packaging? As well as how to package up your items?
2. For the Launch phases, if I already have up a website that has recipes and other products I am already selling should I create a completely separate website just for the subscription boxes or do you think it’s ok to have a landing page on my existing site for this?
3. How do you prevent having any liability of anything happening to anyone from a product they used that was included in your subscription boxes?
Your articles are amazing and so greatly appreciated!