How to Launch a New Subscription Offering

How should you launch a new subscription offering? Start small, then act fast. Research and deliberation is important early in the process, but once you launch, it’s imperative to stay nimble and move quickly.

You’re never going to get things right the first time. You can’t stay in planning mode for years – the market may shift, or a competitor might beat you to the punch. The biggest danger for any new subscription launch is that you don’t have the confidence to put a new offering in the market and you miss the opportunity.

But it all starts with building the right organization.

Tips for launching a subscription offering

Rally a cross-functional team: Minimize impact on your existing business, systems, & processes.

It’s incredibly important to rally a dedicated cross-functional team (product, marketing, IT, sales, finance, etc.) for your launch. Whether this is your first subscription or your 100th, you don’t want to disrupt your existing lines of business. For companies with legacy infrastructure, it’s sometimes better to place the team in a separate incubator. Often this means that the new subscription offering doesn’t belong in the core business division, but in a “strategic initiative” side division. This gives you the agility you need to reassess and act quickly.

Find the right infrastructure: Choose an option that lets you move fast.

How quickly you can react is a core competitive differentiator. Unfortunately, most companies are held back by their own internal bottlenecks and legacy infrastructure. How fast is fast enough? There isn’t a set standard, but we do see that successful subscription companies are able to optimize their services as well as spin up new offers much faster than their peers. They often measure “time to market” as a KPI. Direct to consumer (C2C) companies like streaming media, often need to be able to launch in a matter of hours in order to create timely promotions. B2B companies, such as SaaS providers, want to be able to launch in the matter of days in order to keep up with quarterly sales cycles.

As a result, it’s important to find the right infrastructure that allows you to move fast. When choosing a solution, ask yourself the following questions:

Acer offers a great example. The company is pivoting to a device-as-a-service model, away from traditional hardware sales. They’ve been able to test different offers with resellers and end customers, and receive immediate feedback on what’s working — and more importantly, what’s not.

Test and Iterate: Pilot, pilot, and pilot some more.

We’ve worked with hundreds of subscription companies on new launch concepts, and while the details may vary, they all share a central theme: start with the customer.

It’s easier said than done. Lots of companies start with a desired product roadmap, or some competitive analysis, then embark on a launch that’s based more on market theory than any real customer understanding.

Instead, come up with a reason why you think a particular kind of person would subscribe to a particular kind of service, then test that hypothesis. Create a pilot program that systematically gathers feedback from your potential customers, and refine it constantly.

Here iRobot offers a great example. Based on their own market research and conversations with customers, they formed a hypothesis that a monthly “robots as a service” model would prove attractive.

Then they started small. They put together a tiger team and came up with a very simple offer – features, presentation, pricing – and began gathering feedback from small groups. They didn’t just pilot product features; they gathered feedback on pricing, packaging (gold, silver, and bronze plans, etc), and preferred payment methods. They created a scaling plan – what happens when we hit a thousand subscribers? 5k? 10k?

Then, with their team and resources in place, they launched, and immediately began iterating.

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The Journey to Usership

The playbook for modernizing monetizing, and scaling your business

If this is your very first subscription offering, take a look at this Monetization Playbook for additional information on how companies in different industries have ventured into their first subscription

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