Subscription Box Basics

5 Characteristics of a good sub box

September 04, 2023 Julie Ball Episode 178
Subscription Box Basics
5 Characteristics of a good sub box
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, subscription box coaches Julie and Renae discuss five key characteristics of a good subscription box. Now let's be real...there are far more than 5, but these are some of the impactful AND give you a good starting point!

Does your box...

  1. Solves a pain point
  2. Serves a specific niche
  3. Incorporate experiential factors
  4. Include high-quality, thoughtfully curated products
  5. Is sustainable over time

We emphasize the importance of these characteristics for subscription box businesses and encourage you to evaluate your own boxes based on these criteria. 


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Julie:

Hey everybody and welcome back to subscription box basics. I'm Julie Ball, your head coach, and we just wrapped up a six week series where we went back to the basics. If you are brand new here, you might want to go back and listen to some of those episodes. We're covering some very. Basic topics. Now, I know you've been missing Renee. She's back your marketing coach, Renee Gonzalez. Welcome back to the podcast. I am

Renae:

glad to be back and I am glad everyone got a chance to go back to the basics. So if you miss those episodes, make sure you go back and listen, even if your box is already launched, because there are such good takeaways from really taking a moment to go back to the basics

Julie:

yeah, it's something where we haven't done in a while and we had dozens and dozens of episodes and great interviews with really smart, cool people. And you and I were just talking about, we're like, man, we haven't talked about the terminology and how to carve out your concept and some of that basic stuff. So I'm really glad we had a chance to do that. And we are back to our regular programming. And today we're going to do this little lightning round. We are talking about five. things that are characteristics of a good box. So many people will come to us with an idea and just say, I don't even know if my idea is good. How do I know if it's good? So there's a lot of different characteristics of good boxes, but we thought we'd just kind of do a quick round here of five that are top of mind and really important. And this is really

Renae:

a great building off those back to the basic episodes, because again, even if you're launched, even if you're a couple of years into your box, you need to go back and think of these things and think is my box providing these and is it a good box and one people want to stick around for.

Julie:

Exactly. So let's dive in. The first one is that it solves a pain point. So often people get these ideas that they just want to send gift boxes or a box of random things to make somebody's day better. And that's fine. That's excute every single word You really have to solve a pain point or create some sort of transformation and take them on this journey along the way for them to keep subscribing month after month. Just for a quick frame of reference, when we were running Sparkle Hustle Grow, the average subscriber stayed for nine months. And that was because we were taking them on this journey. We were transforming them, teaching them things, and solving this pain point. And some of the pain points that we solved were That it's lonely to be an entrepreneur, so we provided a community that another pain point that we solved was as a entrepreneur. There's a lot of hats you have to wear, and so we provided them with books and business training so they could grow professionally and personally. And that was again solving a pain point. I'm sure Renee, you and I could talk about lots of our subscription box boot camp students and different pain points that they solve. So let's let's riff a little bit with some of our students. Okay. Yeah.

Renae:

And so this is really important to besides lifetime value. If you're going right on and you're, you're struggling to get subscribers too. It's really important that you need to solve a pain point. So, um, off the top of my head, I know Jenny from the preparedness box she solved the pain point of people aren't ready for. a natural disaster or an emergency. Some people don't even want to think about that So she solves a pain point that she sends right to your doorstep, the things you need to be prepared in case of a disaster or, or an emergency. And that takes that off your list that helps your house be prepared. And ready for whatever situation you get thrown into.

Julie:

Love it. There's a handful of our boot campers to that are they are solving really important problems like Brittany from black girl magic. She's helping young girls with math confidence. There's resilient nurse box that helps nurses. push through and take care of themselves. What's that thing they say on the airplane? You have to take the air first. What is that?

Renae:

Put your own mask on before helping your child.

Julie:

Yes, exactly. You put your own mask on first before you help someone else. Same thing with that resilient nurse box. We've got the eczema sample box where You know, if you have eczema, you probably have spent a lot of money buying full size products, trying to figure out what's going to work for you. But instead, if you subscribe to the eczema sample box, then you get to test out all these different sample size products that have been vetted for you. So there's so many. Great ways to solve a pain point. So that number one is solving a pain point. That is one of the most important things when you're coming up with your box idea. So if you've already launched to take a minute right now and think about what is that pain point I'm solving. How am I doing it? How am I transforming their lives for the better?

Renae:

And number two on our list is so important because it helps you narrow down not only who you're serving, but also that pain point. So number two is it serves a specific niche. And this is really important to understand who your target audience is and who you're actually serving. So if you know who you're serving, then you're able to better solve number one and really figure out what their pain points are, but really narrow down. I mean, and Julie and myself have. Talked about so many of our students. Each one of them has a specific audience and each one of them serves a specific niche. So really make sure you're not sending a box that everyone can relate to, because then no one might relate to it. You really need something where it's, it's arrived at a doorstep and it feels like it's sent and curated just for them.

Julie:

Yes, I have so many thoughts on this. I hope I remember them all. So one, there's an Aesop's Fable. I talk about this all the time. Aesop's Fables are those stories, those like traditional folklore stories that have a moral at the end. And there's this one where the moral of the story is, please all and you'll please none. And I always think about that because it's so true. And I've had people say to me, I don't want to leave anybody out. I want to be inclusive. I get that. I 100% get that, but that's not how marketing your subscription box is going to be most successful. There are going to be outliers of your target audience, and that's fine. They're welcome. Include them. They may get some value out of your box as well. But if you hone in really closely on who that target audience is, and when we say You know, serve a specific niche. That's not just, oh, I serve women in the United States. Okay. Well, what, what's unique about that, that audience? Is it, are they, moms? maybe they are a certain age group. Maybe they have a certain hobby. Maybe they have a certain illness or challenge that they're seeking answers to. So really think about niching down and don't think about it as if you're trying to include everyone, you can still be inclusive, but you need to think about who's that specific person. And in some of our training, Renee, I know we've, we did this when we ran Sparkle Hustle Grow, we created that customer avatar. And what that is, is we think about one person. Who is that one person that you're trying to reach? Give them a name, then write a story about them. So where do they shop? Where do they live? Are they married? What keeps them up at night? What magazines do they read? What apps do they use? Things like that. Really, really, really get to know them. And then as you're creating your marketing, You can talk to that specific person. And honestly, when we did it for Sparkle Hustle Grow, wasn't it like two pages long, I think, on a Google

Renae:

doc? Yeah. Where, even what car they drove. Yeah. Specific names. So then when you're picking out that product, just like you've said, you can be like, Oh, would, would Barbara like this and really like go back to that specific person who you're shipping it to their doorstep. And is that something that's just going to fill them up with light when they open up your box? Because that's the feeling you want. Each one of your subscribers to have. But if you're targeting that specific person with those specific interests, you're going to keep them around longer, but also when you're using your marketing and writing your messaging and your copy, you'll be able to talk to that specific person. So when someone's reading your Instagram post or your email, they'll be like, Oh my goodness, like this is for me. I've got to have this.

Julie:

Yeah, they're in my head. I remember a lot of times our subscribers would say that we were mind readers. And that's because we went so deep on that customer avatar. We knew exactly who we were talking to. And with the combination of these first two characteristics that we've talked about, that solving the pain point and serving a specific niche, when they get to your website, they need to think immediately, this was made for me. And if you're trying to serve everyone, there's no way that they're going to feel that feeling of this was made for me. So moving on to the third one, the third characteristic of a good box is to have experiential factors. And we say this all the time, you no longer can just send a box of stuff and be successful. People will end up not using it. They will maybe pick and choose What they want out of the box. But if you create experiential factors and kind of teach them how to use your product, then they're going to stick around for a lot longer and you're going to be more valuable for them. So Renee, what are some of your favorites, experiential factors that you can bring alongside for your subscribers, almost like membership perks?

Renae:

I think an easy one that everyone can do nowadays is a Facebook group or some sort of online group. I think that's free. It is somewhere where you can curate posts that happen monthly. So it's not a lot of extra time for you as a subscription box owner. I think it's a great place then for people to go and share their wins or share what they like. So I think a Facebook group is something that instantly creates a community because it is. That it's a group online. So that would be my one that if you don't have a Facebook group for your subscribers, I think that is a big win and something that adds value. Um, and it's a perk that's free for you.

Julie:

Yeah, I 100% agree. And if you're not the kind of person that wants to run a Facebook group, or if you don't have the capacity to do it, then you can have ambassadors. I know a lot of subscription box owners that have ambassadors in their Facebook group that'll keep that conversation going. And you can. Pay a ambassador with a free box or, you know, behind the scenes zoom calls with the owner, you know, once a quarter or once a month or whatever, it's a lot easier than what you think. And we at Sparkle Hustle Grow, when we were running it, we did have our month planned out as a 30 day month. We knew on the first of every month, this type of post was going out on the 15th on the 30th and then in between. So we were very. Very intentional about keeping that conversation going and communicating in there. So some other experiential factors that we have used in the past, and I see a lot of other box owners use our digital downloads videos. Maybe that's a training video. Maybe you've recorded a zoom call with a guest expert, or, maybe how about, PDFs. Like planners, recipes, what else? Playlists. Renee is like the queen of playlists.

Renae:

And taking them also on some sort of gamification. I know we've had a past episode, if you go back and listen, it was when we were live at Sub Summit. We talk about gamification. Adding that fun game element that also takes them on a journey is. Something that is such a good thing. It could be in the form of a challenge or, um, some sort of, uh, scavenger hunt list where there's certain to do's that they have to do throughout the month. So adding more than just sending a box to their door, adding more that they want to, again, keep coming back to you and learning from you and going on this journey with you as a community is something that really adds value to your box and makes it a box that people want to subscribe

Julie:

to. You're so right. It takes them on this journey and throughout that journey, they're going to grow. They're going to learn. They're going to feel surprised, delighted and feel the value of your subscription box. But you're also teaching them. You're teaching them how to use the products. You're encouraging them to. Actually take items out, use them. And again, that's just another way to provide value. But the best part is. 99% of these experiential factors are free, like you don't have to pay for that stuff, like you said, the Facebook group, digital downloads, Spotify playlists, like that stuff you can create for free, it just takes

Renae:

time. And rather than becoming part of a monthly or quarterly part of their, Life, you're becoming a daily part of their life. So it's almost like you're, you're sending them these things to help them, but you also become part of their routine. So they're going to jump into the Facebook group or they're going to use that product because they're so used to it, doing it daily. And then they want to keep doing it monthly or yearly. And they're really. They become big fans of you because you're helping them grow, but they also help your business grow too. So that is number three. It has an experiential factor. So moving right on to number four and this one is important, but Still needs to be said. it's you're not sending junk you're sending them stuff that is higher quality and are able to stand the test of time because it's a good product and it's thoughtfully curated so it's not just a bunch of stuff that is useful for them that you throw together. There's a theme behind it possibly or a color scheme they they open it and it looks like it was all meant to be put together because there's time behind putting it together.

Julie:

Agree. It's really, you're curating this box. You're not just dumping a bunch of junk in there. So be really thoughtful when you're choosing your products. I know you said, you know, they need to be high quality. Some people really struggle with finding the high quality deals, but I encourage you to just ask for more discounts. Find where there's closeout deals. Work with your vendors and create really good relationships so that when they do have a good deal or a closeout, for example, they know they can come to you and you are ready and willing to move on those products. If you, I've said this before, but if you put a bunch of dollar store items in there, they're going to know because they shop the dollar store too. And that's not why they subscribe to this box. They're coming to you to help solve this pain point. And so if you thoughtfully curate the box where when they open it, it's cohesive, they complement each other, it works well together, then you're going to have a longer lifetime value. People are going to stick around and they're going to tell all their friends about it because it's so amazing. So I 100% agree that, you know, when you're when you're curating your box, you don't want to put a bunch of junk in there. Make sure you get samples. So that you can test things out. You don't want to send something that breaks easily. You don't want to send something that feels or looks cheap.

Renae:

And when you get samples sent to you too, not only can you get your hands on that product, but you're also able to see if it fits in your actual box with everything. So I know, Julie, that's a big thing. You would always put everything in there. Like, does this fit? How will I pack this? And you are able to do it with one of everything. If you have samples rather than having. Set 500 sent to your house in or to your warehouse and being like, Oh my goodness, these aren't all going to fit. I have to pivot. So samples are so huge. And another thing I was going to say on this before we move on to is if you do the work and really take the time to make sure what you're putting in there is curated and higher quality, and it won't just break, then you're helping yourself on the backend too, because you're eliminating some customer service where you get all these emails like, Oh, my so and so didn't work or this broke right away. So. It might take a little time and money up front, but in the back end, it's going to save you time and money because you don't have to deal with as many complaints and customer service

Julie:

issues. Yeah, and then just a few tips with perceived value because perceived value is really important when someone opens the box, they're going to have this kind of built in perception of like, oh, this is this looks like it costs a lot or oh, what a piece of junk. And so. When you look at things that are smaller, I encourage you to consider repackaging some of them. Quick example, in when someone puts in a lip balm or chapstick, yeah, we love a product like that, but it has a very, very low perceived value. But if you were to put it in cuter packaging, or maybe you get one of the, um, what are those like those lip balm key chains? They're called something. Um, yeah, yes, yes. So instead of just the lip balm, put it in a lippy clip. Uh, we used to send pens all the time. And if I just put a pen in the box, it would probably get lost in the crinkle cut. People wouldn't see much value out of it. But instead I went on Amazon and I found these really cute, iridescent, they were, I think they were called mascara bags, like retail mascara bag. And I was able to put two or three pens in there and it looked like a set. So it just had a higher perceived value. So be cautious if you're sending stickers, chapstick, pens, little things like that. Try to think about how you can make it a better experience to receive that product.

Renae:

And one more thing on that too. Also consider weight. I know we could do a whole, I know we can go on forever. Um, also consider weight. If you have something like stickers or pens, it's going to make the box lighter. So, um, maybe that's the month you include a heavier book or, or something else that, that the weight of the box. Also helps with perceived value because when they get it, they're like, Ooh, it's heavy this month, right? Don't just all include light things. Um, that's why you have to really curate it. Not just for, does it go together, but does it feel right to,

Julie:

I agree as, as silly as that sounds when someone picks up that box. I can't tell you how many times we've had subscribers doing like, uh, Instagram story or a Facebook live and they pick up the box and if it feels heavy, they're like, Ooh, it's, it's heavy. I can't wait to see what's in it. So it, and it didn't impact our shipping rate, our postage at all, because we used USPS cubic rate shipping, which meant that it could be, I think it's up to 20 pounds without it changing. And our little six by nine by three boxes never weighed more than I think three and a half pounds. So it didn't impact it. So anyhow, let's continue on. This is our last one for today's lightning fast episode where we're talking about characteristics of a good box. The last one is that it needs to be sustainable over time. And the reason that's important is because you are trying to send recurring shipments. It's one thing if you're selling a one time box. They get what they ordered, they use the product, and they move on with their life. But with a subscription box, you're trying to send things to them Month over month over month. And so you want to make sure that it's sustainable over time and takes them on a journey. And I'm going to tell you the really quick story. When I was running my box business, one of our categories was paper products. And my husband looked at me. He's like, how in the world are you going to send a paper product for, you know, 12 months? and then still have new paper products for the next year. And so what I explained to him was, okay, let's talk about how many different paper products female entrepreneurs use. So we would have notebooks, we would have magnet notepads, we would have journals, we would have, um, post it notes, we would have all kinds of different types of paper products. Maybe the post it note was a rectangle this month, but in six months we did a circular one. So think about the things that you're putting in the box. Are they going to use them? Teach them how to use them so that they do need more. So if you're a replenishment subscription box, for example, like All Girls Shave Club, you want to make sure your customer's using that shave butter and those razors. So when your next shipment comes in two months, You need them and it's conveniently shows up. So, um, I know Renee, you do the marketing side of things and that's so important to communicate with, with your customers about that journey and using them. So how are, what are some of those things? You know, obviously email marketing is one way to do it.

Renae:

Just staying in front of them and really, like you said, sending them those reminders, making it a challenge, um, using old girl shave club, for an example, if you're challenging them to, um, Have you used your shave butter? Or, you know, like, try sending them a sample pack and getting them to use each one of them. Um, really incorporating ways that you're going to take them on that journey goes right back to them wanting to stick around because Ultimately you created your box probably to solve a pain point, but something that makes you want to do a reoccurring subscription is because you know, there's, there's money in it. Time after time, either your lifetime value of your customer is better if they're a subscription box. So really go back to, this is a business, you want to be able to be making money time after time. So how are you going to keep them around? So it really is more beneficial for you to pour into those customers that you already have, because in the long run, they are going to make you more money for your business.

Julie:

Jess had just done that. Jess from All Girl Shave Club. She had just done that recently too. She's got a whole bunch of different shave butter scents. Super cute ones like, I think it's like Beach Babe and Flirty Mermaid. And you know, she's got Unscented and she regularly sends emails and does social media posts that highlight the different scents. And then, should say, vote for your favorite one. Or which one will you put in your next delivery? Things like that. And she's reminding them to use it and she's taking them on that journey, talking about, you know, summertime shaving or like going to the beach. She also does this email series called Girl Talk. And so while it's not specifically salesy it's relating to them. So it is still providing value and I love that it's you want to be a regular part of their life. And

Renae:

you said something about her asking which one they'd want to use, which made me think of involving your customers in products that are in the future of your box too. So doing a this or that, which one would you want to see an upcoming box? If they're really part of curating your boxes with you, they're going to want to stick around and get that box to their doorstep because they were a part of putting it together.

Julie:

Yeah, it gets them emotionally tied more to your brand and increases that brand loyalty. So, alright, let's recap. So we talked today about characteristics of a good box. There are literally hundreds probably that we could talk about. We wanted to throw a few out there that are pretty basic so that you can kind of do almost like a little reality check for yourself. Like, Go through this list. Am I doing this? How does this apply to me? So let's recap. Number one was that it solves a pain point, that you're transforming their life for the better. Number two, that it is serves a very specific Remember, please all and you'll please none. Number three, it has experiential factors beyond the box. Hashtag member perks. Number four, you are thoughtfully curating the products. You're not just throwing a bunch of junk in a box and shipping it. And number five, that your concept is sustainable over time, that you're taking them on a journey that helps them, again, solve that pain point. Oh, I love

Renae:

it. And like you said, we had to narrow it down. We started with more options, but we're like, let's just talk about five. Cause otherwise this wouldn't have been a fire around episode. think it's really important to remember too, that if you're just launching or you've already launched, or you're stuck at a plateau, if you go back to these and you go back to the basics. 2. 0 with this episode and really see how you can improve on these concepts and see if you're doing all of them. It's going to help you get to the next level and, and not stay at your plateau because, um, chances are, if you're stuck, it's one of these things that you're not providing or could provide a little

Julie:

better. Man, you guys need to stick around because this fall we have so many good episodes coming up. A ton of interviews with boot campers, with box besties, with vendors and branding specialists and financial coaches. There's just so much good stuff coming down the pipeline. We want to just thank you for listening. If you found value in this podcast, please take a minute to. Rate, review us. It helps us get found and discovered by other people just like you that are new and aspiring subscription box business owners. And we just love to talk shop. So thanks for joining us today and we'll see you in the next episode. Bye.

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