Subscription and recurring revenue are extremely hot topics right now, and for many good reasons. Companies with recurring revenue are valued much higher than companies without, and this coveted MRR—Monthly Recurring Revenue—figure is obviously something that can assist your businesses’ cash flow and profitability in countless ways.
Adding in one—or more—of these types of recurring components to your company can add greater depth to your business and can unlock additional revenue from each customer. In doing this, you add a higher LTV—Lifetime Value—for your customer and will be able to outspend your competition when buying media. In short, you give yourself the power to crush your competition by broadening your revenue potential.
Whether your business is in the realm of e-commerce, consulting services, software, offline sales, or whatever, there is a way to fit in some sort of subscription component to your business. As you read through these examples, you will start to identify methods that have synergy with your current offering, and you will learn which ones will have lower barriers to entry.
I have separated this list into three categories of potential recurring add-ons that can change the nature and profitability of your business: information, software and physical product & services.
One of the most lucrative things that a business can sell is information. Most companies overlook the ability to sell content, but great content brings great value. You can make a lot of money adding a premium content subscription for your business. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that many businesses strictly sell information and make eight figures monthly doing so.
Archive of Content
This subscription allows the user to access an archive of your own custom content or an aggregated list of content from other sources. This content is curated and organized in one spot. In order to do this model with strictly content that you have produced, you will need to invest quite a bit of time and likely money into creating the content. However, if you have a long history of creating great content as a company, you can use that as an amazing base for building an archive of content that people will pay to access. You also want to continue building on this to keep things fresh for subscribers.
Another way to build this model out is by licensing or using—with permission and/or compensation—other people’s content. In this case, the value is in how you have collected and organized the content all in one place, and whether you can offer someone a discount on what the content would normally cost them.
This model is popular with subscription-based publications like newspapers and magazines and is when you regularly release new content for your subscribers to consume. In order to justify charging members for their access to this content, you need a plan to consistently deliver very high-value content.
Courses with Updates
Online courses are a great way to deliver a great amount of value to subscribers. The trick with this method is to continually update your content, whether that’s time released content, or new modules of your course. For this reason, a lot of times a course is simply a component of an information subscription, and not the entire subscription itself.
Membership Groups—FB & Slack
A growing number of entrepreneurs are using slack groups and Facebook groups as a content subscription feature. When you stop paying, you no longer have access to the group. The administration and membership access gates to this model can be very tough to stay on top of and can be labor intensive.
Calls & Webinars
These are another very popular form of subscription service in the coaching and consulting industry, where you offer your subscribers regular access to yourself and other experts in your field. In these calls or webinars, you deliver curated and extremely useful content that builds a lot of value for this inner circle of clients.
Typically you’ll deliver information or tutorials that are hard to describe in text format and have more impact on the listener/viewer if they know they are being delivered live. It is a much rawer access to yourself or the other experts you choose to work with and gives the participants a more tangible and real connection.
Live Events & Networking
This is a form of content which usually delivers a mix of online and offline content and networking, and is very popular with mastermind groups. Subscribers usually pay an annual/monthly subscription fee to come to a series of in person or online events where they can consume content from expert speakers and network with other members. Exclusivity typically adds the most value to these groups, and getting access to a network of very high level individuals is often why most people subscribe to live event/mastermind groups.
A lot of software now runs on a licensing model where users will pay an annual or monthly fee to use a SaaS product. Examples range from Microsoft Office to more specialized products like Clickfunnels where you can create million dollar funnels with ease for $97/month.
Creating a stellar software product requires a great idea, a lot of front end investment and development, and then continual upgrading and adding of features to keep up with the market demands and competitive products. I don’t recommend this route unless your core business is performing well enough to support the development costs of creating a new software for your customer base.
Physical Products & Services
A lot of companies have emerged on the model of offering samples of products every month to their subscribers in order to give them an idea of what products they may want to invest in larger quantities of. One of the most prominent examples is BirchBox, where subscribers get to try out samples of the product, and then get upsold into larger quantities of whichever of the product samples that they actually like.
Usually, these samples are provided to the box company at little cost by the manufacturer because it is effectively doing all of the work of a large-scale sampling activation for them, all executed online without administrative or staffing costs associated with sampling programs.
This is The Beard Club’s model, where we deliver consumable products every month to our subscribers’ door who then use them up and require more each month. This model is great for products that are used frequently by the customer, enough to warrant the convenience of a monthly or bimonthly delivery.
A key in this model is differentiation and very strong branding. If customers can find your product at Walmart or buy it on Amazon, the sheer convenience of not having to go out to buy it is not strong enough of a reason for people to switch to you, and you will also have a really hard time competing with Amazon’s economies of scale in logistics and their shipping timelines.
In this subscription model, you will offer your customers products that they cannot find anywhere else. This model is a little more complex and difficult to pull off, and your offer must be very strong and your community very loyal.
An example of this might be if you sell premium watches, you may offer a subscription service where only your members can have access to special products that are released in small batches every month. This is easier for a company like Rolex to execute than it would be for a startup watch retailer due to the massive reach and brand loyalty Rolex already has.
This model is similar to the exclusive offers model and can be applied to physical products or services. Essentially in an access model where your subscriber will be paying for special access to things which make their lives easier. Examples of this would be when you go on the freeway and use the toll lanes to skip traffic, or when you go to a theme park and join their club to skip lines.
This typically comes in the form of an up-front financial commitment to gain priority service to something that you offer. The best example of this is Amazon Prime, where you pay $79 per year to get free shipping and 2-day delivery on hundreds of thousands of items. Amazon prime is one of the most successful subscription services in history, and really all it does is offer people a better service level and savings on things that they already likely had the intent to buy.
This is when a customer will pay you monthly fees for performing a service on an automated basis. The most basic example of this would be the lawn care company that you pay $100 a month for general maintenance, as opposed to calling them every single time you need your lawn cut. Usually, the value in offering a subscription for services comes when they are needed very consistently or if there are potential savings involved in committing to a yearly contract for the regular performance of the services.
In reading this list, you have probably identified some of the least paths of resistance in launching a subscription component to your business. I would recommend doing research on competitive solutions, and really try and hone in on one that you can test out with your current customers to get quick validation. Once you have MRR, you never go back, I promise you that!