Pay-as-you-go is the new normal from software to retail
The lure of subscription pricing is the guarantee of recurring revenue for your business. Once a customer flips the switch to turn on your subscription, it’s easy money:
- Easy to recognize your revenue.
- Easy to determine your margins and profits.
- Easy to enhance your product and extend that revenue out for months, even years.
While that’s true, converting a subscription customer isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. You can build a platform, launch with fanfare, offer all sorts of incentives and trials to attract potential customers — and watch as they disengage and lapse into limbo.
Contrary to popular belief, subscription pricing doesn’t work because of the lower price point that a monthly installment allows.
That’s the actual guarantee that comes with subscription pricing, which will happen unless you cultivate a funnel that catches potential subscribers as soon as they learn about your product and follows them until their very last sign-in.
I built my first subscription-model product in 1999. I’m currently in early-access on my latest, and I’ve launched a bunch more along the way.
While the customer dynamic has changed over the last 20 years, the conversion process has not. In fact, it’s actually gotten easier to convert and retain customers through the subscription funnel.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Why subscription pricing works
Subscription pricing is a hot trend in just about every business in every industry. Pay-as-you-go is the new normal from software to retail to service.
In my mind, the major shift occurred when mobile phones started pricing unlimited usage per period instead of fixed or cost per minute. Once usage limits were removed, use cases exploded and the promise of a truly mobile computer was finally realized.
Makers of all stripes learned that lesson: From razors to video streaming to accounting software, pricing models have emerged that focus on time periods instead of units.
But contrary to popular belief, subscription pricing doesn’t work because of the lower price point that a monthly installment allows. It’s effective because a subscription reorients each customer’s mind from product function to value proposition.
I don’t care what kind of German engineering went into my razor blades, as long as I have working blades when I need them.
As an entrepreneur, you probably use at least one digital subscription service to build your own product and company, if not several. In fact, just to get to the MVP of my new project, I subscribed to AWS, MailChimp, Zapier and Bubble. I’m still on the free tier of a few more services for some lower-priority features. There’s a few more I quit or never tried.
Thus, you know that value prop plays a big part of whether the customer will pay and stay. So reinforcing your value proposition should play a big part in every level of your customer funnel.
You must catch and track customers to be effective
A subscription-pricing model without an ability to track the steps in the conversion funnel will result in all the headaches of subscription pricing without any of the benefits.