Ep 109 | Subscription 101 with Paul Chambers

Yeah, and even if it is something where, you know, hey, here's where your money is going here is providing, you know, if I'm making a donation, and it's it's feeding 100 families that month, reminding me that you just fed another 100 families this month, that's really cool. Every month, you continue to feed 100 families. And we truly appreciate everything that you're doing there that, you know, that to me is like, gosh, I can't stop this because I'm feeding another 100. If I stopped this recurring transaction, what kind of jerk am I! – Paul Chambers

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What You'll Learn

Creating a subscription model for your nonprofit can be a fun way to engage with your donors and keep them coming back for more. Paul Chambers joins me on this episode to talk about ways to create your donor experience and some examples of companies that are doing it well!

In this episode you'll learn:

→ the three different types of subscription models.
→ ways to use collaboration in your subscriptions.
→ how creating scarcity around you program can help you grow faster (and manage your funds).
→ what we can learn from Amazon.

Want to skip ahead?  Here are some key takeaways:

[6:15] There are two different types of physical subscription boxes. First is replenishment which are things like Dollar Shave Club that sends you monthly razors or Amazon where you can have products auto shipped to you that you use regularly. The second is Discovery and Delight and these are things like FabFitFun or Gentleman's Box. Things that come monthly that you maybe don't know what's inside. The thrid is giving people access to a VIP area that people don't get to see. This could be separate offers, bonus products, digital downloads, or whatever gives people an inside look into your organization.
[16:31] Collaborate with other business to include special items in a monthly or quarterly box. This can give your sponsors more visibilty and create value and exclusivity for your donors. This could be putting their logos on things that make sense like notebooks or pens or having them give you cash to create the products that will delight your donors.


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Paul Chambers

Paul Chambers

Co-Founder and CEO, SUBTA

Let's Talk Subscriptions! For over 20-years, Paul has built, scaled, and sold multiple subscription-focused businesses and today runs the largest conference and trade group focused on the DTC subscription space. An around-the-clock volunteer firefighter, husband, and father of four, Paul's passion for helping others is a central part of his character. From launching a SaaS company at SXSW to building one of the biggest brands in the subscription box economy, Paul has a handle on every aspect of a subscription-focused business and exactly how they succeed… and fail. Learn more at https://subta.com 

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Full Transcript

[INTRO] Hey, Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami and today we are talking about subscription models. Now, if you are like me, then you probably have at least one or five or 20 different subscriptions that your belonging to whether it be Netflix or a makeup bag, or a fashion bag or something for your kids. And all of the things Amazon, right, subscriptions are everywhere. And they are very much the name of the game right now in order to having stable income that is going to be reliable for you and help you maintain those fundraising goals. And I'm a big fan of nonprofits taking a subscription model approach, and bringing it to their business, and treating these nonprofit customers or nonprofit donors as if they are customers. And making them feel special bringing them in as VIPs. And just creating a whole fun experience for them.

And so that's what we're going to talk about today. So for over 20 years, Paul Chambers has built, scaled and sold multiple subscription focused businesses. And today runs the largest conference and trade group focused on the DTC subscription space. And around the clock, volunteer firefighter, husband and father for Paul's passion for helping others is a central part of his character from launching a SaaS company at SXSW to building one of the biggest brands in the subscription box economy. Paul has a handle on every aspect of a subscription focused business, and exactly how they succeed and fail.

I'm so thrilled to have Paul Chambers here, we have an amazing conversation, and you're gonna want to stick around to the end because he's got an offer that we're going to be sharing with you. But just his take on why subscription models work, what types of things you can include in them, and ways to make your donors feel like they are the creme de la creme of your donors, whether they're giving you $5 a month or $100,000 a month, that'd be nice. I think you're going to have some great takeaways and some great ways to think about the way that you're processing your monthly donor program. So that's what we're going to talk about today. I'm excited to jump into it.

But before we do, this episode is brought to you by our private Facebook community, we are so thrilled to have so many nonprofits as a part of our nonprofit online fundraising growth network on Facebook, we get you have great conversations throughout the week, hold each other accountable. I'm there to help you if you get unstuck. So I hope that you'll join me in this community of like minded nonprofits, you can join us facebook.com/groups/thefirstclick, I hope you'll join us there, I look forward to it and getting to know more about your organization and how we can support you.

[CANNED INTRODUCTION] You're listening to the Digital Marketing Therapy Podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing, and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Hey, everybody, please join me in welcoming Paul Chambers to the podcast. Paul, thank you so much for joining us.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Well, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yes, and I say this about a lot because I have a lot of favorite topics. But subscription models is one of my favorite things to talk about nonprofits, and how impactful they can be at just, you know, getting more people giving on a regular basis. And I know that you come from the subscription world, so I'm really excited about this conversation.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, absolutely. Because, you know, coincidentally subscriptions, one of my favorite things to talk about.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] I love it. Okay, so why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got into the subscription world and kind of your background with that.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, you know, so it's funny. The really, I got into direct to consumer subscription. About six years ago, when I helped launch a company called the gentleman's box as a monthly subscription for men with we always say it could make any any man a true gentleman with a monthly styled box of socks and ties and pocket squares to help you dress to impress and really, you know, fit the fit the part of being a true gentleman. And, you know, we educate and inspire and do different things as well as part of it. It wasn't just making me look good, but it was look good, feel good and be good, was our slogan.

And when I you know when I started to really reflect on it, though, because that's, you know, often my story of where I've gotten a subscription. I've actually been in the overall subscription business for almost my entire career at a hosting company, a managed IT services company. And one of the things I always found is I loved like that residual, that residual revenue which I'll dive into and talk about because so predictable makes it makes your life so much easier as a business and a nonprofit.

And so, you know, fast forward, we started gentleman's box in 2014. We actually just sold it last year to cigar club found a happy home for it. Because what happened along the way, we started the Subscription Trade Association, which is now the largest trade group for the direct to consumer subscription space, in addition to our conference called sub summit, which is our large the largest event in the world around DTC subscriptions. And we're still so fortunate to be stewards of this space helping companies learn and grow and get better around subscriptions. And today, we have over 2000 members pre COVID, our conference had 1000 over 1000 in person, attendees, and during COVID, our virtual conferences, a lot of them two to 3000 attendees of our virtual events. So it's been a lot of fun.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, and the subscription world has exploded.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Oh my gosh, yeah. So you can subscribe to anything!

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Right? Well, and I think so much so that we don't even really think about the subscriptions that we have as subscriptions, right, like Netflix, or like, I think a lot of times when people first hear subscription, they think about things like the physical boxes that they might get, but they're everywhere.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah. And you know, there's a there's a couple different ways when you look at, like physical subscriptions, like subscription boxes, there's typically two schools of thought there's the replenishment, so the Dollar Shave Club's there's so many razors you every month, Amazon, you can subscribe and save to diapers for your kids Birchbox and Fab Fit Fun and your beauty products and things to try that enhance your life.

And then there's the discovery and delight side of things. And some of these cross paths to like Birchbox and Fab Fit Fun that I just mentioned are replenishment. They're also sending you things that you didn't know existed to try and introduce new stuff gentleman's box was a discovery and delight. And then there's this third part of it. That's almost is the trifecta of you can do replenishment, discovering delight. And the third part, which is access, giving people access or membership into areas as part of their subscription, that that's another area. And if you can accomplish all three with your business or nonprofit, it really is a winning combo, because you keep people around that much longer. And that's, that's the allure of subscription, it's not a one off transaction, as that, you know, coming in making one donation and stepping away and maybe engaging with that nonprofit or that brand. Again, it's creating that relationship with that donor or that customer that lasts way longer than that singular transaction.

So, you know, you start to form that relationship, they start to see you more on a regular, monthly or quarterly basis. And then you you start to learn more about your customers, you start to learn, they start to learn more about you as an entity. And so that's really strengthens that bond between the customer and the organization.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, well, my daughter and I are both members of Ipsy. So we get makeup boxes, and we love it because we rarely get the same thing. So it's fun. So we trade within our household. But what's genius about what Ipsy does, in particular, and I'm not an affiliate, like I get nothing for saying anything about them. But what I love about what they do that I think is so genius that I think is really applicable to the nonprofit space is they create a community around their members. And then they give they have exclusives that you can purchase throughout the weeks and the months to add on. So they're tapping us over and over and over again for additional value add but we're spending more money with them.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yep. And that's part of that like access component of it, that you're going to find into we just did a actually a subscription review a live subscription review the other day, the company called vinyl me please, which during the subscription review are kept referring to is like the most polite company in the world because please is in their company name. But they they had so many great things about what they were doing in their subscription. Not only were you able to subscribe to a cool new vinyl record on a monthly basis, but as a member, you also got access into limited edition presses that they're running or limited edition products that you could buy. And that's what Ipsy is doing as well. They're because you're a member because you're part of their monthly subscription or quarterly subscription that they have, then you also get access to these really cool things. And that's a really great way for nonprofits to start to look at experiences around their donors.

Yeah, we're talking about how can nonprofits benefit from this, you know, if you're, if you're a donor, making a monthly donation, and you know, there can be tiers around that, but 10 to $25, the gold tier and the 30 or whatever, you know, 200 is the platinum and then you've got the space tier, whatever it may be, you know, that will give you access to different different experiences or different you know, different feedback of things that are happening out there with your dollars. There's there's so many different ways to look at it rather than just kind of looking at it in a tunnel and saying Oh, do we need to ship a product to somebody or do we need to supply something just taking a step back and think about what? What do people really want to feel and do is a fun way to look at it.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN]  Yeah. So I'm glad you're going there this conversation because I think the easy things that nonprofits think about when it comes to like a monthly donor program or subscription model, it's okay, well, I can send them a, you know, a welcome box with some swag and we can send them, you know, we can do a phone call with our monthly donors. And we can do like a live zoom and just do a q&a. But what you know, I like thinking outside the box for sure. And making it experiential. So what are some kind of maybe off the wall unique things that you've seen in subscription boxes that might spark some? some unique thoughts on the nonprofit side?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, I think, you know, so definitely, you know, I think the go to would be like shipping that that box out to somebody, you know, when you do so take that, you know, taking something like that, and expanding on it, and creating quote, unquote, golden ticket opportunities. We helped launch The Ellen DeGeneres box when she first started her subscription box. And she really wanted to, you know, she didn't get back component to it, which was interesting. But she also did these golden ticket opportunities where if you found the golden ticket inside of your box, it gave you access to come to the show, or, or go learn more about her nonprofit she was supporting, so on and so forth.

And then actually to, you know, taking something like that and finding a brand that you can partner with even as a nonprofit is a great way to look at, you know, how can we spread our message even further, and, you know, get some monthly residual revenue there. But, you know, creating those experiences is a great way to expand on like a physical product or something that that people are receiving on a monthly basis. collectibles, right, we all love collectibles and getting something new. So whether it be you know, every quarter, we're going to ship you a new pen. And by the way, come back to say quarterly, quite often, I kind of always use the monthly or quarterly interchangeably in there. But quarterly is a lot easier to curate. From a resources standpoint, if you're an organization that is, you know, really, you know, like a lot of nonprofits are very resource constrained. And so getting doing something on a monthly basis becomes a heavy burden at times. And so looking considering a different model, whether it be by monthly or quarterly, can ease that stress can ease a strain, and gives you more time to kind of process what's next.

Anytime somebody starting a subscription box, I always say you got to plan in the first six months out, don't make one. And so you'll be ready for the next one, right? Yeah, plan six months out, get ahead of yourself and be ready to go on this. Because once it starts picking up steam, you get so caught up in the day to day is you got to be ready for the next the next one, the next one, the next one. So looking at something like on a quarterly basis, something fun, you could do collectibles. And, you know, there's the other thing that there's this new virtual world that we're all starting to live in with NF T's you know, whether it be issuing a digital collectible or a digital asset of some kind. Is there something there? You know, could could the DA and downtown Detroit issue, the limited edition NFT of a digital piece of art available to their members exclusively Holy cow, could you imagine like if you got collectors out there who now have access to this, you know, this digital digital item that maybe wasn't been out there before, it could be a really, really neat way to lure in some some great new donors too.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, and I think you know, what you're mentioning too is ways to keep it mission forward. So you're still able to continue to talk about your mission and impact without it being, here's all the things we're doing give us money, right. So you're bringing people in bringing them into the mix, making them feel like they're an exclusive part of the club, when they're getting ready to put dollars out or you are ready to make an ask. They're primed and warmed. And they've been partying along with you for the last few months.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, and even if it is something where, you know, hey, here's where your money is going here is providing, you know, if I'm making a donation, and it's it's feeding 100 families that month, reminding me that you just fed another 100 families this month, that's really cool. Every month, you continue to feed 100 families. And we truly appreciate everything that you're doing there that, you know, that to me is like, gosh, I can't stop this because I'm feeding another 100. If I stopped this recurring transaction, what kind. of jerk am I!

Or comparing it to to, you know, like, and I know, this is an assumed singular transaction, this is a, you know, it's one cup of coffee or whatever, like, hey, what you're paying for Netflix every month. You know, we could you know, we could take that and do this or no, and who knows, maybe there's ways a great opportunity for a nonprofit to step up and to help you manage your and monitor what you're doing on a monthly basis for the streaming subscriptions you have and if we can help you save money on your streaming subscriptions. You give that money to this nonprofit or that nonprofit or like you partnering with somebody like Ipsy help donate the extra items that you're not using this month, to us, we'll send you a box of prepaid shipping, or whatever it may be. And we're gonna sell those on our marketplace, or listen, there's just tons of opportunities on discovering delight to well,

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] And I want to talk a little bit more about collaboration, because I'm a huge fan of collaboration, I think it just helps everybody grow faster, and helps us support more people. What an interesting, like, if you already have a monthly donor program, and let's say you already have, you know, 500 people, or you have 100 people, or you have 20 people that are on your list. Um, I feel like corporations get hit by nonprofits for the same thing all the time, like sponsor our event, you're going to get your logo on our website, and we'll put you in the program. And you can have a free table, like, it's the same thing over and over again. So what a unique opportunity to maybe say, like, Hey, we're gonna put you in front of our best donors who give to us all the time, we're gonna put your stuff in a box. And, or you can give us, you know, $1,000, that allows us to give extra perks to our donor, whatever it might be, but it creates a whole unique way for you to reach out to corporate sponsors in a in a win win situation.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Oh, yeah. Because you're, you know, you're not just giving them that typical, you know, placard on the table, which is fine, it's great. It works. And companies are, I'm sure there's a lot of companies, you know, that that are out there happy with that. But looking at unique ways to continue to enhance and expand on that experience with something, you know, like, Hey, we're gonna send out a box, it's gonna include these cool things in there. And we can throw your item, include your item inside as well. or, excuse me, helping them curate, you know, having that helped curate that experience. So, you know, we want to put a cool notebook in here, here's the cost to include this notebook, you will put your logo on it, if you can, can be part of that and help us with that. You know, finding finding some unique ways to do that, too.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] I yeah, I think that's I think that's brilliant. But I'm with you on the whole plan six months in advance, because I think there's so many things that we do in marketing, where people just kind of gunshot Oh, this is a great idea. I'm going to go do that. Nope, they don't have the right plan in place. So that, you know, two weeks, six weeks later, they're like, oh, we're burnt out on this. So planning is definitely key.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I, you know, it's kind of during COVID, I jumped on with a call with a local St. Jude team here in Detroit. And they're part of what they're doing was, they're all brainstorming unique ways to help grow St. Jude's presence and do that. And that was one of the things that feedback that I gave to them was, you know, consider quarterly, but also look at, you know, how far out you need to plan this sort of experience. And for them, they, you know, St. Jude is a massive organization, and there's a lot going on, they have a lot of great ways to tell stories to help share their audience, the impact that it's having, I think, you know, there's some fun things that you can do there with unique experiences in getting getting access to learn more, where your donations are going, learn more how you can be more impactful and more helpful, too.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. Well, and let's talk about I mean, if you know, physical boxes, or physical boxes, I think they're great. Everybody loves to get mail. I mean, I love to get things that aren't bills, or

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, you know, when I became an adult, like, mail was no more no fun anymore.

I like getting mail at the office, because sometimes I get checks in Yeah, right. And that's kind of cool. But I don't check that my wife always checks the mail at home, just bills, I love it. At some point subscription boxes here. So that's, that's fair.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] That's good. We'll have to, we'll have to end with what your favorite ones are. But um, what you know, it can all be like you alluded to, like digital prints or whatever, like, what are some kind of, you know, fun online experiences that maybe you've seen some of these boxes do and the beauty of it being digital also means it doesn't cost you per? donor, right, you can mass produce one thing and push it out?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, I think, you know, I think you're starting to see a lot that's gonna start to happen with the NF T's and digital assets, you're gonna see a lot of companies start to explore that a little bit more. But then, you know, it was a great company out there called HP infinity, they create pins on, you know, that you can buy one off, or you can subscribe to, and part of what they do is their pins have an augmented reality experience to it, we can download an app and you can take in and explore more great content through that AR experience. And is a company where you don't need to, you could partner with a company like HP infinity have them create custom pins for you. And they can build part of the AR experience. It's not for you know, the small like I want to do 10, 20, 30 you'd need to produce 500- 100 that, you know, they're in the 1000s production side of things. But, you know, there could be some really neat things that you can do there.

So, every month each, you know the donors are going to be receiving this exclusive pin that has this exclusive access and fun content and fun experiences together. You know, there's there's a lot of great, my kids actually just this weekend did one for a little budding artist, and you get this clay boxes called the clay club, you get this box filled with clay in the various different supplies on a monthly basis. And then you can jump on one of two scheduled zooms where the teacher Mrs. posts leads you in the creation of that that month's little clay sculpture. And it's such a fun thing. They absolutely loved doing it this weekend, because you didn't didn't, you know, like there's not just a set of instructions is interactive. There were other kids in the class, it was a really cool experience, to finding ways to do something like that to me, where you ship something, and then you bring the community together. This is you know, like minded individuals, right? Everybody's supporting a cause and everybody's supporting an effort, then obviously, there's some commonality there and what they're thinking what they're feeling. So bringing that community together in some unique ways could be really fun.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Well, I'm thinking with the AR piece that you brought up, you know, we work with a lot of organizations that are US based, but serve an international community. So let's say it's conservation, and you your organization is saving the rhinos, like, how incredible would it be that every month or quarter, they got literally to feel like they were in the African savanna, seeing them in the wild, you know, or like taking a live tour of the school that your organization just built? You know, like, that's, that's really cool.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, we're even, I mean, think about this, if you have like, so let's say you support a wildlife rescue, having access to that webcam, I know, like my stepdad watches, like a bald eagle webcam literally all day, I have no idea why he does it, but he absolutely loves doing it. That's important to him. And like he'll sit there and it'll be up on the screen and watch this bald eagle nest. And if if that was something where they said, Hey, for $1 $1 a day or $1 a month, or whatever it is, you can still have access to this stream in this feed. like you'd probably pay it you know, Patreon is a great way to introduce some new new revenue there and, and people that that are part of that that's that's just a fun, easy way to turn something on that that would create some great recurring revenue.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] So I know what Patreon is. But for those that don't, could you kind of explain what that platform is, is?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Patreon is a great way for you to provide extra content and an extra things as a content producer content provider, you can provide extras and added bonuses for people on a subscription or transaction basis. So if they they, you know, give to you on Patreon, then they would get bonus episodes or they would get access to different content or access to different things. It's a great turnkey way to do that.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] It started a lot with musicians, right? Every time they posted a new video, you got charged, whatever you were committed.


[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] So yeah. But yes, the fun, unique way to kind of create a subscription model without having to do a lot of backend work.

Because I think there's sometimes the intimidation factor of gosh, you know, we got to figure out how we're going to do this. How are we going to charge our credit cards on a monthly basis? You know, how are we going to fulfill all this? There's so many tools out there to do all of that. And then some and I would challenge in the nonprofit space. Pretty much every donation software that's out there right now is allowing recurring. Yeah. So if you're on a platform that's not then you're on the wrong platform, like everybody does now like that's just a given.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, be very suspicious. Why they don't have that feature built. Yeah. But yeah,

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] I love that. Okay, so then, let's say we've got an organization that is getting ready to do a Quarterly box, but they're kind of scared on the fulfillment side of things. Do you have any quick or easy tips? I know this is getting a little bit more tactical. But do you have any quick or easy tips for ways that organizations can get over that hump of like, well, we don't want to have volunteers that are going to do like, you know. I mean, like, there's a whole wide range of like, you guys do it yourself versus fulfillment companies, but what options are kind of out there for folks that kind of want to do a box?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah. And so there's a lot of, there's a lot of great ways that that can be done. And certainly, you know, and I'm okay. More than five of the tactical stuff because I've been through it all. When we launched gentleman's box, we were originally filling out of John's house, and then we we moved to a warehouse and we're doing it ourselves and I have video of my time, I think their six year old daughters, by twins, filling gentleman's boxes. And then, you know, we grew and sent part of it off site to site fulfillment for a while and then eventually brought it back in house but kind of did a 50/50 like a hybrid approach where some of it was fulfilled off site. There's so many great resources out there what you'll find now a lot of like the printing, packaging, fulfill, you know, companies will also do fulfillment for you. There's some great ones around Detroit here. There's some great ones that are SUBTA partners. So anybody can jump on the SUBTA website. And there's a great list of fulfillment partners out there. You know, and they don't, what you'll find too, is if you're creating a physical product and shipping it out, oftentimes, you can have it fulfilled and shipped for less than what you'd be able to ship it yourself. Hmm. And that's because they're getting such good volume discounts on their side and the fulfillment that they can, they can pass along those discounts to you. And they'll still charge you for the fulfillment, but you're still paying less at the end of the day. You're taking all the stress and worry off off of your plate.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, and that's a good point. And I think something to to think about is, and we've kind of alluded to it a few times already. But the things that stop nonprofits from doing things like this, or doing things outside the box it and same with online events and things like that is it's kind of the fear of the unknown. And just the whole traditional this is this is how fundraising is typically done. And this is kind of a step outside of that. So what would you say, you know, we might have somebody who's listening to this, they're really gung ho, they go to their leadership, and their leadership is like you want us to do I? Yeah, you know, like, That's weird. We don't do things that way. What might you say, say to those leadership teams?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] So obviously, the planning, right, that we've talked about earlier that the planning and getting ahead of it and saying, okay, I'd like to do this, I've mapped out the first year of it, here's what it looks like, here's the costs involved with it. You know, and putting that together. But then the other thing to consider is make it limited edition, you don't need to stress yourself out, because this is the biggest challenge that sometimes these these subscription companies get into, especially as you're growing and scaling, you start to let's say, you project your first monthly subscriber run that you're going to get or quarterly is going to be 100 people. And oftentimes pretty achievable. You get it out to your donor base, they buy into it, you look at your growth trajectory, you're like, Okay, well, next month, we'll plan for 250. And the month after that, we'll plan for 500 and 1000. And what happens sometimes is you don't hit those numbers. So then you're sitting on this excess inventory, these excess products or these excess items, and you're kind of building yourself into a little bit of a corner, and a challenge.

So leadership, I might be afraid of that, right. And so one of the things to think about is, by making it exclusive, and saying we're going to cap it, we're going to cap it at 100, we're going to cap it at 500. And if we find that there's enough demand out there, we see that the tension for enough demand, we can be a little bit of elastic with it, and then start to expand that if we find we have let's say we limited to 500, and we have 500 people on our waitlist, let's make it 600 next month, so we know we're going to see 20% of those convert and come through and we're going to get those 600 subscribers, then we're not sitting on excess inventory, we're not carrying those costs on our balance sheet. And we're helping make that something that's continuing to support what we're doing and what we're growing. So looking looking at a model like that, and because of that, more people are likely to be interested because they can't get in.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] I was just gonna say that. I mean, you're a marketer. So maybe touch a little bit about the tie, like when you can launch to your donors to to get them to come into the program that exclusivity and that time sensitivity is often what will push more people over the edge that might have waffled for a period of time.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, Coca Cola has an insider's club. And granted, it's coke right? So they tons of people that want these things, and they create collectibles and things like that. But it doesn't mean people aren't as passionate about what you're doing in your organization. And you know, just wouldn't be the size and scale of what Coke has. But they've created this insider's club that has been so wildly popular, it's it's impossible to get on, I was on the waitlist. I got an email at like 10 o'clock in the morning, I was in some meetings, I missed it. I finally saw the email two o'clock and it was already my access was is too late. I couldn't get into I was like, what are they getting? there? You know, the what they were doing was something that was unique collectibles on a monthly basis and then trying out new flavors that you could insider's club cool.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Really cool. Yeah. What a great way to to create some, you know, brand marriage there that, you know, market research for almost like for free or even to make money to cover the cost of your new product.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, that's really and that's, you know, you talk about that market research component. And that's, you know, I think very first start of our conversation, we're talking about that relationship you create with your subscribers, and learning more about what they're interested in what they're what they're looking for.

Snack nation is a great and they're now called Kaeru. They used to supply pre COVID they would supply snack snacks for offices, obviously COVID changed offices a lot. And now they supply employee care products where you can ship a box, your employees has all sorts of fun stuff on a monthly basis. There was much a data company as they were a snack company, because what they were doing is they were asking for feedback on those snacks. They were taking that data and they were sharing it with the snack providers. So you know, the the snack provider that makes a nut mix. They're saying there weren't enough m&ms in here. That was our common feedback. Now they knew if they added more m&ms people be more satisfied with the product more. And, and maybe there's ways with this subscription that you're getting as a nonprofit to find those things out, you know, hey, we had four hours of the elephant refuge. This weekend, we had six hours of the Tiger refuge. What do you think? Well, you know, the tiger refuges? You know, people like that a lot more is more popular. Who knows? Right? Probably a bad example. But there could be, you know, some fun things out there that you could do with it, they can learn what people are really seeking in the relationship with them.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, I mean, I think when we, when we look at organization, like a lot of organizations are adding an ecomm element as like just an additional revenue stream, right. So they're giving away some or they're selling swag, or they're working in countries where they have the other population that they're supporting, creating, like selling their wares and things so that they can continue to send money directly back to, to those communities. So I think there's definitely a way that you can test the products that you're pushing out to see what resonates more or less with your audience. And again, like, like I said, with Coke, giving them that exclusivity. exclusivity.

We have an organization we work with, where that's one of the perks for their subscription model is every time they introduce new swag, they get access to it first at a discount. So that helps them see kind of what types of things are gonna move a little bit faster before they kind of place those bigger, bigger orders,

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Right. And it's not, you know, as a nonprofit, you're not gonna find that, you know, gosh, people didn't like the fact that we gave coats away this winter, second, to change the mission of your night and what you're doing. But what you might be able to learn is what messaging maybe resonates a little bit more with your audience. Are there special things that, you know, are there one of the things that you're doing that, that find a little bit better and could add to your mission and what you're doing in there and enhance it? So just, you know, some great ways to look at the various different data points and, and help enhance, enhance that mission.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. So there's one more thing I want to bring up before we kind of wrap this up. But that is, in that, you know, Amazon is kind of the monster of the subscription world, I think, in some regards, you know, like they have so many ways you can do it, right, like they have prime they have, like you said, you can have certain products we just bought cleaner for my daughter's rat cages, we have rats that are fun, is it and their recipe with us for the next three months, which is a whole nother experience. But so we just bought rat cleaner and for the cage, and it automatically set it to buy monthly, like I had to click off of that in order to just get it one time, you know, and then you know, they're just really good at sending kind of these automated things about what you might want to purchase and all of that good stuff. And obviously, Amazon's Amazon in their extreme. But as you kind of look at that as a model, like how, how do you feel like that just continues to kind of make that addict like you always go to Amazon now.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] I know, right? And there's, we were talking about this, this morning of, we have a product that we support, and I've invested in and it's amazing, we put it out on a TV station, and you can order directly to the TV station, but we're seeing more orders come in through Amazon, to get people's credit card and shipping information. And we will have that habit. I often remark that Amazon is one company that I think is not charging me enough money. I'm always hoping that they're not listening to me say this, they are listening. Always. Because I feel like I get so much value for what I'm paying on an annual basis to just the overall prime subscription.

I mean, take out, Subscribe and Save and everything, you know, I'm getting, I'm getting the prime TV, I'm getting the shipping, you know, free shipping on everything, I'm getting access to other stuff. So that in itself, they've done a really good thing, they're where they've built this model where they provide so much value, I'd be an idiot to cancel it. So that that that's one thing, the flip side of this too, the other thing that Amazon does is they use all the data, your purchasing habits, everything to their advantage, they see that every three months I'm buying double A batteries because my kids burn like every single thing and they don't shut off the remote control car and you know, whatever it may be, but they know my purchase habits and so probably why that you know, default Subscribe and Save is clicked off and they know that because it's already checked off I'm gonna look at and be like, I might as well subscribe to batteries here anyway.

Chewy is really good about that very same thing called a very similar example. They saw, you know, the dog food and the balls that we're getting for our puppy where, you know, and they're coming on that frequency and so they they make that suggestion and so, you know as an organization understanding and looking at the data that you have. If you see people are donating to you, four times a year, maybe there's a great way to introduce a quarterly donor program that someone's gonna look at and say, Well, I guess yeah, it makes sense. On I'm getting this extra thing I wouldn't have got before for something I was already doing anyway. Why not?

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, it's so easy. And then you don't have to follow up with them any every quarter because they're just already giving to you at that point.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Right. You know, and so we have this love hate relationship with with Amazon, I think we all does, because they are they are they 100 pound gorilla, they are so big. they wield that power. It is challenging. You know, in full disclosure, there are SUBTA partner, we love them. But like, on the flip side of this, I've had some very challenging conversations with different parts of Amazon. They're just, they're just so massive, and yeah, but they're doing something right. Right there. They're so big, and they've had so much success, obviously, there's some great cues to take from them. And so take the good ones.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] So I like what you're saying about you know, your your data is only as good as information that you collect. So making sure that you're capturing as much information about your donors as possible so that in the future, you can utilize that for more thoughtful conversations. So I think switching our brains from like, it's creepy to collect this information to be like, it's actually more important for us to click that information so that we can have better conversations with our donors. And we're not spamming them with stuff that they either don't care about, or is going to turn them off of our organization. And that's what the data allows you to do.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, and that's the advantage of subscription. We're not trying to be creepy, where we're, you're creating better relationships with these companies. Yeah, absolutely.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Individuals. I mean, yeah, yeah. Anything else about subscription models that you think, you know, should be brought up that I wouldn't even think to ask about?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] You know, I think we touched base on a lot, I think looking at, you know, what other companies are doing out there, especially the most successful companies, certainly is always a good indicator. And there's so many great subscription companies out there. The one thing I'd love to share with your audience is we do you know, at SUBTA our goal is to support the community, we have a free membership. So anybody can join, get in and be part of that be part of the conversation and learn from others. at no cost, we have a paid membership, that's only $9 a month, so people can get in and, and even for a low price to come in and join and learn and grow. And that's always been our mission. So anybody we can help out there, they can always jump on subta.com that's S U B T A . com and register for free and start to learn and, or if they're looking for additional resources, they can email us at letstalk@subta.com. And our team so awesome, I'm so proud of them. We're always happy to help and lots of great YouTube content, all sorts of fun stuff out there. So you know any other you know, we do this show called subscription review, where we break down the components of the subscription business. And you know, we know, even if you may not have that type of subscription component to your business, you might pick up something that you can take and apply over there. There's always something new, there's always, you know, we're so surprised by vinyl me, please, when we did that subscription review last week, there's always just some fun new things out there.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah, I love that. And we'll link all of those up in the show notes. So you can check those out easily. And I always encourage we don't working with new clients or in our community, to start their brainstorm by like literally looking at all of the subscriptions that they love and the experiences that they've gotten from that, and what has jumped out for them and really just brain dump a lot of that stuff before they even think about there so that they can kind of reframe the way that they're processing what we're offering to donors in our in our community.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, and there's two great sites out there that will point to a lot of those subscription companies. There's one called crate joy. Yep. has a lot of great, you know, big marketplace for subscriptions. And then another site called my subscription, addiction.com, a huge review site of subscription. So if you're looking for inspiration, looking for other ideas, checking out those two sites can really kind of point in the right direction.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] That's so good. Okay, so as we wrap this up, because you've kind of told us where to find a bunch of information about you guys, which I love. What are some of your favorites? I probably shouldn't say to ask you this, because you're but what are some of your favorites that are kind of doing some cool things out in the marketplace right now for people to check out?

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Yeah, so there's there. I mean, it's, it's like an endless list of you know, subscriptions out there, obviously. And there's, you know, like I told you about my kids this weekend, loved the little budding artists. There's, you know, bitsbox that is a really fun way. Yeah, it's so cool. And yeah, there's there's all different ages that you can you can have bitsbox for another great one. I did a live video cast that the other day was called parenting EQ. Parenting EQ is a monthly subscription. Sorry, it's a quarterly thing. There's a quarterly subscription box that will help you help improve your kids emotion. Intelligence and your emotional intelligence around your children that much better. You know? COVID

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Don't we all need that right now? Like, gosh,

[PAUL CHAMBERS]  I was like, I was obsessing. I felt like I was like this like rabid, like musician fan over their product the other day because like, it's just so needed like that earlier that day, my daughter's are screaming about something. I don't know what my son lost his crap on something else. And I was like, Am I doing this right in my parenting correctly? That box does that it helps you create meaningful conversations with your kids that are helpful and productive. That's a really cool one. Now Carnival club ships you meats and cheeses on a monthly basis. Really cool stuff there. Hint water is delicious. Well, I mean, it's honest to Gosh, it's just like unless, yeah, and the cool stuff out there. So that's so cool. Yeah, yeah, the my subscription addiction is a lot, a lot of great, great ones to find.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Yeah. Well, we recently sold our house and moved in until we moved, did we not realize how many things we had to cancel and change our address on. So maybe if you're like, I don't belong to anything, think about if you sold your house and you were moving to a new house, how many things you would have to cancel and transfer and you'll realize how many subscriptions you actually have. So definitely something that's permeated our culture and not going anywhere anytime soon.

[PAUL CHAMBERS]  No, I don't think so. And the other thing, as you're looking towards your new house, there's a cool subscription called deco created, which is a they send you Quarterly box full of awesome, like seasonal decorations for your house. And it's like Crate and Barrel on a box. Like it's so cool.

[SAMI BEDELL-MULHERN] Oh, my goodness. It's such a it's a very fun one. My husband's not gonna appreciate you for that one. Yeah. All right. Well, I appreciate it so much. Thank you, Paul, for joining me today and head on over to thefirstclick.net/podcast, we'll link up all of these wonderful things. But thank you so much for joining me.

[PAUL CHAMBERS] Oh, my gosh, Sami, thanks so much for having me as a lot of fun chatting with you. And, you know, anytime we can help truly anybody out there, please reach out to us. We're happy to help.

[CLOSING] Okay, guys, how incredible was that? Another big thank you to Paul, for joining me on this episode. So much fun. And we probably could have continued talking for a really long time. But here, when we, when we stopped talking on the podcast, he offered out a great opportunity for you guys that are wanting to dive deeper into the subscription model and get more engaged. So the sub summit 21 conference is in person and a virtual auction. And Paul is giving you guys $50 off your ticket. If you use the code, thefirstclick, so you want to go to subtasummit.com/tickets they have in person and virtual options. It's taking place in Houston, Texas, in September. But take a look and see if that's something that is going to be of interest to you. You'll get you know information on all things, subscription boxes and ways to get involved in that industry in ways that it might be able to support you. Now it's not just for nonprofits, but I think you'll glean a lot of great information. So I'm really excited. So again, head to sub summit comm forward slash tickets in enter the code the first click to get $50 off your in person or virtual tickets, which is an amazing, amazing offer. Now, all of this will be linked up in thefirstclick.net/podcast in the show notes. So I hope that you'll check them out. And make sure you subscribe wherever you listen so you don't miss out on a single episode. I really appreciate appreciate you guys listening and I look forward to seeing you guys in the next one.


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