Category Archives: Subscription Billing

Key Subscription Business Metrics To Monitor Each Month

"Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

To run the most effective operations in your business you need ensure you are monitoring your business’ metrics very carefully. Metrics are the indicators which demonstrate not only if there is a problem within your business, but where it is and how you might be able to solve it.

Here are some of the key metrics, what they mean and how you can improve the results:

1. Net Subscriber Change

This is where you are comparing the number of subscribers from the beginning of the month to the end. This metric is displayed as a percentage and can be positive or negative. It is worked out by dividing the number of subscribers at the end of month by the number at the start of the month and multiplying by 100.

You’ll always want this figure to be positive. A negative figure will state that your subscriber numbers are shrinking. If your figure is negative you have to look at several aspects of your business. Firstly is your promise before the customer’s signup matching the service you are offering? Not matching your promise can result in customers leaving quickly.

2. Customer Lifetime Value

One of the most important aspects of having a subscription business is to ensure your customer’s lifetime value is high. This allows you to offset the costs to bring in the customers and supply them with your product over a longer period, increasing the profit you make per month. To calculate this metric you need to take the average amount earned from the customers who have left during the month.

A low value can be a sign of a number of different problems including poor customer service, a mismatch of promise and delivery and your customers’ poor valuation of your product. Therefore addressing these issues is an essential task.

3. Customer Acquisition Cost

The main issue with a subscription business is that one month’s subscription does not usual cover what it costs to gain new customers. Knowing how much it costs to acquire the customer and their lifetime value, can help you determine if you are running an effective business.

A high customer acquisition cost specifically refers to your marketing tactics. Therefore you need to consider whether you are utilising the best avenues for your market. PPC and display advertisements cost a significant amount. You may not need to remove them from your marketing mix, but you should adjust them so that your audience is more targeted or the copy is more persuasive.

You should also consider your checkout process ensuring there are as few barriers to buying as possible and your landing pages are optimised. Consider running split testing to test different landing page designs and how effective they are at securing new customers and leads.

As another option you could consider increasing your marketing on other avenues such as blogging and social media, both of which help increase your search engine page rank and are inexpensive. Search engines can contribute up to 70% of your web traffic.

Having a good marketing mix which encourages good page rank can lower your customer acquisition cost.

4. Customer Conversion Time

Not all customers convert instantly upon learning about your brand. Sometimes it takes time for them to do further research or to look around the market for other options. They may subscribe to your mailing list which further down the line will support their conversion. The length of your conversion time is indicates how persuasive your marketing content is.

A long time from the first interaction to converting into a customer means you need to look at your brands’ messaging. Are you being persuasive enough, are you selling features rather than the benefits? These can make a significant difference and lower the time it takes for your audience to covert, the acquisition cost and increase lifetime value.

Conclusion

Getting the most from your marketing is all about understanding the statistics of your business. The above four are highly important if you want to maximise your customer acquisitions and their value. From there you can make adjustments to create a successful, high earning business.

Do you need recurring billing and subscription management software? Contact one of our experts at info@fusebill.com, call or check out the Fusebill free trial.

5 Ways To Close New Customers Without Offering An Introductory Discount

"Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Part of bringing on new customers is about closing the deals with them. There are many ways around this and often offering an introductory discount is the most popular. But this strategy often lowers profits and doesn’t guarantee long term clientele as once the discount has gone, so might the customer.

Therefore you have to think of other routes which you can take to ensure you are able to close the sale. Here are five high performing methods you could implement today.

1. The Balance Sheet Technique

Whether a business client or individual, a buying decision is an emotional decision based on a list of the pros and cons of the purchase. The balance sheet technique is about influencing the list by offering arguments on both sides.

A good sales person will always have pros which outnumber and outweigh the cons and it is always important to ensure you end the spiel on a positive. You should also ask your potential customer of their thoughts before you make the list. That way you can tailor your pros to combat their negatives.

2. Negative Assumptions

‘Negative assumptions’ is about having the potential client confirm their interest or intent to buy the product by giving a negative response to a question. Asking the client: “Is there anything which is stopping you from buying this product today?” or “Are there any concerns you have about the service?” are great examples of this approach.

This way you are making the customer reject their barriers to purchasing.

Though there is a problem that if they do come back with a negative reason you need to be prepared with a response.

3. Time Sensitive Issue

Nothing works better at closing a deal than giving the impression that what is on offer will only be available for a limited time. This works really well with products but can also be used with services. You can always tell potential customers you are only signing up a certain number of clients to your products, or that with demand as it is, prices may increase in the near future.

The fear of losing out because they have not completed the deal on time might backfire should your reasons for the limited time never occur. For example, if you say prices may increase and they never do, consumers may feel cheated and leave your service.

4. Provide Life Changing Advice

If you want to go for the long term consider signing up your potential customers for your emailing list. Then send them articles and useful tips which can help solve their problems. This is the best method to establish your business as an authority in the industry. The more knowledgeable and the more influence you have in their lives the higher the chance your audience is going to come and buy from you.

This is a rather long route approach and it could cost you in the short term. But email marketing is the third best sales performer after organic and direct searches.

5. The Workflow Option

If you have a potential customer who has a c

ertain deadline but they are not favourable to the deal you can use a workflow system to close the deal. This is when you get them to confirm the date at which they would like the work to be completed and then demonstrate how your product / service can help them achieve this.

You need to make clear that your timeframe only works because you have started the process at that moment (also using the time sensitive approach) and you should ask what will happen if they don’t meet those deadlines.

Closing a sale needn’t mean that you are offering lower cost prices. There are many options for closing a sale, many of which will not cost you anything. But whatever the outcome you must always consider the impression you leave on the customer. After all they might not buy today, but they could do in the future.

Do you need recurring billing and subscription management software? Contact one of our experts at info@fusebill.com, call or check out the Fusebill free trial.

How To Increase Renewals For Your Subscription Business

"Image courtesy Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Recurring subscribers and renewals could account for 40% or more of your revenue. Ensuring you have a process in place to improve your retention is vital for the financial stability of your business. To do this you must put in place a set of procedures which actively engage and encourage current subscribers to stay with you.

It is estimated that only 21% of all businesses have a sales team whose sole job is to retain clients. Yet this team could be the most cost effective in your entire business. It is far easier to sell to a current or previous customer than it is to sell to a new one.

Therefore, you need to come up with ways to increase the number of current customers who stick with your business. Here are several tips to help you get started.

1. Ensure You Build A Relationship With Your Clients

When you are in the initial stages of selling your product with new customers, you are unlikely to know anything about your prospects. This means that you are often taking guesses at their requirements and desires in order to sell the benefits of your product.

Once they are a customer you can start to learn more about them what they want. This means when it comes to renewals you can heavily focus on your clients’ requirements and therefore improve the retention rate.

Of course one of the biggest ways to build a solid relationship with your customers is to deliver on your original sales promise. By doing this you will find your customers will learn to trust your business.

2. You Are Better Than Your Competitors

At the end of a contract very few customers are unlikely not to need the service or product you are offering, yet they may look for another provider. To avoid losing valuable customers to your competition you need to concentrate on what your competitors are doing and how they are performing.

By keeping an eye on how your competitors are performing you can demonstrate to your customers why it has been a wise choice to be with your business. It also supports why your clients should renew their subscriptions and contracts with your business.

3. Give Special Offers Based On Usage

Every one of your customers is unique. They are likely to use your services or products differently than that of your other customers. If you are able to monitor this you can determine what is really interesting your client and then re-sell them your package based on those observations.

You can take this process up a level and offer a special deal which is tailored around their usage. For instance, phone operators may notice that a customer’s calls make up 82% of their bill whereas SMS messages are worth 10%, with internet usage at 8%. The service provider could therefore offer a deal where their calls are cheaper but the SMS and internet usage are the same or slightly more.

4. Give Discounts Based On Their Length Of Custom

Similar to the above, customers who have been with your company for an extended period of time could be offered a discount for continuing on. Provided you have a sensible discount level the cost can be afforded because it is cheaper to maintain current customers than acquire new ones.

5. Ensure You Are Contacting The Customer Early

One of the biggest failings of businesses is not that they don’t offer the deals or the renewal, but that they don’t do it early enough. Therefore you should always attempt to contact the client at least one month in advance and talk honestly with the client about their renewal.

Catching them early enough will lessen the chance they have searched for an alternative supplier of your services or products.

Renewals are cost effective revenue streams. It costs far less to have an old client renew than acquiring a new client. This strategy does require you to invest the time and energy to create an efficient renewal system, customer service experience and to ensure you deliver on your original sale goals.

Do you need recurring billing and subscription management software? Contact one of our experts at info@fusebill.com, call or check out the Fusebill free trial.

How To Increase Your Prices Without Upsetting Customers

Image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is a simple fact of business life that as you continue to grow and expand – costs rise. This is a natural process that can occur from increases in numbers of employees, increases in wages and suppliers raising their prices to name a few reasons.

At some point you will have to consider whether or not to raise your own prices, yet this can be met with some resistance by your customers.

Some previously loyal customers may leave your business in order to find other service providers. Others could be speaking more to your customer services, taking up valuable employee time. This is probably why many businesses decide to absorb rising costs themselves rather than face the wrath of their customers.

Increasing your prices without upsetting all your customers is possible. However, it requires a significant amount of planning and skill to achieve. Here are some of the methods you can use in order to raise prices and still maintain the majority of your customer base.

1. Surprise And Delight Your Customers

The first trick starts long before you need to increase your prices. If you are able to satisfy the needs of your customers and excel their expectations they are likely to tolerate the odd price rise. On the other hand, should you only just be managing to support them and they are often finding mistakes or problems with your service, they are not going to want to pay more.

This doesn’t mean the odd mistake should prevent you from increasing your prices as long as you are quick at dealing with any problems to the customer’s satisfaction.

2. Communication

You need to ensure you are explaining when and why you are going to raise the price of your services. Customers like to know in advance for their own financial planning and providing a solid reason for the price increase can help them be more understanding.

Giving at least two months warning is probably the best time frame, enough time to plan for the increase yet close enough that it is not forgotten when the new price on the invoice comes in.
Avoid using the excuse of rising costs. This may be a primary reason, yet some businesses using this model come under heavy scrutiny. Some organisations have increased their prices, blamed on higher costs of resources, only weeks before they announce an even larger increase in profits.

As a business you have to make money but customers will not be kind if they see your wealth increase when you’ve told them you’re facing increased pricing.

Instead time your price increases to coincide with other positive changes to the company, perhaps new infrastructure, i.e. new technology being implemented or something else which will benefit your clients. If they see they will gain from the price increase then it will be received more favourably.

3. Add Extra Benefits

Follow the example of Amazon Prime or magazine subscriptions. When they increase the prices they offer customers more features. In Amazon’s case they add more content to their service, giving customers more choice. Magazines will often become larger or decrease the number of advertisements in their publication.

If you can find a way to add features to your service during your price increase you can be sure customers will not mind so much.

4. Do Smaller Amounts More Frequently

Probably one of the biggest mistakes is that companies do not raise their prices soon enough or do it in too big a jump. Customers are going to be more resistant should you increase your price by $5 every two or three years than if you do it $0.50-$0.75 every year.

Many companies do this because they are fearful of losing customers with a price increase. Yet with good communication and an excellent service, a smaller amount is more likely to be overlooked by customers.

5. Restructure / Redesign Your Products

One way of increasing prices is to restructure your products and hide the increase amongst the bigger changes. Sky TV and other satellite TV providers do this frequently by rebranding and renaming their channel bundles.

In these circumstances it can be tough for your clients to see the price increase. Instead they are likely to be studying the new features and structure and comparing it to the old. This may cause some customer service problems, but your agents could be trained to deflect concerns with explaining how the new structure improves the service.

Increasing your prices is a natural part of being in business. Ensure you inform your customers with a good reason and in a timely manner. Also remind them of the benefits of your service at this time and often the majority of your customers will stay with your business.

Do you need recurring billing and subscription management software? Contact one of our experts at info@fusebill.com, call or check out the Fusebill free trial.

 

7 Lessons From 7 Subscription-Based Online Businesses

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

There are many advantages to owning and running a subscription based business. However, there are also pitfalls. Here are 7 lessons from 7 subscription based businesses to keep your business moving in the right direction.

1. Remember Your Customer Acquisition Costs (Hubspot)

A subscription based business is excellent for generating revenue on a consistent basis. However you must consider the customer acquisition cost in comparison to your monthly subscription. For instance, if you charge customers $20 for being a member to your site but it costs $50 to acquire in the first month, you have a $30 deficit.

In the long run, if the customer stays for at least three months you’ll make a profit. However, in the first month you are making a loss of $30. For one customer that is nothing, however say you have 1,000 new customers in your first month then you’ll have a $30,000 loss. If you achieve the same results in the next month you’ll have a $40,000 loss. You would eventually breakeven in the fourth month.

This scenario doesn’t count for any other costs either. Therefore you must ensure that you have the capital saved to acquire customers.

2. Consider Your Customer Successes (SalesForce)

Any subscription business depends on the customers renewing their contracts or subscriptions. Therefore your business needs to support the success of your clients and if they see the value of your business and are satisfied with your services they will continue with their membership.

You can then implement a pattern where you cross or upsell to your customers.

3. Get Your Marketing Right (Andrew and Daryl Grant workshop)

If you want people to subscribe to your membership site you have to get the marketing right. There are several options for you to consider with this. Many people think of social media, pay-per-click (PPC), affiliate programs and blogging.

Each method has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Consider which one will be best to communicate with your audience and concentrate on it, with perhaps one or two other methods in a smaller role.

4. Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today (Writers’ Huddle)

Ali Luke has run many membership sites which take a monthly subscription. At first Ali was reluctant to setup a site until confident in the amount of content she had and when she felt ready. However, she states this was a simple mistake.

Her advice is always to start the subscription as soon as possible because you’ll never be fully ready for what awaits you.

5. Price Yourself Right (Blog Mastermind)

You have to carefully consider your pricing point. Certainly you can have a look at your competitors. However this doesn’t always provide you with the full picture. For example, some membership sites can have similar content but charge drastically different monthly fees.

Therefore try testing out a few price points and see what level of conversion you get. The price point is all about what value our customers place on your service.

6. Not actively developing your product in line with market demands (MySpace)

Even though MySpace is free for users, it is still has the same functions of a subscription based business. Therefore we can learn from one of their biggest mistakes: not developing the product to meet customer expectations.

MySpace was one of the biggest social media networks very early on and was even poised at one moment to buy Facebook. However, that deal fell through and Facebook continued to develop in line with what customers wanted. The end result was that users left MySpace never to return and the value of the business has plummeted.

7. Selling to Strangers (http://gihanperera.com)

One of the reasons why subscription sites work is that users trust the subscription site. Strangers however do not have that trust with your business and therefore selling to them is almost pointless. If they do subscribe they are likely to be short-lived.

Therefore ensure you build a relationship up with your clients before you ask them to subscribe to your business.

Owning a subscription based business can be lucrative. You can generate a steady stream of income, create customer loyalty and sell other products and services to your members. However, running a subscription service isn’t always easy. Only by studying the advice from others, can you avoid common mistakes and have a better, more profitable business.

Do you need recurring billing and subscription management software? Contact one of our experts at info@fusebill.com, call or check out the Fusebill free trial.

Is A Free Trial The Right Strategy For Your Company?

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

There are number of organisations who entice new customers with the promise of a free trial. For some companies this can work really well as a marketing option. For others, the strategy is not very effective and can cost the organisation money.

To decide whether a free trial is right for your business you need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the free trial model.

The Advantages

A free trial has some good benefits, not just for the user, but also for the business.

While the user benefits from having access to the full product for a period of time, the business benefits by being able to demonstrate how useful its product can be. This means that while the user is making use of your product, they are also becoming more dependent on your product.

Therefore when their free trial ends, the user is more likely to notice the absence in their day-to-day lives than if they never had access to the product in the first place.

Another benefit for your business is that by offering a free trial you are ensuring that users are investing time and energy in getting to grips with it. People don’t like to see wasted time or effort so they are more likely to purchase the full product when the trial ends.

The Disadvantages

A free trial requires you to make a bigger initial investment to keep track of those who have signed up for it. Otherwise you could lose potential paying customers if you aren’t following up on those leads.

Also you can face the prospect that your free trial will turn away some customers. This is because a free trial generally requires significant amount of information to be provided by the user to access the product. This information, whether it includes details of a credit or debit card or not, is considered a block. If the user doesn’t like the block they won’t sign up. On the other hand, any user which does enter in the information is significantly more likely to purchase the whole product after the trial.

Is Your Product Feasible?

One thing you should also consider is whether or not your product is feasible on the free trial business model. If your product can be used on a regular basis then it is likely a good fit. However, if you business has a seasonal or irregular use, customers could use the free trial to get the use out of the product they need during a certain period and then leave without paying anything.

So ensure there is a long term and regular use for your product before considering a free trial.

Even if a free trial is not right for your product there are other options. One other option is the freemium. These have several good benefits for a business which include:

  • A high visitor to sign up rate.
  • The likelihood of a larger audience.
  • Allows risk free testing of product features.
  • Allows you to test referral programs.
  • The ability to test upgrade hooks (entices the user to upgrade their membership).
  • You’re a more attractive acquisition target (the number of users can be a huge influence on whether big companies will want to buy your company and on the value they determine your company is worth).

These benefits can outweigh the best of the free trial and so might be something for you to consider. But again it is a question of looking at what you have to offer and how the consumer can use your product. Then you can decide which model is best for you.

Once you have made that decision you can really push forward and bring in a number of users to try out your products and gain more paying customers, increasing your revenue and sales.

Do you need recurring billing and subscription management software? Call or email one of our experts at info@fusebill.com or 888.519.1425. Or, check out the Fusebill free trial.

6 Subscription-Based Business Models Gaining Traction In 2014

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Many businesses are now turning to the subscription-based business model to gain regular income from their customers. Everything from online magazines to cosmetics, are being sold by such a model and therefore you need to consider whether or not your business could implement one today.

A subscription-based business has several benefits which include:

  • A positive cash-flow: consumers pay up-front to receive their goods. Therefore you aren’t chasing invoices.
  • Higher profit margins: a subscription-based business can really cut down on some of the front end sale costs which are associated with a one-off sale.
  • Reliable income: most businesses which run a subscription-based business can predict what they are going to receive within 3% each month.
  • Effective planning: with a regular and stable consumer base you can plan more effectively on your costs such as personnel and supplies, nearly eliminating waste.

Could you have a subscription-based model in your business? Here are six models which are gaining traction in 2014:

1. Application

An application subscription-based service is unique and one which is available through applications on mobile devices such as Smartphones or through a website. The consumer pays up front for the use of the application which they can store information on, perform calculations and / or search for information on. An example of this model would be Hoover.com.

There is often no content, other than marketing, available to non-subscribers. Although sometimes a stripped down or reduced application is available for free users.

2. Reference

A reference subscription-based service is often confused as being a magazine, but yet it is not exactly that. A reference website is essentially the online version and replacement for the printed reference books which would be found in many libraries. New content is regularly placed upon the website for the consumer to access.

Consumer Reports is an excellent example of this business model. Although some content is free, you need to pay to gain access to the majority of the content over the website.

3. Membership

A membership website is a simple business model where a consumer buys a subscription to have access to certain features. Sometimes there is a free membership on offer which gives reduced services, some do not offer this. These are great if you have information and content to regularly give to your consumers and tools which can really help them.

Job sites and social media management websites are very common with this type of subscription-based service.

4. Newsletter / Magazine Subscription

A consumer who subscribes to a newsletter or magazine subscription will expect to receive a regular digital period which will provide excellent information. There are subscriptions for all sorts of magazines ranging from common hobbies to business magazines.

The content within this subscription has to have real value to the reader. There is often a free area which concentrates on the benefits of being a subscriber and subscribers are often offered additional exclusive content.

The newsletter is different from the reference as the copy is sent to the subscriber rather than being only on the website. Another factor is that reference sites are continuously being updated whereas newsletters are updated once in a specific period.

5. Community Subscription-Based

A community subscription-based model is one where subscribers pay for the ability to be part of a network or community of similarly minded people, e.g. personal relationships, hobbies or business networking. Social media is a basic example of this, although many of them are free.

Users on these sites can often upload and share a variety of content and communicate with each other in a number of ways.

6. Portal Subscription

A portal subscription is unique on this list. Portals are designed to build an audience with content from third party sources. They then collect information which can be used in SEO, email marketing, list building and lead generation.

Because of this, this style of subscription is financially free but instead costs time and information on the behalf of the consumer. The information is then used to sell the services or products of the provider to the consumer. The information can also be sold to third party sponsors for their own marketing activities.

Conclusion

There are a number of subscription-based models which you can take advantage of. Each one is unique and has its own benefits and drawbacks. Choosing the right one can give you a steady income and provide your business with financial security.

If you have any questions about subscription based business models, Fusebill or other items please contact us or leave your comments below.

Transparent Redirect: The Superman of Online Payment

SupermanIs PCI compliance the Kryptonite of your business?  Is payment information collection the Lex Luther to your company?  Then Great Scott! This looks like a job for SUPERMAN!

Errr… I mean TRANSPARENT REDIRECT!

Yes, we’re being a little silly, but transparent redirect or direct post really do seem like a superhero to companies that sell online, especially those who sell by subscription.

What is it?

Transparent redirect lets your business process credit cards from your website without having to pass them through your server. Which means none of your customers sensitive, cardholder data is stored on your system and you can conduct business on your website (instead of making people pick up the phone and call you, or by sending them to another website like PayPal), without having to deal with the expense, work, or burden of keeping their information secure.

How does it Work?

Basically, when a customer purchases something on your website using a credit card form, the form data, such as credit card number, expiry date, etc. is submitted to Fusebill for processing. Your customer is the redirected to your success or failure page and you receive the results using an API call.

Do customers know?

No. Your customers will have no idea they ever left your website because Fusebill transparent redirect is faster than a speeding bullet, customers never see anything but your web pages – never Fusebill.

Sounds hard, right?

Something that removes the burden of PCI compliance, keeps customers on your website, and provides an online payment method has to be difficult to implement, right?  Wrong. It’s really just a few simple like building a form for your website that includes a hidden field with a redirect URL, and a unique identifier, some API calls, and that’s it. Your developer can probably do it with one hand tied behind his or her back.

Up, up, and away!

It’s amazing that something that happens so fast and totally behind the scenes can be so beneficial to your business, but transparent redirect really is like a superhero in that way. Not only does it allow you to keep customers on your website, it drastically reduces the burden of PCI compliance because it allows you to never process or transmit sensitive data.

Want to know more about transparent redirect or the Fusebill API? Call or email one of our experts at info@fusebill.com or 888.519.1425. Or, check out Fusebill for yourself by taking our fully featured, free trial

Agile Billing – The New Essential for Business Innovation

ForbesYesterday, Forbes’ Andrew Dailey wrote a great post on agile billing. In the article Dailey not only gives a great definition, but explains what’s driving the shift to agile billing – realities such as shrinking business cycles and the inflexibility of legacy billing systems.

Modern billing solutions such as Fusebill have an attractive, consumer-style interface which means customers and business partners can access the billing system directly – and reduce the burden on customer support centers.

A quiet revolution is taking place in the most unlikely of places.  Boardroom pressure to deliver revenue growth and gain competitive differentiation is pushing companies to create new products and services.  Customers are demanding more granularity, flexibility, and transparency with prices.  The combination of these forces is driving companies to re-think their billing systems.  Formerly the domain of back-office clerks, billing and monetization processes and solutions are becoming critical ingredients enabling corporate innovation.

Read the full article on Forbes online