Running a business based on a monthly subscription fee (subcom) is an attractive model, as it gives added predictability to your income stream. As long as you keep your subscribers happy, you can enjoy recurring revenue from them.
I started my own service Candy Japan to explore what running such a business would involve, but to find new ideas it is refreshing to learn about other similar services too. One such business I have been exchanging emails with is "Panty by Post", run by Natalie from Canada, which as the name implies is a subscription service for luxury panties. What follows are the answers to my barrage of questions to her that she agreed to edit into a blog format.
I run the successful subscription commerce enterprise PantybyPost.com. We ship a pretty French panty every month in the mail worldwide. We have partners in Paris and an office in Moscow. How do we do it? I will reveal a few of my secrets but please keep in mind, there is no recipe to success other then a good idea mixed with stubborn, unforgiving hard work. If you are prepared to take your idea and mix it with your blood and sweat, then you may have a chance at shipping thousands of your own products all over the world too.
I started the company over three years ago, inspired by my frequent visits to France. The idea came together while I was sitting at a corner cafe admiring the French ladies and their fashion. My challenge to myself became, how do I ship a little bit of what these stylish women have all over the world. Panty by Post took shape when I returned to Canada. It started with a latte in Paris and has become a growing corporation in Canada. My education is in advertising, marketing and teaching. I have learned my business by connecting with established business people and professionals. I have learned on the job and listened to my own innate business development skills and talents to drive the company to where it is today. The business now includes other valuable staff and we are growing.
There has been a move from "bricks to click" and the power of the Internet to reach a world market is undeniable. Running an Internet business does not mean a sure thing but it does offer the kind of flexibility many creative thinkers need to flourish. If 9-5 is not your idea schedule, running an Internet business is appealing. That being said, you may end up working 9-midnight but at least you're loving it!
My marketing and customer acquisition plan began locally. I started by meeting people of influence I knew in Vancouver. They offered sage advice and sometimes contacts of their own. I had a coach and together for three months she helped me create a dynamite pitch list and then off I went contacting the media in my town and then beyond. Now we have PR staff in Paris and Moscow, with more partnerships in the works!
After we gained traction in the market we upgraded our site and refreshed our branding. We applied our knowledge of our market and focussed our offerings and branding to serve customers better. Our top sales periods are of course Valentine's and Christmas, but we have steady sales at all times because people always need a treat or have an occasion to buy gifts. We have been running this business during a recession but our kind of luxury is affordable and accessible.
We have a renew and refer program, so our customer retention is high. We work very hard to make sure our customers are 100% satisfied. Our business is based on referrals, so we work excessively hard to value each client. We do CPC (cost per click) ads with google but this takes a long time to tweak to get good results. We enlist the help of bloggers to do reviews and we've been fortunate to be picked up my People and Style Magazines.
Our new plans for growing the business are to expand our social media reach. We love our Pinterest board and we have a new writer on staff to help us with our blog. We are always looking for good international relationships and we're currently in talks with business people in Turkey and Brazil. Who knows, we could be creating our own lingerie line next (wink)?
I really like Natalie's business, especially their packaging and site design. Packaging is something I would really like to improve on, as I suspect it has a huge impact on retention and word of mouth. The idea to gift people who churn or refer friends seems also something worth trying.
If you have questions for Natalie, you can do so on Hacker News, as I will be sending her a link to the comment thread.