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5 Reasons Subscription Box Programs Fail to Succeed

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

I get a shit ton of questions about how to start a subscription box (shocker, I know) and each time if find myself coming back to these 5 topics. Who knows, maybe I'm stubborn and should come up with new answers, but until then, dive in and check these out. 

#1 – Your Concept Will Change

You start with one thing, but know that it’s going to evolve and change. This has been true for every Subscription Box we’ve ever launched – whether I’m talking about Bulu Box or other client Subscription Box programs.

Fast forward a year after your launch and I guarantee you – your box will be different. If it’s not, you’re either a unicorn who struck gold or you’re not listening to your customers.

The odds are not in your favor of the gold unicorn. Just sayin’.

#2 – Don’t Get Boxed In to “Shoulds”

Boxed in 😆….anyway – a lot of people get stuck thinking about what a Subscription Box should be. How often you SHOULD ship, and what you SHOULD include, and who you SHOULD market to.

Fuck that.

You don’t have to ship monthly.

You don’t have to purchase all the items in the box wholesale.

You don’t have to send a box of random, themed items.

Just because another box did it that way doesn’t mean you have to.

Maybe it makes more sense for your box to ship monthly or quarterly. Could your box be part of a loyalty program or a replenishment service? What about a partnership with another brand or company?

There are no limits here so let your creativity (and market research!!) go wild.

#3 – Hire Fast and Hire Right

Running a Subscription Box program takes folks with every kind of skill set and a whole lot of grit. Don’t be afraid to pay good salaries to get the right people. There’s that famous quote that says something like – “Can’t afford a professional….just wait til you hire an amateur….”

It’s TRUE. So be willing to pay for your team.

But…. on the other hand, don’t underestimate the value of hiring someone with no experience. If you hire the right person and they have the right potential, they’re willing to try anything because they aren’t afraid to hear “no.”

Plus the right people bring a high dose of creativity and great ideas – something every Subscription Box entrepreneur needs by their side.

#4 – Don’t think you have to do it all yourself

If you’re just starting out, there will be a number of things you’ll need to do because you can’t afford to hire help in every single area. But thinking you have to do it all yourself as things move along is definitely a problem waiting to happen.

When we first started Bulu, we were packing boxes in the basement of our house, then in the office, and finally we got a warehouse. Now that we have a warehouse, I have people who run that for me….I shouldn’t be packing the boxes.

Same goes for design, marketing, fulfillment, sourcing, etc. Know what you’re good at and find people to fill in the gaps.

If you need help figuring out what you’re good at, go back to #3 – the people you work with everyday are sometimes better than you are at knowing where your talents lie. If you haven’t asked yet, see if they will give it to you straight.

Step out of the stuff that’s not a priority and get the people from point #3 to help you.

#5 – Seek out advice from those who have failed

It’s easy to think that you can read blogs like this and think through possible disaster or success scenarios…

But the truth is --- someone else out there has done this. And they’ve either nailed it or failed miserably. And failure is a better teacher than success in many cases. But when you seek advice, know what to ask!!!!

People all over the world ask me a ton of questions as I’ve got the experience (whether that’s Subscription Boxes, entrepreneurship, fundraising, etc), but they don’t know what they don’t know. They’re getting all the right answers… the wrong questions. #FAIL

To help with that, my team put together a killer new resource that you should definitely get download, highlight, dog-ear, bookmark, etc. It’s called – Every Question an Entrepreneur Must Answer About Their Subscription Box Program. (Don’t worry, this is the only sleezy sales pitch in this post.)

Know the right questions…then get the right answers.

All promotions aside though…..I wish I’d had something like this when I started because once you get in the trenches, it’s hard. You’re learning at a rapid rate and you gotta know when to double down and when to get help.

But you can do it!!!!!!!!!!

Now it’s your turn – what are you launching? Did I miss anything?

You’re probably reading this because you’re thinking of launching a Subscription Box Program (whether your own or on behalf of a brand) or you’re simply launching something….

Leave me a comment below and tell me what you’re launching…..I’d love to spread the word! 👊🏻


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