5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Subscription Box

blog getting started Nov 20, 2022

I talk a LOT about what to do when you want to start a subscription box. On the Launch Your Box podcast, on my public Facebook page, and inside Launch Your Box. All the things. If you want to know how to start a subscription box, you’re in the right place. 

Today, I’m taking things in a different direction. Instead of talking about what you need to do, I’m going to go over five things I want you not to do when starting your subscription box. 

These are mistakes I see people make all the time. Sometimes it’s because they simply don’t know better. A lot of times it’s because they want to rush the process. They’re impatient. 

 

 

Here’s the thing. Starting a subscription box business is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s not a road that leads to overnight success. Starting a subscription box takes time, it takes perseverance, and it takes a LOT of hard work. But it’s worth it. 

So let’s talk about five mistakes you should avoid when you’re getting started. 

 

Selling too fast.   

You have an idea for a box. You spend time dreaming about what’s going to go in the box and know exactly who it’s for. Does that mean you should be in a rush to put your box out there into the world looking for subscribers? 

Not so fast. One of the biggest mistakes I see new subscription box owners make is offering their box for sale too soon. Rushing to sell before there’s anyone to sell to. 

You can have the most amazing subscription box, the most perfectly curated experience. It can be priced right and packaged beautifully, filled with items your ideal customer is sure to love. But if that ideal customer doesn’t know you and your box exist, your launch will be a disappointment. 

 

 

This is why I spend so much time talking to subscription box owners about audience building. Audience building is the first step in starting, launching, and growing a subscription box. And if you want your subscription box to succeed, if you want to grow or even scale your subscription box business, audience building never stops. 

New subscription box owners often get distracted by the “fun” parts of starting a subscription box - designing logos and custom boxes or spending hours on wholesale sites researching possible products. The time and effort it takes to consistently post good content on social media make it sound a lot more like work and a lot less like fun. 

Audience building is hard work. You have to show up - consistently. You have to post engaging content - consistently. You have to email your list - consistently. You should allow at least 90 days to build your audience. 

 

 

But audience building is worth it. Because without an audience, your subscription box will never be all it could be. That beautiful, curated box you’ve planned that you just know your ideal customer will love? Give it the best chance you can by going out and finding those people who will love it as much as you do. 

On episode 50 of the Launch Your Box podcast, I revisited the 10 most downloaded episodes and ALL of them had a common theme - audience building. Take a listen. There are so many gold nuggets in there! 

 

Talking to the wrong person. 

When you try to talk to everyone, you talk to no one. 

What do I mean by that? 

A lot of new subscription box owners resist niching down. They fear that getting too specific with who they are for will limit the number of potential subscribers. 

The opposite is actually true. 

See, when you try to talk to everyone, your message ends up being vague and even muddy. You’re trying to include “everyone” in your message which means it doesn’t really resonate with anyone. 

 

 

Engaging with your audience and creating connections with them means talking to them in their language. Making them feel seen, heard, and understood. You can’t do that if you’re trying to talk to everyone at the same time. 

Inside Launch Your Box, I’m known for saying, “The riches are in the niches.” And there's a good reason for that. It’s true! 

I recently talked with Launch Your Box member Julie about what she experienced when she niched down. Julie had a reasonably successful tea towel subscription. She had grown that subscription to 100 subscribers and it brought in recurring revenue every month.

But she was stuck.

She couldn’t seem to grow it past that 100 subscriber mark. She realized it was because that audience was just too broad. Her tea towels - adorable as they were - could be for anyone. Older, grandmotherly types, busy moms of young children, young women who like a retro feel, and more. 

 

 

Julie decided she needed to niche down and chose to create a box for a very specific group of women - pilot wives. Julie is a pilot wife, so she knows this ideal customer very well. She knows what she thinks, does, and feels. She knows what she wants and needs. 

Julie niched down, launched, and continues to grow her Pilot Wives box. In fact, in only 9 months, her subscription has grown to just under 400 subscribers! 

Listen to episode 96 of the Launch Your Box podcast to learn more about Julie’s story and why niching down is so important. 

 

Selling instead of serving. 

We already talked about not rushing to launch before you’ve built an audience. Now let’s talk about taking it a step further. 

Once you’ve started building your audience, there’s one more thing I want you to do before you sell to them. 

I want you to serve your audience. 

What does this mean? This means showing up for them, engaging with them, giving them value. 

For a crafter, this could mean crafting LIVE on your free Facebook page, inviting your audience to craft along with you. For someone planning a home decor box, this could mean providing free resources to help your audience solve a home decor challenge. I serve my audience of southern busy moms who love monograms by providing style guides and lifestyle tips and strategies to help them feel and look good every day. 

 

 

Serving your audience builds the know/like/trust factor your audience needs to have in order to want to buy from you. Serving your audience creates connections and builds authority. 

Read this blog post for Kristy’s story of how serving her audience of crafters with no expectation of selling led to a thriving subscription box business that serves more than 1,000 subscribers! 

 

Skipping the list.  

I talk a lot about the importance of posting consistently on social media. And it is a crucial part of your audience building strategy. Social media is a great way to find new followers and engage with the ones you have. It’s the best place to show up LIVE and truly connect with your audience. 

But…

I don’t want you to have all your eggs in the social media basket. The truth? You don’t own your Facebook or Instagram or TikTok accounts. If those platforms disappeared tomorrow, so would your followers. And your access to them. 

 

 

I’m sure you remember the day last year when Instagram and Facebook were down for most of the day. Not only were people not able to scroll and keep up with their favorite influencers, many online business owners were paralyzed. 

They had no access to their customers. 

That day hit me hard, too. But I had one important thing going for me that allowed me to not just survive that day, but to thrive. I had an active email list of customers who were happy to hear from me that day via email. The result? A big sales day. 

 

 

You don’t own your social media accounts, but you do own your email list. It’s so important that you take time to build an email list via giveaways and opt-ins. And then once you’ve built it, nurture that list by emailing regularly every week. Check out this blog post for ideas about what to send in those weekly emails. 

 

Having too many offers.  

Have you ever walked into an ice cream shop and been overwhelmed by the number of choices? In the ten seconds it takes you to get from the door to the counter, the cheerful worker expects you to have decided the flavor you want, the number of scoops, the type of cone or dish, and whether you want any toppings. 

Yikes! 

Asking people to choose from too many options can leave them frozen, unable to decide at all. And some of those people will leave. 

New subscription box owners often want to give their customers more choices, thinking they are offering an outstanding customer experience by providing many different options. Instead, they end up with prospective subscribers who, instead of spending the time to figure out what makes each option different, end up not deciding at all and not subscribing. 

Launch Your Box member Becca realized she was doing just that. She was trying to be all things to each of her subscribers which resulted in her hitting a plateau in her growth and staying there for much too long. Hear more of her story in episode 47 of the Launch Your Box podcast. 

 


Starting, launching, and growing a subscription box takes a lot of hard work and there are no shortcuts. It’s also an incredible feeling to know you’ve done all that hard work and built a business to be proud of. Make the journey easier on yourself by avoiding these five mistakes and starting the right way. 

 

Learn from me:

  • Subscription Box Blueprint eBook: This $10 ebook covers logistics from product selection to packaging to shipping. Plus a 90-day launch plan and bonus ‘Instant Scripts’ for your social media.
  • Launch Your Box: My complete training program walks you step by step through how to start, launch, and grow your subscription box business.
  • Launch Your Box Podcast: I share tons of practical tips and strategies to help you start, launch, and grow your subscription box business. You’ll also hear from industry experts and current Launch Your Box members who are crushing it - get ready to get inspired! 

 

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