Navigate the Journey to Subscription business
By: Steve Terry, Navint Director, Subscription Revenue
#1. Move from products to customer offerings.
We made it! Our flagship product has created a set of raving fans in our target market. Our customers are happy, they are renewing the service, and telling their friends and colleagues. We find many of our clients have this “product-centric” story at the foundation of their success. The next leg of the journey is often to deepen these valuable customer relationships and grow revenues within the base. This means re-tuning business practices and systems to support upgrades, add-ons, and related products. This subtle move from product-centric to customer-centric heralds a new set of challenges. We must adapt already successful methods to gain more success. Beware the headwinds of “why change what works?”
#2. Offer new ways to package, serve, price and pay.
Recurring revenue strategies create shareholder value. They build revenue stickiness, predictability, and deepening potential. Our package design objective is to harness this potential with a frictionless customer experience that survives over time. There are many ways we can package and monetize recurring relationships to fit both the nature of the service and to suit different market segments. Subscription packages are not one-size-fits-all. Alternative models come in many forms: classic fixed price subscriptions with seat-based or site-based limits, consumption-based charges, combinations of minimums and usage tiers, or one-time fees for unit-based or event-based add-ons, and many more. It’s likely that all of these should be considered as options by a growing subscription business. Adding these options to your packages takes time, forethought, and investment in operations. The subscription success journey requires that we carefully navigate expansion of offer models over time and in steps to align investment in operations with the vision for customer success.
#3. Create customer-centric operations across the company.
In the beginning we built product, marketed product, sold product, invoiced, and collected payment. And repeat. Each department knew its place, understood the “hand-offs” for each “order-to-cash” cycle to take place. Within many early-stage subscription organizations the echo of this legacy business practice continues as a matter of habit. The traditional approach to department hand-offs is a source of rigidity. The subscription success journey requires that we change this perspective. Recurring revenue offerings are peculiar things…offerings are made up of the product, sure, but also how it is served, how it is billed, and how people pay. The combination of these features is now part of the product definition, and the go-to-market plan. As a result subscription success requires that we develop a new way of teaming. It’s like we’ve just invented the forward pass. Game changer. The team must adapt so that business functions are arranged into an agile organization that centers on continual, iterative and frictionless customer interactions across the Customer Success life-cycle.
#4. Keep up with technology innovations.
Since the dot-com transformation of the 1990’s the pace of change has rarely been so dramatic as with the current transformation to subscription and recurring revenue business models. The rise of connected products (IoT) only serves to amplify this process. Beneath this transformation in business needs is a rapidly moving landscape of technology enablers. A growing army of new technology vendors are providing new products and services to help package, price, invoice, collect and optimize recurring revenue relationships. The subscription success journey requires that we adapt and advance by harnessing new capabilities to stay ahead of the competition. Keeping up with the times and connecting what’s available with both current and future needs of your business is a journey in itself.
#5. Design your organization to the vision. Not to the past.
One repetitive theme of subscription success is that improvement initiatives for sales, service delivery, and finance operations must address packaging and offer models that we don’t currently provide. We call this designing for the ‘negative space’. What is the vision for things we don’t currently do? Gone are the days of sleep walking through an incremental “As Is” vs. “To Be” approach to systems projects and process improvement initiatives. Instead we must design-to-vision. What is our common understanding of the vision for offer models we will offer in the future. We must envision the capabilities that will exist, and plan the steps to put them in place. Given that the future is uncertain, how ought we plan to adapt for new insights that we develop along the way?