#100 - This week's episode of Subscription Box Basics is a celebration of our 100th episode, and it's going to be an Ask Me Anything episode where Julie answers some of the questions you have about running a subscription box business.
We also announce the winner of the ring light set at the end of the episode.
So you want to launch a subscription box and don't know where to start? Girl, you are in the right place. I'm Julie Ball, a subscription box coach and your host here at Subscription Box Basics, a podcast for new and aspiring subscription box entrepreneurs that want to avoid overwhelm. So grab a coffee, some pen and paper, and let's have some fun! Hey everybody! Welcome back to Subscription Box Basics with Julie Ball. That's me, your host, and today we are celebrating our 100th episode. I couldn't be more excited and it's the perfect time to share that we have surpassed 125,000 downloads. What a milestone. Thank you guys so much for listening. I appreciate each and every one of you, when you listen, when you share about it, when you leave a review and as promised as the 100th episode at the end, I will be announcing the winner of a ring light set, which is going to be so awesome for not only your own video, but for product photos, but I'll be announcing that at the end of the episode, my winner was chosen from someone who left a review. So that is the one thing I asked you to do. If you could share, rate, review, I would appreciate it so much. So today's episode is all about ask me anything. Over the past few weeks, I've been asking people what they want to hear about, like what questions do they need answered. So often I get that question. Can I just pick your brain? And as a coach, that can be a challenge because obviously I want to help everyone. And that's my goal. Like I want to help people launch their own subscription box, but my time is limited because I'm running my own box and doing my paid coaching program, which is Subscription Box Bootcamp, which if you're interested, you need to watch your inbox over a Black Friday weekend. We typically open it with a discount. So make sure you're on the list. If you're not already on the list, you can DM us at Subscription Box Bootcamp, or just head over to SubscriptionBoxBootcamp .com and sign up for the list over there. In any case, today I'm going to be answering your questions. Now I got lots and lots of questions to answer here. What I'm going to do is I'm going to go through them quickly. Obviously I can't take deep dives on all of the topics and then some of them, if I don't answer them, it's because it's out of my scope of genius. So in my business, there's a lot of people that I hire out because it's just not my jam. Like I don't, I can't be an expert in all things. So if you're asking me about specifically like Facebook ads strategy, not my jam, but fulfillment and launching your subscription box, all those things in the pre-launch stage , like all those things are my jam. So if I skipped your question, I'm so sorry. It was likely because it may have been out of the scope of my knowledge base. So let's dive right in. Okay. Sam asks, should you sell one-time products on your website to increase your average sale? I believe, yes. So the goal of any home page or landing page, you need to have like one goal. And so obviously on the homepage, you want to make sure that people get there and they want to subscribe that they don't kind of go down one path, which could be that shopping path. So make sure that your subscribed buttons are the big front and center, but here's what you can do. You can do an add-on during your subscribe flow. So your subscribed flow is the series of events. When someone starts to subscribe all the way through checkout, we use Cratejoy, but a lot of other subscription box softwares will offer this as well. But you can add , add-ons kind of like when you're on Amazon and it's like putting something in your cart and it says, you also might like this. Similar to that. So in our subscribed flow on Sparkle Hustle Grow, we add the last two or three boxes as an add on that allows us to ship something right away. We ship those right away and then their normal monthly box goes out. It'll arrive in the first few days of the month. So depending on when they're ordering, they might have to wait several weeks for that first box. So if they add on a box, we're able to send that right away. It increases the average order value. So often, actually more often than not, I don't have the exact data, but people are adding at least one box as an add on . And you know, you can go ahead through our checkout flow, if you want to go scope it out and, you know, hack it backwards. But , go to SparkleHustleGrow.com, click on subscribe, add something at a subscription to your card. And then you'll see, you'll see the add-ons page. And you can look at the imagery we use. You can look at the copy that we use feel free. I will say that Cratejoy recommends that you add no more than three images or three add on products. And I would agree with that because you don't want them to have decision fatigue or, you know, where they feel overwhelmed with too many things that they just scan on by plus, they will have to continue to scroll to see more products. So I recommend, you know, we usually keep two to three products up there and it definitely increases the average order size. Now, another way you can do that is a post-product purchase flow. So when someone purchases your box, you should have a welcome series where it's a series of emails, welcoming them to your subscription, to your membership, and then telling them what to expect, telling them a little bit about you. This is a great place to add a discount or, you know , push certain products , say, as a members only perk you get this special coupon code, head on over to the shop right now and grab a few items. So I think that's a great way to, to use that excess inventory in a shop. Okay, next question. Cassidy says, how do we gain sales? So that is a massive question. You know, there's all kinds of things like SEO, which is kind of a long-term strategy. There's ads. So Facebook ads, Pinterest ads, Instagram ads. We've had a lot more challenges recently with that type of thing though, when iOS shifted the game back in, what was it? March of this year, March of 2021, we had a lot more difficulty gaining new customers through those methods. We just haven't been able to crack the code quite yet. And so I'm hopeful, but in the meantime, what's working for us right now is relationship building. And so that means, you know, reaching out to bloggers, reaching out to influencers and reaching out to people in your community to do collaborations, to do joint giveaways. We love doing joint giveaways through KingSumo. It's a win-win , what's working really well for us right now. So it's November when I'm recording this, what's working now for us is using Help A Reporter Out. We have been pitching gift guides left and right, and getting lots of bites. And so what happens when you pitch a gift guide? A lot of times they'll request for a box or, you know, sample product. You want to find out from them how they're going to be using it. What's the link to the website, maybe some demographic information and some traffic information to make sure that it's worth it for you to send that box. After you send the box, you ask them to send a link when it's live. These are mostly organic search friendly because they're links back to your website. They're driving traffic and it's social proof. So you can share with other people like in your social media, in your email newsletters, wherever you can share that you're being featured. And it's this, like, it's almost like the street cred. So Cassie , try that go to HelpAReporterOut.com. There's a free version that you can sign up for. I use the paid version. I think it's like $17 a month maybe. And it's well worth it because you can go in there and be much more efficient with your time. You can search with keywords. You can have things automatically sent to your email and you can have a saved profile in your account. So it makes it so much easier. I also recommend that you create kind of a generic pitch and you save that like in your notes or in a Google doc, so you can copy and paste, but then you also want to personalize it a little bit at the front end or in the backend so that person can see why it's a good fit specifically for what they're looking for. Kimberly wanted me to talk about email automation flow for pre- launch. Yes, yes, yes. Emails are so important during your pre-launch. I think that's one of the most important things is list building in pre-launch because you own that list. You can communicate directly with them. You can bring them along the journey and nurture them, have them ready, primed to buy when you launch. So Kimberly, when you're doing an email automation, there's a couple that you could do here at pre- launch. One is the welcome series when someone joins your list for the first time. So I'm assuming that during pre-launch , you're going to create some sort of landing page to collect email addresses. So that might be a landing page that gives them an opportunity to get a discount on their first box or to just join the VIP list. Or maybe you're running a giveaway. In any case, when you get their email address for the first time, you definitely want to have something automated that will send them, you know, an email saying, "You're in. Thank you. We're so excited. We're glad you were along for the journey. You know, here's what to expect." You can definitely create that and you can create it in your email marketing service provider so that you don't have to manually send those to each person as they join your email list. What those need to look like is, you know, giving them some information about what you're doing. Like, what are you launching? What is the subscription box? What pain point is it going to solve for that person? Like, think about what's in it for me, but me as the customer. And then you can, in your second email, maybe you invite them to follow along on social. Like let's be friends. So here is a link to our Instagram or Pinterest or our Facebook. Give them some places to follow you so that they see you in multiple places. And maybe you have a three-part welcome series. So maybe that third one is some behind the scenes. Every single time we share behind the scenes pictures, video or information, people love it. They engage with it. They share it. I love behind the scenes . So maybe that third email could have a behind the scenes element to it. So beyond that you are going to still be sending them emails, but maybe they go through that first three-part welcome series. And we do the same thing with when someone actually purchases the Sparkle Hustle Grow box and becomes a subscriber. We have a welcome series. I believe ours is a five-part welcome series. And we have a lot of that information in Subscription Box Bootcamp. A lot of those templates to share with you, but just don't overthink it, Kimberly, like get them engaged, get them excited, tell them what to expect, but don't automate the entire launch. You're because things are going to change along the way. You know, you're going to get that logo in. You're going to get that first box design, or maybe you're going to go shopping and get some ideas for products. And you want to be able to share that stuff on the fly. So all of that doesn't have to be preplanned . You definitely need to have at least one automated email for somebody when they join your landing page or join your email list during that pre-launch phase. So that's a great segue into Erna's question. She says how and when to start building an email list, start now, start when you get your idea , get it together as quickly as possible because building that email list is the most important thing in your pre-launch . How to do that is to create a landing page. Now, a landing page can be super simple. You don't have to even have your website ready. You can typically create a landing page using email marketing software. So for example, we use Flodesk and we have a special link that can give you a discount on your float ask . So check the show notes for that, but we use Flodesk. Other people might use MailChimp, or maybe they use ConvertKit. There's so many, but what the point is, most of those email marketing service providers are going to also have a landing page function because they want you to use their service and to use their service. To send emails, you need to collect emails. So make it a super simple landing page to start, have some sort of imagery that represents your physical product. So you can do a mock-up . When I had my first landing page guys, the first one I ever did was a picture of a plain pink box sitting on my deck in good lighting. It was like sunny that day sitting on my back deck. And then I dropped it in Canva to put my logo on top of it. It was not my custom designed box, but it represented that it was a box with my logo on it. And then I updated that after I had a chance to work on it to a little collage of different items. It was one of those grids and I believe it had four different pictures of items that would potentially be in my box. So it was probably, you know, notepads, pens, you know, that type of thing. And then I had a little overlay on top of that, that said coming soon, something like that, it was super simple. Just don't overthink it. So use your email marketing service provider to create a landing page. Like that would be the first one. You can get that up and running in like 10 minutes, super simple. You want to make sure that your copy on that page is very, to the point, the idea is get them to that landing page and have them register. So make it very simple. Sparkle Hustle Grow is a monthly subscription box and online community for female entrepreneurs, submit your email address below for a chance to win a three-month subscription. That could literally be all we put on that landing page. Don't try to get them to follow you on Facebook. Don't try to, you know, have a whole big bullet point list of all the things that are going to be in the box. We're not ready for that yet. The other way that Erna you can start building that email list is by doing a giveaway. And there are a lot of different softwares out there that make it super simple. Most of them will require a small fee upfront, but it is so worth it because these giveaway softwares have this viral capability. So they have built in mechanisms to help people want to share. So for example, we use KingSumo. When someone enters our giveaway on KingSumo , we have it built so that earn extra entries to share on Facebook, to post on Twitter, to go watch a video so we can have a explainer video to show like, what is Sparkle Hustle Grow? They get an extra entry by going to watch that. And there's all these different ways that you can have them earn extra entries by engaging with you. Another one would be follow us on Pinterest. And so it is such a win-win because not only are you collecting their email address, but you are growing your social media following, you're driving traffic to your YouTube video, all these things. If you have that stuff ready. So landing page through your email marketing service provider, giveaway through something like KingSumo, I've also heard really good things about Kickoff Labs as a giveaway. They have a couple of different options there. And one of them is specifically for product launches. So I know my friend, Jessica Principe who runs All Girl Shave Club. She used this during her pre-launch back in 2016 and found it to be very successful. So hopefully Erna that helps you out and answers your question. Okay. Haley asks how to find places to organically grow like conferences, drop-ins , et cetera, and how to approach. I think this really has to do with two things, one asking and two building relationships. So the asking part is if you already have subscribers or social media followers, or an email list, someone who represents your target audience, ask them. You wouldn't believe how many business decisions that we make based off of just asking our customers. So for example, we were thinking about advertising on podcasts that catered to the female entrepreneur, that's who we serve at Sparkle Hustle Grow. And we're looking to get in front of new audiences. So what do you think we did? We asked our subscribers in our private Facebook group, and then we sent a link to them via email. So they , they wouldn't miss it. We just said, who are your favorite podcasts? What are you listening to for personal development? And it's not necessarily just for personal development, like there's other types of podcasts that we are listening to as female entrepreneurs. And we wanted to know that. So what I did then was make a spreadsheet. Actually, my virtual assistant gathered all of the information from that post and put it into a Google doc and did research. She ended up using Google to find the URLs, to find some basic information about each of those podcasts. And then she went as far as looking on their websites too , to see if they had a link to where you can contact them or get more information about becoming a sponsor. So I really think it's about asking, you know, if you're interested in finding conferences that serve your audience, ask them what's on your list this year. What is your dream conference that you want to go to in 2022? Or what was your favorite conference that you went to in 2021? And that could be, you know , virtual that could be, in-person ask them. Post it on social media, send an email with a link back to that post. If you have a private Facebook group for your subscribers, then ask them. And if you're in pre-launch , that's fine too. Just however you're communicating with them, ask them there. And one of the things that we do is I think it's always important is tell them what to do. So in that post, tell them post in the comments your favorite podcasts , or if it's an email hit reply and let me know your top three podcasts, that type of thing. So that's the way we find out about places that we want to maybe look into, or maybe sponsor. And then we reach out and we start building relationships. If there's information posted on their website already, we will follow their instructions on how to contact them. Otherwise, an audio DM followed up by a text DM in Instagram has been one of our most popular ways. And a lot of times, if we send an audio, we will also send a text below it, that kind of references what the audio is about. So they don't think like who's this creep just popping in my inbox with an audio DM. We try to give them a little context and then start building that relationship. You just never know where that conversation will go. And I find that kind of thing to be really fun. So carve out time on your calendar for that. Okay. So next I'm going to do some rapid fire questions that we get in our group all the time. And hopefully these will help you. Some of these are really quick. I'm going to point you to some resources to help you out. If you have these same questions, number one, where do you put your label? We put ours on the bottom of our box. We have a custom design box for Sparkle Hustle Grow. And most of our design is on the top and the sides. So we put it on the bottom. Your box is going to go upside down sideways all over the place. When you, when your box finally lands in a mailbox or on a porch, for example, who knows which side's going to be up, it doesn't matter. Put the label somewhere where it's not going to obstruct any of your branding. How do you come up with your pricing? So there's so many things that can play into that. So like the average cost of your products, and obviously what it costs to get your box in your packaging, material, shipping costs, which continue to rise. And you guys feel me on that one, right? So there's all these different things that can impact it. So I have this handy dandy calculator for you if you are stuck on, you don't know how to price it. If you go to SubscriptionBoxBootcamp.com/pricing. So you can have a guide to just get you started because you know, what I see is most box owners seem to price too low at the start. So when you're going through this pricing guide, you want to make sure you cover all your costs and earn a healthy profit, because otherwise it won't be sustainable and you don't want to work for free, right? So you need to treat this like a business, not a hobby. And if you have money mindset issues, I have two recommendations for you. Author Jen Sincero writes a great book called You Are a Badass at Making Money. And then Denise Duffield Thomas is a money mindset coach. And she's got a couple of books. She's got a podcast, she's got so many resources. You need to check her out too. But that subscription box pricing guide can be found at subscriptionboxbootcamp . com/pricing. Next question, how do you figure out what size box you need? That's a really good question. If you are doing custom designed boxes, you're going to have to figure that out and stick with it because the more boxes that you buy, the better price you get. So you're going to want to like figure out one size and then stick with it. But if you're not doing custom boxes, which a lot of you, when you're in your early launch stages, or, you know, you're just starting your box. You might start with a plain box that you dress up with custom packing tape or with stickers. You wouldn't believe some of the beautiful boxes I've seen with very, very basic minimal packaging. So you can do it. So what I recommend to come up with your box size is to go on somewhere like Amazon or Uline and get a couple of samples of different sized boxes. Uline is really good about customer service. If you call them up and say, Hey, I'm looking at buying bulk boxes, but I can't decide between these three sizes. A lot of times I can't guarantee this obviously, but a lot of times they will send you those sample boxes for free. So, you know, it doesn't hurt to ask, get some sample products and think about what a typical curation would be like. What would a typical selection of products be? And what is the biggest sized item that you might put in that box? So for example, at Sparkle Hustle Grow, the biggest item that we put in the box is always a book. An average size book is anywhere from like five by seven to six by nine. And that's when it comes to paperback books. Now, hardcover books are typically a lot bigger, but I wanted to, you know , keep the box small enough to keep it in tier one for USPS cubic rate shipping. And you can figure out that information Pirateship.com/rates. You can figure out how the size of the box can play into the shipping cost. So with PS United States, postal service, they do a cubic rate shipping, the larger the box, the more it's going to cost to send. And that might not be the same with other carriers. Other carriers are more reliant on weight, but with the cubic rate shipping, it's based off of the size and the length of transit, like how far it's going to go. So long story short, how you come up with your box size, try to figure out the size that is the smallest box. That's going to allow you to fulfill your mission. So keep it small for shipping cost reasons, but what is going to be the largest item that you're going to put in a box now, again, if you're using plain boxes from Amazon or Uline or other packaging companies, then maybe you have one size one month and another size another month, my husband did that with Together Unplugged, his box for families to have unplugged time together. He in the past has used 12 by 12 by four, but then in other months, he's used 13 by 13 by four. And he switched it up because the shipping cost went down and the selection of products fit better in a different size. So if you're doing a custom box, figure out like what's the smallest size box that you can possibly use, that you can still fulfill your mission. Yes, I do have to pass up on some products because they won't fit in my box, but that's a choice I've made because I'm treating this like a business, not a hobby. And I choose products that are going to fit in my box that are going to fit in my budget. And we have used the same size box for five years now, six by nine by three, it's kind of like yoga size blocks. Next question, photographer recommendations. 100% recommend Becca Bond from Subscription Box Photography. She's one of my besties, like in real life, I've known her since 2008. She has done photographs of all of my family's major milestones, like engagement and my wedding, my maternity photo shoots and you know, pictures of me and my family for years. And so back a couple of years ago, I said, Becca, I need pictures of my subscription box. And you're my go-to. And she's like, yeah, I'll take pictures of those. And she did such an amazing job that I said, oh my gosh, you should do this for a living. You could have people send their boxes to you on autopilot. Just like we send them to our customers. You take the pictures, send them back to the customer. And then they've got, you know, this great portfolio of photos that they could use on social media, on their website . And so she launched Subscription BoxPphotography a couple years ago. She pretty much launched it at the Sub Summit in Denver, which was so fun. And that's another story for another day, but 100% recommend Becca bond from subscription box photography. In fact, I am inspired. I'm going to ask her to be on the podcast. Yes. Okay. Becca, will you be on the podcast if you're listening, I'm going to text you. I cannot wait. Okay. Next question. How long did it take you to launch your subscription box business? Okay. This one is varies depending on, you know , how much time that you can put into it. When I launched mine, I came up with the idea in the summertime, started getting to work right away, and it was a couple of months of pre-launch and sent my first boxes in October. Typically what I see through my students in Subscription Box Bootcamp is on average, they will pre-launch for about two to three months so that they can, you know, work on behind the scenes, get their tech in line , you know, product source, get their boxes ready, but so important they're also using that time to build their audience so that they actually have someone to launch to. However I've seen people take an entire year and that's okay too. It's not a race. It's how much time do you have to put into it? And it is, you know, based off as so many things. So I would say an average of two to three months, depending on if you already have an existing audience, if you're building things from scratch, but it's okay. If it takes you longer than that. My only recommendation is don't launch in the summer. Summer, historically is when box sales are lower than normal. Unless of course you have a summer themed product, maybe like razors, for example, because probably going to sell more razors in the summer because we're all shaving our legs. So anyhow, yes. Two to three months, it can be longer take the time you need to do it. Does not have to be perfect though. Progress over perfection. All right , next question. What was your conversion rate from waitlist to purchase? When I'm asked this question, I always preface it by saying it really depends on the audience you get. Is it targeted? And two , have you nurtured them because if you have a targeted audience and you're nurturing them, your chance of converting them to a customer is much, much higher. However, when I'm working with my students and they say, well, if I want to sell 10 boxes at launch, how many emails do I need? My recommendation is to 10X, your goal in as you translate that to email subscribers. So if you want 10 subscribers at launch, then you need to have a list of at least a hundred really engaged email list subscribers. So if you want to sell a hundred at launch 10X a hundred, and that's a thousand, so make it a goal to get a thousand targeted emails on your list and nurture them. So that's the quick and easy answer to that. Now there's going to be so many things that can impact that. So take it with a grain of salt, but that at least gives you a goal. Just try to 10X, what you are box sales goal is as that translates to email subscribers. Now, when like at launch, you are creating this big buzz, you're doing your giveaway, you're doing your prelaunch , you're doing all the things. And after that, that conversion rate on average is probably going to be far less on your website. Maybe like 1% to like, if you're doing good, then 2%. If you're doing amazing on your website, 5%, it's, it's really different from your prelaunch to your typical, you know, month after month after month, unless you're doing these massive campaigns every single month. But on average, I would say 10X your sales goal at prelaunch , as far as your email list goal. And then after that, you, and kind of like fall into your regular routine. You're going to look at about just, I'm just going to say an average about 1% conversion, a 1% conversion on your website means for every 100 people that come to your website, one person will buy. So if you need to make three sales a day, you need to average 300 targeted visitors a day to your website. Okay, last question I'm going to do today is where do you get items for your boxes? This is a great question. It varies based off of what types of products you are buying, but just so you know, I'm always on the lookout for products. We include books, office supplies, tech gadgets, and stationery. So that kind of stuff can be found at the big box stores that can be found at Staples and Office Depot, but we found it so many places. So I'm always on the lookout for great items. I look on Amazon, I look on Pinterest. I also go to events that specialize in that. So for example, we regularly go to the National Stationery show. It's a chance to meet tons of vendors, build relationships in person. And it's a quick way to find products and like plan out months and months at a time. We actually talk a lot about this in a podcast episode. So I'll make sure I link that in the show notes. I also talk about it a lot in the Year in a Day workshop, which is available. Now, if you guys haven't gotten that yet it is available and we're getting really, really great feedback on it. You can find more information about that on SubscriptionBoxBootcamp.com/yearinaday. And that just talks about how you can product source and plan out your entire year in one planning session. It's so incredibly helpful and efficient. You guys got to go check it out SubscriptionBoxBootcamp.com/yearinaday. So anyhow, a few more places that I like to use to find products is Faire. F A I R E. That is a marketplace of products. It is wonderful to just have so many different types of products, all in one place. I even look at Etsy and build relationships. It's been a while because of the quantities that I need, but when I was first starting, I definitely worked with Etsy sellers. And, but sometimes it can be tougher to get that wholesale rates . So I'm going to make sure that I link to that podcast episode. And you know what, in fact, I wanted to tell you as to that I'm going to be taking a little bit of time off for the holidays. You know, work hard, play hard, have to build in some seasons of rest. So we're going to be re- airing over the next few weeks, some really great early episodes. So like the Sparkle Hustle Grow launch story. Have you ever wondered, like how did Julie launch her own box business? Like what, what did she go through at the stages that you might be in right now? So we're going to re-air that one and we will also re air the product sourcing one, because that is one of the most listened to episodes. And obviously you guys are asking that question all the time. Like where do you get your products? So we'll make sure that we re-air that one. So tune in to that. I'm really excited about re-airing some of those and I I'm just cheering you on and hoping you are having an amazing, pre- launch, amazing holiday season, wherever you're at in your subscription box journey. I'm here for you. We've got more resources over subscriptionboxbootcamp .com . You can check out the blog there, lots of free resources. And let me have that drum roll. It's time to announce the winner of the ring light kit. All right , so I'm going to read this five star quotes from Addie877. Addie, you are a winner. A ddie says we are in the beginning stages of our business and Julie's podcast has helped us keep focused and amped up. She breaks things down into realistic milestones and the thoughts and info she shares is fantastic. Highly recommend. Thank you, Addie . Thank you so much for the five-star review. Thank you for the beautiful words of gratitude and I am so grateful for you for listening and I am cheering you on. Addie, make sure you DMS on Instagram or Facebook. You can find us at Subscription Box Bootcamp, make sure you DM us so that we can coordinate with you and get your shipping address to send you your ring light kit. I'm so excited. You guys, hopefully this episode was helpful in answering a lot of those questions that you may have, especially in those early stages of your subscription box business. I'm here for you. I am your subscription box business coach to help you launch your subscription box. Thank you so much for listening, especially to this 100th episode. I am just incredibly grateful. Thank you so much. Enjoy the next few weeks of re-airs of our most popular episodes. And I'll see you in the next episode.Speaker 2: