The 10 most common Subscription Errors – and How to Fix Them!

abonnements fejl

Subscription Errors – Top 10 List

In this article I have decided to share the 10 most frequent subscription errors with you – and ALSO how to fix them!

My name is Andreas Dirksen and over the past 4 years I have helped more than 200 companies create a successful subscription business.

The striking thing is that regardless…

  • The size of the company
  • Company age
  • What industry we are talking about
  • And whether it is B2C or B2B sales

…It is the SAME 20 steps that need to be worked on to create a successful subscription business,

And it’s the SAME mistakes I experience over and over again that prevent companies from succeeding in their subscription business!

In this post, I have collected the 10 most frequent subscription errors that I experience. And tells how to fix them!

However, I have exempted technical errors such as that the web page loads too slowly or that the check-out flow does not work. Instead, I focus on the errors that directly relate to the subscription business. There alone, there is plenty to address!

#1 Subscription Error: The Business Idea

If you can’t describe your business idea in 2 minutes in a way that others understand it and want to engage in it, you haven’t done your job with the business idea well enough!

A quote by of my favorite professors from the university, John P. Kotter.

It sounds so simple, but I really meet a lot of people who are not sharp enough on how they want to make money and how they want to grow the business!

When this strategic foundation is not in order, the WHOLE privilege becomes blurry and it becomes difficult to succeed.

Imagine if you meet a high profile investor from your home country in the elevator, and in only a few seconds you have to describe your business idea AND get him made interested. What are you going to say so that he takes an interest?

Too many people will not be able to do the “elevator-speach”.

If you’re one of them, go back to the drawing board and get your business idea fully in place before proceeding.

#2 Subscription Error: Subscription Knowledge

Too many people have the perception that if they can run a successful webshop for example, it is piece-of-cake to attach a subscription business to it and succeed with it.

They believe that they already have 80% of the knowledge needed to create a successful subscription model.

But the truth is that they have just 20% of the knowledge they need. And they don’t understand the mindset that creates the success of a subscription business.

It’s a COMPLETELY different way of doing business!

For example, in a subscription business, it is not about selling as much as possible, but about creating as long and as deep relationships as possible. When you succeed, you sell a lot more.

The necessary skills, the key figures, the time horizon, the way of selling, the sales funnel, etc. are also completely different than in a traditional business.

Gain knowledge about the development and the scaling of a subscription business and best-practices in the field. Then you save yourself a long trial & error period before you get success.

#3 subscription error: The Customer Type

Unfortunately, many do not know the Customer Type model (A Danish developed user behaviour model). Or they think they know it but they haven’t realized that it’s not just another model for personality profiles.

They haven’t discovered that it’s a knowledge of how to get and retain many more members and customers. Based on five years of thorough research within more than 3,000 companies.

When I need to help a company create a successful subscription business, we often start by defining which customer type to go for?

This knowledge is crucially important to know, for example:

  • What benefits create the greatest perceived and perceived value for members?
  • How many subscription packages it’s ideal to offer?
  • How the membership packages should be priced?
  • What marketing channels you need to use to get members?
  • How best to reward member loyalty?

If you don’t know which customer type you’re going for, and target your entire concept and marketing to that type of customer, then you miss a great sales potential!

Many companies experience it almost as a revelation when they get to know the customer-type model and what it can do for them.

So define your customer type and target your business towards the chosen type. You can see more about customer types here (in Danish).

#4 Subscription Error: The USPs

When a new prospected customer enters your website, you have an average of 8 seconds to:

  • Telling them what your claim is all about
  • Getting them to understand what you can help them with
  • Giving them a sense of security and desire to see more

Did you pass this test?

Many don’t! Often it is not very clear what the company offers and why customers should consider buying precisely from them.

Their unique selling points (USPs) are either not present at the top of the page (no, it’s NOT a good idea for users to scroll to find them!). Or they are not worded so that they are understandable, short and sharp enough.

Often this error is linked to errors #1 and 3, because if your business idea is too vague or blurry and/or you don’t target your business to one customer type, the USPs also become poor.

Mistakes propagate and cause more mistakes!

So get errors #1 and #3 fixed, and then work on formulating your unique selling points so that they stand RAZOR-sharp!

#5 Subscription Error: Complexity

One of the hardest things about subscription is making things SIMPLE.

We humans tend to complicate things, making them harder to understand, understand and relate to.

The same is true when we create and run businesses. We make things too complex, and that detracts from our chances of success.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” Leonardo da Vinci said, and that’s still true today.

For example, I often see companies that think it is important to give their members as many benefits as possible. Nothing couldn’t be more wrong!

It is NOT about providing as many benefits as possible. The more benefits there are, the harder it will be:

  • For new potential members to see what they get, which means that fewer people create a membership
  • For existing members to learn how to get started on getting value from the entire membership
  • For the company to onboard the new members and manage and further develop the benefits

LESS IS MORE is a good rule of thumb, also when you need to develop a subscription business.

Instead of giving your members as many benefits as possible, then give them the few benefits that results in highest value. And then remember to reward their loyalty so that they get more benefits – not too many – the longer they are a member!

#6 Subscription Error: Trust

Put short, there are only TWO things that need to be present for you to have members:


If the potential members don’t trust you and your business, they won’t sign up. It’s that simple!

A high level of trust is important for all businesses to drive sales, but even more importantly in a subscription business.

Why? Because the members don’t just buy a product/service from you and basically don’t care about your business once they receive it.

When you buy a membership, you pay to get something prospectively. Whether it’s a subscription to products, services, knowledge or software.

Therefore, it is not irrelevant to the potential member if your business is excisting in a year. And whether you keep what you promise!

Build great trust in your business having validated trust markers in the section “About Us” on your website and ad customer testimonials. Make your membership 100% transparent and keep what you promise – at least!

#7 Subscription Error: Onboarding

In companies that sell their goods, services or knowledge, the way that companies have been doing for en eternity, the sales function ends when a sale is created.

The customer has been made aware of what the company is offering, they have become interested, may have signed up on a newsletter, have received a good offer and have made a purchase. End of line – the goal has been achieved and the sales funnel has worked.

A similar process can be described in a subscription business, up untill the purchase of a membership.

BUT in a subscription business, the work has only just begun when the membership sale has happened. After all, the goal in a subscription business is to retain the new member for as long as possible, and that work starts the second the new member signs up. A new funnel opens up!

You need to start onboarding the new member so that he/she quickly:

  • Understand how the membership works
  • Can see perspective in using the membership
  • Gets a relationship with you and/or others in the company
  • Gets value from the membership

If the new member does not experience an efficient and successful onboarding process and quickly gain value from the membership, the lifespan deteriorates significantly!

That is not a good sign, because the longer you can retain your members, the better a business you’ll have. The “gold” in a subscription business lies in having members who stay with you for a really long time.

So make sure you create an efficient and successful onboarding process via email flows and/or calls, text messages, or physical letters.

#8 Subscription Error: Relationships

By the time the onboarding process is over, you’ll hopefully have created a good relationship with your new members and made sure they get good value from their membership.

BUT I often find that the success of a well accomplished onboarding combined with the payments gives a false sense of security.

You must continue to work on strengthening the relationship with your members, to keep them for as long as possible!

And there are MANY ways to do this when you start becoming aware of them. For example, when members contact your customer service.

Many companies think it’s “job well done” when they answer the customer’s inquiries. It’s not! Use the occasion to strengthen the relationship with the members. Talk to them. Listen to them. Get feedback from them. Give them a little more than they expect – even of your time!

It helps to strengthen the relationship with the members and increase retention and eventually make your business even better.

And there are many more touch points out there, that can strengthen the relationship. For example, every time you send them something. Or when you meet them through your member forums or through your member networks.

Continue to strengthen member relationships, even after the onboarding – it pays off!

#9 Subscription Error: Focus

In continuation of error #8, I often see subscription businesses that have almost all of their focus on ATTRACTING members, and don’t do much to RETAIN their members.

It’s a huge mistake and shows that they haven’t understood the power and potential of a subscription business at all.

It is MUCH cheaper to retain existing members than to recruit brand new members. And often new members only become profitable after a few weeks or months.

Therefore, focus primarily on becoming super good at retaining your members, rather than just chasing new ones.

And also remember to develop an effecient win-back strategy. As a rule, it is much more expensive and easier to reactivate former members who know your business, than to recruit brand new members.

A high retention percentage is the single most important key to success in your subscription business!

#10 Subscription Error: The Time Frame

Building a subscription business is NOT a sprint, but a marathon:

  • Members pay the recurring automatic membership fees to get an ongoing value from you – not just value when they sign up.
  • It takes time to build strong relationships with your members
  • And as mentioned in #9, it often takes a while for new members to become profitable for you.

In other words, your expenses for marketing, sales, onboarding, etc. are an investment you make, in the process of getting a much greater return of investment in the long run.

Thus, it takes time to build a successful subscription business. But when you’re conscious of it and have a good time while executing, you get a business with:

  • Members who are super loyal because of the ongoing value they get and the strong relationship they feel with you
  • Great potential for additional sales based on the trust your members have created in you
  • Ongoing data on customers’ purchase behaviour and preferences, giving you the best opportunities to further develop and strengthen your subscription business
  • Great predictability and stability in your turnover, due to the ongoing member income

So put on those marathon shoes and get ready to reap the benefits of a subscription business before your competitor does. There’s never been a better time to start than NOW!

To learn more about how to create a succesfull subscription business, take a look at my Best Seller book. You can order it right here

Click here to read more of our articles on subscription business

Skrevet af Andreas Dirksen

skaber succesfulde abonnements forretninger

2. August 2021

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