Chances are you’ve bought books, magazines, or maybe even wine, on a subscription arrangement. But have you ever thought that subscription selling could be a good small business opportunity for you?

A word on subscription selling

Subscription selling has been around a while but it’s enjoying a bit of a comeback at the moment and enterprising entrepreneurs are starting to sell much more than just books and wine.

Here are a few ideas worth looking at: This company sells coffee by subscription: This one sells beer by subscription: These companies sell beauty products by subscription: and

There are a few good reasons why subscription selling can work as a business model: You only have to make the sale once, yet you benefit from regular weekly or monthly sales. Many customers will stay with you for years and years, allowing you to build up a massive customer base. You can generate a reliable regular turnover – and a residual income too.

If you’d like to set up a subscription selling business all you need is your own product idea. Then just slot it into what is a proven business model…

* Start off with a shortlist of ideas. Anything that people buy regularly anyway could be a good bet, even better if it’s something that is consumed. Ideally it should be something that the customer would rather have delivered than go out and buy.

If possible it should be something that appeals to cash rich, time poor consumers – they are more likely to appreciate having whatever it is delivered to their door, and are not too fussy about finding the lowest price.

Here are a few ideas to think about: Gourmet foods, like cheese, chocolates or seafood. CDs and DVDs. Ebooks as well as paper books and magazines. Apps. Music or software downloads. Flowers, plants, seeds and bulbs for gardeners. Toiletries and cosmetics. Theatre or concert tickets. Disposable nappies and baby food. Organic foods. Health foods and supplements. Stationery and printer supplies. Clothing, such as ties, t-shirts and tights. Collectables, such as stamps and coins or artworks. Toys. Craft kits and supplies. Hobby supplies.

And here’s a really clever twist on subscription selling… the ‘mystery box’ subscription service. Every month (or other set time period) you collate and send your customers a collection of ‘surprise’, on-theme products you think they might like. (It might sound a bit crazy, but it really does work!)

* Organise a source of supply for the product. Consider wholesalers, going direct to manufacturers, even importing. Once you have an idea of how much product you’ll need each month you should be able to cut a great deal with suppliers.

For help with locating suppliers you’ll find The Secret Source Directory [LINK:] really useful.

* Finding your customers. As well as using all the usual methods of offline and online advertising here’s a technique that lots of subscription selling businesses use – do a joint venture with an existing business. For example, companies who sell wine on subscription often have tie ups with newspapers and run a ‘wine club’ that delivers a special selection every month. You could apply the same principle to many other products too, even on a much smaller scale.

Here’s a handy article on how to set up a joint venture. [LINK:]

* Organising everything. One of the secrets of making subscription selling work is that you must be well organised. You can subscription sell your products on whatever kind of cycle you like – weekly, fortnightly, monthly, bi-monthly, whatever – but your customers must receive their purchases regularly when they are expecting them. So, set a regular despatch date and plan your ordering, stocking, handling and shipping around that date.

Another good thing about subscription selling is that you receive a regular payment (and hence a regular income) from your customers in advance. You can do this by asking them to set up a standing order from their bank account, or using PayPal.

In summary, to succeed in subscription selling you’ll need to do a fair bit of work at the outset. But once it’s all up and running you’d be generating regular monthly sales… and a regular monthly turnover… virtually on autopilot!