Is it Time to Consider Providing Subscription Services at Your Print Business?

As the coronavirus continues to affect nearly all businesses across the world in some way, you might find yourself trying to brainstorm creative solutions to ensure your print business not only survives the pandemic but thrives after “normalcy” returns.

Let me add to your brainstorming by throwing out an idea for you – an idea that could have exponential benefits for your company: adding a subscription-model to your print business.

Now, before you dismiss this idea and quickly retort, “Yeah, but hold up. I’m a printer, and I don’t offer subscriptions,” consider the following:

Subscription-type businesses, whether in-part or in-whole, help businesses (like yours) weather times of crisis such as these because of the economic “moat” they’ve surrounded themselves with.

How Subscriptions Could Benefit Your Print Business

Subscriptions have a unique way of providing what consumers are looking for, such as personalization, convenience, and straight-up simplicity. There’s also the fact that:

  • Subscriptions nurture a continuing relationship with your buyer by eliminating the one-job-and-then-they ‘re-done mentality.
  • Subscriptions offer predictability for both the business and the consumer. Companies can better predict recurring revenue (even in uncertain times), and consumers can better predict recurring expenses.
  • Subscriptions create a longer lifetime value and loyalty as customers find continued value with you and have a reason to stay with your company.
  • Subscriptions change your appreciation of your customers. A subscription-mindset helps you see (and cater to) your customers as if they’re new each month (because they are). This helps you evade apathy and prevents those longterm customer relationships from becoming stale.

So, what would this look like for your business? Well, let’s toss that thought around a little.

What If…? What Could a Subscription Model Look Like for Your Print Business?

There are a plethora of existing subscription models and ideas out there, but let’s frame them around print and marketing solutions to help spark some brainstorming.

Membership Subscriptions

Built around a feeling of exclusivity, membership- or access-model subscriptions provide premium content or other services for a recurring fee.

Some of these work great for building community and monetizing your content and expertise.

What if… you could teach your print and marketing experience to business owners via exclusive videos or content? Perhaps, you could tackle questions small business owners are asking in regards to marketing their businesses, such as how to create an annual print marketing plan, best mailing practices, graphic design tips, and more. You could take this even further by providing membership-only advantages, like one-on-one Q&A sessions with you, or exclusive Facebook groups where members can connect.

If teaching isn’t your thing, consider some other “What ifs…,” such as:

  • Access to free shipping (“For $X a year, receive free shipping on every order.”)
  • Access to premium services (For example, charging a monthly subscription fee for exclusive services.)
  • Access to direct mail marketing recurring services (“For $X per month, receive a direct mail piece of your choice each month,” or “For $X per year, we’ll work with you to create four quarterly marketing campaigns for your business.”)
  • Graphic design (“Purchase our Graphic Design Membership Card and receive 25% off all print orders as well as exclusive access to one of our design team members.)

Subscription Boxes

Similar to Stitch Fix, FabFitFun, or BrickBox, the subscription-box model provides new and unique products delivered right to your customers’ front doors.

This type of subscription is great for print buyers who are unsure of what kind of printing or marketing they want to do and are eager to learn and see what’s new.

What if… you could create a subscription box based on your picks for the hottest promo products?

Mastermind Model

In these types of subscriptions, the subscriber is paying for access to you.

Think of it as paying for a subscription to a weight-loss coach. What you’re really paying for is the transformation you’re expecting by way of the coach. The coach provides regular consults, goal-setting, and more to help you lay out a plan to achieve the desired transformation.

What if… you could charge for services as a print marketing consultant to businesses in your area or via online coaching? Could you set up regular marketing consultations, help them set direction, and work together over an extended period to assist them in their marketing transformation? Simple accountability and guidance are valuable assets you could mold into a subscription service for your print buyers.

Replenishment Subscriptions

McKinsey & Company defines replenishment subscriptions as subscriptions that “allow consumers to automate the purchase of commodity items…”

The vitamin company, Ritual, is an excellent example of a replenishment subscription model. Others include Chewy.com, the pet-food supplier, and, more notably, Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” model.

Although you might cringe at the thought of printing being a commodity, it can work to your advantage in this way.

What if… you had print products that would work well with an auto-ship feature? For example, could you have a subscription option for business envelopes or letterhead, such as “Save 10% on every auto-ship order.” Promoting “Subscribe & Save” type services will not only be a time- and money-saving solution for your print buyers, but they will also ensure you have repeat revenue coming in regularly.

Subscribing to a New Future

Is now the time to start moving your thinking beyond “what ifs”? Perhaps.

But as these past weeks and months of navigating the world-wide coronavirus pandemic have shown, the time for transformation could be approaching sooner rather than later.

As Tien Tzuo, author of Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future — and What to Do About It, says:

“The way people buy has changed for good. We have new expectations as consumers. We prefer outcomes over ownership. We prefer customization, not standardization. And we want constant improvement, not planned obsolescence. We want a new way to engage with business. We want services, not products. The one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it anymore. And to succeed in this new digital world, companies have to transform.” 

Subscription models aren’t about the actual product or service; they’re about what your print buyer is trying to accomplish and if they can achieve it with you.

This coronavirus battle is tough, but we will get through this. Together. If all of us come out of it inspired to pursue a whole new subscription business model that’s pandemic-proof (or at least pandemic-resistant), then there will be at least one solid victory to claim from the battle.

If you believe converting your printing business to a subscription model is an idea worth pursuing, then I’d invite you to continue the conversation. In fact, I’ll go one step further and beg to continue the conversation because your future may depend on it.

Ready to toss around some more of those “what ifs” and brainstorm more on this together? Connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davehultin/, drop me a note at [email protected], or let’s set up a time to talk. Here’s a direct link to my calendar. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you!


Written by

Dave Hultin

President, Marketing Ideas For Printers

Dave Hultin is the president and visionary behind Marketing Ideas For Printers. He's on a mission to lead printers to success by providing powerfully innovative online ordering solutions and impossible-to-ignore content. If you're looking to sell more printing and grow your business, follow Dave on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/davehultin/.