30 or 40 years ago “Wine of the Month” or “ Book of the Month” clubs were popular. People would subscribe for a monthly fee and get a new book or wine every month. This has been done with coffee, medication, beauty and grooming products, self-help material, and who knows what else.
These are called continuity programs. They don’t have to be monthly, the best programs allow the consumer to dictate the frequency of their shipments. Marketers of consumables and limited-life products have used continuity programs for a long time. How convenient is it for a customer to subscribe and never have to worry about getting their medication on time again?
The golden egg for any business is repeat customers. Continuity programs have repeat business built into the model. These programs run alongside mail-in, call-in, or online orders as well. It creates unique inventory and shipment challenges, but once your system is in place, you have a winning routine that continually delights your customers.
This business model is still strong today. The internet has made it easy to reach out and find new customers, to fulfill and track shipments, and to give the customer ultimate control over when and what is shipped.
There are some unique internet continuity programs out there. The most obvious is Dollar Shave Club (at leas for the men). I always see ads in my Facebook feed asking me to sign up for $1 a month to receive new razors every month. Personally, I use an electric shaver, but Dollar Shave Club has become quite a hit.
There’s also Birchbox. Pay monthly and get new beauty and grooming products for men or women each month. How about Blue Apron? They mail out weekly meal plans and ingredients. Everything is pre-measured and fresh from sustainable sources. All you have to do is mix and cook. Then there’s Loot Crate. You choose a 1 month, 3 month, or 6 month plan, and they mail you a box of random, geek and gamer gear; toys for grownups.
This business model isn’t for everyone, but if you have the means, launching a continuity program secures repeat business. This is really just a variant of audience marketing; build an audience, regularly deliver something valuable, and you have an interested audience that is more inclined to try your new products.
If you’re a clothing retailer, why not look into a continuity program that sends out the latest fashions.
If you’re a sports shop, athletes are always going through tape, water bottles, deodorant, and other sport-specific products. Create a program so they don’t ever have to worry about running out.
If you’re an auto-parts dealer, how about offering mechanics and handy people a program that delivers oil, filters, plugs, safety equipment, and what not.