This content is presented alongside our friends at Memberful. It’s the first installment of a monthly column I will be writing as a Memberful contributor and partner.
When evaluating and selecting tools and technologies, most publishers and creators typically do so based on what’s best for their businesses and, most importantly, their audiences and communities.
But those decisions are often muddied by a variable that gets more attention than others, and has relatively little bearing on the long-term success of subscription and membership businesses: Price.
Price is of course an important element when evaluating any product, but it’s just one of many that should be factored into decision making processes. One company might promise similar functionality to another at a more attractive price point – and even orient its marketing around lower prices – but creators and publishers should pay close attention to the quality and value of the specific features on offer before considering their dollar cost. Shopping based on price rather than value is a false economy, and can result in creators adopting tools that limit the long-term potential of their businesses.
Companies that attempt to differentiate their products based primarily on price often do so because:
- Their features and capabilities are not on par with those offered by competitors.
- Their technologies and services are cheaper to produce and operate which raises questions about quality, reliability and support.
- Their goals, incentives and business models are not necessarily aligned with those of their customers.
- They’re new to the market, meaning they also have limited experience and shorter track records.
When evaluating subscription and membership tools and technologies, creators and publishers should therefore look beyond price and carefully consider the following to ensure they’re getting the best bang for their buck:
Features and capabilities
For most publishers and creators, subscription and membership tools must go beyond simply powering transactions. Less marketable (or less exciting) features often prove the most critical for building sustainable long-term businesses, yet they can often be overlooked or taken for granted. Examples of such features include: support for multiple formats and mediums; powerful analytics tools and intuitive dashboards; highly-optimized checkout flows, logins and customer experiences; granular design customization capabilities; flexibility around payment plans, discounting, trials and coupons, and well-maintained integrations with third-party platforms. The quality of seemingly similar features can vary significantly from one platform to the next, and it’s critical to examine whether or not those features will set up a business for success, or leave it fighting against limitations.
Ease of use and automation
For the vast majority of creators and publishers, time is their most valuable resource. Any tool or technology that’s inefficient to use or requires constant attention and upkeep can typically be considered a liability rather than an asset, even if it saves a few dollars compared with cheaper alternatives. More modestly priced products typically require greater technical expertise or more development resources to implement optimally. The most powerful tools and technologies should fade into the background, freeing up creators’ time and enabling them to focus on what they do best: creating valuable content and experiences for their audiences and communities.
Flexibility and control
There’s no one-size-fits-all model for publishers and creators, despite what some platforms and providers might suggest. Every creator is unique, every audience is different, and now more than ever their offerings and business models must evolve and adapt to effectively capitalize on new opportunities and meet audiences’ changing demands and expectations. What works for one audience and product might be entirely different for the next. Flexibility to experiment with new models, mediums, tactics and approaches is key, and creators should be wary of providers that narrow or limit options, intentionally or otherwise.
Room to grow
A common mistake publishers and creators make when evaluating tools and technologies is narrowing their attention purely to the features and capabilities they believe they need at a given moment, rather than investing in solutions that can support their long-term growth. For those serious about building sustainable subscription and membership businesses, it’s important to work with an experienced partner that not only offers a robust suite of features and capabilities, but is committed to developing and delivering new ones. The tools, tactics and strategies that drive short-term results won’t necessarily fuel long-term success.
Reliability and consistency
The importance of reliable technology is often overlooked. New tools are hitting the market rapidly, and the speed at which they’re being developed is often apparent in a lack of reliability and consistency in their end products. Independent publishers and creators need technology they can trust and rely on; especially those with smaller audiences and communities. Every audience interaction and touchpoint counts, and as competition for audience attention continues to intensify the last thing creators should worry about is opportunities slipping through their fingers due to patchy, inconsistent or unreliable technology.
Support and customer service
The true value of a technology partner becomes evident when it comes to implementation, and when things aren’t going exactly to plan. Partners that provide ample documentation, guidance and best practices – in addition to responsive support and customer service – are worth their weight in gold when hurdles or questions arise.
For more practical guidance on building sustainable subscription and membership products and businesses, see the Subscription Publishing Toolkit.