Four Subscription Business Models For Your Business

recurrring revenue value building

In this episode, I explore the first of four types of subscription model that you can adapt to fit your business.


  • “I want you to go away and think about your business, and how you could apply some part of a subscription model mentioned in this episode in your business. ”

  • In this episode, I explore the first of four types of subscription model that you can adapt to fit your business, including:

    • The Membership Website Model

    • The Private Club Model

    • The All-You-Can-Eat Library Model

    • The Front-of-Line Model

  • To learn more about subscription business models, read John Warrillow: The Automatic Customer


[The following is the transcript of this video. Please note that this episode, like all posts, features Jean speaking unscripted and unedited — filmed in one take. The actual video may differ in content from the script. But you’ll still get loads of value!]

Hey everyone, it’s Jean Moncrieff, and welcome to this episode.

In the last episode, we talked about the reasons that subscription business models are so important, and how they bring value to your business. And I know there were some of you out there who were thinking: “Yeah, Jean, sure, but this isn’t going to work in my company, this isn’t going to work in my industry” — sure, if you stick to the old model of doing things, probably not going to work.

Regardless of your business, it’s very likely that you can find a place to implement a subscription model. To help you with that, I’m going to go through several different subscription models. We’re not going to go into any great detail, but I’m going to talk about each model, and I’m going to give you some examples from that model.

I want you to go away and think about your business, and how you could apply some part of a model mentioned in this episode. I want to spark ideas for how you can use part of the model or a combination of models, to create a subscription model in your business.

I’ll cover nine models. In this episode, we go through four of them. And in the next episode, we’ll go through another five.

So let’s get started.

The Membership Website Model

First up, the membership website model. In this model where people are willing to pay you for what you know. You can put what you know behind a paywall, and you can charge people for that knowledge.

Familiar examples include The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. You’re reading through an article or maybe two or three articles, and suddenly this thing pops up and says – enter your credit card details to get more access. That’s an example of taking something that’s valuable to people and charging for access to it.

This model is useful in the B2B space where companies or individuals need to solve a problem. And particularly in a niche area where you have considerable expertise. Take, for instance, cloud computing, an area that’s moving pretty fast where individuals and companies and must work hard to keep ahead of the curve. If you have specialist skills in cloud computing, there’s a good chance that you can sell subscription-based access to your know-how.

Let’s take a look at a few more examples. — I’ve mentioned them before — they are a website model that plumbers and electricians can go to, to get expert advice and tips on building a contracting business., another great example, a business where if you’re an aspiring chef, you can subscribe to, so you don’t have to go through the school fees of starting your restaurant and learning the hard way. You can at least get some tips from experts in the restaurant industry on how to build a successful restaurant.

So the membership website model, excellent if you’ve got a business where you’re keeping ahead of the curve, you have some expertise and some real knowledge that individuals and companies are willing to pay for to solve a problem.

Again, in the cloud example, if you specialize in AWS or Azure, and helping companies perform at peak during Black Friday; helping them through those peak periods and making sure that their systems stay up and that their eCommerce sites don’t fall over. You could take some of that expert knowledge, take it online and charge for expert know-how. So that’s the membership website model.

The Private Club Model

Next up, the private club model. The best examples here are golf clubs, country clubs, yacht clubs. When you think about the process you go through to get into one of these clubs; there’s an element of exclusivity and rarity. You go through a nomination process, and it may take a few months, it may take a few years until you are accepted to join one of these exclusive clubs.

In the business to business space, somebody who did that very well is Joe Polish. Joe created the Genius Network, bringing together authors, entrepreneurs, and innovators three times a year. The investment in this club — north of $25,000, at least it was starting out. So you’re paying a $25,000 investment to get into a group where you can rub shoulders with some insanely intelligent and successful people. Joe’s target market are people trying to get to the other side, where the grass is greener. They’re achievement orientated, and success is important to them.

Social status is a crucial aspect of the private club model. Think of the SoHo clubs — social status and the ability to rub shoulders with successful people.

One more example here. Exclusive Resorts. Basically, in this scenario, customers are offered an alternative to forking out $3 million for a vacation home in Maui. Instead, Exclusive Resorts, which own properties all around the world, offer a subscription model – and by joining this for a lot less than you pay for a vacation home in Maui, you have access to some of the best digs in the world.

You can take your friends, your family, whoever, business partners, business associates, to these locations and vacation in a different place around the world rather than being stuck in a beachfront property in Maui all the time.

So, something that’s limited, something that’s rare, something that’s in demand, something that has an element of exclusivity to it, is an excellent example of the private club model.

Perhaps you’ve got a restaurant in an upmarket neighborhood, and you can find access to good speakers, to entertainers. You invite them to perform at your restaurant. Obviously, there’s some cost associated. But you create a membership or subscription model that every month you have a guest speaker, a guest entertainer, in your restaurant and your subscribers, the wealthy folk in that neighborhood can come to an event and spend an evening with somebody that they typically wouldn’t.

The All-You-Can-Eat Library Model

The all-you-can-eat library model offers unlimited access to a warehouse of value. Apple disrupted the music industry with iTunes by allowing people to buy tracks instead of having to buy whole albums. Then along comes Spotify and says — hang on, we’ve got this vast library, and we’ll rent you access to it for a monthly fee. We’ll give you access to more music than you can ever listen to in a lifetime. Netflix, the same story. We’ll provide you with access to more movies and episodes than any teenager can sit on the couch and watch in a lifetime.

The business model is simple: the provider accumulates a wide selection of content, and the consumer rents access to it. Spotify did it with music, and has done it for people who want to trace back their family tree. They invested in the information that can help people piece together their family tree., the online training platform, gave people the ability to subscribe to a vast online learning service. Users subscribed to online training on everything from video production to learn about business, and more — and ultimately exited for a tidy sum of money.

The all-you-can-eat model doesn’t have to be the domain of well-funded startups or media moguls. Basically, if you have access or have the wherewithal to create a library of evergreen content — particularly in a niche area, you can build up a library of training on that topic.

As an example, if you’re an artist, you may think this would never work in your industry or your business. However, you may have access to several artists with different techniques. And there are probably people out there who want to learn a brushstroke or technique or whatever. You can work with those artists to create a library of material that’s available through a subscription model.

The Front-of-Line Model

Last one for today. The front-of-line model. Let me take you on a little journey.

 So you decide to take your family away to Disney World for a vacation. When you arrive at the airport, you join the business class queue because you have a credit card that offers that perk. So you jump the line, and check-in at the business class counter, even though you’re flying coach. When you land, you go to your car rental company, and you have some status with them or part of a membership program, and you jump to the front of the queue. When you arrive at your hotel, you go right to the front of the queue because you’re part of their awards program. And the next day when you arrive at Disney World, you go directly to the front of the line for rides, because you paid a premium for a fast track ticket. Maybe you’re there for a couple of days and want the kids to ride every attraction at least once.

This model is about asking yourself, “Is there something I can offer my customer that they will pay a premium for to get to the front of the queue?”.

Software business did well with this. They introduced different levels of service. So, there are those customers who are quite happy to drop an email and wait for a response. And then there are those customers who have a mission-critical system. And if that system falls over, there are some serious consequences — they want to get on a phone, and they want to go, “hey, human, here’s the problem. And according to my contract, it’s sorted out in two hours.”.

Salesforce, HubSpot, all of them have different levels based on where you’re at and what you want, and where you want to be in the queue.

So the front-of-line model, identify customers who will pay more to get to the front of the queue for your service. Are there customers who don’t want to stand in line and are willing to pay a premium not to queue up? The amusement park is an excellent example of customers who are quite happy to pay to move to the front of the queue. Conferences and events are opportunities for premium seating, get to the front of the queue and interact with some of the speakers.

Another one is where this could be a catastrophic kind of a result if something falls over. So businesses who rely on software or support around software systems are more likely to pay a premium to know and have the peace of mind that you’re there to answer the phone if something goes wrong.

And then if a product or service is particularly complex, or you’re using a piece of software where you need advanced support, customers may fork out extra to have somebody on the other end of a phone.

Next week we’re going to cover another five models. Keep in mind. I don’t want you to think about how each model might fit your business exactly. Instead, I want you to think about what you can take from this episode and how you may be able to apply or mix a model in a part of your business.

 When you set on your entrepreneurial journey, you likely dreamt of freedom; the freedom to work with the people you want to work with, the freedom to work your own schedule, and the freedom to work from wherever you choose. I’m here to help you build a thriving business and discover the freedom you deserve.

For more guidance on driving up the value of your business, check out:

Looking for my personal help pivoting to a subscription model? Find out how you can work with me today. 

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