Does everyone remember the tale of Pandora and her box of surprises? According to Greek mythology, Pandora was said to be the first woman on Earth. She was created by Hephaestus and Athena on instructions from Zeus. Once formed of clay, one-by-one each of the gods gave Pandora gifts, such as femininity, craft making, stubbornness and curiosity, thus, her name in Greek means “the one who bears all gifts”.

If Pandora were around today, she would go WILD over subscription boxes –  a monthly ‘gift from the gods’ you sign up for via a website that caters to your every hobby, interest or fetish which then arrives right to your door. SO many boxes….so little time.

So what does Pandora have to do with subscription box publishers? Well, let’s put it this way.  There’s a deliberate process to insure that when a monthly subscriber opens their coffer of delights, “illness and hardship” don’t come flying out but rather “hope” – hope of makeup, hair products, nerdy toys, superhero t-shirts, beard grooming accessories, the hottest shoes, and stylish jewelry. I think the idea is brilliant. Christmas in July or April or February. Who doesn’t love getting a package of cool stuff? And you don’t even have to get it every month. There are quarterly boxes. Annual boxes. Seasonal boxes. Oh, I almost forgot….even boxes for Pandora’s canine, Bark Box.

Christmas in July or April or February. Who doesn’t love getting a package of cool stuff?

But as I began my initial research into this mythological realm of publishers, one thing became blatantly clear: No one had clear specifications. Most companies had some sort of value level for the items that were tucked into their parcel. But what was conspicuously missing were details like size or shape, theme or focus. All of this ambiguity left a number of issues up to interpretation. For me personally, that makes me uncomfortable. I’m ALL about the details.

After participating in two relatively lackluster subscription box campaigns, I wanted to see where Publisher Development could learn from this experience. For me personally, when a campaign doesn’t do as well as I had anticipated, I have to ask: What did I miss? What else could have been done? What issues were not addressed? And so I thought… if I had my own subscription box, what would I want on my own Specification Sheet? I needed a ‘guide’ on how best to navigate this odyssey of securing the ideal ‘treasures’ for my customers’ boxes.. So I sat down and jotted down a few points that helped me in the end…and may help you as well. So here is my list:

More and more niche boxes are ‘unveiled' every day. Consumers love this ``brand-awareness`` marketing tool.

  • Other than cost of the products and shipping expenses to be covered by the Brand – what additional fees are involved?
  • Three/Two month lead time to deliver product from the Brand to the Publisher for packing and distribution (Why this much lead time? The raincoat theory. “Stuff” happens. Product is delayed. Product is stolen. Not enough product is available. Leave yourself time to ship a backup. AND all this happened to my client – that is why I’m writing this here!)
  • Exact size and measurements of the subscription box. (Is your product TOO big for the package? OR are your items TOO small? Better to know ahead of time because this TOO happened to my client.)
  • Specific number of products requested by the Subscription Box Publisher. (A publisher once said, Send whatever you want? I say. NO, how many products will fit in the box? 3 or 7?   Give me a number OR is this an ‘exclusive box’ = ALL the products in the box from ONE brand.)
  • Commercial grade image of the brand products. (Helps the publisher with social media marketing)
  • Color of the Brand’s products. (I know….sounds silly. But if they are doing a Fall themed box – no Hot Pinks, please)
  • Is there a theme to that month’s box: Season, Focus, etc. (Better to partner the right product in the right season, i.e. rich thick moisturizers for dry cold winters vs. light fragrant spritz for summer months.)
  • Specify exact sizes of product being requested VERY IMPORTANT: Full size or Half size. “Sachet” size OR “sample” size. (Yes there is a difference. ASK!)
  • Specify the weight of each of the sizes being requested (identify weight ____oz of full/half/sample size)
  • The Brand provides list of products included in the box with all necessary product details/information.
  • The Brand provides bounce card with Affiliate-Unique Promotion card to be included INSIDE the box. (Reiterate this to the publisher…INSIDE the box).
  • The Brand to provide affiliate-unique promotion that will be advertised on publisher’s social media channels (Per approval “Unboxing” video, website post, Twitter, FB, etc, and inquire about additional fees for social media exposure.)
  • Un-USED Product: any unpackaged products will be shipped back to either Brand. It will not be disposed of by Affiliate.
  • Internal reporting by the Publisher as to the number of boxes shipped and when.
  • A sample of the box sent to the Brand as a courtesy
  • Direct affiliate links to the Brands products

There is a place in the affiliate channel for subscription boxes. More and more niche boxes are ‘unveiled’ every day. Consumers love this “brand-awareness” marketing tool. It feeds into our ‘surprise me’ mentality. But when a brand is shipping several thousand dollars worth of merchandise to parts unknown it’s probably not a bad idea to ask questions. I write from experience – this list came about because “stuff” did happened. This Subscription Box Spec Sheet may be a good place to start, and you may have more concerns to address but before I go opening or considering another “Pandora – esque” opportunity, I will be armed with questions and ‘hope’.

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