Episode 208 Featuring Alex Bond

Increasing Subscription Revenue with Matthew Holman

Increasing Subscription Revenue with Matthew Holman

Matthew Holman is the Co-Founder and Head of Growth for QPilot, an eCommerce brand that provides customizable software to help increase subscription revenue. On this episode, we talk about Matthew's emphasis on user experience, the importance of the subscription model, how to integrate QPilot, and much more.


What is QPilot

Matthew Holman: So QPilot, we're a subscription platform for e-commerce brands. That's typically a mouthful. So you can think of us in the simplest senses, we're that widget that you put on your site where customers choose to subscribe and save option, but that's kind of like the tip of the iceberg.

There's a whole lot that goes into an amazing subscription program from logistics, and you name it, customer experience. We really like to say that we're the subscription platform that lets subscriptions change. So the way that you need them to change the way that customers need them to change over time. And we've been around for about four or five years on WooCommerce and are just now launching on Shopify and then Salesforce later this year. 

Alex Bond: Oh, that's great. So I also wanted to kind of get into your background a little bit before we talk about QPilot. I think that'll kind of inform this conversation. Prior to entering the e-commerce space, you actually worked as a a graphic designer. So what are some of those important skills that you learned as a graphic designer? And how does that experience translate to running QPilot? 

Matthew Holman: Absolutely. I mean, really great graphic design. I worked in a lot of, did a lot of signage work and then also in printing.

And so what's interesting about that is, you know, we'd get signage requests, say for a parking lot sign, and somebody has this huge message and they want like, you know, 50 words of all why you can't park here and all this stuff. And the sign's supposed to be a 12 by 18. Which is not that big. And so there was often a disconnect between what people thought they could fit on a sign or fit on a form.

And so I think great design is about tying people back to the outcome they want instead of just trying to say or talking at people. And so that's, I think a skill that translates really well to all aspects of marketing as well as B2B communication. And really any kind of communication is understanding like, how you can, what you wanna say and how you can say it in a way that doesn't overwhelm people and get you the message gets the message across that you actually want somebody to have, right?

If you don't want somebody to step on the lawn, sometimes it's just better to say. Don't step on the lawn, you'll kill the grass as opposed keep off grass. Right. As opposed to this really long explanation of why it's important to da, da, da, da, da. You know, some people will read that, but most people are just gonna notice, keep off the grass.

Alex Bond: That makes a lot of sense. And I think one of the other things that I've heard in marketing, and maybe even in in that specific example of graphic design, is giving someone what they need, packaged as what they want. Is that something that you've also found in QPilot and in your experience in e-commerce?

Matthew Holman: Well, absolutely. I mean, you know, talking about subscriptions and you can get into all the, we can get into all the weeds of all the different things and functions and features between us and every other platform, but at the end of the day, it's like we do really well with people that want something a little bit more dynamic than your typical set and forget subscription.

That's our bread and butter. So we say that we give our customer subscriptions that can change. So we're trying to simplify that down. Now, once you start to dig in what that actually means, you can start unlocking all, or you know, getting into all the specifics. But otherwise it's just difficult to say like, hey, we do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And you know, somebody might not even understand what that is, but they might be a great fit for us kind of thing. So it's really important to find that, that sweet spot. 

Alex Bond: Yeah, I can imagine is the software itself generally one size fits all regardless of the size of say the brand or company that is purchasing it?

Matthew Holman: Not necessarily. It's like, what's interesting is it's not so much one size fits all is, I think it would be more accurate to think of like we're a specifics type of race car. And if you're just running errands to go drop something off at the post office, you don't, you might not need all the horsepower we're gonna give you, we're still gonna get you to point A to point B, but we might be too expensive for a brand that just wants to make trips to the post office.

So we do better for brands that have more complex needs around logistics and how they're trying to, and data and how they're trying to control the subscription process. And there's a lot of other apps and software that do better for maybe a more straightforward experience. So we can help just about everybody, but whether that's worth the price and or maybe unused potential, I guess in a software would would be the question.

Alex Bond: So more specifically, have you found QPilot to be more beneficial in helping a company? Say, develop subscriptions or a subscription habit from its customers, or is it more beneficial in helping a company fine tune and customize an already prevalent subscription base? 

Matthew Holman: Yeah, that's a great question. I think we can certainly do well with brands that are launching, that are focusing on it and putting resources behind it.

I think that we do best when somebody's already been doing subscriptions because there's some very clear pain points that we solve that exist with other subscription apps. It's kind of one of those things that's like, In the sales process, sometimes I've actually been on demos where I sometimes have to say to somebody, that's okay, you can go with that other option that's cheaper and seems easier.

Like, I can't stop you. Like, until you've gone through that pain yourself, I can't convince you what's down that road. And sometimes, again, sometimes for a lot of brands, it's like it is easier just to use something that's a little bit simpler cause it gets you to from point A to point B faster and cheaper. But then there are some brands that uncover some issues that we do really, really well with. 

Alex Bond: And that's a pretty savvy marketing technique that I've seen in other industries and fields, is that, you know, gut shot transparency of, you know, no, no, no, you need to, you need to go with us doesn't exactly work because then you're both not happy at the end of the day.

They're not using the product in the way that it might supposed to be used, and then they're actually thinking about you down the road a little bit. Once they go with another product and are ready to kind of like scale up a little bit and customize a little bit, they'll be able to come back to you. So I think that's a pretty savvy strategy. Is that something that happens often? 

Matthew Holman: It doesn't happen too often, thankfully. Like, I think the other part of like, as a small team, like if we were a real, like a really big, you know, hundreds of people team, then it, it might be a little bit different cuz people are trying to hit quota and hit their numbers kind of thing.

For as a smaller team and I'm being one of the co-founders, I hear what doesn't work with our customer support and success team, right? I hear with our QA and our engineers, the types of customers that are bad for us, that cause a huge drain on resources. So a lot of times it is just easier to say you need to go do you know, we're here, this is what we do well, but for right now, you're probably better situated to go do this other thing. 

Because part of that too is I don't want a customer who's entry level for us draining all of our resources while they figure out how to do subscriptions the right way. Right? It's a lot of better when somebody comes to us and you can meet in the middle, you already know some of the problems you need.

We know how to solve them. Let's work together to do that right as a partnership instead of anyway. Cuz then, then it just makes it harder to scale and make, acquire customers profitably, right? As a B2B or B2C, it's the same thing. You wanna acquire the right type of customers, people that are gonna appreciate what you're doing, that you can actually help. Because if you can't actually help somebody, they're gonna either hate you or leave in the end anyway. 

Alex Bond: Everyone ends up unhappy. So does the client experience require a certain predisposition to say tech savviness in terms of a company integrating the software into their website via widgets or, or is that something that might require like a QPilot agent's help?

Matthew Holman: It does definitely depends. Like for us, it like we, again, that flexibility thing, we believe that comes the same way from a implementation standpoint. So if you've got developers, if you have tech savvy people, we've got guides and docs and a really responsive support team that can help guide that. If you don't and you want us to take over and drive it for you, we can do that as well. So we try to just meet people where they are with how they want that to be managed. 

Importance of user experience in their software

Alex Bond: So speaking on that user experience, coupled with, you know, your background in design, how important was user experience in designing the software? 

Matthew Holman: Really important. Like we unlock a few different designs for brands. Like there's preset templates that we have available. I think the biggest way it's engaged with is on the account, my account page, right? Where somebody's going in to see their subscription order. 

And so depending on the uses, cause we also have some B2B customers that want things to look a little bit more professional and buttoned up as opposed to maybe something looks like a more open and free design. So there's the ability to customize templates. So yeah, we definitely feel like brands should have the control they want to offer, the experience they want from a design standpoint. 

Alex Bond: And what are some of those more specific customizable features? I've done a little research, but for our audience, I know you can kind of change, you know, your delivery method, how often, like what products are changing.

So why don't you give us a little background on premier customizable features. Cause I think that's definitely the, I don't know, most special part of the product. 

Matthew Holman: Yeah, I think it's just important to keep in mind that for most subscription customers, they're not gonna make changes, right? Like overall, your average subscription customer from month to month is gonna get the product they want when they want it.

The issue is as soon as somebody has a change to make, if you can't make it really simple and straightforward, they're going to be frustrated and or cancel, right? So we're talking about making it very simple to see that you can click here to change your delivery date. You can click here to change how frequently you're getting it.

If you wanna pause, if there is a cancel because they don't like something. Upsell options when you want to add other products, right? The ability to just see everything very clearly, where you can manage shipping addresses or payments. And then there's also additional design elements from a brand perspective, right?

If there's additional logos or coloring or a copy or messaging that you wanna include on that order, making that really simple is something that we try to do as well. 

Benefits of using QPilot

Alex Bond: No, that's great. So what are some of the more specific benefits that a company sees when integrating QPilot into their website? If they're like, even just considering subscription or the software in general?

Matthew Holman: Absolutely. A couple of key things that we do, I think that's a little bit differently than the rest of the space is around what's called a programmatic subscription. So if you have something that needs to change over time, right? Month one. Somebody might be getting one bag of coffee. Month two. It's a different flavor and you as the brand are controlling how that changes or you want the customer to be able to control all that changes.

A lot of subscriptions might start with a welcome package and then after that there's a different product that comes other than the month one. So those are customers that we work really, really well with. And the other thing is related to delivery or shipping needs. Again, a lot of subscriptions are kind of a set and forget mentality, but if you are dealing with, you need more control, customers need to see delivery outcomes.

They need to see what shipping charge. Just might be depending on that, or you're doing local delivery options. We do really well with those, those two. And then ultimately, the other thing is I think that just QPilot sees things from a more specific logistics level. We have more data available and for us, you know, some of our own studies we've seen within our platform relate to.

The power that comes when customers can change things. And so this is true of all subscriptions anywhere, is you have a core group of people, again, that don't necessarily need to make changes on a consistent or regular basis, but when somebody does need to make a change, making that change easier unlocks a lot of growth.

So for example, just changing that schedule date or that frequency option one time on average, we see that's $60 higher in LTV, right? Changing it three times is a 200% increase in LTV being able to change products. Like if you change somebody that changes products three times, that's a 600% increase in LTV.

So the idea is that somebody might be canceling because they are not getting quite what they want or when they want it. Making it easy for them to change means they stick around longer. And so that kind of flexibility unlocks more growth and profitability for your brand. 

Alex Bond: I think that makes a lot of sense. And you're retaining your customers over a long time value. So instead of just replacing customers via, you know, growth, you're actually getting to add new customers cuz your retention's so good.

Diving into that, this data that you're talking about, what are some of the data points that you collect for, you know, your company in terms of its usefulness, I guess, for the company buying and integrating QPilot software, and I imagine that there are some helpful data points for the customer that's using the software via the company's website. 

Matthew Holman: Yeah, absolutely. I think for brands implementing QPilot, some of the interesting data points are reflected around retention efforts, right?

So as a subscription software, we don't necessarily track. Right, you're how you're acquiring those customers, cause we don't necessarily see that data, but we're very, very focused on the retention side of things. So this means paying attention to what types of error codes you might be seeing that are affecting your program.

What types of the length of a subscription, the type of activity, activity you're seeing over the life of a subscription, meaning what people are changing or not changing, what actual frequencies are being used, your most popular products. And then we can compare those to industry related profiles within our own software, right?

So if you're selling coffee, we can compare you to other coffee subscription companies to see how you're performing. And then also looking at things like average order value is another really important one. For example, like a customer we were working with recently, they had a lower average order value than their industry, but they had a higher frequency.

They were having a lot of people order every two weeks instead of every four weeks. So in time, their LTV was actually higher than, than they might have thought. Comparatively so. But yeah, there's a lot that gets in there. Every business is a little bit different. One of the things I always preach is if you're not doing it already, you wanna be able to track that data.

Tracking data around cancellations, reasons why people are churning is really important as well. But once you start to unpack that data, get that data, you can start to unpack it. What does this mean? And anecdotally kind of what that, how that translates is like a really common reason why customers churn on subscriptions.

So this is like thinking about the end user is they have too much product, but every brand's reason for why their customer has too much product can be different, right? So it could be something as simple as they don't have the right frequency set. Right. Like, I didn't understand that I'm taking one of these a day, so that means I need a subscription for every two months instead of every one month for my particular usage. 

Others might be related to, people need time to make a habit outta the subscription of how often they're using it. So getting into the why's behind the like, Quantitative reasoning why somebody's churning. Getting into the wives behind them helps unlock a lot of growth opportunities because you can change how you're onboarding customers in the subscription program.

Alex Bond: So you go over the analysis of that sort of stuff with the company that is buying the software, or is that something that they kind of do by themselves? Or is that something you do by yourself? How does that really work? 

Matthew Holman: Well, we're willing to do with anybody that's using our platform. Not everybody takes advantage of that, but that is something that is available for our customers is we do basically, we'll do data pulls and data reviews and check-ins with them.

Alex Bond: Yeah, I'd be all over that if I was using your software, I'd say, all right, I want to go over this data with you. Do you think that it's because, personally, do you think it's because people have their own teams that they'd rather go over that data with? Or do you think it's because they're still kinda learning what all these data points even mean and how to use it?

Matthew Holman: I think part of it is certainly a focus element. Right. Running an ecom brand, there's so many things you could be worried about once you have subscriptions and they're running okay. You go back to worrying about sourcing or acquisition or other things. So for us, most of the, most of our own brands that are.

Taking advantage of that is because it is a priority for them. They're focused on it. And part of that might be messaging on our side. You know, we've let people know this happens and this is available, but, you know, maybe I'm not telling everybody on our platform enough that they could be doing it this way.

Certainly something I could be looking at. But yeah, it's really comes down to if you're focused on this is how we can help and help unlock stuff. Cause we have a great data side of our team and our customer success team. And then I bring in a lot of growth practices from my own research and onto our platform, but other brands related to subscription best practices.

His role as the Head of Growth for QPilot

Alex Bond: So that's part of your job title is Head of Growth. So more specifically, you're trying to grow the QPilot brand from a marketing perspective as well as growing revenue. 

Matthew Holman: Yeah. So part of our pricing model is usage, kind of like an email platform. So basically the more subscriptions you have, the more money that you make and the more money we make. So we're incentivized to grow your program.

So for me, that really just comes down to education, trying to train people, help people figure out how to unlock that understanding, testing how they should be approaching and that kind of thing. So that we have a big content arm called subscription prescription that I do a lot of like you know, weekly newsletter. We do a ton of engagement in that way and it helps both our existing customers, but also helps us acquire, you know, leads for potential users of our software in the future. 

Alex Bond: No, that's great. Do you feel that it's more complicated. Having a product like software that is continuously evolving and being developed and tweaked and updated as opposed to a more material product, like you've mentioned, coffee, like right. Something that's kind of more. I don't know, tangible like that doesn't really change that much over time. 

Matthew Holman: It certainly is a a little more complex. I would say that what makes the biggest difference is the buying cycle, right? So, you know, coffee, I think people are more quick to buy or try coffee than they are, say, a software that they're gonna subscribe to and they have to implement. So that end does end up changing how people consider it. And even within an e-commerce brand, like I mentioned, it's, there's lots of different focuses, right?

So if like you're using another subscription app and things are going okay, maybe you're not worried about it, it's when maybe there's some external pressure or you feel like, you know, as a brand you wanna prioritize your revenue there, then you start maybe looking to see if there's other options out there. And that process is gonna take a lot longer to consider and evaluate other softwares than it would say buying coffee. Or trying a new CBD product or something like that. 

Alex Bond: And it's definitely more, more long term. The coffee. It's like I could always buy more down the road. Right. And it's, I don't know, a little, it's not as costly compared to software, which requires like some research. 

Matthew Holman: And that's why content and relationship part is so important. Right. Like, you know, I had a conversation with somebody early last year that came back to us after, like I mentioned, they wanted to go with the cheaper option cuz it seemed better. And I was like, okay, here you go. And I checked in with them a little bit to say like, Hey, just how things are going. And then after about six months, they found out how bad it was with that other solution and came back and started talking to us again.

So you know, you mentioned that the importance of relationships, it's really high in software content. We've done a lot of work to position ourselves as an expert in the field through research with our own customers, but also in the field overall. Because we do think that it's a definitely a long-term strategy growing software company. 

Alex Bond: How did you get into that? Because, you know, looking at your resume a little bit, it did start with graphic design. There was some marketing and then it felt like it was just software. So where did that kind of come from? 

Matthew Holman: Yeah. I was working before QPilot, kind of, my first real big marketing gig was running content and marketing for e-commerce logistics company called eHub. And so being able to write content around shipping is about as dry as it gets. Maybe payments might be a little bit worse from a drying standpoint. But I was doing that for a while and also doing some other marketing kind of consulting and then kind of got the bug of wanting to be my own boss wanted to be the one in control of my own fate.

And so you know, somebody introduced me to David, the founder of QPilot and he was looking for a partner to take over growth in marketing. And again, QPilot does a lot from a logistics standpoint, so it actually was a pretty good fit with understanding why logistics is important in e-commerce and how it can be, how it can affect a business, which was, so, it was kind of a good segue, but what's interesting is, like my first year at qpi, we did a lot of, like I would call it the marketing checklist of trying to go through doing ads and doing all the different ways you can try to sell stuff.

And it wasn't actually really a great alignment with what I'm good at, which is community and content. And so after about a year of kind of like feeling like we were all over the place, my second year of the company was a lot more focused in on my strengths and what we believe are the strengths of the platform. So, yeah, so it's been about 12, 13 months of kind of taking that approach and it's gone pretty well. 

Alex Bond: No, that's great. I mean, that kind of feels like the two general strategies is, it's like, let me, let me tell you how good our product is. And it, it seems to me, you know, Matthew, that your style is more like, let me show you how good it is, and then I can explain to you why it's so good in terms of like, I don't know, the content mixed with the education.

I just feel like audiences nowadays, or potential customers nowadays, automatically more educated, but they're also more skeptical because it's such a competitive market in everything that they need to be shown how good it is, and then explained why it's so good, because everyone's just hit with so many spam emails and over promises and underdelivering that it's kind of nice when you can do the other way around and underpromise. Overdeliver. 

Matthew Holman: Absolutely. And I think for us too, we found out for us our ideal customer, aside from, you know maybe needing subscriptions is somebody who's focusing on subscriptions. Because if we know their team is focused, we can give them all these extra resources and commitment, and that means they'll grow, which is. Better for both of us, right? So a lot of times too, when I'm doing consult calls or just meeting brands and talking to them, I'm not trying to sell them on the software initially.

I'm trying to understand what they're doing and what's working, what's not. I try to help them. Right. That creates a relationship. I'm offering value, and in some instances, the problem that they're solving is something QPI does better than anybody else, right? So I can then say comfortably, well if you are interested in switching, like you should look at this, and this, and this, because of the pain points that you've outlined to me.

Otherwise, it's like, you know, hey, you should try this. Switching off software is really, really painful. So it's, that should be a last resort for, for some big problems. Otherwise, you should try to work with what you got to see if you can unlock what your brand really needs. 

Misconceptions about software development

Alex Bond: Following the education trail. What are some of the misconceptions that people do have about software development that you'd like to acknowledge or possibly dispel? 

Matthew Holman: I think part of the problem just come down to messaging is brands not doing a good job of differentiating how they're different or why they're different or the value that they offer.

You know, if you're a time management software, it's telling everybody you're gonna save time. You know, people are seeing that kind of ad or messaging from every other time management software out there. So I think that that can be a problem with brands as you're trying to find the right positioning the idea that you wanna, I think a mistake that, that we've made early on at QPilot.

I think that what we're great about now is not trying to sell to everybody because we're not a great fit for everybody. And again, coming back to that small team thing, like I can't afford to onboard a, a big customer that's not a good fit for us. Like that could kill our company. So we wanna find people that are looking for what we do well and that we know that we can help.

So it does kind of change the mentality a little bit. And then, but I mean, for a lot of software companies, when you start to raise and you're taking on outside capital, it creates a lot of additional pressure to hit goals and metrics, and that's when I think mistakes can sometimes happen because you're trying to go faster than maybe your brand or your product are ready for.

Alex Bond: And that's what I appreciated about your messaging when I went to the QPilot website is it felt very, it wasn't overexplaining anything. It was like, we do subscriptions, they're customizable. Give us a call and I kind of appreciate that, where it's not like I'm getting bombarded with charts and graphs and, you know, your 10 point process as to why it works a little bit, you know, it just felt a bit more like I wasn't being sold to.

And that is what impresses me about companies more nowadays. It's like, We know what we do. We know what we're good at, what we do. If you're interested, give us a call because it what I'm kind of hearing you say, Matt, is that you're not really chasing down people to use your company. If anything, it might even be the opposite right now where you have to see if it's a good fit before selling your product to them. Is that accurate? 

Matthew Holman: Absolutely. Like, that's one of the reasons why I'm excited about Salesforce. Shopify's a huge market and we're premiering in there, and I think there's gonna be, we're gonna have a lot of success there.

But, you know, Salesforce, we found some customers that have like, it's almost like if you lined up their pain points, it lines up with our strengths and those types of things are pretty rare in the software world, where it's like everything they need is something that we either do or that we could do very easily with just a little bit of development. 

And so that's what gets exciting is cause now it's like, oh, I'll have a customer that I can explain to people what we do really well instead of in vague terms of why this is important or not. I can explain it through a story. This brand uses us like this boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And so yeah, I think it's the best way to grow a company but that's been our journey and that's how we've been doing it and we're making it work for us. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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