5 lessons from 37 signals for any subscription business

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37 Signals

The business prowess of 37 Signals, the subscription business behind project management software Basecamp, is known throughout the start-up world.

With millions of users, the company is a known expert at continual reinvention, improvement and success. Co-Founder Jason Fried is particularly renowned for his lean approach to business, having stated in an interview that money is unnecessary to build a successful business, because a lack of funding forces you to build a service that works well. We’ve curated some of the sharpest lessons for your subscription business from the remarkable success of 37 Signals:

1. Less is More

37 Signals recommends you approach your subscription business’ product more like an editor than an engineer. It’s not about taking shortcuts to bringing your product to market, but rather about making a product that people love because it’s intuitive. In the words of software blogger Natasha Murashev, this focus on simplicity should extend to office space, staffing and maybe even retaining a sense of work/life balance, because “having less actually forces you to be creative with the tools you have.”

2. Minimize Interruptions

The 37 Signals founders believe that productivity and interruptions simply can’t co-exist. As a result, they’ve built a corporate culture around minimizing interruptions whenever possible. Texts are preferable to emails, which are preferable to in-person interruptions or phone calls. Collaborators are encouraged to work individually, and as few meetings as possible are held.

3. Personalize Your Marketing

For many subscription business professionals, 37 Signals is immediately associated with people. Customers are visibly showcased on the website. Their approach to branding is fun, accessible, and above all, human. The founders advise against outsourcing your marketing and PR, recommending that SaaS entrepreneurs infuse a human element into their brand in order to attract customers who resemble themselves.

4. Get a Voice

Even back in 2008, when few companies were blogging for business, 37 Signals was known and respected for the quality of their blog content. Fried advised entrepreneurs to find their own voice, and keep talking, whether that took the form of visual content, blogs, audio or video.

5. Above All, Be Original

One of the most inspiring quotations from Fried is undoubtedly his call for entrepreneurs to be true to themselves: “don’t just copy other businesses – what works for them won’t necessarily work for you.” People want something that works, and they want genuine connections with genuine people. The 37 Signals model may be simple, but that’s perhaps the point: make great, easy-to-use products, package them with your passion, listen and be heard.

And particularly, 37 Signals is known for its awesome way to reduce chargebacks. This method is followed by most of the subscription business today.

Do you use any of the products from 37 Signals? What do you like or dislike about them? Please share your thoughts below.

Author of the post

John Solomon

Marketing Leader / Sales Enabler. Head of India Operations for @Infrascale / @sosonlinebackup.

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