10 Subscription Management Software We Recommend

 In Tech Stack

Subscription Services Are Here to Stay

In a world where a new subscription service pops up every day, it’s pretty obvious subscription services are here to stay. I don’t think we can even survive without our streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon (should we try Disney Plus?), and don’t get me started on the level of ease services like HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Home Chef have brought to our lives.

Since Simple Startup is ourselves an accounting subscription service – we have some thoughts on the subject that stem from our trials as well as working directly with our clients to make their lives easier and their businesses more efficient.

Subscription Streaming Service NetflixSo why are subscription management services so helpful, nay necessary, when it comes to building a subscription-based business? There are so many subscription management platforms out there to choose from, but they all have a few things in common that make them so key – they’re time-saving, report generating machines, and they’re scalable to boot.

Beyond this, though, they integrate and combine with your accounting systems to provide major stability to your accounting foundation by providing seamless onboarding and helping manage proration, dunning, and PCI compliance. Here is what we mean:

  • Seamless Onboarding. Subscription management platforms are essentially self-onboarding and then self-billing after that. So when a new client comes on board you can simply share the online portal for them to input all their details for contact information and billing and then from there the platform takes care of everything else. From an accounting perspective, this information is usually inputted manually by your accountant thus this type of software tool frees up their time to focus elsewhere.
  • Manage Proration. If you have ever had a lease you’ve experienced proration. Since signing up for a lease often occurs mid-month (i.e. not perfectly in line with monthly reporting periods) proration takes into account the percentage of the lease you should pay for excluding the amount of time you were not in the space. This is the same type of calculation that has to occur with mid-month subscription onboarding and changes. So if proration sounds complex to calculate it’s because without a subscription management tool this calculation and the eventual invoicing inputted into your accounting system is entirely manual but it doesn’t have to be! Subscription management tools make this process simple and automated.
  • Manage Dunning. One of the great eases of subscription services is that once they’re set up with your payment details, you are all set – until your credit card expires, that is. This is no big deal to you, all you do is update your credit card details and go on your merry way to binge the next tv show (#netflixandchill). But imagine if instead of being able to share your payment through a portal you had to call and track down the billing department to give them your credit card details every time your card expired. THIS IS WHY service providers need a tool to manage dunning, so they can ensure client payment details are always up to date without chasing clients down. Tech Stack: PCI Compliance
  • Manage PCI Compliance. Managing dunning brings us to our next big value add for subscription management platforms – keeping your customer’s payment details and billing information safe and secure (e.g. PCI Compliance). PCI compliance requires your company to follow a huge number of guidelines and regulations and for good reason, but this can come at a high cost to build (think full IT department, VPN’s, firewalls, passwords – the whole nine yards). This is why we’re happy to outsource this compliance to a software company that is fully set up to meet all PCI compliance guidelines so we don’t have to. We would recommend clients use subscription management tools for this perk alone – it is just THAT worth it!

All the processes that a subscription management system takes care of for a business mean that an accountant (in house OR outsourced) can provide more insight and observation by leveraging that technology. So in addition to the above stated great benefits, subscription management systems free up your accountant’s time so they can deliver more value (and spend less of their time inputting information manually) within the same budget. 

What is Subscription Management?

All this talk of subscription management and we haven’t yet addressed what it is. Subscription management encompasses a host of service variables (and may change depending on your industry) but often refer to customer lifecycle operations like managing trial offers and subscription services, keeping track of payment and customer details, assigning credits, issuing refunds, making mid-cycle subscription changes and supporting recurring billing. 

The piece de la resistance with a subscription management solution is that it works in tandem with your accounting, billing, and payment processors so that you can easily run recurring billing for your subscription services.

Side Note: The Difference Between Subscription Management and Recurring Billing

To the uninitiated, ‘recurring billing’ sounds a lot like ‘subscription management.’ But there are differences namely, recurring billing is the process of generating an invoice and tracking payments, whereas subscription management is a much more robust beast and includes updating customer information, managing freemium to premium conversions, upgrading and downgrading services, management of your subscription offerings, and access to powerful reporting based on revenue and subscribers.

Now that we all have a better understanding of how a subscription management software can transform your business, we’d like to share our top ten recommendations for subscription management tools in case you’re considering bringing one into the fold of your company. We’ll go into depth on our top 3 recommendations, but have included a list of 10 options since each solution is as unique as the business that uses it.

Recommendation 1: Chargify

First on the list is Chargify which their website bills as a “Specialized billing and data management tool to give you the competitive edge.” Chargify focuses on the B2B SaaS industry, so this solution may not be the right fit for everyone, but with the concentration of tech companies in Colorado, we thought this was a good place to start.

Chargify specializes in billing, subscription management, accounting, and analytics and has an entire section of their website devoted to sharing their newest features like revenue management, revenue forecasting, and customer-specific language setting. The software will run a business $149/month to $449/month and has the option for more customized pricing beyond that. If this sounds like the software solution for your tech business, you can contact Chargify’s sales reps here.

Recommendation 2: Recurly

Second, we’re shining the spotlight on Recurly, who, to paraphrase, says they’re powering subscription commerce to deliver unrivaled results to smart brands worldwide. Recurly provides subscription management services to a much more broad set of clients in the industries of consumer & business services, consumer goods, education, publishing, software as a service, and streaming media.

Because of their varied customer base, Recurly can provide a huge amount of information on subscription trends and benchmarks to help their customers better understand their business. If this sounds like a solution you’re interested in, you can contact Recurly online about plans starting at $149/month. And even if you’re not interested, we recommend taking a look at their insights on churn rate trends by industry and subscriber acquisition methods.

Recommendation 3: ChargeOver

We saved our favorite software tool for last! Full disclosure – we might be a touch partial to ChargeOver because we use it to manage our client’s accounting and finance subscriptions and think it does a dandy job of helping us keep our subscriptions in check.

Their tagline, ‘Go beyond subscription billing,’ aligns very well with our mission and they aim to automate every step of the billing process to create a smooth flow from quote to cash so their clients can stop wasting time chasing payments and focus on providing their clients with top-notch services.

Starting at just $65/month, ChargeOver’s pricing grows with the number of clients you service, rather than the revenue you generate, making it a simple and cost effective solution to scale. They don’t specialize in one specific industry so they can be a great option for many types of businesses and love to help clients focus on limiting manual inputs and maximizing automation opportunities. If this sounds like a value add you’re interested in, you can connect with ChargeOver online.

7 More Software Recommendations

Just like there is ‘a lid for every pot’ there is a subscription management solution for every business. If our top 3 solutions don’t seem like the right fit, there are plenty of options to fit your subscription business model’s needs. Here are seven more software recommendations to make sure you have a big pool of options to choose from!

  1. 2Checkout – “The subscription package that grows customer lifetime value and improves retention.”
  2. Billsby – “Whatever your subscription business, rely on Billsby for easy and accurate recurring billing.”
  3. Paddle – “Everything you need to grow your SaaS business. Subscription billing, payments, taxes and more, in one unified platform.”
  4. SaaSOptics – “The leading subscription management software built for B2B SaaS from startup to exit.”
  5. Sage Intacct  – “The #1 subscription billing & accounting software for SaaS companies”
  6. Zoho – “Subscription billing software, crafted for growing businesses.”
  7. Zuora – “Powering the world’s best companies to win in the subscription economy.”

Why is Subscription Management Software Important?

One reason Simple Startup love’s subscription management tools and often recommends them is because not only do they help build time efficiencies, but they also scale with a company.

This is huge because with scale comes complexity. It’s one thing to manage 50 customer’s subscriptions, but it’s a whole other beast to manage 5000 customer subscriptions. Subscription management systems make the scaling process much easier. AND these systems are wholly owned by our customers, so that they have access to the full functionality and reporting tools beyond their accounting team and never have to worry about succession issues later on (heaven forbid this should happen).

Let’s Recap

Subscription management tools are time savers for business owners, in-house and outsourced accounting departments, they’re report generating machines so you can deep dive into subscription trends, and they’re fully scalable so they easily grow from client zero onward.

They also provide seamless onboarding and manage and automate proration, dunning, and PCI compliance. In a nutshell, subscription management solutions automate all processes related to keeping customers and their subscriptions up to date and make sure that recurring billing is on lockdown.

Beyond the many value adds subscription management systems bring to the table they also integrate with most of the various systems a business owner uses like your QuickBooks, your Salesforce, and your Xero (we like to think we integrate with everything too ;p ). And this is something we love helping our clients manage, to make sure they’re set up right to work with us, on all their systems, and well into the future.

As a startup business grows, it can be difficult to decide when it’s time to upgrade to less manual and more automated tools to better manage business operations. This topic has been at the forefront of many client conversations, so if this is something you’re interested in figuring out. We’d be happy to learn more about your business, your current systems and help you identify and implement the right subscription management software for you. The best way to kick off the conversation is by grabbing time on our calendar and we’ll help take care of the rest.

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