Making the Change to a Recurring Billing Content Business Model

By Erika Malzberg February 3, 2016

WorthPoint is the largest resource for identifying, researching, and valuing antiques, art, and vintage collectibles. When they decided to make the shift to a recurring billing business model, they needed help. WorthPoint CEO Will Seippel tells their story.

As a rapidly growing bootstrapped digital media company, we made the decision in 2008 to move to a recurring billing content business model. It was clear that ad revenue models were doomed, for multiple reasons, and that the future for content providers was in recurring business models. It was a bold decision at the time but my feeling was that, if the content was not worth paying for, a decision to turn off the lights earlier rather than later was in the investors’ interest.

Adopting a Recurring Business Model

We were early adopting a recurring business model so we initially wrote our own billing software. It worked okay but was very labor intensive, had problems aligning with various payment processors, and was losing us customers. In 2013 we decided to put in a third-party billing system that would help us solve the issues we had encountered with our own system. As a rapidly growing company, we decided to go with a non-Zuora solution. One of the primary factors was that we could outsource a large portion of our customer service function and focus on our product and code writing.

So we implemented this third-party billing for new customers. Upon implementation, we began to experience a fair amount of problems and discovered that some of the capabilities and features that we were told they had, they did not. In April 2014 we started migrating our base. Over the next 30 days they lost one third of our installed base.

Making the Shift to Zuora

By August 2014 we’d had enough and made the decision to go with Zuora, implementing their billing software in conjunction with Vantiv payment processing. When we made this decision in 2014, we were clearly in trouble. It is difficult for any company to go through implementing one change in billing software and payment processors in a year. We had to do it twice in 345 days. We had employees quit and, if I were not the primary owner, I suspect the Board of Directors would have fired me. But we did not have a choice. We had to make a change, and Zuora was the clear solution.

Will Seippel

Why We Chose Zuora

  • Zuora is built for recurring billing and it is an industrial grade product.
  • Zuora does not treat billing like a hobby and is not a patched over shopping cart system.
  • It’s an affordable solution.
  • A very relevant competitor gave a glowing recommendation.
  • We were impressed by the overall company reputation and the reputation of Tien Tzuo, the founder of Zuora and former CMO of Salesforce.
  • We appreciated the local proximity of tech support.
  • The quality sales staff made a strong impression.

How Zuora Has Made a Difference at Worthpoint

1) Zuora did what they said they would – in both the product performance and the implementation.
2) It is a very well documented system.
3) We have had NO defects related to the product performance or employees.
4) It has reasonably flexible architecture.
5) It is very flexible in regards to sales and marketing promotions and channel reporting.
6) Between Zuora and Vantiv we eliminated the need for an intermediary in the payment process.
7) We have reduced chargebacks and returns from about 5% of revenue to 1%.
8) Zuora is made up of great people that actually care about us.

In essence, working with Zuora is like having a staff to help us do more. The preceding company took at least 2 FTEs to monitor what they broke and they about destroyed our company. I went from a CEO that would have been fired to a Top 100 Growth CEO of the year. Incredible story and Zuora was the prime difference. What more can I say?

To learn how to optimize your recurring revenue and find your ideal revenue yield ratio, check out Recurring Revenue Optimization: The Basics in the Academy.

We’d love to help you with your questions on recurring billing. Just ask in comments below!