Subscription Stories: True Tales from the Trenches

Subscription Stories: True Tales from the Trenches

Subscription models are crazy powerful. Savvy small companies can easily deploy them to knock huge Goliaths off kilter. We’ve seen it in entertainment, software, hardware, news, retail, hospitality—the list goes on. In her podcast series, Robbie Kellman Baxter interviews the leaders of this revolution about how they’re using subscription pricing and membership models to redefine the biggest industries and generate predictable recurring revenue along the way.

Episodes

April 28, 2021 32 min

Pricing is one of the trickiest parts of building a successful subscription model. You want to make the model simple, transparent and easy-to-understand, but you also want it to be optimized for each customer, and of course to maximize revenue and profitability. It can be tempting to offer multiple tiers for different use cases, as well as promotions and add-ons. Before you know it, you have a complex mess.

 

Today’s guest, Xiaohe ...

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Launching something new is always tricky. It can be especially challenging be entrepreneurial inside a global brand like Nike. You want to align with the broader goals of the organization while also staying nimble and creative. When you’re also introducing subscription models into a transactionally oriented organization, the stakes are even higher. Dave Cobban spent over 12 years at Nike, many working with the innovation team.   A ...
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Many businesses struggle to decide what should go behind the paywall, and what should be free. Some experts say nothing should be free. But monetization expert Elena Verna of Reforge has come to believe in the power of “free” through her work with organizations including Miro, Survey Monkey and Malwarebytes. In her conversation with Robbie Kellman Baxter, Elena explains organizations can benefit from free trials, freemium offers an...

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How much content is too much? If you have really honed down to your ideal audience, the answer is there will never be enough. Indeed, you have to practically create a content machine to support the needs of your avatar because they would simply love it! With an uncanny stroke of genius, John Lee Dumas solved this problem early in his podcasting career. An avid podcast consumer himself, he identified an unmet need for a daily podcas...

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Now that you have launched your subscription model, it’s time to operationalize your business. For this, you will need a real team, systems to support your processes, and metrics to let you know how the business is doing. This episode’s guest, Matt Fiedler, is the co-founder and chairman at Vinyl Me, Please, a record of the month club and online record store. After launching in 2013, Matt successfully scaled VMP to more than $15M i...

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Most subscription entrepreneurs initially are attracted to the model for its predictable recurring revenue, but there are other benefits to having an ongoing relationship with members. Alli Harper works at the intersection of subscription eCommerce and social impact. Dedicated to the advocacy of promoting diversity in the picture book industry, Alli is building OurShelves, a scalable enterprise that serves the underestimated audien...

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McKeel Hagerty is the CEO of Hagerty, a specialty provider of classic car insurance and lifestyle company headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan. The company has become well-known for the tremendous loyalty of their policyholders, who feel a kinship with the brand and its forever promise of helping classic car enthusiasts get the most enjoyment from their passion.

Host Robbie Kellman Baxter met McKeel when she was helping the co...

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As subscription organizations scale, one of the trickiest challenges they face is entering international markets. While they often focus first on things like managing local currency, translating copy into local languages, and ensuring compliance with local regulations around privacy, securities and recurring billing, these tactical steps are only table stakes. It takes much more than that to truly localize the subscription experien...

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With subscription models, acquisition is only the starting line. Organizations need to develop competence around onboarding new members, driving engagement, and expanding the relationship to maximize customer lifetime value. A whole new discipline has grown around this idea of "customer success," often replacing customer support, and with a radically different focus. Customer success is about proactively ensuring that subsc...

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In mid-2020, Eric Roza bought CrossFit, Inc. from CrossFit Founder and former CEO, Greg Glassman. The sale was first announced on June 24, 2020, just a few weeks after Glassman had resigned as CEO amidst a swirl of controversy. Eric took over as CEO at a critical time for a membership organization known for its cult-like following and devoted members. He brings tremendous experience and passion to CrossFit. Robbie Kellman Baxter in...

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Today’s guest, Steve Cakebread, knows a great deal about subscription pricing models and IPOs. Steve has brought three notable subscription-based companies—Salesforce, Pandora, and Yext—to successful initial public offerings, or IPOs, and served on the board of three other subscription-based companies - eHealth, SolarWinds, and Bill.com - as those companies went public. Steve is frequently sought-out for his advice on IPOs, often f...

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Scott Mordell was CEO of the Young Presidents Organization, or YPO, from 2011 through 2020. What is fascinating about YPO is how intensely engaged their community is.  Members will move mountains to make sure they can attend their regular meetings, despite the fact that they’re among the busiest people in the world. Many of them even qualify as “Superusers”—host Robbie Kellman Baxter's word to describe members who go beyond jus...

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Growing a business takes a lot of effort and time investment. So when the time comes to exit, it would be a waste not to harvest the value you’ve created. So how do you get the ultimate reward for selling your business? Today, host Robbie Kellman Baxter sits down with John Warrillow, the founder of The Value Builder System™. John and Robbie first met when John published The Automatic Customer around the same time as Robbie released...

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January 12, 2021 2 min

Get ready for another season of Subscription Stories: True Tales from the Trenches. This season, I've interviewed guests like Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, about building a customer-centric organization, Steve Cakebread, a serial CFO, who has shepherded IPOs of companies like Salesforce, Autodesk, Yext, and Pandora, and Eric Roza, my business school classmate as well as the new owner and CEO of the fitness and training empire, ...

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Gina Bianchini brings her community-building and subscription expertise to this episode. She joins Robbie to discuss the role of community in building a broader Forever Transaction, why some communities go off the rails, and how to use community as a starting point for membership, before layering in other elements of value, like content, digital courses and subscription commerce.

Highlights from this episode:

  • 1:57 - Why Gina decide...
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    Vena CEO Hunter Madeley joins Robbie to share best practices learned working at multiple B2B SaaS success stories. They discuss when it does and doesn’t make sense to pull out another company’s playbook, how to onboard for engagement and loyalty in a complex B2B environment, and his concept of “methodology before technology”.

     

    Highlights from this episode:

     

  • 2:12 - Vena’s Forever Promise and business model
  • 5:00 - The role community...
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    Electronic Arts’ Mike Blank joins Robbie to talk about his journey bringing subscription to the world of gaming. They discuss the challenges of subscriptions in the gaming industry, how to encourage consumers to discover new content within the subscription, and how EA offers multiple consumer models to support their “player first” promise.

    Highlights from this episode:

  • 2:15 - EA’s journey to subscription and why subscription models...
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    Jessie Teitz Becker, the SVP Marketing at Impossible Foods, brings her impressive marketing knowledge and expertise in forming long term recurring revenue relationships to Subscription Stories. She joins Robbie to discuss how Impossible is applying principles learned at subscription companies like Netflix, YouTube and Optimizely, best practices in introducing & building habits with a new product category, and why they launched ...

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    Bain and Company’s Stu Berman joins Robbie to talk about what makes the Net Promoter System (NPS) Loyalty Forum itself so powerful for the members and for Bain. They also explore how the best organizations build customer-centricity into the fabric of their businesses, a core value of NPS. They discuss the value of creating a private community for senior executives across different companies to meet and discuss, how a subscription c...

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    Charity: water’s MZ Goodman joins Robbie to share how she is applying subscription model best practices to a nonprofit. They discuss how MZ leverages content marketing and digital community strategies developed in her work at The New York Times, Glossier and goop to build a donation-based subscription model, how they’ve leveraged a single 20-minute video to raise millions, and how to think about a Forever Promise in the context of ...

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