This blog has moved to

moving logs

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what the heck I’ve been doing since September.

I’ve been busy writing – and posting to my new blog. You can find it on

When you get there, you’ll find that I’m blogging about subscription marketing and writing; you can subscribe to either list.

Hope to see you there!

Image by Robert Larsson on unsplash.

Listen Up! Audio’s Role in a Mobile World

green smartphone

Nearly everyone in the gym is listening to something on a mobile device – a podcast, an audiobook, streaming music. Most of the solo drivers you see stuck in traffic are listening to something as well.

Mobile devices are changing our behaviors in many ways. Even something as basic as reading a book is up for grabs in the increasingly mobile world.

Mobile devices tap into our attraction to multitasking. When we’re out and about, we often need to look where we’re going. Hence the growth of audio content consumption, such as podcasts and audiobooks.

  • According to Edison Research, 55 million Americans listened to an audiobook last year.
  • From the Infinite Dial 2015 report (by Edison Research and Triton Digital), monthly audio podcast consumption is on the rise, from roughly 39 million monthly listeners in 2014 to 46 million monthly podcast users in 2015.

Audio works particularly well for long-form content, like books, because we have stretches of time while commuting or walking that we can devote to books.

Subscription Marketing as an Audiobook

The only data that really matters is how your audience like to consume content. Chances are, your audience listens to podcasts and audiobooks.

I didn’t think about creating an audio version of the book Subscription Marketing until a potential reader told me that he only ‘consumed’ business books in an audio format. Now it seems obvious.

So, at last, Subscription Marketing is available as an audiobook:Subscription Marketing audio cover

The Subscription Play (of course)

I wouldn’t be a genuine subscription marketer if I didn’t point out the subscription service in the mix, Audible.

You can purchase books outright from Audible or can subscribe to the audiobook service, choosing either one or two books per month. Any additional books above the subscription level are discounted.

The first book is free with an audible subscription – you could make Subscription Marketing your first. Picture it: you’re listening to a book about marketing for a subscription-based business while using a subscription-based audiobook service. Very meta.

Do You Want Written Words With That?

The problem with listening to a book – particularly a nonfiction book – is remembering the important points. Taking notes isn’t practical when driving or at the gym.

I’ve created additional, printed resources for audiobook buyers on the book’s website. So far, these resources include:

  • A document containing research and graphics from the book
  • A value nurturing checklist
  • The list of recommended reading in the end material of the book
  • An infographic illustrating one of the chapters (the four fundamental rules of value nurturing)

You can see these items by visiting and entering your email address. This adds you to my very low-volume email list. (I send a short email with news and resources about twice a month.) And you can unsubscribe at any time.

Here’s my question to you: if you’re listening to a business book, what resources would you want to be able to access in printed form? What, if anything, should I add to this list?

Let me know if you have any suggestions, by email or in the comments here.

Image: Jan Vasek:


Content and Community at CMworld in Cleveland


I’ve just returned from Content Marketing World 2015 in Cleveland. As Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies put it, the conference was all about “marketing to marketers about marketing – very meta.”

Yet it was also a clear demonstration of the power of live events for creating value, outside of any specific service or product, through content and community.

Providing Value Through Content

With 150 speakers, the conference was an embarrassment of riches when it comes to content. There was simply too much terrific content to consume. Even if you could clone yourself and attend every session, the brain simply could not absorb it. I will be reading through presentation notes and watching videos for several weeks.

Here are a few of my favorite thoughts and observations from various sessions.

From Ann Handley – to cut through the clutter and create content that doesn’t fall flat, marketers need to be bigger, braver, and bolder. (Alliteration is also a content trend.) Read more from Ann on her blog.

From Mitch Joel – creating content that is extremely relevant to a specific niche can scale better than mass media. Ask Bethany Mota about that, if you know who she is. Mitch also shares this point: the Internet is porous, and the customer journey is a fiction. People come in and out intermittently.

From Tom Webster – mobile technology has rewired customer behavior. The center of the content universe is the why of the customer.

Adding Value Through Community

We attend conferences in hopes of connecting with people who share our interests and problems. This conference succeeded beautifully in delivering human connections.

I had the chance to meet many people I’d only interacted with online, including many of my content marketing idols. The Content Marketing Institute did a great job of creating environments for social interactions, including a concert by the Barenaked Ladies, and talks by Nick Offerman and John Cleese.

But more than that, I appreciated the unstructured interactions in elevators, on exhibit hall floors, and in the hallways. Content marketers are a warm and welcoming group. The most successful content marketers are empathetic, which makes for a good conference crowd.

Joe Pulizzi summed it up in his closing remarks, by calling on those in the audience to support each other as a content marketing community.

Put Content and Community to Work for Your Customers

Adding value through content and community is one of the key tenets of value nurturing, or the practice of using marketing practices to help customers find value after an initial conversion or sale. Download the free chapter on Value Nurturing from the Subscription Marketing book website.

Taking the Long View in Startup Marketing

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

This post was initially published on the Crowded Ocean blog –  a terrific source of inspiration for marketers in startups. 

Marketing in a startup is often a crazed endeavor. Desperate for growth, an understaffed marketing department struggles to keep up with constant demands for more leads.

I’d like to suggest something almost heretical: Startup marketers should focus just as much energy in creating practices for engaging with customers after the sale.

Invest your time now planning how you’ll engage with customers to increase their success and ongoing loyalty. (I call this practice value nurturing, as the natural follow-on to lead nurturing.)

Start marketing as if you’ve already won the customers.

Spend time up front creating new customer launch plans, building customer communities, and fine-tuning the customer interactions throughout the lifecycle.

There’s Always Something More Urgent

When most startups hear this suggestion, they respond with something like this:

“That sounds great, but right now we are focusing on getting leads. When we have enough customers, we can start doing those other things.”

This answer has three logical flaws:

  1. You never have “enough” new customers. Startups are always chasing aggressive growth targets. New leads are urgent, while long-term customer loyalty is important.
  1. Once established, the marketing culture is difficult to change. A startup has the opportunity to build a culture focused on long-term customer success rather than quick wins.
  1. Increasing customer retention and loyalty takes pressure off growth and lead generation. You don’t have to acquire new customers to replace ones that churn. Better yet, happy customers will refer others, essentially doing your marketing work for you. (See my blog “It’s never too early to start planning for customer retention” to talk about the compounding effect of changes to customer retention rates.)

Not convinced yet? I have two words for you: Homejoy and Slack.

Homejoy and the Hazards of Chasing Growth

Homejoy was a cleaning services marketplace. Note the past tense. The company has shut down. And according to Ellen Huet’s article in Forbes, the company chased growth at the expense of customer retention.

Heavy discounting lured in new sign-ups, but attracted the wrong customers, resulting in high churn rates. Houses don’t stay clean by themselves – cleaning is a recurring business. If you can’t keep the customers, you don’t have a sustainable model.

Slack and the Focus on Delivering Value Quickly

Now look at another startup success story, Slack.

As an enterprise collaboration tool, Slack needs entire work groups to start using it if it’s going to provide any value to its business customers. In an interview with Kara Swisher on the Re/code podcast, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield shared his strategy:

“We focused all of our effort on the new user experience, and I think that’s what’s made the difference.”

The strategy is has served the company well – people love it, and the company is tearing into the enterprise software market. In April 2015, Slack had a market valuation of $2.8 billion.

You may not be able to create a clever Slackbot to inform the new user experience. But marketing can certainly step up to the challenge in other ways:

  • Creating marketing campaigns to help customers find a rapid success
  • Creating customer communities where loyal customers support others and share insights
  • Finding ways to be relentlessly helpful to customers over time

Competitive Advantage Comes After the Sale

Startups have a unique advantage over established competitors: the opportunity to completely design the way that the company will interact with, support, and nurture customers. You don’t have long-established practices and immovable walls dividing the groups who interact with customers.

As a startup marketer, you can look beyond traditional lead generation strategies and find creative ways to differentiate your business after the sale.

Market as if you’re maintaining a long-term relationship.

Build the ongoing customer focus into your marketing organization from the start, and you’ll reap ongoing dividends in the form of sustained growth and long-term viability.

To download a value nurturing checklist filled with ideas for nurturing value after the sale, join the subscription marketing group.

Five Reasons to Love Youtility by Jay Baer [Book review]


The world of business and marketing is filled with good books, and few people have time to read all of them. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure that Youtility by Jay Baer has a place on your list.

Youtility was published in 2013 – it’s taken me two years. (My bad!) It’s relevant and important today. I don’t want you to suffer the same fate and miss this gem, in case you haven’t read it yet.

Here are five things I love about the book.

1 – The title is perfect

Choosing a good book title is tough. The single word Youtility encapsulates the meaning of the book and Baer’s approach to marketing, combining utility with a focus on the customer or audience. Make it your mantra and you’ll go far.

2 – “Top of mind” is turning into “Friend of mine” 

Part one of the book highlights the shifts underway in marketing, from trying to get attention (top of mind) to earning a relationship with the customer (friend of mine). Here’s what “friend of mine” awareness means:

“If, like their friends, you provide them real value, if you practice Youtility rather than simply offer a series of coupons and come-ons, they will reward your company with loyalty and advocacy, the same ways we reward our friends.”

Building community, establishing trust, offering value – these are the skills of masterful marketers today.

3- The examples are fresh and interesting.

The third part of the book covers the three facets of youtility: self-service, radical transparency, and real-time relevancy. The book illustrates each with interesting and fresh examples.

Baer has gone out of his way to find varied examples, from giant B2B endeavors to the guy reviewing frozen food. It’s worth reading the book for the RunPee application story alone.

The examples make the point that these strategies are not just the domain of the large business, nor the guerilla tactics of the startups or small businesses. Youtility is a great leveler.

4- It’s fun to read.

This is what business books should feel like when you read them – entertaining and absorbing at once. At one point, Baer describes a character with this: “You want to have a beer with Dan Florio.” On reading this book, I want to have a beer with Jay Baer.

5- The message is relevant and timely.

The key reason to read this book is that it matters to marketers of all types today.

In the subscription marketing context, the concepts also apply when you’re nurturing value for existing customers. By focusing on being helpful and practicing Youtility, marketers add value outside the solutions they sell. This is one of the key tenets of value nurturing for sustained customer relationships.

(Visit my Subscription Marketing Book resources page to download a list of related book recommendations and short reviews.)


I sometimes receive an affiliate commission for books I recommend through Amazon. I only recommend books I admire.

Subscription Horror Stories


Don’t cover your eyes, because in this post, we’re going to look at subscription horror stories in the context of popular horror, dark comedy, and sci-fi books and movies. Sometimes you need to look your worst fears in the face so you can avoid them.

Now you can rent a movie and call it market research! You’re welcome.

Learn what to avoid with your subscription customers by studying a few popular plot lines.

I Know What You Did Last Summer
In this movie, based on a book by Lois Duncan, a killer knows the dark secret of a group of teenagers, and sets off to exact deadly revenge. First, however, he lets each one know that he is watching.

Real-world subscription equivalent: A subscription business that uses its subscriber data for dubious purposes gives subscribers chills. Remember when Uber published its “Ride of Glory” data about customers using the service for casual hookups? Yes, that was creepy.

How to avoid it: Be careful about what data you collect and who can access it. Use common sense; you never want to appear to be stalking your subscribers.

2001: A Space Odyssey
One of the most chilling moments in this classic sci-fi movie is the famous conversation between Dave and HAL, the computer, in which Dave begs Hal to “Open the pod bay doors” to no avail. He’s talking to a computer that refuses to listen.

Real-world subscription equivalent: Ever had a similar experience when trying to cancel or change a subscription? Trying to get through an automated calling system, leaving messages, or otherwise hoping to reach a human being, to no avail?

How to avoid it: Make it easy for subscribers to view or change subscription options with simple online systems. Help subscribers connect with a real person when they need to. And create an exit plan for subscribers who need to leave. If you let people leave gracefully, they may return later.

The Sex Tape
The premise is simple: private data is unwittingly released into the world. The movie is billed as a comedy, but if happened to you personally, it would be anything but funny.

Real-world subscription equivalent: Sadly, this plot plays out around us every day in data breaches for all kinds of businesses. Back in May, hackers stole personal data about millions of users of the Adult Friend Finder site. The site describes itself as a dating, hookup, and sex community. More recently, hackers broke into and released data from the “infidelity dating” site Ashley Madison.

Every business is susceptible to data loss, no matter what industry it participates in. The Information is Beautiful site maintains an online, dynamic visualization of the world’s largest data breaches. Take a look and be afraid.

How to avoid it: Maintain subscriber information in a secure system. Don’t collect more data than you need. And if problems happen, take action quickly to correct them.

In this Stephen King novel and movie adaptation, a novelist is trapped by an over-ardent, unhinged fan. [Spoiler alert] She feeds him painkillers and reacts to his attempts to leave by relieving him of body parts.

Thanks to Zuora’s Gabe Weisert, subscription expert and Stephen King fan, for this example.

Real-world subscription equivalent: Every subscriber’s worst fear is getting stuck in a too-intimate relationship with a business that owns your credit card and data.

How to avoid it: Make sure customers know what you’re doing with their data, and what will happen to their data if and when they leave. Be responsible about managing subscriber data, and created an exit plan before it’s needed.

It all comes down to trust.
The ultimate horror story for a subscriber is being exploited or betrayed.

Subscription businesses sometimes put customers in these situations inadvertently, not with evil intent. From the subscriber’s perspective, any of these scenarios feel like a betrayal of trust.

In a subscription-based business, it’s essential to establish and maintain a trusted relationship with customers, starting with marketing and extending through the entire customer relationship.

Image by Alex Munsell on

Customer-Inspired Marketing

Sparkler Morgan SessionsYour best marketing ideas may come from outside the marketing organization – even outside the company. In the case of Pley, a simple suggestion from a busy parent resulted in a business success and many happy children.

Pley is a subscription-based service for children’s toys. In shorthand: Netflix for LEGOs.

The company does many things right when it comes to marketing its subscription business. I profiled Pley and the PleyWorld community in a recent post on the Marketo blog: 3 Ways for Marketers to Take On the Growing Subscription-Based Economy.

In this post, I want to tell the story of Pley Birthday.

Pley invites customers to give their feedback in an online forum. Better yet, the company pays attention to that feedback. One subscriber (a parent) suggested that the company send multiple sets for a birthday party. And four months later, Pley Birthday was born.

The company reaches out to loyal customers as their birthdays approach and offers a free birthday party kit for up to 15 guests.Slide1 Pley provides the online invitation workflow and sends LEGO sets, activities and goodie bags for the party.

The results are reason for celebration:

  • Customer loyalty: Happy parents continue renewing the subscription.
  • New customer acquisition: Guest goodies include a discount coupon for new subscribers, so the company can track customer growth resulting from the parties.
  • User-generated content: Many parents share pictures or video from the party on social media, creating more visibility for Pley’s service.

Are you listening?
Are you inviting and listening to customer suggestions? Do you foster an environment or community in which people believe their suggestions will be heard?

Particularly in a subscription-based business, your customers are willing to tell you what they value. It’s up to you to listen and take action.

Next steps: If you’re interested in more ways to nurture existing customers, sign up for the Subscription Marketing group. You’ll get access to a growing list of content, including a value nurturing checklist and an ebook on Customer Retention Marketing.

Image by Morgan Sessions on

A Marketing Manifesto for Value Nurturing

When you want to maintain a long-term relationship with the customer, avoid any marketing tactics that erode trust.

The book Subscription Marketing includes a manifesto for marketers nurturing recurring customers. Of course, it applies well in nearly every marketing situation, but it’s particularly critical when, as in a subscription-based model, you maintain an ongoing relationship with customers.

Here’s a handy infographic:

Value Nurturing Infographic

These are the four rules:

  1. Be empathetic: Always try to deliver value from your customer’s perspective.
  2. Show your personality:  Any brand personality should be authentic and consistent across all customer interactions, not just marketing.
  3. Handle your mistakes with grace: Admit errors. Even have a plan for letting customers go gracefully.
  4. Don’t be creepy: Personalization and retargeting seem like great ideas until your customers think you’re stalking them and lose trust.

Content Marketing: Not Just for Lead Generation

Huge Blinders by emilio labrador, on Flickr

Marketing organizations often focus all of their time and budgets on generating new leads. But by wearing “lead generation” blinders, you lose sight of the bigger picture. Getting customers is important, but keeping them is essential to long-term business success. Marketing needs to expand its focus to include customers after the sale.

Think I’m overstating the case? Open View Partners published this terrific infographic of stats about B2B content marketing. Reading these stats, you cannot help but notice the focus on lead generation. This point in particular stuck out: 84% of B2B marketers said that brand awareness was their top content marketing goal.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.09.34 AM

B2B marketers are replacing advertising with content marketing. Great, but there’s so much more they could be doing. Content marketing has an important role to play after the sale, nurturing customers.

What happens to customers when you grow?
Also in the news recently was this article in Fortune about the shutdown of Homejoy, a cleaning services marketplace startup. The article’s author, Ellen Huit, suggests that the company never figured out how to retain its customers. It kept spending on acquiring new customers, which made it look like a hot startup. But its retention rates hovered around 15-20 percent. The story illustrates the dangers of focusing exclusively on acquiring customers, without a model for keeping them over time. The risk is particularly acute for startups chasing fast growth.

After writing about this topic in the book Subscription Marketing, I’m continuing to hunt out examples of content marketing after the sale and sharing them with the members of the Subscription Marketing email group. Even if you’re not marketing a subscription-based solution, every marketer can learn something from successful subscription businesses.

If you have great examples or suggestions you’d like to share, let me know in the comments or by email. Thanks!

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  emilio labrador 

Summer Reading for Marketers

Reading has always been an important element of summer for me.

As a child, I remember checking out stacks of library books to bring to the family cabin for vacation. Reading was a family trait; our car carried more weight in books than other luggage. When attending summer camps, even though my time was scheduled, several lengthy books always came with me.

So I was particularly happy when Roger Parker included Subscription Marketing on this summertime reading list on the Content Marketing Institute blog.

Several of these books have now found a place in my summer reading plans, taking their place in the piles of physical and digital titles awaiting my attention. Summer is partway over, and the reading list awaits!

Look for reviews of several of these books here, in this blog, in the coming months.

Do you have other books you’d add to the list? Let me know if there’s something you’d like reviewed.

Thanks, and happy reading!

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