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, ...more

Latest Episodes


November 30, 2022 00:35:37
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Product-Led Growth for Subscriptions, Using Examples from Medium, LinkedIn and The Athletic with Caitlin Roman

Everyone’s talking about “product-led growth” in the subscription world right now. Companies are seeing the connection between the way the product is designed and how effective the company is at acquiring, engaging and retaining customers—and even driving referrals. To do product-led growth well, product managers need to think like business leaders, as well as thinking like product builders. It isn’t easy and not everyone has the right skills. My guest today, Caitlin Roman, has led product teams at three great subscription-first organizations, LinkedIn, Medium and most recently The Athletic, which was acquired in January of 2022 by the New York Times, for about $550Million. I’m excited to talk to her, because she has developed pattern recognition about what it takes to build great products that actually help grow the business. In today’s conversation, Caitlin and I talk about best practices learned at LinkedIn, Medium and The Athletic, the skills needed to drive product-led growth, and how to partner with data analytics teams to make better, faster decisions. Excerpt: "If you have real value behind your content, you can confidently charge for it." Caitlin Roman has led product teams at LinkedIn, Medium, and most recently, The Athletic. She sits down with Robbie to share the best practices she has learned working in these companies, putting product development into the spotlight to generate tangible business growth. She also talks about building an effective product team that can work alongside the data analytics team to make better and quicker decisions.  Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! Here’s How » Join the Subscription Stories Community today: Twitter Facebook Robbie's Instagram Profile ...



November 16, 2022 00:35:45
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Scaling a Telehealth Pet Subscription, by Starting in Person. With Zubin Bhettay, CEO of Fuzzy

Sometimes the best way to launch a digital subscription is to launch a physical subscription. Even if you plan to scale with a virtual business model, you can learn so much more about your customer, value proposition and messaging by starting the old fashioned way—in person. That’s the approach Zubin Bhettay used in launching Fuzzy. Today, Fuzzy’s Pet Parents get round the clock access to exceptional virtual veterinary care, as well as wellness products for their pets' health needs. But when Zubin and his cofounder launched the company in 2016, they recruited and served their Pet Parents in person. Starting slow allowed Fuzzy to “crack the Product Market Fit code” and scale rapidly, raising over $80 million in the process. Full disclosure—I’ve been involved with Fuzzy since the beginning, and think Fuzzy is one of the most thoughtful Membership Economy organizations I have ever worked with. In this conversation, Zubin and I reflect on Fuzzy’s humble beginnings in San Francisco dog parks and Pet Parent living rooms, explore the path to profitability, and discuss the right metrics at each stage. Excerpt: "We wanted to be the guide and partner of pet parents through every stage of their pet's life. We wanted to ensure that was available to every pet parent and not just a luxury service only available to the select few." Zubin Bhettay is the CEO and Co-Founder of Fuzzy, a telehealth subscription service offering virtual veterinary care. In this episode, he shares how their in-person company evolved into a digital platform, expanding their reach and saving a lot of pets in the process. Zubin explains the business scaling process they followed to fully embrace the digital scene and how to decide if a subscription ...



November 02, 2022 00:39:38
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Emerging Best Practices in Personalization with CEO Trevor Kaufman

We can learn a lot from subscription businesses that experiment with different revenue models and personalization. Organizations with too many offers risk overcomplicating things with competing goals. I’m talking about companies with multiple revenue streams—different promotions, pricing options and tiers and/or a combination of subscription, one-off transactions, and advertising. But increasingly we’re seeing examples of organizations incorporating multiple revenue streams successfully—for example, in news, fitness, streaming media and ecommerce.   Today’s guest, Trevor Kaufman, is an expert on subscriptions, personalization and digital experience. He is the CEO of Piano, a digital experience platform that helps organizations launch products and programs faster, strengthen customer relationships and drive personalization at scale. Piano recently released their annual Subscription Performance Benchmark Report. It’s full of valuable insights gleaned from their customers, and relevant across many types of subscription models. In our conversation, we talk about the emerging best practices in subscription pricing, the role of freemium and whether there’s a place for ads in the world of subscriptions. Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! Here’s How » Join the Subscription Stories Community today: Twitter Facebook ...



October 26, 2022 00:43:21
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Maximizing Customer Lifetime Value in Volatile Times with Paul Larsen of Optimized Payments

The single biggest source of churn might surprise you. It’s not a communications issue, or a product/market fit issue, or even an onboarding problem. The biggest driver of churn in most consumer subscriptions is what’s known as passive or involuntary churn. Involuntary churn is when a customer is canceled due to a payment issue or other technical problem. According to ProfitWell CEO Patrick Campbell, a recent guest on Subscription Stories, involuntary churn makes up 20-40% of overall churn.  Many organizations don’t even track passive churn, and that’s a mistake, because there are ways to manage. Today’s guest, Paul Larsen of Optimized Payments, is one of the leading experts on “card not present” payments, and works with many of the largest subscription businesses in the world on churn management. He launched his career at Reader’s Digest, one of the earliest and largest subscription publications in the world. When Paul started, churn management focused on getting people to renew their subscription by mailing in a check. Since then, he has been deep in the world of credit cards, debit cards and alternate payments, helping subscription merchants reduce costs and increase customer retention. In our conversation, we talk about why so many good subscribers end up in the dreaded “do not honor” bucket, who should own passive churn in the organization, and how to bring together the right team to manage involuntary churn.  Excerpt: Subscriptions are great. We love them, but there's promise and peril associated with them at all times. We are joined by Paul Larsen of Optimized Payments, one of the leading experts on "card not present" payments. He shares his vast knowledge about working with the largest subscription businesses on churn management as he discusses the reasons behind the dreaded "do ...



October 05, 2022 00:35:21
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Building an Educational Subscription at Scale with LinkedIn Learning’s Jill Raines

You’re probably all familiar with LinkedIn Learning, formerly known as It’s LinkedIn’s professional development platform. They offer more than 18,000 video courses available via subscription. There’s a huge range of educational topics covered—from how to use Adobe Aftereffects, to how to have difficult conversations, to the fundamentals of customer success . Consumers can subscribe to LinkedIn Learning on their own, or access the platform through an enterprise license. My guest today, Jill Raines, is Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, where she leads the LinkedIn Learning Business. I first got to know her when I was developing my own LinkedIn Learning courses for the platform. I was interested in the business model for the platform. I have learned so much through my discussions with Jill. It’s fascinating to get her perspective on the unique challenges and opportunities facing the world’s largest professional development and educational platform, In this conversation, Jill and I discuss the LinkedIn ecosystem, and LinkedIn's Forever Promise more generally, before diving into the role of LinkedIn Learning within that ecosystem. We also talk about the specific challenges of professional development subscriptions, how to balance the needs of consumers with the needs of enterprise customers, and whether to offer both pay per course and subscriptions as pricing options.   Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! Here’s How » Join the Subscription Stories Community today: Twitter Facebook ...



September 21, 2022 00:46:17
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How Employee Experience and Customer Experience Drive Corporate Growth with Salesforce's Tiffani Bova

We’ve spoken before on the show about the importance of Customer Experience in driving growth, with guests like Wharton’s Peter Fader, Gainsight’s Nick Mehta and Bain & Company’s Stu Berman. But today’s guest says you need to think beyond the customer. If you really want to accelerate growth, you need to focus on the employee experience.  Tiffani Bova is the global growth evangelist at Salesforce. She’s also the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book GROWTH IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business. Tiffani has been named to the latest Thinkers50’s list of the world’s top management thinkers and is a welcomed guest on Bloomberg, CNN, Cheddar, MSNBC, and Yahoo Finance, among others. In our conversation, we talk about whether your Growth IQ is something you’re born with or something you build, the ten paths to growth, and how Software-as-a-Service has changed what it takes to thrive in Sales. Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! Here’s How » Join the Subscription Stories Community today: Twitter Facebook ...