Ever since my new book, The Forever Transaction, was released in spring of this year, I have been getting asked “what else to read”.
I’m happy to say that there are now so many great books about building a membership-mindset, using subscription pricing, ensuring customers are successful and customer-centricity than ever before. There are also wonderful guides to corporate transformation and disruption-proofing your organization–muscles needed for anyone who is trying to build a valuable firm.
I am a compulsive reader and a compulsive book buyer. Everyone on my list gets at least one book, and I usually end up throwing in a few for myself as a reward for all of my shopping efforts.
Here’s what I recommend for the subscription practitioners in your life. I wanted to share some of the best new books, but I couldn’t resist the classics as well.
Best of 2020 for Subscription Practitioners
The Ends Game: How Smart Companies Stop Selling Products and Start Delivering Value by Marco Bertini and Oded Koenigsberg
A subscription is a pricing tactic, and not a strategy. The reason customers like subscriptions (when they do, which is not always) is because the subscription better aligns the the price with outcome, rather than just defaulting to “ownership” as a desirable benefit.
Bertini and Koenigsberg encourage new ways of pricing for value, including but not limited to subscriptions, with loads of examples.
The IPO Playbook: An Insider’s Perspective on Taking Your Company Public and How to Do It Right by Steve Cakebread
One of the top reasons that executives and owners love subscription models is because subscription revenue is valued more highly than other types of more episodic revenue. In other words, if your company has subscription revenue, you can sell the company for more money than if your revenue is not recurring.
Steve Cakebread might know more about selling subscription-based businesses than anyone, having shepherded companies like Salesforce, Pandora and Bill.com through the IPO process. In this book, he explains what makes these organizations so valuable, and how to build the systems and processes that create that value.
I’ve already confirmed Steve as a guest on season 2 of Subscription Stories: True Tales from the Trenches, my new podcast series.
Customer-Centricity by Peter Fader
While a credible Forever Promise can earn an organization the right to sell using subscriptions, they don’t have to offer subscriptions. In other words, just by aligning your goals to the goals of your customer, you’re likely to increase the value of each customer–a metric known as Customer Lifetime Value or CLV. To do this, you need to be customer-centric.
Wharton’s Professor Fader breaks down the components of customer-centricity in his book, and then ties the value of each customer’s increased engagement and loyalty to the value of the business, bringing a new level of rigor to marketing.
Many traditional businesses that want to move to a membership mindset and enjoy subscription revenue first need to build digital capabilities. We have seen this play out in the media world, where many organizations have simultaneously “gone digital” and moved away from a dependence on either pay-by-the-title or advertising-driven revenue.
Kueng is an expert on publishing and media innovation, currently a senior research fellow at the Reuters Institute for Journalism at Oxford. Her new book focuses has an emphasis on the cultural challenges of a digital-first approach.
While setting up the new KPIs and business processes can be tricky, the hardest thing about transformation is cultural. Kueng’s book digs into the specifics with great examples from the media world, but her advice is relevant to anyone doing the difficult work of transformation.
Retention Strategies for Publishers by Julian Thorne
When I first got into the world of subscriptions, I was shocked by how uninterested executives were about retention as a key metric. Most organizations were focused on the topline quarterly revenue numbers and “new customer/new logo” metrics. It baffled me because I could see how a small improvement in retention had such a big impact on both revenue and profitability. Plus, retention was easier to improve than acquisition.
Thorne digs into this metric, and how organizations can optimize across all business processes to optimize for engagement, loyalty and retention.
Oldies but Goodies
These books were published prior to 2020, and are great additions to your subscription library. I quoted most of these authors in The Forever Transaction, if not in my first book, The Membership Economy.
Subscription Marketing by Anne Janzer
The Disruption Mindset by Charlene Li
Customer Success by Nick Mehta, Dan Steinman and Lincoln Murphy
From Impossible to Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin
Retention Point by Robert Skrob
Subscribed by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert
The Automatic Customer by John Warrillow
Now’s a Great Time to Read… and to Shop!
Buy them for your team, buy them for your friends, buy them for yourself. These well-written and researched books will be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in business inspiration and best practices!
And let me know what other books you’d add to this list.