May 24, 2024

Have you ever heard of a “forever sneaker?”

I don’t know about you, but my sneakers age by the month…rarely last a year…so when I was sent an article from a friend a couple of years ago from The Wall Street Journal titled, “The 100% Recyclable Running Shoe That’s Only Available by Subscription,” I was intrigued.

A Swiss sportswear brand, On, designed a shoe that can be ground up to make another shoe—so long as runners send their old pairs back and they are willing to “lease” their sneakers (for $29.99 a month for an endless supply) rather than buying them outright.

If you are interested in reading the article, you can do that here.

Two years is a very long time so I won’t assume that this “model” has since been replaced by AI or a track-and-field bot…but I’m still intrigued.

You don’t need to read about this example of a new kind of subscription to know that it is an indicator of ongoing trends.

Some that have been in existence for a long time (a perpetual trend?) and some newer (and still sacred), that permeate all companies, products and industries involved in any kind of marketing.

Some of those trends include:

  • An aversion to owning “stuff,” whether due to storage/clutter issues or environmental concerns. Or realizing that you can’t take the stuff with you. 🙂
  • Leasing over buying
  • Creating a “barrier to switch” from a particular brand, keeping customers longer, through whatever means necessary…by turning transactions into relationships…and not differentiating on price alone.
  • Keep renewals and continuity top of mind always (which includes up-sells and cross-sells) to increase the lifetime value of every customer.

While I admit that a recyclable sneaker subscription wouldn’t immediately be top of mind (for me) as a new way to buy (i.e., lease) shoe wear, it makes sense for all the reasons above (assuming the company has researched whether there is desire in the marketplace).

And if they haven’t, I need to get them a copy of Breakthrough Advertising pronto.

This idea is either pure genius…or it’s not…and if it’s not we can quote one of the sharks on Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary:

“Maybe you should take this idea out behind the barn and shoot it.”

Or just burn your old sneakers.

But wherever it is on the “good idea scale,” it is rooted in core principles of marketing–how people behave in the marketplace–that should never be ignored.

Consider this post my attempt to spotlight and remind you of these core principles.

Less stuff

The digital revolution has helped with this immensely (understatement).

When I think about it in terms of marketing content, I can’t help but think about the insurance commercial where customers are “becoming their parents” and one guy is told that he “doesn’t need to print the Internet.”

Digital content has been a game changer for marketers…to the chagrin of companies who sell storage lockers, file cabinets and bookshelves.

Although there still seems to be a ton of those things around so people still have more than enough furniture, clothes, etc.– in addition to non-digital content, especially books—that they can’t part with…or give away to charity…or send to landfill.

And could it be that more people are also secretly printing the Internet?

Regardless, I need to give one immense caveat to a full embrace of digital content:

There is still a time and a place for “physical marketing stuff” (i.e., physical products, books, print newsletters) …because tactile items can create higher lifetime and perceived value…if touching something makes it more usable, useful, or congruent in regard to your offering…and especially when a digital alternative is inferior.

In short, creating “stuff” is not the same thing as creating “junk.”

And not everything needs to be digital.

Leasing over buying

The kissing cousin of “less stuff.”

Leasing relieves you of the burden of thinking about the things you buy when their usefulness is complete…where to trash or recycle or sell…or give away to someone else to collect dust in their storage unit.

Of course, when you buy a car in 2008, rack up 190,000 miles on it, with few issues over the past 16 years, all I can say about my non-leased car is:

“It’s paid for.”

As it pertains to marketing, leasing your knowledge rather than just selling it as a one shot may give you additional opportunities for your students to renew with you more efficiently, for a longer period, and with less expense too.

More on that in a minute.

Creating a barrier to switch

This is a crucial element for all marketing efforts…and it can be done with digital or physical content…and I maintain that incorporating this premise into your marketing is the ultimate “leasing agreement” …which includes continuous onboarding and improvement…and adding on to the benefits and service that your customer can’t get anywhere else.

Best practice is to build a bonding relationship where leaving you creates a significant “pain of disconnect” for your customer, subscriber, member, or student.

The power of that bond is the insurance policy that creates their barrier to switch to someone else…or to simply leave you.

I discuss this in detail in my book Overdeliver with specific examples…in the chapter on “Customer Service and Fulfillment” …which as you know if you’ve been part of my online family for any length of time, customer service and fulfillment are marketing functions.

If you don’t have a copy, buy it here and you will receive thousands of dollars’ worth of free bonuses that will make you never want to leave me.

At least that’s the plan. 🙂

Renewals and continuity always being top of mind

I started this post today talking about “subscriptions” …and when you level up a subscription to a “membership” you are on your way to multiplying your impact, reach and earning capacity.

And while you may think this is a semantic distinction, it’s not.

I learned this valuable distinction early in my career when I saw many of the largest subscription publications (in terms of circulation) that have ever existed (e.g., Modern Maturity) were structured as a membership (e.g., AARP) where the publication (magazine) was one of many benefits of membership.

Everything you do in marketing becomes elevated when subscribers see themselves as members of a select cohort rather than just being a random group of buyers or readers.

I know you know this already and it seems obvious…because it is…but consider this a reminder that humans usually prefer to belong to something special and bigger than themselves.

Dick Benson, in his landmark book, Secrets of Successful Direct Mail, written pre-Internet, has as #6 of his “Benson’s Rules of Thumb”:

Memberships renew better than plain subscriptions by 10% or more

This was true in ancient times (1980?) …and I know that 10% isn’t even close to the lift in renewal rates of memberships over subscriptions (and one-shot product offers) today.

Note: One of the bonuses at OverdeliverBook.com for buying my book is a full PDF version of Benson’s out-of-print masterpiece…and it’s not just about direct mail…and it also justifies Chapter 3 of my book when I spell out in detail how paying postage made me a better digital marketer.

While Benson is talking about a lift in renewals here, the inference is that positioning a subscription offer as a membership offer to new customers lifts response by 10% or more too…inflated in today’s marketing environment…if you can create an irresistible offer around a benefits package rather than one around a single product sale.

Yes, you can call it “stacking”…but stacking with intention.

Another way I would expand his rule of thumb in today’s super-competitive marketing environment would be to emphasize that if you are not creating subscriptions or memberships out of everything you are currently doing–or at least thinking about some kind of continuity offer–you are missing out on spreading your wisdom to more people for longer periods of time.

Case in point: On a recent Titans Xcelerator live call, we had a copywriter/marketer/coach doing a hot seat…and rather than looking at simply creating a course, book or short-term program, he started with “how can I turn my knowledge and resources into a membership.”

That is the right question to be asking first and foremost…and he received useful guidance and actionable ideas to make that a reality…from many folks who have already done it successfully.

He is well on his way to creating something very “sticky” and special, with built-in lifetime value.

See the P.S. on how you can have an experience like this too.

And whether you are selling a subscription or a membership (or a hybrid), your up-front marketing must always begin with the end in mind.

Or…at least it should begin with the second subscription or renewal of the membership in mind.

I wrote a post three years ago titled, “Selling a billion dollars’ worth of business…$39 at a time,” and if you missed that one, I encourage you to read it by clicking here.

It outlines one of the biggest regrets of my career…but through that experience, I learned the eternal truth of creating a renewal with anything you sell…which encompasses everything I covered today…and everything I do, teach and sell in my business.

Whether you’ve got an ascension program, a descension program, or anything in-between, keeping these fundamental principles of creating subscriptions and memberships top of mind… instead of thinking about your next one-off product which you need to continuously resell repeatedly…will keep you saner…and dare I say, more profitable.

Not to mention creating less non-useful stuff, leasing over buying when appropriate and creating a barrier to switch.

That’s a prescription to run forever, with or without recycled sneakers. 🙂



P.S. Titans Xcelerator is such a special mastermind…it’s virtual, an immense value (i.e., it’s so inexpensive in relation to what you receive as a member) …and it’s the ultimate place to contribute your genius to a group of marketing geniuses…while they contribute to you.

All in the spirit of everyone getting smarter without anyone being the smartest person on the Zoom screen. 🙂

You can read about it here.

You’ll see on this page members talking about the transformation they have experienced…and that they have finally found a family of marketers, copywriters and entrepreneurs who they have all pronounced as their tribe.

A sounding board and feedback loops for all their best ideas…and their worst (which looked much better before running it through the Titans Xcelerator brain trust).

In short, it’s over 30 live, interactive calls a year with the best-of-the-best copywriters and marketers in the world…complete with hot seats, guest speakers from all areas of direct response marketing…plus breakout rooms to meet fellow Titans…a lively and helpful private Facebook Group…a portal of the call recordings…in addition to selected content…and a spirit of everyone contributing first to connect deeply.

Not to mention a de facto Board of Advisors and a marketing insurance policy.

I’d love to have you join us.

Click here.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Title Goes Here

Get this Free E-Book

Use this bottom section to nudge your visitors.