July 10, 2022

A good friend of mine sent me an article this week from The Wall Street Journal titled:

The 100% Recyclable Running Shoe That’s Only Available by Subscription

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 more details, you can read about this new sales model here.

But you don’t need to read about this particular example of a new kind of subscription to know that it is an indicator of ongoing trends, some old and some newer, that permeate all companies, products and industries involved in any kind of marketing.

And since marketing isn’t everything, it’s the only thing…and I know you agree with that phrase since you subscribe to this blog…I encourage you to pay attention. 🙂

Some of those trends include:

  • An aversion to owning “stuff,” whether due to storage/clutter issues or environmental concerns
  • Leasing over buying
  • Creating a “barrier to switch” from a particular brand, keeping customers longer, through whatever means necessary…and not differentiating with price alone
  • Always thinking about renewals and continuity (which may include 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 as a new way to buy (i.e., lease) shoe wear, it makes sense for all of 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 immediately.

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

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

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

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.

Although there still seems to be a ton of them 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? 🙂

However, 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…as long as 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.

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 of time and with less expense too.

More on that in a future post.

Creating a barrier to switch

This is a critical component of 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 create a relationship where leaving you creates a significant “pain of disconnect” for your customer, subscriber, member or student.

That is what 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. 🙂

Always thinking about renewals and continuity

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., AARP) were structured as a membership 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 probably 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

Note: One of the bonuses at www.OverdeliverBook.com is a full PDF version of Benson’s masterpiece…just sayin’.

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…if you can create an irresistible offer around a benefits package rather than one around a single product sale.

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 our Titans Xcelerator live call this past week 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 special.

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 last year which was 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 renewability with anything you sell…which encompasses everything I covered today.

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 over and over again…will keep you saner…and dare I say, more profitable.



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.

And while it’s currently closed, I can’t resist opening up seats for my online family today after experiencing that hot seat last week, knowing that so many of you are missing out on possibly the most meaningful way to grow yourself and your business.

Just take a look at this page and then email me.

You’ll see 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.

I’d love to have you join us. 

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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