Audio Content Consumption 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 podcast listeners a month in 2014 to 46 million monthly 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.

As an Audible customers, you can purchase books outright or you can become a subscriber. As a subscriber, you access one or two books per month (plus a free book to get you started.) If you want to listen to more than your allotted amount,  you can purchase the additional books at a discount.

Your 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 audio book service.

Do You Want Written Words With That?

The problem with listening to a book – and particularly a nonfiction book – is that you may not remember the important points you want to take away. Taking notes isn’t practical  when driving or at the gym.

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

  • A document 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 signs you up for my very low-volume email list. (Honestly, I send something new around 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:


Using Customer Data: Don’t Be Creepy


Businesses have all kinds of data about customers. You can use that data in ways that demonstrate value to your customers, or that erode customer trust or creep people out. You decide.

As a previous blog described, campaigns that use customer data can help you reinforce the customer’s perception or realization of solution value.

But it’s a small step from personalizing messages to stalking the customer. To see how this can go wrong, let’s look at a few missteps.

Uber and the Ride of Glory

For all of Uber’s rapid success, it’s made a few mistakes along the way, including the company’s “Ride of Glory” blog that used customer data to analyze apparent casual hookups among its riders. I’d point you to the blog itself, but the company has wisely taken it down.

Uber’s data analysts defined the behaviors that demonstrated a casual hookup: someone catching a ride after 10pm on a Friday or Saturday, then picking up a second ride near the previous drop-off point between four and six hours later.

They then examined this behavior by city, by gender, and by date, and posted the results on its blog. Data analysts, no doubt, found it fascinating. Some Uber subscribers were less thrilled.

The blog was disconcerting for people who didn’t think about the fact that the company could profile personal behavior using the service. The company has since taken down the blog, but it dented the trust that is so essential for the service.

Shutterfly and the Awkward Congratulations

You know that awkward moment when you ask someone when the baby is due and they tell you they’re not pregnant? Shutterfly had a similar problem at scale when it congratulated a large number of customers on becoming parents.

(See the article on Slate.)

This campaign had two major problems:

First, Shutterfly meant to send the announcement only to customers who had recently ordered birth announcements. Instead, it accidentally sent the email to a larger list. That was a human failure. People who had no children, recent or otherwise, got the announcement. Some found it humorous, others not.

Second, pregnancy and childbirth are personal, emotional subjects. One misplaced email can strike a sour note with recipients. Using customer data to automatically interact with customers on sensitive subjects is risky. The data itself isn’t infallible, and one misstep can cost you a loyal customer for life.

Handle With Care

What can we learn from these examples, and how can you avoid similar problems when using data to nurture customer value?

  1. Examine your motives. Are you genuinely trying to demonstrate value to your customers? Or are you looking for broader industry recognition (perhaps the case with Uber) or trying to sell something (the Shutterfly example)? If your motives are entirely self-serving, customers will see through them and lose trust.
  1. Avoid anything related to sex or pregnancy data. It’s hard to imagine how sharing any data about customers’ sexual lives could go well, even if you try to anonymize the data. In fact, unless you’re in the healthcare business and following HIPAA privacy regulations, avoid sharing customer data related to healthcare.

In the subscription economy, the customer relationship is built on trust. Violate that trust at your own peril.

(Image by WinterSixFour on MorgueFile)

The Customer Retention Marketing Opportunity

It’s time for marketers to give customer retention a little love.

According to the State of B2B Product Marketing 2015 report by Regalix Research, customer retention marketing comes in dead last in the list of B2B marketing activities. Only about one in four B2B marketers plan for customer retention.

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Optimists like myself see this situation as a tremendous opportunity. Getting serious about customer retention marketing gives you the chance to jump ahead of your competitors and earn lasting loyalty from customers.

If customer retention marketing interests you, I’d invite you to join me in a webinar on May 13th titled Creative Approaches to Customer Retention Marketing. You can register for it here.

This will be the first in a series of webinars hosted by Totango with the speakers from its recent Customer Success Summit.

And if you have any creative customer retention strategies to share with me ahead of the webinar, get in touch. I’m always looking for more inspiring examples.

An Insider’s Guide to the Membership Economy (Book Review)

Question of the day: Are memberships one variation of the Subscription Economy (as suggested in John Warrillow’s The Automatic Customer, which I reviewed here)? Or are we really experiencing the growth of a Membership Economy, for which subscriptions are merely one revenue model?

Which is a subset of which? Or does the reality look something like this instead?

Membership venn

The question arises after reading Robbie Kellman Baxter’s book The Membership Economy. The book takes the position that subscriptions are one revenue model within the broader Membership Economy.

The terms Membership Economy and Subscription Economy are different filters into the same set of trends and businesses. When you’re looking at these trends from a revenue perspective, you’re likely to think about subscriptions. If you focus on human behavior, as this book does, membership is a more interesting angle.

Here’s a quote from this discussion in the book:

“What makes a membership organization is the attitude of the organization and the feelings of its members—not whether members subscribe. Companies’ failure to see themselves as part of this bigger trend can limit their potential to build relationships and strengthen their models.” (Robbie Kellman Baxter, The Membership Economy.)

My own book (Subscription Marketing) speaks of the Subscription Economy, but I love the emphasis on human relationships that is inherent in the term Membership Economy.

Enough about terminology, let’s get to the book.

Membership cover

In The Membership Economy, Robbie shares her insider’s perspective into the challenges and opportunities of building a membership-based business. After the necessary discussion of terminology and trends, she dives into seven key strategies and tactics for membership businesses, including onboarding, pricing and technology. I’m particularly interested in the customer retention strategies. I love that in addition to retention, she stresses the importance of letting customers go gracefully.

The third section of the book digs deeper into different types of subscription companies (online communities, online subscriptions, loyalty programs, etc.), with case studies of each. The fourth section offers guidance on making the transition to one of these models within your own business.

The book is well written and engaging, with interesting stories and examples. If you’re considering making a transition and want a thoughtful discussion on topics such as the uses of freemium or risks of different pricing models, this is a terrific resource.

If there’s a fan club for Robbie Kellman Baxter, I’ll be a member.

And if you’re interested in this topic, sign up for my monthly newsletter, exploring the subject of marketing for businesses with recurring customers.

Why Customer Success is Marketing’s New Best Friend (or Should Be)


Marketing and Customer Success are like two people in a canoe. Ideally, you’re both trying to get to the same place (a successful business with happy customers). The trip is much easier when you work together well. And in choppy waters, you need to communicate or you’ll end up off course or capsized.

Many businesses are building teams dedicated to the “customer success” function. Searching for Customer Success jobs on Glassdoor today delivers more than half a million results.

If you’re in marketing, take a break from making infographics and plotting lead generation campaigns to search out people in the Customer Success role. They may be your new best friends.

What’s In It for Marketers

A successful customer is worth a hundred mediocre leads or a thousand “Likes” on social media.

  • Successful customers give your business social proof – creating credibility that originates outside of the marketing organization.
  • They refer friends and colleagues to your business, doing your lead generation and lead nurturing work for you.
  • Have a new product or feature? Successful customers are a ready-made market for your next new thing.
  • By engaging with successful customers, you can learn more about the market needs and concerns, ultimately creating more effective messages and products.

And if your business uses a subscription model, your current customers account for a large and growing percentage of revenues. It only makes sense to invest marketing efforts with existing customers. And guess who’s engaging with those customers: customer success teams.

The benefits of collaboration flow both ways. Marketing messages set the expectations for the customer experience. Customer success teams that collaborate with marketing can make their own jobs easier by making sure new customers set off on the right path.

Finding Ways to Work Together

Organizational and cultural barriers may get in the way of collaboration across teams. Start with one or two well-defined projects to explore collaboration and prove its benefits. Here are a few ideas:

Audit the new customer experience together: Marketing and Customer Success teams can sit down together and walk through the new customer onboarding process. Exactly what does the customer see when signing up, or when they first use the service or buy the product? Does the experience match the implicit marketing promise? Look for any mismatches between expectations and experience and find ways to address them.

Create a launch campaign: Work together to identify and plot the first steps of successful customers, then create a customer launch campaign to support those steps. The launch plan might be a simple series of drip emails or a game with clear objectives.

Answer common questions: Customer Success teams should share frequent customer issues and questions with marketing teams and look for ways to solve them. If issues cannot be fixed in the product, marketing teams can develop videos or other materials to help the customers get started.

The ZipCar “How to Zip” videos are a great example of showing people how to use a service in a fun and quick way. Are they training? Are they marketing? Yes.

You can find more strategies for nurturing current customers in my book Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn. And if you’re interested in this topic, sign up for my monthly newsletter exploring the subject of marketing for businesses with recurring customers.

Image by Matthew Clark on