There’s so much content out there about building, optimizing and scaling subscriptions for technology companies. But what about other types of businesses?
We went searching for the best books that explore the immense potential of subscription business models beyond software and technology. We found a few gems that transformed our thinking and will be a powerful resource for anyone thinking about launching a subscription or membership model.
by Robbie Kellman Baxter
If you're looking for somewhere to start, it should be The Membership Economy. Robbie Kellman Baxter's book offers an excellent foundation and argument for the power of membership models. The book was first published in 2015, but many of the concepts are as fresh as they were 7 years ago and very thought provoking. Robbie does a wonderful job framing the differences between subscription and membership, the role of community and psychology of belonging. There’s a lot to unpack, so if you’re at the very start of your subscription journey, grab a copy of the Membership Economy.
by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore
Published in 1999 and updated in 2011, The Experience Economy is a classic. It’s not explicitly about subscriptions or memberships, but offers a powerful way to think about how the economy and consumer behavior is changing in ways that tie in perfectly with subscriptions.
The core thesis is that consumers increasingly expect experiences, rather than goods or services. In fact, experiences are a different kind of good altogether, one that businesses of all kinds should think deeply about. If you want to get a flavor for The Experience Economy, read Joseph Pine and James Gilmore’s 1998 HBR article “[Welcome to the Experience Economy](https://hbr.org/1998/07/welcome-to-the-experience-economy)” that proceeded the publication of their book.
by John Warrillow
This is the first book we read about subscriptions and ways that the model can be applied beyond software and technology. The Automatic Customer offers a fantastic overview of the transformational potential of subscriptions and is packed with examples and case studies. What we really love about John’s book is that he breaks down 9 different types of subscription models that businesses can consider implementing. The book has a great balance of explaining foundational concepts that make the value of subscriptions easy to understand and offering accessible blueprints for implementing a subscription in your business. The final third of the book goes deep on the financial impact of subscriptions, metrics to focus, and mindset shift that occurs as you optimize your business for customer lifetime value.
by Robbie Kellman Baxter
Robbie Kellman Baxter kicked off our list with The Membership Economy and closes it with The Forever Transaction. If you want to get hands on with subscriptions right away, this is the book for you. Robbie offers a blueprint for thinking about and rolling out a subscription model with clear, actionable advice. This is probably the most balanced book on subscriptions that we’ve read, offering both a powerful case for the transformational potential of subscriptions and a clear blueprint for taking action. The blueprint sometimes skews towards larger organizations, but there's plenty for scrappy entrepreneurs to sink their teeth into.
Robbie’s concept of a “forever promise” is incredibly powerful way to think about the impact your business can make with subscriptions. Put simply — what pain-point or result can your business help customers achieve, forever? When you answer that question honestly you’re staring at the foundation of what your subscription program should be built around.
There are always too many books to get to, but here are a few we’re really looking forward to reading. We’ll be sure to come back and break down some of the key insights soon.
- The Subscription Boom by Adam Levinter
- The Business of Belonging by David Spinks
- Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn by Anne Janzer