HP laptop
HP laptop
Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

Talking with Anthony Napolitano of HP’s Instant Ink

Subscription commerce (physical products delivered on a recurring basis for a fixed price) is hard, and I’m surprised by how many entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs underestimate the challenges.

These “subscription box” and “subscribe & save” type businesses are even more complex than their pure-digital subscription counterparts (content, software, services). In addition to the usual challenges around balancing acquisition, engagement and retention, subscription commerce entrepreneurs have to deal with shipping, returns and inventory management, as well as the challenges of fixed pricing with variable costs.

Anthony Napolitano, VP and General Manager of HP’s Instant Ink Subscription Service is an expert on building, scaling and operationalizing a subscription commerce business. He also knows about how to build subscription capabilities inside a large and mostly episodic organization. I recently talked with Anthony about his role as an intrapreneur, and what it’s like to be the subscription guy in a transactional business. In this wide ranging interview, we cover running a physical subscription business, ensuring customers get full value from their subscriptions, and managing a business in times of change.

Caterpillar Tractor
Caterpillar Tractor
Source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/975680

Whether you’re a B2B manufacturer or a supplier to the industry, it’s time to rethink your entire relationship with your customers.

Companies like Dollar Shave Club and Birch Box let consumers enjoy cost savings, convenience and the fun discovery. And Peloton offers video subscriptions so purchasers of their indoor cycling bikes can get more out of their fitness regimen.

Now, B2B manufacturing and the companies who supply the manufacturers are starting to get on the act. The implications are huge. Think of the potential if manufacturers were ‘members’ who could subscribe to a factory line instead of owning it outright. …

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Alex Loup on Unsplash

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the role of “Free” in a business model, and particularly about the idea that “Freemium is Dead”. In fact, I was inspired to write this article by Ron Baker and Ed Kless, the hosts of The Soul of Enterprise (an excellent podcast). When they had me as a guest on their show, they asked me about whether freemium is still a useful element of a subscription model strategy.

Let the record show that Freemium is very much alive.

The problem is that too many organizations are not using freemium correctly. You should only give something away if it helps you achieve your business or mission objectives. …

closeup of a tv remote control in front of a screen
closeup of a tv remote control in front of a screen
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The past year has been wild and woolly for the streaming video world (also known as OTT for Over the Top — a reference to content that doesn’t go through the cable intermediaries).

Every organization that has video content is trying to figure out how to build a direct subscription relationship with their customers. If you’re Amazon, Netflix, Apple or Disney, or even an educational player like LinkedIn Learning or Coursera, you can play a volume game, with enough content to provide something for everyone. But what if you’re a niche player, with specialty content?

I recently interviewed Piper Rosenshein, VP Subscription Video Services at A+E Networks, who shared her tips for creating a customer-centric approach and a lasting digital subscription model. We discussed how to operationalize a digital subscription businesses, how to minimize cannibalization in a business that already has a successful model, and how to manage a recurring revenue business in a time of change.

fence and beach
fence and beach
Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

An Interview with Peak Prosperity’s Adam Taggart

You don’t need a big team or a big budget to build a Forever Transaction.

Any organization can focus on solving a customer’s ongoing problem or helping that customer achieve an ongoing goal. It’s that Forever Promise that justified that recurring revenue that every organization craves.

In fact, it might be easier than over-focusing on a particular product or process.

I first met Adam Taggart when his daughter was in my Menlo Park, CA Girl Scout Troop. I bet there are lots of other Troop Leaders and Lifetime Scouts out there.

Anyway, several years ago, Adam and his family moved to a rural property in Sonoma County for a less stressful life. Adam left his job in product management for the life of a small business owner, partnering with Chris Mortensen to build Peak Prosperity, a digital community with the following statement of purpose: Massive change is underway in our economy, energy and environment. We connect the dots as events unfold, offering valuable insights on how to protect and grow both wealth and quality of life.

A Conversation with ThriveGlobal CPO Jennifer Mazzon

When a content organization, that offers “products” like news, music, video or learning courses, transitions to subscription pricing, many other changes are required as well. One of the most challenging parts of the transformation is starting to think about the product as the full experience across the entire customer journey — not just the content.

Having the right person running the product team is critical.

Jen Mazzon has played this role in multiple organizations. She has run several subscription product teams over her career, including for Coursera for Business, Education.com, and the original Google Docs team. Now she is running products for Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington’s company. …

Robbie Kellman Baxter
Robbie Kellman Baxter

The time leading up to American Thanksgiving is often especially busy, with a combination of major conferences, ambitious sales goals and, of course, planning for the upcoming year before people check out (physically and/or mentally) for the holiday season.

You’ve probably spent some time already thinking about your goals for next year, and what you are committing to your board and stakeholders.

A key ritual of setting the year up for success for many organizations is the Sales Kick Off (SKO).

But this year’s event is likely going to look a little different.

I was inspired by my friend and colleague David Meerman Scott, co-author of Standout Virtual Events to rethink the SKO. David provides some excellent tips for running a quality virtual event, including the right equipment, how to prep a speaker, and how to think about the whole program as part of a whole. …

woman in a swimming pool beside the sea
woman in a swimming pool beside the sea
Photo by Athena Kavis on Unsplash

A Conversation with Inspirato’s Brad Handler

“Life is too short to play vacation roulette”. Brad Handler and his brother Brent are vacation entrepreneurs who incorporate membership and subscription into their luxury travel service, Inspirato. This past spring, just before the global pandemic transformed the travel work, I spoke with Brad about the importance of “celebrating failure” when innovating, how a strategic approach to real estate and data give Inspirato a unique advantage, and the power of a “people-as-a-service” structure to create strong member relationships.

The following interview is adapted from my podcast, Subscription Stories: True Tales from the Trenches.

Robbie Baxter: I’m so glad to have you. I wanted to start by asking you to walk us through your travel journey from the beginning of Inspirato until today. …

The Membership Economy, Part 2

paying with a credit card
paying with a credit card
Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

People are always asking me “What’s next for subscriptions?” It’s hard to answer, because in this increasingly crowded space, everyone seems to have a subscription offering, and each one is a little different.

However, the one challenge all organizations seem to be facing is how to build a subscription in an interconnected world.

Subscriptions, First Generation: Subscription as Point Solution

When I was growing up, subscriptions were fixed and inflexible. The subscription offering was the same for all subscribers, as was the way it was priced and how it was accessed. Your subscription to your newspaper meant that you got the same newspaper everyone else got, delivered to your home on a regular schedule. …

Photo by Ronit Shaked on Unsplash

Joanna Strober has reimagined the youth weight loss industry through her wellness program, Kurbo. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Joanna about the role of a human coach in a digital program, how to communicate with both parents and kids, and instilling habits in customers for the long term. If you’re trying to build engagement in your app, you’ll find lots of great tips in this conversation

The following interview is adapted from my podcast, Subscription Stories: True Tales from the Trenches.

Robbie Baxter: I wanted to start by just giving you a chance to talk a little bit about what Kurbo is and why you found it. …


Robbie K Baxter

Author of THE FOREVER TRANSACTION & THE MEMBERSHIP ECONOMY; Leading expert on membership models and subscription pricing. http://www.robbiekellmanbaxter.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store