Winning in the Subscription Economy
Head of Marketing
Last week, I joined the Zuora team and an audience of just over 1,000 at the Subscribed 2015 event at The Brewery in London. For those of you not in the know, Zuora is a subscription-based billing platform which was founded in 2007 by Tien Tzuo, ex-CMO at Salesforce. While founding the company, Tien also coined a new phrase in the industry, ‘The Subscription Economy’ and that’s what the Subscribed World Tour is all about.
A two-hour keynote filled my morning’s agenda and, as a Zuora customer, we were lucky enough to have a spot on the stage talking about our own experiences moving into the subscription economy. Listening to Zuora, Graze, The Economist and KCOM’s own Pete Tomlinson was inspiring and really got me thinking about how we should adapt our B2B model to really embrace the changes we’re seeing predominantly in the B2C market.
Consumerisation was my first key takeaway. Although we’re a B2B focused company, every business is today being led by what’s happening in the consumer world – the ability to consume products as, when and how you want them; the constant and immediate improvement of offerings without the need to pay for an updated service; purchases driven by outcomes and experiences – just because our customers are businesses doesn’t mean that they want anything different.
The next was relationship. Now obviously we’ve all known that good customer relationships are key to success, but the thinking at Subscribed takes this further. It moves customer relationships into a living, breathing thing – the idea that the customer and supplier are intrinsically linked and working together to ensure ongoing satisfaction. It moves the thinking into delivering outcomes rather than products and experiences rather than service. The customer relationships we all need to move to are those based on knowledge of what the customer wants, the commitment to deliver and the trust that the experience provided will be as expected.
My third ‘hit me in the head’ moment was disruption. Today is time to think and do differently; it’s time to reinvent how you think about your business. We all need to put what we know about our customers at our centre and build our propositions around that knowledge. Disruption is about not being afraid to try something new – challenge how we think internally, how we present ourselves externally. Change customer perception of our brand by doing the unexpected: surprising and delighting.
One of the guest speakers was Anthony Fletcher, CEO at Graze. For those of you who don’t know Graze they describe themselves as a snack box retailer, providing people with healthy snacks through the post and more recently in stores. But underneath the snacks it’s the technology and data that really sets them apart. Right from their inception Graze realised the importance of the customer and every graze experience is intrinsically linked to customer feedback; it’s the way the customer can be sure of getting snacks to their tastes. After all not everyone likes chilli chocolate mixed with cherries as much as me! Today, Graze receives over 15,000 customer ratings each hour and uses this data to create the snack combinations that will be most popular with its customers. From this data Graze can develop a new product in 24 hours, have it out to market soon after, surprise customers who like that ‘flavour’ of snack and continue to gain invaluable feedback to help them continue to evolve their products. Their relationship with their customers is living and breathing – they know their customers, they listen to them and then they give them what they want.
It won’t necessarily be easy to take this thinking and apply it to a 100 year old B2B technology business but try we must as without embracing this new direction we will get left behind by the new, hungry breed of businesses that are starting with the customer relationship at their centre.