Reporting in from sunny San Francisco, where we just wrapped our participation at Zuora Subscribed, self-described as “The only conference dedicated to the future of the subscription business.” In the city where so many start-ups have started up (think Lyft, Stitch Fix, Airbnb), it was easy to feel the palpable energy from the several thousand business owners, entrepreneurs and C-suite executives who gathered to learn, network and share within the Subscription Economy community. Zuora Subscribed was the place to be this past week for all those running and powering subscription businesses. Here are just a few of our favorite moments from the 2-day conference.

Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, opened the show, emphasizing the concept of usership over ownership – the idea that consumers are starting to choose fluid services versus static stuff. Instead of owning a car, they’re using ride sharing service. Instead of purchasing clothes, they’re renting outfits tailored to their taste profile. It’s less about stuff, and more about about service. “Our future is about to change. And every company has to embrace this concept. Usership is the only way to grow. Time to say goodbye to ownership and hello to usership,” according to Tzuo.

During the “Why Digital Transformation should drive Business Model Transformation” panel, Craig Hanson, General Partner and Co-Founder of Next World Captial advised companies looking to shift, whether moving from on-prem software to cloud storage, or from static products to subscription services: “It’s not about digital tip-toeing, it’s about digital transformation,” he said, reinforcing the point that companies can no longer make small incremental changes here and there, they need to take a bigger leap to get the transformative results they want.

The breakout session “A Freemium Future? Strategic Lessons from 11,482 Subscription Companies,” led by Patrick with Profitwell, had several poignant takeaways about how businesses can use a free version of their service as a way to acquire new customers. Some key anecdotes; “Freemium service is an acquisition model, not a revenue model”, “Retention is higher for users who come in through your freemium service because they convert on their own terms and time. They have the time and opportunity to better understand the product and the value they can get by upgrading”, and “Freemium is a scalpel, not a sledgehammer."

We listened with a bit of fan-club homage to SoulCycle co-founder Julie Rice, a guest keynote speaker, who recounted how she arrived at the initial idea of the SoulCycle concept. In her words: “I didn’t wake up one day wanting to open a business or be a business owner. I woke up wanting to be part of something, to move my body with others, to feel community.” She also talked about the importance of treating your employees well if you want to create a culture that puts the customer first. She gave an example around how she got into the habit of sending three text messages a night, simply taking 45 seconds to acknowledge people doing a good job at work or boosting someone’s spirits.  

Something a lot of us don’t think much about, outside of simply getting paid is the importance of beautiful invoices as a monthly touchpoint with your customers – one that they see and respond to every month. Kevin Lussie, Senior Solutions Architect at Zuora walked us through tip for improving a (usually boring) monthly task with fun and interactive session around creating beautiful invoices for customers. While everyone knows that invoices are important for getting paid, Kevin explained that they don’t always have to be boring and offered tips for making invoices beautiful to better connect with your customers. This is a constant touchpoint with your customer and they receive it each month – why not make it enjoyable for your customers to review and also get additional messaging across?

Finally, we enjoyed seeing our friends at G2, also working the event, offering a $10 donation to Girls Who Code for anyone who left a review of Zuora on g2crowd.com. Also shameless plug, if you’d like to leave a review of your experience using Amazon Pay, click here to go to our G2 reviews page.

That's a wrap of our highlights from Zuora Subscribed.

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