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Content Marketing Lessons from Netflix: 5 Steps for Feeding the Content Beast From David Bruno

Posted on Feb 19th, 2016
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  • Content Marketing Lessons from Netflix: 5 Steps for Feeding the Content Beast From David Bruno
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    With more than 25 years of experience on the front lines of creative campaign development, David Bruno knows that, “content marketing” has been around for a long time, in one form or another.

    During his Content2Conversion session, “Feeding the Content Beast” this past Wednesday, he artfully explained how content marketers can apply lessons from Netflix to their marketing.

    Is Netflix “Content Marketing?”

    Let’s back up. Many marketers wouldn’t consider Netflix a tale of content marketing success. Content marketing, they would argue, is meant to produce leads – and business results. Netflix is entertainment, not content marketing. Or, so the logic goes.

    David argued (and I agree), that Netflix is a content marketing powerhouse. They mine user data, produce original content for a clearly-defined audience, and definitely drive profitable customer action. Consider the relationship between original content production, subscriber growth, and most importantly company profit:

    • Subscribers have gone from 20 million in 2011 to 75 million in late 2015, significantly outpacing Hulu and Amazon (below):

    Netflix Growth_Content Marketing Driven

    • Company revenue on the other hand, has spiked more dramatically, starting in 2011 (below): 

    Netflix Revenue_Driven By Content Marketing

    So, why have profits spiked, while subscriber growth remains more steady? Two words: original content. In 2011, Netflix released their hit series House of Cards, effectively changing their business model forever. According to the latest reports, they plan to produce 600 hours of original content, yet this year.

    Embrace the Binge Mentality

    Before you run off and pitch your wild infotainment concepts to all your clients, let’s examine how you can apply the Netflix model to your content marketing in a scalable fashion.

    As early as 2013, a McKinsey report announced we had entered an age of on-demand marketing. Your customers now want instant answers, delivered in their preferred channels. Take a cue from Netflix – they pioneered the “anytime, anywhere, any device” mentality in streaming services. They even customize suggested titles, based on viewing history. What if your B2B content marketing did the same?  Do you know when, where and how your customers want information? Find out, and use this data to your advantage.

    Be Data-oriented, Not Media-driven

    Netflix is known for mining data. But data doesn’t present instant answers. It’s what you do with the data that matters.

    Media companies follow big numbers. They want eyeballs, scale, massive adoption. But data-driven organizations understand that influencing behavior takes more than showing interesting content to massive audiences.

    Take another cue from Netflix and tap into your passion communities. Netflix is famous for producing shows for niche communities. Take Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development, Weeds, and all of those niche documentaries I can’t stop watching as examples. All of these Netflix originals were produced because of data insights. Instead of focusing on broad ratings, the Netflix analytics team digs into completion rate stats, browsing and scrolling data, search usage, among many other factors. By adapting original content based on usage data, Netflix has closed the gap on entertainment desires. And each niche show secures a new community of dedicated fans.

    In B2B markeing, these passionate customers might be a blip on your radar, or a tiny segment in your Google analytics dashboard. Use advanced analytics segments to identify these customers, and create custom content that answers their questions. Even if they are a small group of your users – this will pay off big time.

    Do B2B Customers want More Content?

    Yes. According to a recent study from Pardot, 76% of B2B buyers prefer different content at each stage of their research process. There’s no way around it. It’s time to feed the content beast.


    Image courtesy of Marketo

    Without further delay, here’s a 5-step process for feeding the content beast and applying the lessons learned from Netflix’s content marketing. Apply these 5 steps to your B2B content development process to ensure your customers are getting the content they need:

    #1 – Give the people what they want (not what we want them to want)

    Too often, we assume we know what our B2B audience wants. Dig into the data. Find your passionate customers, and give them what they want.

    #2 – Embrace creative thinking

    B2B doesn’t have to be boring. Talk to your customers. Find out what sports, shows, and interests they have. Use those cues in your content development. We’re all human beings after all.

    #3 – Obsess over quality (rate your content)

    This is a hallmark of top publishers. The highest quality content is what gets surfaced to the top of search engine rankings. And it’s what users want. Obsess over quality!

    #4 – Publish or Perish

    If you don’t get your message out there, your competitors will. Produce content regularly. Find out where your audience is, and own it!

    #5 – Hire a managing editor

    All too often, content marketers try to do it all on their own. Find someone who can keep you accountable.  Managing editors help in the following ways:

    1. Keep you on message
    2. Keep you on deadline
    3. Manage the content calendar for you
    4. Understand what the program goals are

    We all stand to learn a great deal from the success of Netflix. B2B content marketers have a long way to go in order to close the gap. The good news is, utilizing some of the tips above will get you there faster than you ever expected.