How Netflix Wins with Content (and How You Can, Too)

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We greatly admire Netflix’s approach to tailoring content experiences based on customer data. Putting the customer first has clearly benefitted their brand in a BIG way as their revenue numbers climbed over $1billion in 2014. Any brand looking to deliver quality content–no matter the medium–and a customer-driven experience will no doubt benefit from Netflix’s “Long Term View” strategy. –Sailthru

When Netflix released season one of House of Cards to the delight of millions (if not billions) of viewers in 2013, they set a new standard for content development and distribution and sent competitors racing to duplicate the disruptive victory with original programming of their own.

They may have been the one of the first big-name internet television companies to release an original series in bulk-release format, but their decision to buy Cards wasn’t driven by a desire to be “first” or for the sake of disruption, it was a decision driven by customer data – where and how they watched, their apparent preference for films directed by David Fincher or starring Kevin Spacy, and demand for a more portable viewing experience. Now, Netflix has updated the Long Term View: a bold perspective on their position in the internet TV industry and how their commitment to providing only the best content for the consumer-driven experience will accelerate their growth in 2015.

Let’s review: Decisions driven by audience data, content quality over quantity, and a more buyer-centric content experience. Does this sound familiar yet?

For months, we’ve read through enough trends and predictions to fill a library about how to do content marketing better, and we’ve finally got a case study sitting right in front of us that tells us exactly how to do it.

(Full disclosure: I am a Netflix customer and House of Cards fan.)

Stop trying to create all of the content.

Remember the time you found a really great example of video marketing or saw everyone tweeting about the #bluedress, and you forwarded it your teams and said ‘Guys, we HAVE to do this!!’..?

That is not content marketing. There’s value in having a team ready to react, and getting in on a viral sensation may get you those 15 minutes, but it gets you nowhere if you can’t keep it up when the clock stops.

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You don’t need to have all of the content to be great, just the best content, and Netflix agrees:

We are about fantastic content that is only available on Netflix. Instead of trying to have everything, we should strive to have the best in each category.

 As we’ve gained experience, we’ve found that the 20th documentary about bicycling will mostly just take away viewing from the other 19 such docs, and instead of trying to have everything, we should strive to have the best in each category. 

And you can still create more. That interactive eBook that did so well? Repurpose it into a SlideShare or an infographic for those members of your audience that want their information faster, and in a more consumable format.

Customer first, competition second.

The Long Term View argues that while “people love TV content and still watch over a billion hours a day of linear TV,” viewer expectations have shifted, forcing providers to rush mobile apps out the door and make top programs available on-demand and online at lower rates. And while Netflix has everyone chasing the model they built, the company is honest about why they’re running in the opposite direction:

We don’t and can’t compete on breadth of entertainment with Comcast, Sky, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, or Google. For us to be hugely successful we have to be a focused passion brand. Starbucks, not 7-Eleven. Southwest, not United. HBO, not Dish.

We are a relief from the complexity and frustration that embody most MVPD (multi-channel video program distributor) relationships with their customers. 

The difference here is between companies that strive to be the best in the world with “next big thing” products and services, and companies that strive to be the best by putting the customer at the center of strategy, development, and delivery.

This has everything to do with the content you create to help them find that solution. The decision-making process needs to be less complex and driven by content that builds trust, adds value, and proves that you can deliver on your promise. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look back at your wins and dig into the data to find out why you won – what content brought the customer in, and what keeps them interested – and build your strategy from a model that already works.

Give some to get some, and go original.

It would be foolish to say that Netflix doesn’t have an advantage here. In the Long Term View, they share that they plan to spend $600 million on marketing, $500 million on technology development, and over $3 billion on content in 2015. Not an easy pill to swallow when “not enough budget, not enough resources” is still the battle-cry for content marketers everywhere.

But great marketing doesn’t happen overnight or always go exactly as planned, and it takes time and risk to reach this level of success. For Netflix, producing original content meant more cash up front and an increase in debt to make it happen, but they are “now at the scale where we can economically create original content that debuts exclusively on Netflix.”

How Netflix Wins with Content (and How You Can, Too)

So maybe you put your limited budget for this quarter toward some licensed content and generate a good chunk of leads that you can nurture until they’re sales-ready. While that’s underway, it’s up to you to dig into your data to find out what your customers and prospects need and what kind of content they’re looking for, and build a solid plan to create the best piece of original content with the next round of budget coming your way. This will take some time and testing to get it right, and once you do, you’ll reap the reward:

With each original, we learn more about what our members want, about how to produce and promote effectively, and about the positive impact of originals on our brand.

Start winning from the beginning.

Each of these lessons from the Long Term View bring us to the moment of truth. People make evidence-based decisions on the fly everyday – where to buy their coffee, what new phone or tablet to purchase, or whether they should take a taxi or use a private car service – each of which are based on trust and impression with a previous experience that never fails to give them exactly what they’re looking for.

We strive to win more of our members’ “moments of truth”. They could play a video game, surf the web, read a magazine, channel surf their MVPD/DVR system, buy a pay-per-view movie, put on a DVD, use a piracy service, turn on Hulu, or launch Netflix. We want our members to choose Netflix in these moments of truth. We win those moments of truth when members expect Netflix to be more pleasurable than their other options, based upon their prior experiences.

The first opportunity to win the moment of truth with your audience is through your content. Do you fill their inbox with the same newsletter every week, or check in when you realize they stopped opening your e-mails months ago? Do you personalize their experience, or distribute the same content to your entire audience? Can they interact with your content on-the-go, or does it look so bad on a mobile device that you lose them in seconds?

How Netflix Wins with Content (and How You Can, Too)

You may be thinking that you don’t have the budget, resources, or brand recognition of a giant like Netflix to do this for your company, but you do. It starts with creating a Long Term View of your own, one that is based on a firm set of customer-centric values that define the products you build, the experience you offer, and the content you create to keep your audience coming back.

Stack your Cards right, and you’ll start winning those moments of truth.

This post originally appeared on the Yesler blog written by Sean Hagan and appeared on Business2Community where it was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.