What Netflix Teaches B2B Marketers About Creating Binge-Worthy Digital Experiences

Most of us have succumbed to the “Netflix effect”—the company’s ability to draw us in with personalized, binge-worthy movies and shows. The business of filling our evening and weekend hours is a lucrative one: Netflix reported more than $20 billion in revenue in 2019. And in recent months, the company’s power has only intensified as other entertainment options fell by the wayside. When lockdowns first hit this spring, Netflix touted 16 million new sign-ups.

I’ve always been fascinated by Netflix’s unique, and highly profitable, ability to keep us glued to our screens month after month—and lately, I’ve been thinking about how marketers can replicate it.

This year, marketers have fully embraced digital experiences to engage with their audiences, build a predictable pipeline and drive revenue. But along the way, it’s become glaringly obvious that it’s not enough to churn out content—especially with so many webinars and virtual events competing for finite attention. To stand out, marketers need more: convenience, interactivity and personalization, to name a few.

I believe B2B marketers can learn a lot from Netflix’s success to create an engaging, revenue-driving digital experience library of their own.

Offer Always-on Content

Before Netflix, viewers were obligated to work around cable’s schedule—dinner done before 7:00 to catch Jeopardy!, or home by 8:00 on Thursday night to watch the primetime lineup. One of Netflix’s most compelling features is its always-on nature; subscribers can watch ten episodes in a row, choose a movie to match their mood or pause a show to cook dinner without missing a moment.

Traditionally, B2B digital experiences have followed the rigid cable model, relying heavily on one-time digital events and scheduled webinars. But to maximize effectiveness, enhancing convenience is the first order of business. As Netflix found, there’s no reason content needs to be offered on a set timetable. In fact, making content available indefinitely, and on-demand, isn’t just more convenient—it’s more impactful, too.

Always-on, interactive digital experiences allow audiences to peruse content on their own time, and at their own pace—selecting an overview, demo or how-to that is appropriate for their stage of the buying journey. This is particularly important as prospects complete more of the buying journey independently; the majority of B2B buyers now prefer independent online research over interactions with sales. The always-on approach also allows marketers to repurpose existing content from live experiences, and reach more people by eliminating time constraints. This enables marketers to field interest and capture buyer signals months or even a year after the original event.

Capture Meaningful, First-Party Data

Traditional cable companies didn’t have the ability to capture much meaningful data, relying solely on viewership metrics instead.

That all changed when Netflix came along and began tracking a number of qualitative metrics like which shows, with which qualities, in which genres specific users prefer. It’s a treasure trove of deep, meaningful first-party data that the streaming giant can harness to better understand and cater to viewers—with more personalized recommendations, compatibility ratings and even original content informed by viewer data.

Traditionally, marketers have suffered from the same reliance on superficial data as cable companies. Registration and attendance rates, job title and company name were considered the golden metrics; but these one-dimensional metrics can’t tell the whole story.

As participants join live, simu-live or on-demand digital experiences, it’s critical that marketers make the most of their attendance by allowing them to engage with a variety of content options and self-select their way through each experience. Marketers have an opportunity to capture meaningful first-party data beyond demographics that actually tracks audience attention and interest level, directly within the experience. Interactive capabilities like chat, Q&As, polling and demo bookings allow audiences to engage with content in real-time, and arm marketers with valuable buying signals. Giving participants the opportunity to communicate, and explicitly signal interest, while viewing digital content grants marketers unparalleled insight to qualify leads and move them down the funnel.

Leverage First-Party Data for Personalized Experiences

This first-party data marketers collect in interactive experiences is only valuable insofar as a company puts it to work—like more personalized recommendations. Netflix feeds its wealth of viewer data on viewer history and preferences to its recommendation engine, which populates tailored suggestions for each viewer. At the end of the day, B2B buyers are people first—with increased expectations from the Netflixes of the world who have mastered personalization. Marketers must meet this gold standard.

Marketers can use engagement data, including questions asked, videos watched and more to create customized journeys that offer the right resources, demos or meetings to the right people at the right time. In fact, compared to underperforming marketers, top-performing marketers are 7.3 times more likely to be confident in their ability to leverage customer data for more relevant experiences. This ability has taken on even greater importance as companies fully embrace digital, leaving audiences with limitless content resources; personalization is crucial to breakthrough. And data-driven customization doesn’t just create a more seamless experience—it boosts the bottom line. McKinsey found that leaders in personalization can drive 5-15% increases in revenue, and 10-30% increases in marketing-spend efficiency.

Netflix’s hyper-personalized, the always-on model started an irreversible trend that doesn’t stop with watching television. When consumers can get on-demand-everything, they come to each experience expecting the same convenience and customization; the B2B buying journey is no exception. As companies fully embrace digital experiences, B2B marketers have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to raise the bar to hook customers and drive revenue.