The word “content” is nothing new to modern-day marketers. We’ve heard the phrase content is king more times than we’ve heard the phrase thank you. We know that video content is hot, that “authentic” content is impactful, and long-form content is good for increasing shares.

We are, by no means, strangers to the idea of content. It’s just that, stuck in our little marketing bubbles, we tend to forget how content plays a role beyond just in our own strategies.

Case in point: Netflix. We’re not talking about any type of content strategy Netflix’s marketing department has employed. We’re talking about the actual content people spend weekends binging on within the Netflix platform.

The notion of bingeable content has become second nature to the modern-day consumer; why, then, do marketers fail to realize that they, themselves, can use this behavior to their own advantage?

In case you’re unfamiliar with how Netflix turns our 30-minute TV break into a marathon session, take a look at the image below:

netflix sample

In this image, our imaginary couch potato just finished watching an episode of Blue Bloods. Netflix increases the chances that he/she will keep on watching by queuing up the next episode automatically, as well as offering options to browse more titles.

They even dole up related titles we may like based on our past viewing habits:

netflix-because-you-watched

This approach differs from most marketing strategies.

In a traditional, modern-day marketing strategy, you may see this kind of workflow:

The offer

The offer is your lead magnet, the piece of content you’re hoping your audiences want so badly that they’ll give you their contact information in order to get it.

Lead magnet types vary greatly. EBooks are popular, as are white papers, videos, checklists, slideshow presentations, access to an upcoming webinar, and more.

Here’s an example of an offer we have, that can be found on blog articles with related content:

cardinal free pdf download

Next, there’s the interest

If we did our due diligence, then there should be plenty of interest in our offer above. As you can see, this offer is specific toward multi-location companies, so we’re expecting only those types of companies to express interest. It’s in our own best interest to ensure this offer shows up on pieces of content designed to draw our target audience in.

If there is an interest, then the reader will click on the “Free PDF Download” button, which leads us to the next step:

The conversion

Ah, the goal of our original offer: the conversion. We want our readers to convert so that we can push them further down the buyer’s journal. Often times, conversions are performed on a dedicated landing page (so that the data-loving marketers in the bunch can assess the success of a campaign).

Here’s the landing page we made for this offer:

cardinal free offer

You’ve seen this format before It’s pretty standard. A keep-it-simple-stupid design, with a fairly minimal form. This minimizes the friction experienced by the visitor prior to their action (a conversion).

So long as the landing page hasn’t alienated the reader, we should get to our fourth and final step:

The asset

It’s what the reader came to the landing page for, to begin with. In our example, it’s our free PDF download. We have to make sure our converting visitors get the assets they’ve requested.

The usual way to make this happen is to email the guide to the reader. It’s how we invite our ways into their inboxes, which then sets us up for future email correspondence because, as most marketers will say – being able to reach directly to your readers via targeted emails is gold.

And, full disclosure, this traditional approach to gathering leads has been successful for us. Our campaigns have landed us highly qualified leads – leads we can then follow-up with through highly personalized emails, based on what type of offer they downloaded.

But as we continue to examine the strategies we implement for ourselves and our clients, we’ve discovered a few issues with this traditional approach:

  • It leads audiences to a dead-end. Our audiences don’t need to go anywhere after their conversion (unlike with Netflix, where episodes are queued up the moment the credits roll on the show we’re watching).
  • The content isn’t personalized. From landing page to asset, the content looks the same for all of our visitors (unlike Netflix, where each subscriber’s home page is customized based on their own past actions).
  • You can’t measure engagement with the content. In our example, we have no idea if our audiences actually read the PDF. We just know they downloaded it/got the email (unlike Netflix, where the platform knows what you watch, when you watched it, and more).

Don’t get us wrong – this one-off type of dead-end content does, without question, get you that coveted contact information. In other words, it does the job of kicking off the lead-nurturing process; however, it falls short in using modern technology – and leveraging contemporary consumer habits – to offer you (and your audiences) more rewards per click.

Developing content experiences, instead of dead-end journeys

While we continue to develop traditional lead-offer strategies, we’ve begun to look into how to “be like Netflix” and deliver binge-worthy content experiences.

Why? Because consumers’ behaviors dictate that. Today, we consume online content in waves and marathon sessions when we’re engaged. We don’t wait around a few weeks for a company to send out a drip email campaign highlighting features of a new product or service.

We are all well aware that we can – or should be able to – access answers to all of our questions whenever we want.

For far too long marketers have done their best to hand-deliver content via social media and email blasts, ignoring the reality that consumers have no problem clicking around a website to find an answer. The modern-day consumer, if engaged, will spend hours pursuing the whims of their curiosity.

We see it in Netflix, Spotify, and Pandora. That same behavior can, and does, translate into the content we produce as marketers.

The companies we’ve mentioned above play matchmaker between their content and prospective customers. You can, and should, do the same.

Perhaps you do something similar already, to a point. For example, if you have a WordPress website, it’s not uncommon for you to have a sidebar widget that shows the category of posts you publish, and/or your most recent posts. You can see this approach in the screenshot below:

sara aspden blog

These sidebar widgets attempt to keep readers on this website, in the same way as our couch potato binges on Netflix. And it’s not a bad attempt, but it isn’t perfect.

The problem is, the content hinted at in the sidebar above isn’t tailored to the actions of our reader. Look at the title of the article: Injured by a Dog Bite in Mass? Who’s Liable?

A person who stumbled on this type of content is likely somehow affected by a dog bite and is looking for as much information as possible. The content on the side, then, should be tailored to meet this need.

This can be done manually, without much effort, through careful tagging and categorization. For example, the law firm above could categorize all of their dog-bite-related articles under “Dog Bite.” They then can write a script (or probably just find a free plugin) that lets them showcase related blog posts under the Dog Bite category.

That little extra personalization could help improve the user experience and increase the likelihood of a visitor turning into a lead or customer.

But there’s something else that could be done here – and that’s the use of intelligent content.

It isn’t a troupe of elves that allows Netflix to guess what programs its customers might enjoy. It’s artificial intelligence.

For example, our resident couch potato just finished watching the last episode of Blue Bloods available on Netflix. Here’s what he sees:

netflix page

Netflix’s algorithms have concluded that based on having watched Blue Bloods, as well as other content, our Netflix-aholic would likely enjoy Ozark.

Want to give off the illusion that you can read the minds of your visitors much like Netflix does? Then you need to incorporate intelligent content into your marketing stack. This intelligent content layer needs to work from within your existing marketing automation platform, database, and CRM.

With this intelligent content layer, for example, if your prospect Diane has engaged with three or four of your content assets, then you can probably accelerate her through the nurturing process. There’s no reason to send her your pre-written emails #2 and #3 – she’s already engaged. Let’s jump her to email #4.

In other words, intelligent content helps you accelerate the buyer’s journey by allowing your visitors to self-nurture – to choose how engaged they want to be. As a result, our research has shown that this will help your audiences reach buying readiness sooner.

What does intelligent content delivery entail?

Intelligent content delivery has two parts.

In-session content options

Here’s where the system displays related content it has concluded visitors will enjoy. A visitor, for example, has clicked on something; so how can you help that visitor binge on the right content since you now have his attention? How do you let your visitor self-nurture and accelerate through his buyer’s journey?

Engagement analytics

Here’s where the system tracks visitors’ engagement with content. This is where the current lead-nurturing model falters. In order to be successful in creating personalized binge-worthy content, you need to know whether your visitor consumed your content. If he did, is he likely to be ready to move onto the next stage, or does he need more similar content? What other types of content did he engage with after his first click? What do all of your visitor’s choices and decisions tell you about his interests?

On your quest to deliver intelligent content, you should look at your model like this:

VISITOR > ENGAGEMENT > CONTENT > ENGAGEMENT > VISITOR

This model requires you to answer these types of questions:

  • What do you know about the visitor?
  • What do you know about the content?
  • How does this visitor engage with the content, and how does the content inform the visitor?

Your ability to create a bingeable experience relies on being able to answer these questions. The problem is that most analytics that marketers have access to inform us about what people’s fingers did, but not what their brains did. We just don’t know if our visitors actually read our content. We don’t know if a visitor is now more informed or more engaged.

Most marketers are forced to treat clicks as the full measure of digital marketing, but that action is just not good enough. We need to ask: was the content consumed? By whom?

Take, for example, an eBook you share with your audiences. Let’s say two different people clicked on your call to action, filled out your form, and downloaded your eBook.

Great! Those two actions tell you all you need to know to move forward with your two leads, right?

Not really.

Here’s where a Netflix-like approach to marketing helps:

Let’s say Person A – Julie – downloads the guide, spends 10 seconds on it, and then puts it away. Meanwhile, Person B – Dan – read the entire guide in one sitting.

In both these scenarios, the outdated approach to lead nurturing fails you. In terms of Julie, clearly the guide didn’t grab her attention; she hasn’t progressed in her journey. Giving her similar content – but in different formats or styles – could help her inch along to the next phase.

Dan, however, is in prime position to ingest even more content to help him advance his journey into sales readiness.

All clicks are not created equally. As a marketer, you need to know the level of engagement of your audiences with your content.

Not only that, but you need to provide your visitors a library of content pieces that they can consume when they want, vs. try to drip them along with anticipatory tactics. We live in an on-demand society. What works with Netflix, Hulu and Spotify can, and will, work with your own content.

But without proper metrics – and intelligent content strategies in place – you’ll continue to deliver 20th-century experiences in a 21st-century world.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal also recently earned him the honor of being selected as a 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year (Rising Star), and the 2015 Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).