That One Weird Trick

Max Mautner, Netflix

What does Netflix do, in your own words?

Netflix aims to entertain the world. Anytime someone seeks to be entertained they can open Netflix and see stories that will delight them.

What might be different about marketing Netflix vs. other types of products/services?

Competition among entertainment products is fierce, but customers often buy from multiple offerings (unlike your home cable provider).

Personalizing the content you see and associate with Netflix is key to persuading new and current customers to select Netflix as their entertainment of the moment, whether on a phone, a laptop, a TV, or otherwise. Supporting so many streaming devices creates a lot of opportunity to be accessible for customers.

On your team, are you currently more focused on acquiring new customers or growing engagement of existing customers? What are you specifically focused on?

I specifically work on supporting payments, primarily via messaging (email, SMS, push notifications, etc.). For example, projects that might support a new method of payment benefit customer acquisition as well as retention. This is an important initiative as Netflix has become a global business (it started with service limited to the United States market), because different payment methods are used by different parts of the world.

How does your work contribute to building trust with users, in order to persuade them to use Netflix?

Since I work in the area of outbound messaging, it’s critical to send messages that are on-brand and combat the impression of those messages being phishing and fraud. This can be done in many ways, but growth messaging is one such critical vector.

How does personalization give a marketing edge in meeting customer needs? Give one example of how this is done via outbound marketing or in-product experience.

The most obvious is the Netflix homepage. What one customer sees when they open Netflix may be very different than another–e.g. I hate the horror genre, so I often see comedy titles on my homepage, while yours may be very different! This is key to entertaining such a diverse set of viewers as Netflix has got, and it carries over to the messages we send to customers.

I can speak more about previous employers, in which case I’d give one example of segmenting email audiences by their email account provider (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail). Deliverability is critical, and personalizing your sending to segments based on their email provider can help isolate damage to your reputation as an email sender (i.e. preventing your emails from being flagged and routed to recipients’ spam folders).

What is your favorite marketing channel or platform, and why? E.g. out-of-home, organic search, email, TV, etc.

Email is my personal favorite–it’s what I worked on first in my career at Cogo Labs & EverQuote, and what I think makes me most optimistic about the internet: any person can contact any other person on Earth for free, assuming that they both have an email address. This obviously scales to B2C communication as well with some meaningful differences in etiquette and software engineering.

What’s the largest single marketing initiative (spend, audience-size, etc.) you’ve participated in and what lessons did you learn from it?

I guess you could say the largest audience I’ve worked on is search engine & display marketing where you can reach a massive number of distinct impressions–although they may or may not be real people encountering your ads! That is a whole entire topic in its own right…this was at EverQuote 6 years ago, when we were spending $1 million/month on AdWords. I’d guess their budget is much bigger now that they’ve gone public and are valued at over $1 billion.

These days the audiences I work with at Netflix involve messaging (e.g. email) where the audience sizes are proportional to the customer base.

I’d say one key learning from “big impact” marketing is to have safe ways to test and verify your systems are working as expected in a “dry-run” mode without spending any money/sending any messages. Once things look good as tested, everyone will feel more confident “pulling the trigger” so to speak.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career so far? If none come to mind, what are you most looking forward to?

I’m proud of doing a small part to help entertain well over 100 million Netflix customers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m also proud of producing the Accidental Engineer and helping share valuable career information to millions of readers & listeners about a profession that I love!

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