I’m starting a new series of posts here on the blog where I will be sharing examples of marketing and copywriting strategies that will help you more effectively promote your books, products, services, and unique message online.
Over the past several years, I’ve been working with clients in a digital marketing agency that I started with my two brothers. I’ve learned lots of marketing strategies from helping many different types of businesses and influencers grow their brands online (brick-and-mortar stores, national companies, personal brands, coaches, and more!).
Additionally, I love to keep an eye out for fantastic strategies I come across online that my clients can use too.
And why not shares those lessons and strategies here on the blog as well? I’ll give you examples that will show how you can use them as an author or personal brand.
Today’s post is about a powerful marketing technique that I recently saw in action from Netflix. You can use it to build interest around the launch of your product, book, or whatever else you’re creating. It’s a wonderful way to turn followers into fans.
Let’s dive in.
It all started while I was cleaning my email inbox several weeks ago. While sorting through spam and the hundredth “limited time offer” product promotion, one subject line caught my eye: “Exclusive Screening of All The Light We Cannot See.”
I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr several years back (it was one of my favorite books I read that year). The gorgeously written WWII historical fiction novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and was a New York Times Bestseller. Netflix is now adapting it into a series.
So I clicked to see what this email was all about.
Interestingly enough, I don’t have a Netflix account. This email was from GoodReads where I do have an account and had logged that I had read the novel.
They asked if I would like to RSVP for an advanced virtual screening of episode 101 that Sunday, followed by an exclusive conversation with executive producer / director Shawn Levy and author Anthony Doerr.
Well, that sounded intriguing. My Sunday evening was free, and there didn’t seem to be any strings attached (I didn’t need to sign up for a Netflix account or anything like that). I clicked the link which directed to a landing page to enter my email to RSVP.
The day before the event I received another email with my personal access code for the streaming.
And thirty minutes before the event they sent another email to let me know that the doors were open.
The email also included instructions for how to log in and have an optimal experience for accessing the stream.
This was obviously not the first time Netflix had done one of these virtual streamings. There were no technical glitches. A count down clock on the page ticked away, and then the event started on time. It was a live stream meaning it could not be paused and lasted for about an hour and a half.
I felt like I was about to attend a VIP screening at a theater, not just relaxing on a couch at home. I invited my mom and my brother, who had both read the book, to watch with me. We had fun commenting on the episode.
The author and director were very enthusiastic about the adaptation. Levy talked about his favorite lines from the novel that he selected to use in the series and how he wanted to get everything in the set design historically accurate (down to the wallpaper). He also discussed his search for the perfect actors, including finding newcomer Aria Mia Loberti, who is legally blind, to portray the blind protagonist in the story. Anthony Doerr described his writing process and his inspiration for the novel.
During the event, there was a live chat where you could talk with others who were watching. And after the live stream ended, there was a thank you page and a gift for attendees: a link to download never-before-seen character art from the show. Netflix also invited you to share the art and your thoughts on social media.
I’m not going to share a complete review of the first episode here, but it definitely made me want to watch the rest of the series. That was exactly what Netflix wanted, right? I told my friends about this exclusive VIP event I’d been invited to. And here I am writing up a post about it too.
Imagine how many more people you would reach if you ran a promotion for your book or products in this way too.
So let’s see what ingredients made this promotion effective (I call it the “Exclusive Event” promotion) and how you can use it to create buzz for your next big thing.
Make it Exclusive
First, Netflix used the word exclusive in their marketing and made sure it was exactly that. They didn’t encourage any sharing of the event. This made it feel very special. It was also refreshing compared to so many other online promotions these days that are just about getting people to sign up to a webinar to buy a product.
There’s definitely a time and place for those, but the uniqueness of this event made it much cooler to talk about with friends and spread the word afterwards. “I got invited to watch the first episode of this Netflix show that isn’t out until November! Nobody else has seen it yet.”
I do think that if you have a smaller audience, you may want to encourage people to invite their friends.
And I’ll also be interested to see if Netflix follows up in November and sends me a promotional email about the launch of the show.
Action Step: What kind of exclusive online event could you create to promote your product, service, or book? This could be something that is recorded beforehand and then live streamed or it could be a live interactive event. If you’re a fiction author, maybe you read the first chapter of your upcoming book and have an exclusive conversation with your illustrator about your book’s artwork. If you’re a nonfiction author, maybe you have an exclusive workshop about the topic of your book.
Make it Targeted
Second, Netflix was strategic in who they invited to the event, targeting people who had read and enjoyed the book. That way they knew people would want to attend and would also be likely to want to watch the show in November. Netflix also partnered with other websites (Good Reads, for example) to find people who would be interested in the show and who may not be subscribed to Netflix.
Action Step: To promote your exclusive event, could you partner with a person or business in your industry to tap into another audience who might be interested in attending? This would also help you grow your email list.
Make it Valuable
Third, they gave an incredible amount of value for free (the interview with the author and director lasted over half an hour), and there weren’t any conditions for attending. No need to purchase a free trial or anything like that. It made it a no brainer to sign up. And because the event was valuable, it made it memorable too.
Action Step: What can you offer in your exclusive event that will make attendees feel like they are getting access to something special? What’s something that attendees might pay for but that you give away for free?
Make it Actionable
Fourth, they gave away a little gift at the end as a thank you. This gift (promotional photos of the actors) was an easy way to share about the show on social media. It was a nice little way to remind viewers to take action and spread the word.
Action Step: What downloadable gift could attendees receive that would help them promote your book or product afterward on social media?
I hope this marketing strategy gives you ideas for creating buzz around whatever cool thing you’re creating. I’d love to hear if you implement it.
And I definitely recommend reading All the Light We Cannot See if you haven’t yet.
Here’s a great quote from Doerr from an interview in The Arbiter on the creative process:
You’re never convinced that you’re going to be able to finish the thing, while you’re working on it. You’re never sure if readers are going to be interested in it … if your publishers are going to want it. So, you try to become comfortable living in doubt and fear. You’re always stepping into some kind of fear each morning. Anybody who’s reading this who wants to become a songwriter or a filmmaker, she’s gonna have to deal with doubt all the time. Growing up, you always think good novelists live in Brazil and Buenos Aires or Paris or they’re dead. Every day you have to give yourself permission and say, “You know, even though I live right here in Boise, it’s okay to try to make something that people might read in Brazil or in Paris.” You know each day, hopefully, you can find some way to overcome those doubts and try to make stuff.
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Thank you! Wishing you much success with your writing projects! God bless.