When starting out to build your own company from the ground up, it is useful to look for inspiration in other business success stories, to identify what they did right and how you could integrate their smart moves into your own business plan. Sometimes, this inspiration might come from unusual places and companies that do not have much to do with the field where you aspire to get active in – yet they all have something to offer. Case in point, online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime: two providers that offer the same product yet arrived there from very different paths. How can their stories be useful to your company?
Identify your Market and Offer Something Unique
Remember the good old days when people used to go to the opera or the theatre? Then the moving image was invented, and people discovered the joy of going to the movies. From then on it was a short way to television and lately, to home cinema. This small retrospect reminds us of a well-established fact: People love a good spectacle and they have enjoyed staged performances and movies of one type or the other for a while now. Yet while everyone knows this, the people behind Netflix saw this mundane story in a different light. In an era of rapid technological development where everyone owns a computer and has an internet connection, what is the next natural development?
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Their solution was to offer the next generation of movie entertainment by connecting the experience to the internet: streaming. How do we know that they were right? Well, Netflix just hit 125 million subscribers in Q1 of 2018 – 56.7 million in the US alone – and is available in 190 countries. Interestingly though, although 40% of subscribers use their PC to sign up to the service and 30% use their phone, 6 months in, most of them switch over to their TV: according to Netflix, 70% of streaming ends up on a TV screen. So, for many people, Netflix has replaced cable, too.
Keep on Moving and Be Original
When Netflix started out back in 1997, the service that it offered mirrored the usual video rental shops. You could stream movies and TV series that were produced by other people. And while the popularity of Netflix grew from 700,000 users in 2002 to 3.6 million three years later, it was not until they moved over to producing original content in 2012 that Netflix suddenly broke through. The popularity of shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, both of which premiered in 2013 – or the more recent Stranger Things in 2016 – was a significant stepping stone for the platform. Investing funds to be able to control production, manage revenue and establish yourself in the market was a huge risk, but it was worth taking and completely paid off.
Netflix continues to come up with new ways to offer more services to its users, as any good business should do to keep enticing customers: it introduced HD streaming and on November 30, 2016, Netflix informed users that they could from now on can download content to watch offline. It also keeps expanding and revising subscription plans and takes security very seriously, although it was lately reported that fake phishing emails with Netflix’s logo went out in a popular social engineering attack that tried to lure customers into providing sensitive information like banking details. In phishing campaigns, emails tend to be identical or nearly identical, so the attacks were luckily quickly spotted and users were notified – and if anything, being targeted by hackers is another testament to the company’s success and appeal to users.
Lesson learned: For your business idea to be successful, it needs to look at everyday facts with an open and curious mind. Look at things that everyone knows but look at them from a different perspective – better yet, find the next evolutionary step of an idea, an activity, a concept that has been embraced by people for years. Then you know you are on to a keeper. And never stop coming up with more ways to expand your concept and go the extra mile to keep clients happy.