For Great Prospects, Put Out the Velvet Rope

“I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” – Groucho Marx.

The concept behind this Groucho Marx quip gets at a universal element of human nature. We are hardwired to want to be included in special, exclusive groups. We want to see ourselves as a member of the elite.

You may think that you put all of that behind you once you got out of middle school or high school, but believe me, you haven’t. In commerce, this phenomenon is called “velvet rope” marketing. It’s named after the velvet rope that they use at exclusive night clubs to control who gets in.

The concept stretches over into digital marketing where clever marketers have devised a number of ways to create virtual velvet ropes to stir up interest or demand for various products and services. And not only can you use a velvet rope strategy to increase demand, you can also be pretty sure that the users whose interest you are arousing, are highly qualified prospects and this should increase your conversions.

Invitation Only

One of the ways you can get into an exclusive night club is to know someone who is already inside. Digital marketing gurus are using the same idea on the Internet. One of the most successful of these was when Google launched Gmail on April 1, 2004. It was “invitation-only” for something like three years. Spotify is another major brand that launched via the invitation-only model. Most of you probably remember how people asked their friends for invitations so they could jump on these bandwagons.

Google and Spotify had size and money behind these launches, so you may think that you can’t pull off an invitation-only marketing strategy. Don’t worry, it can be done. The easiest way is to create a form on your website where people can request an invitation. Say something like this:

To keep our team from getting overloaded with requests, this service is by invitation only. If you would like to receive an invite, enter your contact information below and we’ll send you all the information you need. Thanks from the team!

Members Only

A simple variation of the invitation-only strategy is the members-only strategy. The clothing seller Gilt is one of the most successful companies using the members-only strategy. Frankly, it’s really little more than a fancy email newsletter dressed up in membership marketing. The thing that makes it work is the quality of the offerings. You can’t wrap yourself up in the exclusivity of “members only” and then offer something that people can get anywhere at any time.

With the examples above, I’ve shown how you can use two different labels for essentially the same thing. You could also call it a “club,” for example. Or you could use a time limit to create the exclusivity, “today only.” Gilt has limited quantities and that makes people excited to buy. Now let’s look at some easy ways to get good use out of the velvet rope concept:

Increase Serious Prospects

A great way to use this is in conjunction with a blog or other marketing content. Publish a blog on a certain topic, for example, but offer a more in-depth white paper to visitors who join your “Inner Circle” and give you their email addresses.

Boost Sales

Create an “Early Bird Club” that gives members exclusive access to sale prices a few days before they are offered to the general public. Ticketmaster is killing with this strategy it by offering presale codes to concert goers.

Get Personal Contact Information

Make an offer or information available only through a phone call. For some businesses, getting a prospect on the phone is gold. A variation of this would be to require a physical address, if that works best with the way you sell your product or service.

You can probably think of other ways to conjure up an aura of exclusivity around your offerings. And remember, it’s not always how many contacts you make or email addresses you collect, it’s how well qualified they are, and anyone willing to jump over the velvet rope is going to be well qualified.