Create A Digital Velvet Rope To Boost Business

The Internet is many things, but there’s one thing that it isn’t: Exclusive.

Every tween from Albany to Zanzibar can access just about any location on the web. That makes it difficult for marketing professionals to capitalize on a basic human motivation: The desire to be part of an exclusive group.

New York City’s Studio 54 made the “velvet rope” famous back in the heyday of disco. Everyone who wanted to be somebody queued up behind the velvet rope with the hopes of being granted access to that mirrorball-bedazzled hallowed dance floor.

How can you reproduce that kind of emotional response at your website?

Simply put, you have to create “exclusivity,” either real or (somewhat) imagined. The desire to become part of the “privileged few” will help turn casual visitors to your site into regular users, customers, and names for your mailing list. Apple is a company that has worked hard to create the feeling of exclusivity around its brand of products. Here are some techniques that will work for you:

Early access. Give someone who signs up for your mailing list early access to downloading a white paper packed with great information. This is like sharing a secret with someone; it builds a special relationship between the people involved. It’s also a good technique because at some later date you can use the content for a more general purpose.

Members-only perks. This is a variation on the early access strategy. You can have pages on your site or privileges that are only available to those on your mailing list. This can be a message board, posting reviews, uploading photos, or the ability to ask you a question. Another members-only early-access perk would be advance notice of sales.

If you do this, we’ll…. If you’re promoting something like a webinar, you can mention special offers that will only be available to those who participate. “Only those who attend the webinar will receive free copies of the slides and a transcript of the session.” Or you can say, “At the end of the session, we will give you a link to a 50 percent savings on our newest widget.”

We only have space for 25. Put a cap on how many of an item you’ll sell or how many people can enroll in your event. Be honest about what you do. Adding something like, “This will not be available again until March 2015” is a way to give you the ability to re-offer the item/service and it also creates an additional sense of urgency.

Enlist the endorsement of a noted Twitter personality. If you want to introduce something new, connect with a person who is big on Twitter or a blog and say something like, “Only @exclusiveguy followers will get a link to download the beta of our new Android app.”

Google used this kind of “VIP access” to create buzz during the rollout of Google+, Gmail, and more. To get in on the early versions you had to be a friend-of-a-friend. There’s one more lesson we can learn from Google regarding this marketing technique: User expectations will be high when they sign up for something they feel is exclusive. Make sure what you offer is sign-up-worthy.


Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Photo credit: “Queue,” © 2004 Saxon Moseley, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license:
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