Let’s shift from content to context, and see how using an access and registration concept instead of the traditional “opt-in” increases the size of your email list at a rapid pace. You’ll hear about the intersection between perceived value and actual value, the psychological impact of “velvet rope syndrome,” and a case study that shows an increase of 400% in email subscriptions with an access approach.
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Lesson 4: How the Access Approach Accelerates Your Email Marketing
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Brian Clark: Hey there, and welcome back to Get More Clients With Smarter Email Marketing. I’m your host, Brian Clark.
This is lesson four: How the Access Approach Accelerates Your Email Marketing. Before we get into this, I got to tell you that this free course is sponsored by the Rainmaker Platform. You can do all of the technical wizardry that we discuss in the next few episodes yourself without a developer and even without a designer, if you so choose. Check it our for yourself at RainmakerPlatform.com.
The Psychological Impact of ‘Velvet Rope Syndrome’
Back in 2001, I read a book … actually several books that were all about generally the same topic. The one that sticks in my mind is called The Age of Access by Jeremy Rifkin. There were others, such as The Experience Economy, that touched on the same subject. That was that we were moving away from ownership concepts to access concepts, that we would pay for experiences more than we wanted to own things.
This book did a really good job, for being so early on, of predicting the subscription membership concepts, such as Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, even software as a service. But more than that, I think it predicted the rise of things like Airbnb and Uber, where you don’t need to own a car when you only need occasional access to it. You don’t need to own a home in Laguna Beach or Des Moines, Iowa, if you just need to stay in one for a while — you get the idea.
This was a topic that I had become fascinated with really early on, and it had some interesting influences on me — not only with the way I think about paid products, but also our content marketing. There’s an aspect here that was really interesting to me over the years. You could call it ‘velvet rope syndrome.’
People value membership from a psychological standpoint. The membership experiences they have, in a way, spark a little exclusivity because those on the outside don’t have that same experience.
That’s a hint of scarcity there. I don’t want to overplay it because it’s very subtle. In fact, if you ask your prospect if they were influenced in that way, by access to your free content instead of some other concept, they’ll tell you that it had no affect on them at all.
Of course, we’re not aware of most of the reasons why we do what we do. We generally decide at an emotional level, and then we rationalize it with our logical minds after the decision’s already made. It is an influence that I’ve thought a lot about, and this velvet rope thing does have some merit.
I really started thinking about it differently around 2012 or so. This was after social media went mainstream. This was also the time when we had a lot of freemium software as a service out there, where you basically could register for a version of the software. Or of course, you could register for Facebook or Twitter, and you had to do that in order to access the experience that was being offered. Even though these are free services, I think the access aspect of it provides a psychological incentive that tells us this is something good.
Even beyond that, I think the fact that we have become used to the idea that we must register with an email address in order to have access to anything that’s really good on the Internet, even if it’s free, has a bigger effect than just psychological in the sense that, that’s just the way things are.
The Intersection Between Perceived Value and Actual Value
Around that time, around 2012, my hypotheses was that people are used to registering. They know they have to give an email address to enjoy the access that they’re being provided, and that’s a positive experience in the minds of your prospects.
On the other hand, after 10, 15 years of unscrupulous email practices out there by certain people — not everyone, certainly — the whole opt-in to our newsletter thing from a service provider such as yourself gives the perception of, “I’m about to be spammed, and I don’t want to be spammed.”
Again, it’s not fair. I doubt any of you are spammers, but we’re talking about perception here. Perception is everything. My hypotheses at that time was that we could create a space that is behind a member wall. It’s free to access, but that registering for this valuable information would act in a way that was more valuable, or at least perceived to be more valuable, than an opt-in concept.
If you look around today, it’s fairly common among journalism sites. For example, the Harvard Business Journal, you get four free articles, and then you’re prompted to register for free. Very smart. They’re not hitting you with a payment wall like some newspapers do. I think that’s a mistake. What they’re doing is getting an email address so that they can communicate with you on a regular basis with new content, but also to make offers to buy the subscription. That’s exactly what we’re doing here. You’ll be in good company with the Harvard Business Journal and people like that.
We’ve been doing this since 2013. It’s worked so well, I think, because we over-delivered with actual value — we’ve been talking about that the entire course — but we also enhanced the perceived value. I can hear some of you out there saying, “Well, if the actual value is so great, what does it matter about perceived value?”
It matters a lot. I’ve seen time and time again where there’s really good information just not being ‘sold’ correctly because people don’t realize you have to sell free in this day and age if you’re asking for an email address. This is similar to a social network or an application that I have to register for enhances the perceived value, and then you back it up with actual value.
Why You Need to Get Prospects Out of the Inbox
Here’s another thing. Even if you don’t buy into this free pay-wall concept that I’m giving you here, you want to get them out of the inbox. You should not publish, in my opinion, full body emails as your content. You should sell them opening it with your subject line and then sell them on clicking a link. Again, through our testing, I think the perceived value is less when they know you’re sending them to a freely available piece of content on the web, even if you have a hard-to-guess URL.
I’m going to continue to try to convince you that the access model is best. But at minimum, keep in mind and make note that you do want to get them to click out of the inbox into an environment that’s not cluttered with their to-do list, effectively.
Case Study: 400 Percent Increase in Email Subscriptions with an Access Approach
Some of you have heard me talk about this. In 2013 over at Copyblogger, we switched our entire email strategy. We went from an opt-in newsletter concept that promised one of those free courses where we send you a link and the lessons are just out there, accessible from the link in the email address, and we went to a content library concept.
The idea was that we could take a lot of our prior content, repurpose it into a better format in the form of ebooks that were available as PDFs, but also for the major ebook readers, and that, that would be our new call to action.
What happened exceeded even my expectations. We saw a 400 percent increase in opt-ins from the new strategy. That was not just short term. It persisted for years. I don’t know the exact percentage today, but we get hundreds of new email subscribers every single day on autopilot. It’s kind of amazing, which allows us to then implement sequences that highlight various products of ours.
For you, of course, you’re going to want to attract as many of the right people as you can with your opt-in offer — your registration and access offer, I should say — then, of course, convert them into clients.
That was our content library stacked with tons of high-value ebooks. Continues to work well from an opt-in percentage. What we’ve found since then is that a more persuasive approach — meaning not just how many people sign up, but how many people actually buy in the near term — is with an online course approach. It’s more perceived value. It’s more actual value. Most importantly, compared to other strategies that may get you an email address but don’t convert them to a client, you’ve got more influence.
Benefits of the Logged-In Experience
Finally, here’s the last thing from a technological standpoint why you really want to consider a membership concept — beyond all these psychological and value perceptions that we’re creating. From the standpoint of marketing automation, having someone who logs in as a member adds a crucial element to the marketing automation mix. And you’re hearing a lot more about people talking about the ‘identity level’ these days.
Typical marketing automation relies on cookies. You get set with a cookie, and that tells the software that you are this certain person. But what happens when you access this site from a new device? There are tracking links that you can use, but people go around that stuff all the time when they’re on a different device. You have no idea what they’re doing at that point.
They could have been doing serious exploratory searching from an information standpoint that tells you, “Wait a minute. This person is more qualified, from a lead scoring standpoint, than other prospects,” and yet you don’t know that. That defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to accomplish with marketing automation — which is determining what experience that prospect is looking for and then delivering it.
Cookies still have their place in part of marketing automation, but when you combine that with a registration and access standpoint, when they log in to interact with the content that you’ve provided for them, you can not only track the progress that they’ve made — for example, through an online course — you can also see what other behavior they may do on your general site, in general.
Think about that, the logged-in experience. It’s better from a psychological standpoint. It’s better from an influence standpoint, and it’s better from a technology standpoint so that you’re not seeing people fall through the cracks.
Of course, all of this is easily done with the Rainmaker Platform. I won’t give you too much of a pitch. Head over there, and try the free trial yourself at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Again, I promised you that I wasn’t going to teach you anything that couldn’t be done in other ways outside of the platform. I’m going to put together a list of plugins that you can use if you have a WordPress site that you can get all of this done as well. I’m going to do that at the end of the course because, frankly, I haven’t built a site with WordPress in a couple years because we use our own technology. So I’m going to make sure I get the best current recommendations out there, and I will share that with you.
Up Next: Authority Content
All right, thanks for tuning in. We’ll be back next time talking about authority content. This is really where we start kicking in that influential information-sharing that makes you the only logical choice for your prospects. Until then, stay cool and keep going.