5 Benefits of the ‘Access’ Approach to Online Marketing

The modern marketing website offers more than static information, more than useful content — it offers an experience. Access is what the experience is all about.

In this 25-minute episode, the third in a five-part series on the elements of the modern marketing website, Brian Clark and Jerod Morris discuss:

  • What drives all of the most popular websites
  • Why the future is HTML5, not apps
  • How access helps you build your email list faster
  • Why it’s so important to overcome the “fallacy of cookies”
  • How access gives you the opportunity for true communities
  • Why you no longer need an enterprise-level war chest

The Show Notes

5 Benefits of the ‘Access’ Approach to Online Marketing

Voiceover: You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs.

DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur. I’m Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and I’m joined today by Rainmaker Founder and CEO Brian Clark.

Brian, when people hear this episode, at least the day that it goes live, you’re going to be over in the Philippines. Right now as we record it, you are preparing for an excruciatingly long airplane flight. How do you prepare for a flight that long?

Brian Clark: I don’t know. I’ve never been on a plane that long, so it’s going to be a new adventure. I’m in business class. That’s all I can say. I’ve heard that’s much better than economy, so we’ll see.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Do you just have work back to back to back, ready to go? I know we’ve talked about this before. I get about as much work done on an airplane as I get done anywhere else.

Brian Clark: Yeah. It’s the recording stuff that I have to get done before I get on the plane because we’ll not have our nice setup of recording equipment, acoustics, and all of that good stuff. I’ve got a whole stack of reading and writing that I hope will keep me engaged so that it’s not too painful. I will report back. Everyone keeps asking me this, and I’m like, “I don’t have any idea.”

Jerod Morris: Yes, yes. I’ll be very interested to know how that goes. Speaking of recording, we’ve got to get this episode in here before you go. We’re continuing on talking about the elements of the modern marketing website. We’ve talked about email, and last week we talked about how adaptive websites deliver exceptional experiences while accelerating profit.

Why Creating an Experience Is So Important

Jerod Morris: We’re going to go, now, to the next level. We’re going to talk about the ‘access’ approach to online marketing and talk about the importance of experiences. It’s interesting. It struck me as I was thinking about this episode. I had the good fortune a couple of weeks ago to go to a workshop out in LA. The workshop was about presentations. If you look at the headline, actually, on the website for that workshop, Rock the Room, it says, “Creating an experience is more important than delivering information.”

One of the biggest reasons why I had so much fun at that workshop and learned so much is because what we were learning about presentations was so applicable to so many different areas of my life and my work, including what we’re talking about right now–this idea of how creating an experience is so important, even more so than just delivering the information that you have.

Brian Clark: Yeah. If you look at the evolution of the web, you cannot escape hearing about creating experiences–whether it be customer experience, customer lifetime-value experiences, and most importantly, from this standpoint, is the experience a prospect has when they’re evaluating you as an option to solve the problem or satisfy the desire.

If you look back in the old days with the static ‘brochure site,’ it was just static information. It didn’t change. It was just about the company, and it wasn’t really oriented toward the prospect at all really.

Then, of course, we had the content marketing revolution where static sites were basically invisible. Let’s face it. Without content, you weren’t showing up in search. You weren’t getting shared in social.

Dynamic-content-based sites, that was a big change. We’re evolving to the next level where the web itself is pushing us to give the kind of interactive access experience that we’re talking about here today.

Jerod Morris: What strikes me about access–and especially since we think about it from a website perspective because I know that I’ve done this–at least before maybe a year, year and a half ago, it didn’t seem like something that I needed to do on my website, that I could do, or even perhaps that I should do.

It felt like this, “Wait a minute. You’re going to make people have to register or have a login to get to your site?” Then you step back, and you think, “Well, wait a minute. All the most popular sites online– Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, every other site–these big sites we go to, they require access. Why would we think that same thing couldn’t or shouldn’t apply to what we’re building with our sites?”

Why ‘Access’ Is Just One Component of an Experience

Brian Clark: Everything good online requires registration and access. That’s the mentality we have. We were early on this. We did our first access approach back in 2013. You’ll remember that was based on Brian’s hypothesis of what was happening online and what would work better. It turned out to work really, really well, as we’ll get into.

It’s important to remember that all of these elements are interrelated. We require registration to get access, but we’re also doing that to build an email list. Once we have that email list coordinating with the site, that’s how we deliver adaptive content.

These aren’t mutually exclusive when we talk about an experience, but access is an important component, like you said. Facebook and Twitter, until you log in, you’re not having the experience. Even Amazon, Apple, Google, Gmail–all of the good stuff that we all use–it requires this concept. There’s a pretty strong psychological mechanism going on here just when it comes to perceived value, but there’s a whole lot of other benefits to this access approach as well.

Jerod Morris: With this access that people give us comes a responsibility, too. We have to make sure that we’re delivering a good and useful experience. People do get leery of opting-in due to bad experiences, due to spam, all of that. We’ve got to make sure that the experience that we’re delivering is good, that it’s useful, and that it’s not going to fall into some of those traps that others have that give people, sometimes, a bad impression of logging in or registering.

Brian Clark: Oh yeah. That’s rule number one. If you don’t have an audience-focused value proposition, you’re just not even in the game. But you’re right, you mentioned that we’re leery of the concept of opting-in to a newsletter that we consider just to be a thinly disguised marketing vehicle. There’s got to be something more here.

So we are dealing with human psychology, the usability of the internet, and how it works. We’re mirroring that in a way that used to be cost prohibited, but now it’s not. Remember, the original web app was the membership site, and that dates way back. It’s just much easier to build them now.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, so let’s start talking about the benefits of doing this and why you, the digital entrepreneur who is listening to this, why this access approach is going to be so important to you. Let’s start, Brian, with what you talked about with the app experience. Why is this such a big benefit of the access experience?

Why the Future Is HTML5, Not Apps

Brian Clark: Well, the rise of the mobile app is an important thing, as you know. It gave a lot of people the wrong idea–that somehow they had to get people to download their app and clutter up their phone just to visit and consume content. That was a mistake. It’s been expressed very loudly in various different ways.

It’s just a conversion killer. You’re putting up an impediment in front of what they want. You’re actually impeding the experiencing instead of enhancing it. It’s completely unnecessary. The way search works, the way sharing works, we have something called the open web that works incredibly well for allowing people to get where we want them to go.

The new thing really is, like we’ve talked about, responsive design. Whether they’re on a phone, a tablet, a desktop, or a laptop, the site is going to adapt to them as if it were a mobile app. Then we’ve got, of course, just basic membership capabilities that we say, “Okay, if you want this, it’s protected here. It’s valuable. That’s why we don’t just put it out there for everyone.” That sends a message–again, that whole perceived value aspect of it.

Of course, with HTML5 a webpage can now do anything an app can do. That’s really where we’re going to see things push forward with this app-like experience, but the very beginning part of a web-app experience is simply gating off something valuable and exchanging access to that for the right to email them.

How Access Helps You Build Your Email List Faster

Jerod Morris: Yeah, this is so interesting. The second benefit we talk about is building your email list faster. I’ve experienced this firsthand with one of my side projects, The Assembly Call, which I’ve talked about a lot on The Showrunner and some other shows. It’s a postgame show for Indiana basketball games.

What we did differently this year is … our show has always been freely available, that’s the big hook of our content. We kept it that way, but I wanted to basically try out some of these things that I was learning and create a membership component to it since the site is built on Rainmaker.

What I love is the mindset I went into, which is thinking, “Okay, if I’m going to do this and I’m going to make people have to log in, I need to give them something worthwhile.” So we created a halftime show and made it membership only. We added a chat that was only for people who were logged in, and then we actually used the course component of Rainmaker to build this huge 50 Greatest Hoosiers of All Time content series.

What’s amazing is how much our email list, how much our audience has grown, and how much more connected people are now that they actually have to log in to get the extras. They can still go to the live page. They can get the postgame show for free. We won’t change that, and we keep that up, doesn’t require any login.

To take that next step, to become part of the community, to get on the other side of that velvet rope and really connect with the host and with the other audience members, you have to log in. It hasn’t turned people away. It has made our audience growth accelerate because now those people who were in their part of the community are so much more connected. The sharing and telling of other people has just gone through the roof.

It’s really amazing how, when you add this to your site, how it can just make everything, the perceived and real value of what you’re doing, just skyrocket.

Brian Clark: Yeah, because you’re creating a more tangible experience. We’re going to keep coming back to that word because that’s what it is. You’re giving the right value to the right people, and of course, their raising their hands in greatest numbers.

Now, remember the original hypothesis back in 2013 and the experiment was My Copyblogger–400 percent increase in email signups. It even shocked me. Now, you’ve noticed that we did it again with the New Rainmaker course that launched the Rainmaker Platform. Our flagship product was launched using this very access concept.

Now we’re doing it again over at Digital Commerce with the free registration. You get access to select lessons from our paid courses, along with some other stuff. It’s a great value proposition. That list went from zero to thousands faster than probably most. That’s pretty awesome. You match up value with access, and more people will sign up. That’s just what we’ve seen over and over again.

Jerod Morris: We’re talking about these benefits of the access approach to online marketing. We’ve talked about the app experience and building your email list faster. The third one, and I love this one, is the ability to identify people across devices for a true adaptive content experience.

Why It’s So Important to Overcome the ‘Fallacy of Cookies’

Jerod Morris: If people don’t log in, you don’t really have a great way of differentiating or knowing if this person who’s visiting right now on the desktop, did they just visit before on their phone? Are these two separate people, or are they the same person? How do you adapt an experience if you don’t know that?

That’s such a huge benefit of doing this. When people are logged in, you can track their movements, track what they’re doing, track what they’re consuming across different devices so that you can give them the experience that they need and want.

Brian Clark: Yeah. You’re talking about the cookie problem that marketing automation has historically faced. A cookie’s planted on the desktop. Then they come back on the phone, and it’s like they just started over. You have no way of connecting those dots.

Identity is something that’s really being talked a lot about at the enterprise-marketing tech level. Again, we’ve been talking about this for quite awhile, but you’re seeing it really catch on. It’s a big problem when you don’t really have a relationship with someone in the sense that, if we’re going to deliver this adaptive, custom, one-of-a-kind experience based on who you are and what you do, then we have to have this identity component.

I read an interesting white paper of someone selling an outrageously expensive solution to solve the identity problem, and I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got one of those, and it’s not that extensive. It’s called Rainmaker Platform.”

How Access Gives You the Opportunity for True Communities

Jerod Morris: Yeah, exactly. Then what that allows you to do, when you give people this great experience and you’re building your email list and you’re able to identify people across devices, now you can do what I talked about that we’ve done this year with The Assembly Call–which is taking everything to the next level, really build a true community, a branded community, create these velvet-rope environments. When people get past them, they really feel like they’ve got to the next level.

They connect more with you. They can connect with the other people who are in there. Again, when we talk about experience, when we talk about standing out in a crowded field, that can really, really separate you. Obviously, when it comes to turning visitors into audience members and audience members into customers, that’s huge.

Brian Clark: Yeah, this is another thing happening at the enterprise level. Forester started talking about this last year–how after the social media swindle and the fallacy of trying to sell to people at the social level, and then, of course, the bait and switch with Facebook and all of that, there was this movement for brands to create communities back at their sites, essentially membership sites.

Again, I’m sure the implementation over there is going to cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it doesn’t need to be. That’s kind of cool. We little guys can create these branded communities as well–and should.

Let’s face it, a Facebook ‘like’ does not mean someone’s part of your community. A Facebook group even is a poor excuse for these access-driven, branded communities that you can build. You just gave us a perfect example with Assembly Call.

It really kills me because you’ll have people say, “Well, it’s just easier to stay over there at Facebook where they are.” It’s easy to spew offers and egocentric pitches to people, too, but that’s not going to work. I really don’t like it when people say, “It’s easier at Facebook.” That’s a fallacy, and it’s kind of lazy.

Jerod Morris: Oh, it totally is. Just because it’s easy, that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s what you should be doing. It certainly doesn’t mean that it’s rewarding in any way. Ever since we’ve started to really develop the community, everything with that site and with the content has taken off.

It’s not just there. There’s so many people that we talk to in our Digital Commerce Academy Q&A’s and just that we interact with that are experiencing this very same thing. The other benefit that you really get here is, you’re able to uncover the intent of the buyer’s journey.

We talked about, in our last episode, how every buyer’s journey is different, yet we make the mistake of treating them the same.

When you have this access experience and when you’re really giving someone a great experience so they continue to consume your content, you can actually see what they’re consuming, understand them better, and deliver more relevant content to them–you’re actually able to treat them like an individual, which has myriad benefits.

Brian Clark: Yeah. Something we did back in 2013 was create multiple access points. Meaning, if you came in from search looking for content marketing, you were treated slightly differently than if you came in for searching for landing pages.

With the recent redesign of Copyblogger, we took that intent aspect to the next level. “What do you want to learn about?” Asking specifically, “What journey do you want to go on?” That’s a big step forward for us, but also think about what we’re doing with the free content at Digital Commerce Academy.

Right now, there’s this one kind of access point, the free registration. As you well know, we’ve been plotting all the different access points that show what’s the top-of-mind intent. Are they most interested in online courses? What persona are we dealing with here? What part of the funnel are they in? That’s just something you can’t do with a normal opt-in email newsletter. It’s just not the same experience whatsoever.

Using the right type of content and providing access points to that content based on where they’re at in the journey, this is really the magic of all of this stuff of adaptive content. It’s access and selective access–the way we can turn certain things on and certain things off inside the membership area based on your access point. That’s pretty exciting stuff.

Why You No Longer Need an Enterprise-Level War Chest

Jerod Morris: It is. It’s really exciting stuff. What’s especially exciting, Brian, is what we’re talking about right now. We’ve been talking about that at Copyblogger for a while. Like you said, we started doing this at My Copyblogger several years ago.

If I remove myself from the job that I have and if I’m just Jerod Morris over here creating a site, as I was before I joined Copyblogger–when you look at sites like Facebook, Amazon, and these really big sites where you have to log in and they create these great experiences–for someone like me, I look at it, and it just seems so intimidating from a technology perspective that it doesn’t really seem like something that’s attainable to me.

Yet that’s probably been one of the biggest shifts. It’s one of the reasons why this is so important to talk about now. As you mentioned earlier, with something like the Rainmaker Platform, it doesn’t need to be so intimidating. You don’t need to have some huge bank roll or these crazy technical skills to do this. It’s actually become pretty simple to create this kind of experience that we’re talking about.

Brian Clark: Yeah, and it’s interesting. If you’re a digital entrepreneur–which we hope you are since that’s the name of this show–you need these type of capabilities anyways to sell stuff. Whether you’re selling plugins, themes, courses, ebooks–you need a way to gate your intellectual property until someone pays you for it.

It’s already part of the game plan, but a lot of people’s minds open up when they understand how you can use this level of sophisticated permissions and what not that we have on the back-end, combined with marketing automation, to truly create an experience–not just to pay lip service to it.

Up Next … Using Online Courses As Lead Magnets

Jerod Morris: Yeah. We talked about the access experience today. It won’t be next week, but when we resume this series, we’re going to talk about using online courses as lead magnets. Again, as you said, all of these elements are interrelated.

When we talk about the access experience, and we mentioned at the beginning, the importance of really giving people something worthwhile, giving them a reason to log in, well, this is where really delivering a good, a useful online course can be a great lead magnet as you start to build your membership site and create this access experience that can deliver you all of the benefits that we’ve talked about today.

Brian Clark: Yes. We’re talking about access, but access to what? Now we’re talking about, where are they on the journey? What’s the access point? What’s the intent? Mix that in with identity. You have to remember that great content marketing is giving people something worth paying for. People will pay for online education. We know that for sure.

Also, the best way to sell online education is to give them a free sample of that education. We’re going to talk about specifically why courses are the best way to determine that intent at the access point and then bring them along on their journey inside our environment–which is very powerful psychologically–then get them to the point where they realize that we’re the solution that they’re looking for.

Jerod Morris: Yep. Brian, since you can’t make it, I actually booked Donald Trump to discuss how he’s going to transition Trump University into a tremendous free online course next week.

Brian Clark: That should be very, very entertaining. Good luck.

How to Take Your Digital Commerce Education to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: Thank you. Real quick, as we close up here, you listening, if you want to take your digital commerce education to the next level, I really suggest that you go get your free taste of Digital Commerce Academy.

Not only do you get seven free lessons of Brian’s course on building an online training business the smart way and Tony and Chris’ course on building automated marketing funnels, but you also get access to three incredible case study webinars with Nathan Barry, Danny Margulies, and Brian Gardner that really are must watch for any current or aspiring digital entrepreneur like you.

You’ll also get our weekly email newsletter as well, and as I said, it’s a free taste. Go to DigitalCommerce.com/Register, get activated, and get your free membership today. With that, Brian, I wish you a wonderful trip to the Philippines.

Brian Clark: I’m going to the airport. Hold down the fort for me.

Jerod Morris: I will do my best. We will talk to you next week on another episode of The Digital Entrepreneur.