“The Velvet Rope Effect.” Using Exclusivity to Drive Customer Engagement and Growth
“VIP.” “Private.” “Wait List.” “By Invitation only.” These words create a sense of mystique, desirability, exclusivity, and scarcity in the hearts and minds of anyone who sees or hears them. “I Must Get Access” is the first typical emotional response. “When and How Can I Get Access” follows, then if unsuccessful, “Why Can’t I Get Access,” and finally succeeded by “How Can I Beat the System to Get Access Faster.” These emotional responses have massive power in the world of brand marketing. Exclusive Credit Cards, Vacation Packages, Clothing Lines, Financial Services, Resorts, Inter-City Flight Airlines, and even Online Services drive huge amounts of traffic by creating this aura of exclusivity. The retail world has been turned upside down by the success of Invitation Only sites that offer incredible deals to those “in the know.”
The pioneers of the Online Invitation paradigm are technology leaders like Google and LinkedIn, where you initially had to get invitations to access services like Gmail and LinkedIn. More recently, Google is using the invitation approach for it’s Inbox Service, and Microsoft is using it for Sway, with wait lists now numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Online eCommerce and Social Commerce pioneers eagerly embraced the “Exclusivity” paradigm. Successful early pioneers include Gilt, Hautelook, RueLaLa, etc., all who refined the methodology of exclusivity to a fine art that dramatically increased demand.
Mainstream brands have also recognized that the Internet provides an increasing number of consumer touch-points to broadcast and amplify targeted messages. Brands have acted by incorporating public, branded and un-branded, online social communities into their marketing, engagement, co-creation and innovation strategies. They can now connect with customers wherever and whenever they are: at home, at work, or mobile.
A Brand’s existing public online social communities are part of the Open Social Web, typically in the form of Facebook and Google fan pages, Twitter streams, Pintrest collections, Wanelo etc. They use these communities to regularly provide customers with information, promote offers, and get feedback on improving their business and products. By leveraging Open Social networks, you can also create and execute large-scale marketing campaigns to promote products and services and enable any interested consumer to check out offerings as well as virally share with friends and family. These interactions are completely open, making it easy to see how consumers are reacting to the Brand’s message. Likewise, consumers can also check out what peers are saying about the brand/product/service being promoted.
However, Open Social Marketing Campaigns are broadcast in nature, and not personal or special, making it almost impossible to engage a consumer directly. Everyone, including the Brand’s competitors, can see what the Brand is offering or asking of consumers. The public nature of these campaigns constricts what the Brand can reveal to its audience, and limit what it includes in its public networks in case a competitor is monitoring the community. Thus, there is limited-to-zero opportunity for Brands to create authentic intimacy in these massive public forums without losing the scale and reach necessary to compete in the mass market.
Consequently, Open Social Channels must be complemented with private Internet Channels. These Private Channels enable YOU to focus on YOUR most loyal and vocal customers via direct 1:1 conversations, establishing a true dialogue in a setting that is private and discrete.
Imagine being able to privately connect with your most loyal customers, at the most relevant moment, based on the time of day, and the customer’s location and immediate activity. This is all possible due to increasingly powerful and ubiquitous mobile devices and rapidly expanding, high bandwidth mobile networks.
All of the above is possible, via an array of technology platforms that enable you to establish and operate invitation-only, branded mobile social clouds.
And, once a customer joins your private cloud, you become a part of the customer’s personal cloud, always with them, 7x24x365: at home, in the office, or on the move. Furthermore, your Brand’s private social mobile cloud contributes directly to your customers need to feel special and enables you to:
- Selectively invite customers who qualify to participate in your private cloud, with membership that can range from a few dozen to thousands.
- Pre-emptively engage your private cloud members in key Brand initiatives to help improve existing products/services as well as shape and innovate on future products/services e.g. bringing customers into the product development process; soliciting input on new marketing campaigns; asking the customers what types of perks they might like as part of a rewards program etc.
- Share exclusive content, insider information, and special Brand experiences.
- Establish a true, bi-directional dialogue with your customers, fostering a greater level of intimacy.
- Communicate to your Customers how their input is actually being put to work in specific Brand initiatives.
- Reward your most active customers with special offers and credits available only to private cloud members.
Essentially, you are now using your private cloud to extend and implement your Brand’s years of experience using the power of exclusivity with your customers in the offline world. Additionally, private clouds can exponentially multiply the impact of “The Exclusivity Effect,” due to the reach of the Internet.
To summarize, invitation only, branded, mobile social clouds enable the formation of special 1:1 relationships with your customers and further strengthen their connection with your Brand. This, in turn, improves the opportunity to convert Customers into Brand Advocates who can help spread the word about your Brand’s most important initiatives. As you cultivate more of these exclusive relationships, the loyalty of those “inside the velvet rope” will continue to increase and they will begin to spread the messages that you want broadcast on a mass scale.
In conclusion, branded, invitation only, mobile social clouds complement a Brands’ public social presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest etc., converting engaged customers into ambassadors, consequently driving increased interest around the Brands portfolio of products, services, initiatives and events.