Warning: Make Web Visitors Insiders, Or They Won't Buy

Ian Lurie

If you can make visitors to your website feel like they’re insiders, they’ll buy, vote, read or otherwise convert into a great audience.
I proved that to myself, today, at Disneyland.

I hate Disneyland. It’s the antithesis of everything I like: It’s big, commercial, crowded, expensive and exhausting. Yet I spent the day at Disneyland today, and had a good time. Why?

My wife found this great book, the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.
Basically, it gives you the ideal schedule for a day at the park. When to show up, which gate to use to get in, which rides to go to first, etc.. It also includes information about which rides kids of various ages might like.
The result: We got here at 8:30 AM. At 1 PM we were feeling pretty dang smug: We’d hit all our favorite rides, had a nice lunch in quiet restaurant (I didn’t even know there was such a thing here), and the kids never descended into tired grumpiness.
We knew all the secrets to having a good day here.
In short, this book made us feel like insiders. It’s like a secret cache of information. I’ll recommend it again and again, because it let us in on a few secrets. We felt like members of a special club. Stuff we’d never noticed before jumped out at us and made our day much more fun.

Invite Your Visitors Into The Club

You can do the same thing on your web site.

  1. Give them one piece of information they couldn’t get anywhere else. It could be anything: How to accomplish a specific task; a recipe; some breaking news.
  2. Give them a special deal: A 1-hour sale on an item; a free whitepaper (no registration required) because they went to a specific page on the site; faster shipping because they bought a certain product.
  3. Talk to them. If they buy, call them. Not to pester or sell more, but to simply say ‘hi’ and ask if they were satisfied. Don’t use a call center for this. Do it yourself, or build a team to do it. Personal contact creates an unbeatable sense of belonging. You can’t get that with an e-mail or a bored telemarketer reading from a script.
  4. Start a cult. Not the sinister kind – create your own lexicon, or story, or something else, and give it to your audience. Then give them a chance to use it among themselves.
  5. Introduce them. Facilitate discussions amongst your audience. Be careful with this option. Folks don’t like the idea that you’re introducing them to strangers via the internet. Ideally, let them communicate online, via forums or something similar.

In short, make your visitors feel special, and they’ll elevate you from commodity to secret weapon.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. *gasp* You hate Disneyland?? That’s a sentence that strikes an arrow through my heart – but is also the exact reason I started my blog – well for those who *hate* Disney World actually but similar theme – I want to share all the tips and secrets I’ve learnt through the years to help them *love* Disney World. So for once it appears I am already doing something that you advice – helping them with a task :0)

  2. Great post, Ian. The idea that customers can be made to feel like insiders is something that companies need to keep in mind. This is even more important when you think about influencers and company advocates. No matter how small the reward, it’s important to make individuals who are already championing your company or product feel like an insider.
    Number 5: “Introduce them” seems especially important. Although it always good advice to be careful with forcing anything on your customers, I don’t think this is as hard a step as one might think. Customers are already communicating with each other online via external forums, review sites, etc.
    A company can understand what to control by launching a private community through its website. This is easy to implement with the technologies that are available today, and if a company can connect its influencers with the rest of the website visitors (and others online), the WOM will take over and do the rest.

  3. Alas, yes. I am the Unfun Parent: I deprive my kids of sugar, TV and video games. And I don’t like Disneyland.

  4. Hi Ian,
    This post caught my eye because of its focus on meeting your ideal customer needs! When I clicked through to the post it made me laugh because this week while vacationing on the Florida coast, I took a day to bring my dad to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. As a previous visitor, I knew that timing was everything . . . pity the poor woman we met in line at one of the rides who was dreading her next five days of this madness. . . . having no one to show her the way.
    I like to think of our Web content, particularly our blog as just that a guidebook to all the many things that businesses can do. Hey folks, here are the tools and strategies that work, here’s a nice blog post that answers your question! What I love about blogging is that it gives me a chance to address specific questions that there just isn’t time for in a two day workshop. . . and of course the real insiders, those who have attended an internet marketing workshop, get the feeling that each blog post has their needs in mind, further expanding the branding and value of the workshop.
    Incidentally, I love the idea of the followup phone call (if that user data is collected) just to touch base… somewhere along the line, we’ve forgotten about good old fashioned customer service, expecting that all this online stuff does it for us…

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