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Personal Private Minisites Pave Paths To Profits!

By Michel Fortin
Posted Friday, June 25, 2004

A recent, growing trend on the Internet is the private minisite -- it's a small, password-protected website that offers "insider information" on a topic that might be of interest to a specific audience. Similar to an ebook, it primarily offers information that's geared for a specific group, niche or vertical industry.

A private "minisite" is like a small, niche-oriented community, where access is restricted and granted for a fee. Of course, web communities are all the rage, right now, for various reasons -- one is certainly the fact that these places help to humanize the digital experience as well as offer "insider information" that's current and more palpable, particularly for that group of people.

However, the success of a private site, whether large or small, is largely predicated on the idea that it is dynamic and offers many extras that plain, static information products (like ebooks, for example) don't or can't. One of its greatest benefits is the fact that it is constantly updated with the latest information.

As an example, private sites offer many resources, which help to make the site vibrant, vital and valuable: checklists, surveys, applications, downloads, resources, chatrooms, scripts, services, links, file sharing, "hot" topics-of-the-day, discussion forums, event calendars, instant messaging, reviews, consultations, etc.

Membership-based minisites, however, are not large or bulky. And they don't necessarily need all of the above bells and whistles. They are called "mini" because, typically, the private section of the site consists of content and the public site consists of just one long copy sales letter. (Being a web copywriter, the bulk of my work consist of sales letters for private sites, these days.)

The driving force behind private minisites is the idea that their members feel part of an elite group who have access to exclusive knowledge, and the fact that they are constantly being updated on the subject matter. It's an important part of their membership.

If you're an expert on a specific topic, or if you know how to do something better (or different) than anybody else, then you have a basis for a private minisite. But unlike ebooks or information products, your income will not be based on one-time sales but on recurring, billed memberships, including renewals and upsales of non-competing products or affiliate programs to your members.

An additional yet enormously compelling benefit of private sites is the idea that the owner offers personalized consulting on the topic area. Members receive not only information but also one-on-
one, individualized support. (A good way to accomplish this is by erecting a members' discussion board. It also reduces redundancy, since questions need to be answered only once in many cases.)

The more niche-oriented or unique the product is, the greater the chances of success for the private site will be. Simply offering content that's exclusive to private members is a start, for the feeling of exclusivity is the catalyst behind any private site.

As a long copy, web sales letter copywriter, there are several things that help make private minisites compelling to aspiring members. Let me give you a few examples to give you a headstart.

1) Drive customer actions by telling them, specifically, what you want them to do. Use expressions like "click here," "subscribe today," "visit this," "join now," "go there," "discover how" and "learn these" are commands in which you compel people to take action. Take them "by the hand," in other words.

Private sites (or any sales-oriented, single-product site, for that matter) must have the least amount of links on or around the sales letter. The more links there are (to other resources or pages, for example), the more you distract users and take their focus away from your letter (and away from the purpose
of your public site, which is to sell private memberships).

I know I'm going against the grain, here. But offering extra pages, like FAQs, links, testimonials and so on, are great for information-based sites (or those selling multiple products). They help to make the site "sticky" and drive search engine rankings. But for private minisites, they're dead weight.

If you're selling a single product, keep visitors focused and steer them in only one direction. Too many messages, choices or "things to do" only confuse people. If you offer an opt-in email newsletter, for example, turn the subscription form into a pop-up or add it to the body of your sales letter. In short,
if you offer people too many choices, they will not make one.

(You're unknown, so a newsletter, opt-in mailing list or even a multipart course delivered via autoresponder is an important tactic, since you build trust and develop a relationship with your prospects who might not be inclined to join right now.)

Look at how I incorporated the opt-in form within the copy I wrote for Kirt Christensen at ( There are only three links: order page, affiliate signup page and login page. But the form is added on the sales letter and in a pop-up window. Bottom-line, the sales letter won't drive people away and keeps them focused, interested and excited.

2) Jim Rohn said that, "Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value." People fear making bad decisions. With scams and snake oils rampant on the web, the fear is even greater when shopping online. So, most of them tend to procrastinate, even when they're interested in your offer. Therefore, communicate a certain sense of urgency that compels visitors to act now.

Use "takeaway selling" to stop people from procrastinating. In other words, shape your offer -- and not just your product -- so that it is limited, time-sensitive or quantity-bound. Make your offer scarce. As an example, put a deadline on your offer or some kind of limit on the number of people you accept.

(Takeaway selling is based on the fact that "people don't know how much they want something until it's about to be taken away from them." It's the supply-and-demand mentality: the rarer or less available something is, the more people want it. And it's also one of the reasons behind the success of private sites.)

Add a deadline to your offer, or limit the number of products you sell (or the number of new members you allow to join). But there is a caveat: to make sure that people believe your need to limit the offer, give a reasonable, logical explanation to justify your time-sensitivity -- or else your tactic will be
instantly discredited. (How many "time-limited" offers have you seen on the web that are totally false or misleading?)

If you add a deadline or limit the number of members, you must explain why you're doing so. Here's an example of what I put on some sales letters I've written -- they sell memberships to private sites and offer personal consulting to their members:

Example #1:

"To be candid with you, I don't know how long I'm going to keep the doors open to new members because this information is extremely sensitive and limited. I don't want to dilute the value of this information for my paid members. If you were a member, wouldn't you want the same, too? So, I must restrict the number of users for quality control purposes."

(In this case, it is very true. The author sells access to a limited number of "hot" real estate opportunities that he finds through his unique system, which he also teaches his members. If too many people join and get their hands on the opportunities or the system, it will surely lower the value
of the information to the member-base, and contradict the purpose of the site. Otherwise, why would one join?)

Example #2:

"We're only human, and there are only so many hours in a day (and so many people we can physically attend to)! So, in order to limit the number of hours we do provide, we must put a cap on the number of new members for obvious reasons. We can only guarantee that people who sign up through [date] will qualify for membership, completely custom-tailored consulting support and this incredible set of free bonuses worth over $[amount]! 'You snooze, you lose'. So, don't wait. Join NOW!"

(This example demonstrates the importance of the support they offer private members and, at the same time, drives home the idea that such a service is limited. I'm sure the owners can hire part-time help if the need ever arose. But nothing can replace expertise that comes from straight the experts -- the more people join, the less time they have.)

3) People are instinctively curious. And nothing piques curiosity more than something that's secret, rare, private, unavailable, exclusive, limited, scarce, uncommon, prohibited, hidden, etc. The unknown drives people's interest. They love having dibs on something that's not readily available (especially if it gives them an edge over the competition before they know about it).

So, use words like "private site," "exclusive members area," "insider access" or "restricted vault." Moreover, people love not only hidden information but also the idea that it's all put together into a single place that's easy to access, learn and digest. It all comes down to a matter of convenience.

Expressions like "secret formula," "custom checklist," "unique process," "specialized system" and so on all help to heighten perceived value because they imply less time, money and effort in finding that same information. As an example, when I write the copy for private sites, I use terms such as: "Proficiency
Program," "Secret Formula," "Inner Circle," "Hidden Vault," "Mentoring System," "Treasure Trove," "Coveted Toolkit," etc.

Even though such phrases are truly qualifying the product as a whole (i.e., the entire private minisite) and not one specific item, formula or system, it still helps to make the product a little more tangible and convenient in the visitor's mind. It also adds a certain mystique to it. Use it to your advantage!

4) Finally, put a numerical value on any benefit you promise, be it in dollars or hours. And make it an odd number, for they are more believable than even or rounded numbers. (That's why, for example, Ivory said it's "99 and 44/100% pure." If Ivory had said "100%," it wouldn't have been as believable.)

In fact, here's a rule of thumb. A true benefit is one that's:

1) Quantifiable,
2) Measurable and
3) Time-bound.

One private site, whose copy I recently critiqued, offers golf training to its members. But originally, one benefit promised, "You will hit stronger drives." I told the owner to replace it with, "My unique, mentoring system will show you how to boost your drives by as much as 27 yards in less than 30 days."

The word "yards" makes the benefit measurable, the word "27" makes it quantifiable and the words "30 days" make it time-bound. Now, that's a clear, cogent and compelling benefit!

Nevertheless, if you're an Internet marketer or entrepreneur, the private minisite may be the product for you. But realize that the number of memberships you successfully sell will hinge greatly on the words and expressions used in your sales copy. If you ignite your site with killer copy, you will detonate your response rate.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is web copywriter, author and marketing consultant dedicated to helping turn businesses into powerful magnets. Long copy, email and web sales letters are his specialty. Get a FREE copy of his ebook or subscribe to his FREE monthly newsletter, "The Profit Pill," by visiting (


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