Could the secret to increasing sales actually be about selectively sharing secrets & limiting access?


Psst! I’ve got some secrets to share. We’re going to explore the idea of secrecy and limiting access as a marketing ploy to increase demand and sales.

Please don’t tell,” or PDT to regulars, is a secret cocktail bar in New York City. While it’s a lot less hidden these days due to the “secret” word getting out, the concept is unique and certainly word of mouth worthy. The only way in is through a phone booth inside Crif Dogs hot-dog café next door, coincidently under the same ownership. While PDT serves up creative cocktails, Crif Dogs serves up good old greasy pub food. It’s a creative match made in heaven, for the after drinks food craving crowd. Once in the phone booth, you dial “1” and wait. Then a secret door opens up and you enter the bar out the other side. Patrons in the café are left wondering where you went. There are no signs on the street. They don’t advertise. The only way to know about it is through word of mouth about how to get in. They do take reservations, but the phone lines often jam up after 3pm when they start accepting calls. It appears the secret has become popular.

Their website is different too. There is no pull down menus or places for additional information. There is one photo, a logo and a phone number for reservations. The landing page is their site, and the absence of information makes it as secret as their bar.

PDT uses a classic marketing tactic of limiting access to make it more desirable. They’ve also tapped the notion of creating secrecy to actually get people talking about them more, because it would appear, the general population likes to share a good secret!

This “limiting the offering to make it more appealing” was the technique James Wright used to turn around the fortunes of the Vancouver Opera, once tipping on the brink of bankruptcy, now one of the hottest tickets in town. While budgets were stretched and they weren’t selling out houses previously, he cut back on the number of offerings and performances, while bringing in great talent and then bumped up prices. The word got out about the great season, and it sold out quickly. That fact that you couldn’t get a ticket, made those who wanted one, want it even more. The following season they added more performances and had a winner on their hands again.

Pop up retail is another example of using secrecy to have customers publicize offerings. With pop up retail, importers or even those testing the waters for a retail concept set up in locations leased for 1 month. Then they rely on direct marketing through email and social media to spread the word on great deals. I’ve heard of midnight madness openings at 12am, member only sneak preview showings, or even retail in the back of a semi truck in an undisclosed parking lot one night only. While I’m uncertain about the legality of the later example, I do know that sharing the great find and the secret location and time creates buzz with the target group. Obviously having a direct marketing list or strong following on Facebook is an important component of the pop up retail strategy.

So are there ways you could limit what you offer to create more demand? Or perhaps use the notion of secrecy and access as a tactic to get customers talking about your business? And don’t forget to “share the secret” of this great marketing blog. I’m grateful when you encourage others to read and comment on it!


Mary Charleson

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