Many businesses or schools have content that should only be accessed by certain people. For b2b businesses, this could include “premium” (paid content) or even a series of content that you want to feel “premium” or exclusive. For schools, a hidden/custom content area could include important course materials, documentation, or even an applicant dashboard that pulls in curated content and information aligned directly to their interests.
Most CMS's give you the abiity to password protect certain pages, right out of the box. But that's imperfect:
- You can’t revoke access when someone should no longer be allowed in
- That password can easily be shared with someone else (and they can’t be revoked, either)
- Having a generic password doesn’t feel as “personal” as a real login.
But if you use Hubspot's Content Optimization System (our favorite!) as your CMS, there's a really easy way to create one of these areas using stock tools. It just requires a little creativity and "hacking", but i've already done that for you ;)
Enter: The Wellness Institute
The Wellness Institute teaches Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy to therapists (those with licenses and degrees, like Licensed Clinical Social Workers). They have an association (the Heart Centered Therapies Association) that every graduate of their six-day hypnotherapy certification program can join.
As a member of this association, you get:
- reduced prices to go to their conference, held every two years
- complete and total access to their twice-yearly journal
- entrance into their “Find A Therapist” database
- Loads of premium content that is only for Association members
As their inbound marketing consultant, they asked me if I could figure out a way to do it. Never being one to shy away from a challenge (and considering myself a power user of Hubspot), I gladly took it on.
Before we get started, here's a gif of the final result to provide context for all of my instructions below:
Here’s How We Created A Premium Content Area for The Wellness Institute
Alright, so first of all let’s go ahead and map out the tools we’re using:
- COS Site Pages tool – this one’s obvious because your pages will be built with this tool.
- Smart content features – this will allow us to deliver content to them if this system detects that they are allowed to see it. If the system detects that they aren’t, they won’t.
- Contacts tool - this one is obvious, but i'm mentioning it anyways. The contacts tool tracks our leads and also tracks admission to the content pages by a form field called "association membership". More importantly, it allows us to revoke their access to the content (by marking it lapsed) if they don't renew their membership.
- Lists tool – the lists tool allows us to track who can and can’t see it, and deliver the appropriate content.
1. Set up a tracking list for people allowed entrance to this area
Alright, so this is the easy part (well, it’s all easy). All you need to do is set up a list for people you want to allow into your super secret content area. This uses the lists tool of Hubspot. For our purposes, this was really easy because all of our leads have a contact property called “Association Membership” with the options of “current” or “lapsed”.
So all we had to do was add people on this inclusion list if they had a status of “current”. For you, it might be different. If you’re a business, maybe it’s “paid content membership=yes” or if you’re a school, it could be “has applied to our school=yes”.
2. Set up the library (entrance) page for Default content (allowed=no)
Now, run over to your handy dandy site pages tool. Get a page set up. It doesn’t have to be anything mind-blowing…just a simple page with a sidebar and a main content area (you’re better off using one single content area). On this page, we’re going to be setting up a content entry-point. This is like a library, or a resource area. By going to this page, they will gain entrance to all of the other linked content.
This is where the magic happens. We need to set up two version of this page:
- (Smart) Default Content (allowed=no) – this is what people will see if they are not allowed in to this content area
- Smart Content (allowed=yes) – this is what people will see if they are allowed to see this awesome content
For the default content area, you’re obviously setting up the page to not include the content they’re trying to access. But, a good marketer never misses a marketing opportunity…right? If someone ends up on this page accidentally, and can’t see the content they were hoping to see, this content should achieve three things:
- It should let them know they don’t belong in this area, and why
- It should tell them why this area is so awesome and why they should try to gain access to the content
- It should provide a customer support email for users who actually do belong here but something went wrong and they’re seeing this “error” content.
You’ll see in the screenshot (or gif) above the approach we took to this error page.
3. Set up the library (entrance) page for allowed=yes
Now, it’s time to set up the content that you want your most awesome contacts to see. This is really simple.
- Using the same page (and editor) that you used in step 2, go to the module where you input all that content in the previous step.
- Above the module editor, there’s a little gray bar that should say “default” and have an icon that indicates it a menu.
- Click that menu
- Click “Define smart rules”
- Set up your smart rule to be list-based
- Set the smart rule to allow people to see this content if they are a member of the list (allowed=yes) that you made in step 1
- Add in the content you want people to see on this page. We used this page as a resource center. If someone is able to see this smart content, then they can access all of our other premium content which is linked here.
That’s it. Simple, right? Basically what’s happening here on this page is we've told Hubspot to monitor people who come to this page. If they are a member of the inclusion list we made eaelier, they get to see our amazing content. If they aren't, they don't. Sucks for them!
4. Set up the “login” point
Okay, so this is the next part. You now want to add in a login point. This achieves two things:
- It makes people feel like they’re logging into a special area, which they are.
- It allows you to re-cookie them from Hubspot.
So let’s quickly talk about point #2 because it’s essential you get the technical logic here. Your contacts (including your super special ones) get cookied by Hubspot when they show up on your website. This cookie tracks all of their activities. When they provide their email address somewhere on your website (via form), all of their cookied activity is then permanently stored in their contact record.
This is super useful. When you have people that are viewing your website for the first time, cookie-ing them allows you to see all kinds of crazy great info like what the first page they visited was, what things they clicked on, what source of traffic they came from (organic vs. social vs. direct vs. paid, etc.) and more. Their cookie continues to track them and add important activites and behavior to their contact record, so your marketing to them can get even smarter.
This cookie technology is imperfect, primarily because sometimes their cookies get out of sync with their contact record, and none of that awesome marketing activity gets saved. That sucks! If they happen to be browsing your website without a known cookie (that is synced to their contact record), then all of their activity is once again anonymous, and Hubspot doesn’t know who they are. Their cookie could be out of sync for any of the following reasons:
- They cleared their cookies in their browser
- They’re using a different browser
- They got a new computer
- They’re browsing on their phone instead of their desktop (which they were browsing on when they were originally cookied)
- They’re using their personal laptop instead of their work laptop
- And more
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why a known contact will look anonymous to Husbpot. We don’t want this. If Hubspot doesn’t know who they are, how can we know if they should be able to access our super secret content?
That is the key reason that having an email-based login point is essential. It allows us to re-cookie a contact and determine what content (allowed=no or allowed=yes) we should deliver to them when they end up on this page.
You can have a basic login form on this page, as long as it includes the email address. We decided to go a little special with this area by having a login button with a cool popup window (called a modal). You can see this example in the gifIf you want to know how to do that, email me privately (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can help you out.
5. Set up the exclusive content pages
Now that you have the basic entry way page set up, you can set up your exclusive content pages. You can obviously do this before you do the entryway page. I just did it this way because the entryway page will be the least time-intensive and might involve a wee-bit of troubleshooting.
Then you just link these pages to your library page like I showed you that I did in the previous example.
6. Find the person nearest you and give them the highest of fives
You did it! You da (wo)man! Now find the person nearest you (or your boss!), and give them a nice big high-five. You just hacked Hubspot to make a SWEET paid content area.
As always, don't hesitate to email me (email@example.com) if you're facing any particular issues you think I can help with. Don't worry, I'm not a sales guy (blech)...just happy to help my fellow marketers in need.
Ross Andrew Simons