We often hear the term viral marketing, but what does it mean and how can it be implemented? Well-known B2B marketer and author, Christopher Ryan, describes viral marketing, its benefits, and shares nine useful viral marketing strategies to help you accelerate your business success.
The good news is that viral marketing is a Fusion Marketing strategy that can help you grow your business tremendously. The not-so-good news is that it is quite hard to make viral marketing work effectively. You need to have a combination of impeccable execution, luck, and timing. Many companies have tried viral marketing and only a few have succeeded in a big way. However, even those that are not big winners can often create positive outcomes. Therefore, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying viral marketing.
If the words viral marketing conjure up images of diseases or computer bugs, there is good reason. In his book Media Virus, Douglas Rushkoff used the disease analogy as follows: The assumption is that if such an advertisement reaches a “susceptible” user, that user will become “infected” (i.e., accept the idea) and will then go on to share the idea with others, “infecting them,” in the viral analogy’s terms.
6 Characteristics of Viral Marketing Campaigns
1. They are self-perpetuating.
2. They are timely and relevant.
3. They allow for easy forwarding of the message.
4. They have messages that are clear and intuitive.
5. They are interactive.
6. They can quickly scale from small to large campaigns.
9 Viral Marketing Strategies
One of the great things about viral marketing is that its results can be exponential. For example, direct marketing can be somewhat predictable based on response statisticsyou know that adding X amount of dollars in marketing expenses generates Y dollars in revenue. However, putting the same amount of dollars into a viral marketing campaign could generate Y dollars, YY dollars, or YYY dollars. It is a beautiful thing when you can make it happen, and this is why viral marketing is a strategy that can accelerate your business success. Here are nine strategies you can try for your company.
1. Give something away. People love to get free stuff and giveaways are a great way to build attention and loyalty. Information is a particularly good giveaway because it is inexpensive to distribute and can easily be segmented.
2. Create something amazing. Unless you are a large company, it can be tough to generate attention. Therefore, you need to be unique. You can do this by entertaining or provoking (or both). Funny works. Big statements work. Challenging the conventional wisdom works. But never do anything that creates so much controversy that it weakens your brand.
3. Make it a series. Sometimes it is better to create a series of information pieces or promotions that reinforce your message and build an audience over time.
4. Be persistent. To use the baseball analogy, the only way to hit home runs is to swing hardwhich also increases your chance of striking out. The same is true in marketing. You have to try things that may or may not work.
5. Use the right media vehicles to propagate your message. The right media vehicle is the one that will get the right people to respond. The hottest viral marketing campaigns seem to land on YouTube, but B2B marketers can have great success using the press, blogosphere, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
6. Reinforce what you are doing in viral marketing with traditional media. You can do this by providing links in your emails, advertisements, corporate Website, press releases, etc.
7. Capture contact information. Generating attention is nice, but what really accelerates your success is building a database of prospects and customers that you can nurture over time and sell to repeatedly. Every viral or non-viral marketing activity should help build your database.
8. Have a follow-up strategy. Remember to prepare for whatever level of attention you get. Have a specific lead-nurturing strategy including pre-planned auto-responses to immediately communicate with those who download or request your materials. Use a strong offer to convert these responders into first-time customers.
9. Publicize your success. This is the fun part. Suppose you have created a buzz about your campaign and your company and exceeded all your campaign objectives. Do not stop there. Alert the press and use the social media outlets to let the world know about your campaign. This add-on publicity can turn a warm effort into a red-hot publicity machine.
An example of a creative, fun and successful viral marketing campaign was one of the winners of last years MarketingSherpa Viral Hall of Fame. As related at the MarketingSherpa site: This Northwestern Mutual Insurance campaign encouraged microsite visitors to let it go. Visitors to the interactive page could select concerns, such as financial troubles or illness, and dispose of them via catapult, rocket, submarine, or hot air balloon. The microsite leveraged a tell-a-friend feature and could be shared on social media sites, such as Digg and Del.icio.us. By the third month of the campaign, the site’s traffic was 213% higher than Northwestern Mutual’s total microsite traffic for the previous year. You can read more about this campaign and other viral marketing award winners at www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards.
Another excellent resource is David Meerman Scotts book, The New Rules of Viral Marketing, available for free download at www.davidmeermanscott.com/documents/Viral_Marketing.pdf. In the quick-read book, Scott explains how he went from a relative unknown to 100,000 references on Google in a very short time, through the power of viral marketing.
It is a great time to research and learn about viral marketing and how you can immediately put some of these ideas and social media tools into action to accelerate your business success .