Viral Marketing

Every marketing manager would love to see their marketing campaigns go viral, and for good reason. Viral marketing (VM) campaigns, also known as guerilla marketing campaigns, can cost a fraction of what regular campaigns cost because the marketing manager is essentially reduced to the role of  mediator. VMs spread like an airborne virus, which make them incredibly powerful marketing tools. Plus they’re great for brand awareness.

How Do You Spread Your Marketing Virus?

The two most common forms of viral marketing are the incentive-based or service-based models. With the incentive-based approach, customers and prospects are rewarded for forwarding your product or service to their network of friends and family, whereas with the service-based approach you provide a valuable service for free, such as email or instant messaging, thereby opening up marketing and communication lines, capturing user information to develop lead gen lists, and so on.

Other viral marketing models include community chat rooms, bulletin boards, online coupons and gift certificates, easily forwarded videos and entertainment with embedded marketing messages, and affiliate programs.

Regardless of which model you choose, successfully implementing them often comes down to including the one or more of the following elements:

  1. Value. People like to forward things that are interesting, entertaining and unique, be it incentive-based or otherwise.
  2. Trust. People open emails that come from other people the know, trust and like. Identify the sharer’s name in the subject line, e.g. “Diane, Jane Doe thinks you’ll be interested in [YOUR INCENTIVE OR SERVICE-BASED OFFER]…”
  3. Measurable. As with all things marketing, success often depends on being able to measure your efforts and make the necessary changes. Click-through and conversion rates are the two most important metrics.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Because many incentive-based programs rely on email to drive them, spam can become a concern. One way to prevent it from becoming a problem for you and your organization is to limit the number of customers a single consumer can forward your offer to. Five is a good number.

Whether your goal is to drive revenue, create demand, or move product, you also need to concern yourself with maintaining brand value. The more your VM campaign spreads, the more control you’ll lose over who is receiving your message. Therefore, make sure that your message is strong and based on value and a compelling reason for people to click through.

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