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Designing a Viral Marketing System for your Business

Dec 13, 2007
Viral Marketing campaigns refer to the self-perpetuating spread of a brand, product or service. The awareness can be spread by word-of-mouth (slower) or accelerated by the network effects of the internet. A viral marketing campaign encourages people to voluntarily communicate the brand message to a plurality of others. Viral promotions are typically thought of as funny emails, videos, texts or images, however, at a more sustainable level, they are becoming items of high value such as free information products, samples or trial services.

The promise of the internet has always been a price of "free" and online users expect to start a new relationship without paying for it. As an online or offline business owner, you must find a way to initially give a user something of value for free. Studies have shown that satisfied customers tell an average of three other people about products or services they like, and eleven people about a product or service they didn't like. By providing a valuable giveaway, there is a higher likelihood of customer satisfaction and no financial risk in telling others.

The giveaway becomes the cost of building an ongoing a relationship with a user and the opportunity to get a sale. If the initial viral message creates the right motivation, it may exponentially spread to other users who also start a relationship with your brand.

Although there is sometimes a cost to building the viral message components, they should support the consumption of your primary product or service and can be re-purposed in many ways to drive sales.

The design of a viral marketing campaign should cover the life-cycle of the relationship with the future client. This includes the initial viral message, an ethical bribe used to get permission to continue the relationship and converting the prospect into a paying client.

Viral marketing system components:

1. Viral Message: Create a selfish motivation that makes someone want to tell others. The selfish motivation comes from the emotion your viral message, product or service creates. This is the bait that lures someone into a conversation with your business. During this first phase of the relationship, the prospect doesn't trust you and the most a business can hope for is future brand recognition.

2. Ethical Bribe: Provide the visitor a free gift in exchange for an email address. The free gift inspires the prospect to opt-in and give you permission to start a deeper relationship. The ethical bribe can be a free ebook, consumer guide, informative report, tip list, product sample, give a donation to a charity, a contest, newsletter subscription, etc.

3. Conversion: The content you give away as an ethical bribe or in the ongoing email communication should be related to your product or service and written to create trust, build a burning desire for what you are selling and lower the barrier to a sale (make an offer). This is where well written copy can make or break your conversion rate.

Once you acquire a new email address, the biggest mistake you can make is to spam your brand message to a potential client. Depending on the sales cycle of your product or service, more time may be required before the prospect has a problem that you can solve. If you immediately make offers for sale, give an uninterested subscriber the ability to unsubscribe from your list.

A more benign approach to keeping a high-touch relationship is to provide valuable information about your product or service. An example of this is a monthly newsletter. Newsletters can be written in an advertorial style which promotes your business and also provides a benefit to the reader. Outside the body of the newsletter, offers for sale can be made in dedicated ad space.
About the Author
To review a turn-key viral marketing system for small business owners, Click Here
Brett Nordin is an entrepreneur and small business owner who writes about various topics including sales, marketing and business development.
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