What Is Viral Marketing?
Viral marketing is one of the more powerful communication mediums in marketing, and yet, due to its complexities and people’s little understanding of it, it remains one of the most difficult marketing methods to implement. This article will help you place some of the principles of viral marketing into perspective and hopefully give you a basic understanding of the topic and some strategies to implement it.
Let’s picture a scenario where you are a starting entrepreneur with a business of selling chocolates to a small neighborhood. To begin the business, your stakeholders must first be informed of the product that your business sells; therefore, marketing plays an important role in the launch of the business.
The most straightforward way of selling your chocolates would be achieved through direct door-to-door marketing. This involves approaching one household at a time with hopes of closing a sale with each attempt. Of course, this method is inefficient and time consuming with no guarantees of a high conversion rate. A second method would involve sending direct mail or print adverts that you place in mailboxes throughout the neighborhood. While this approach saves time and increases awareness, you would have little hope in attracting any sales as your message will be placed amongst a clutter of other junk mail. Also, with such a small population, the profits may not cover printing cost for the adverts. Finally, you can broadcast your message through mediums such as radio or television and attract a fair sum of consumers but the high cost of doing so may not be affordable to a small starting business.
The role of word-of-mouth advertising is to generate buzz by getting the whole neighborhood to be talking about your chocolates. Not only will it be relatively cheap, but also the spread of message through word-of-mouth can have potentially epidemic effects. The exclusive use of word-of-mouth advertising on the Internet is known as viral marketing and we will take a look at some simple techniques of applying this method to your business.
APPLYING VIRAL MARKETING: While the prospects of viral marketing are appealing, we must bear in mind that for every case of successful viral marketing campaigns, there are hundreds more that failed. There is a low chance of success when creating a viral campaign. However, by following a list of simple guidelines as listed below, you can drastically increase your odds. The lists are the essence of a successful viral marketing campaign compiled from a list of various sources and real life observations.
FREE PRODUCT: giving out free trials and products may be overrated but remains fast and effective ways of generating buzz. By providing gratis value to your consumers, you encourage word-of-mouth communication, as they will tend to inform their peers of the free product you are offering. In the case of the previous example, handing out free chocolates in the neighbourhood would attract people to you and would generate enough buzz to increase brand awareness.
INTERESTING MESSAGE/STORY: People love sharing interesting stories with one another, and it is this inherent psychological motive that pushes the sales of gossip magazines. Similarly, if your product is accompanied by an interesting/funny story, it will encourage buyers to forward the story (and thus product and brand) to other stakeholders. In 1999, the film ‘The Blair Witch Project’ creatively released a series of stories and rumors about a group of lost teenagers throughout the Internet prior to the launch of the film to generate awareness for its movie. The film turned out to be a huge box office success
INCENTIVES: An easy way to encourage people to promote your product through word of mouth would be to provide incentives for them to do so. This is most prevalent in gym memberships, which usually include discounts, and perks for those who ‘bring a friend’. The growth of affiliate programs on the Internet also exemplifies this motive. By providing additional value to customer ‘promoters’ encourages them to spread the word of mouth.
EASY CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION: If you have already convinced your customer to forward the message along, you want to make the process as easy for them as possible. This involves reducing the process of information forwarding and one effective and commonly used method today is to direct them to social networking sites whereby a click of a button can inform his network of peers that he ‘likes’ your product.
PROVIDING A GOOD PRODUCT: While it may seem like an obvious point, many people underestimate the importance of having a genuinely innovative and ‘good’ product. By selling a product that enhances the consumer’s lifestyle or is able to improve one’s quality of life does not need much for the satisfied customer to recommend your product to their peers. If your chocolates can cure baldness, you would have no need to sell it to middle aged men-they will come to you. Altruism is a powerful motivator.