Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Power of The Virus!

"of the nature of, or caused by, a virus," 1948
Viral marketing is the oldest, most powerful yet misunderstood form of marketing a product even known.

Ask most “marketing experts” to define Viral Marketing and you’ll get a response that goes something like: “Marketing that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message through distribution to pre-existing and definable social networks” – huh?
Viral marketing can be better defined as: Getting your message heard by as many people as possible, with the least amount of money, and without looking like a commercial, in other words getting people talking about you instead of you advertising to them.

There is a huge misconception that viral marketing was first use by internet marketers, often being cited as the first to employ this strategy. While the internet certainly expanded the influence and popularity of viral marketing, it was hardly the first medium to exploit this phenomenon.

A viral marketing campaign is nothing more than a predesigned and managed “word of mouth” advertising strategy. That is getting people talking about you, your products and services. The entire point of going viral (Which means a message spreads like a virus) is to create buzz among the people most likely to do business with you. People buy from people they like and that are like them. Moreover it’s been a long accepted fact that if a person likes a product or service they will typically tell three others. When a prospect hears someone talking about a new product or service, or is referred by family or friends, the person doing the referring is actually endorsing the product or service and there is simply no better form of advertising.

This is viral marketing at its roots. Once you understand the basic concept you can exploit it in greater and newer ways. Internet marketers use viral marketing in a pyramid fashion. That is, create a message and distribute it across the internet through social contacts. One person sends the message to two people, who in turn send in to four and so on. Hotmail accomplished this by offering free email accounts, then embedding the free email offer in all outgoing messages. This way every email sent became an advertisement and by default a recommendation from the sender of the email. This is done in a variety of ways including:

*Video ads such as on Google Video or You Tube. These ads can be anything from straight up commercials to tutorials on how to best use your product, the funnier or more provocative the better.
*Flash games
*Social networking sites like: My Space, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin
*eBooks (Instructional booklets for service vendors are wildly popular)
*Brandable Software (Once know as Shareware)
*Images and graphics
*Text Messages
The point is to create something with your message in it that will be circulated. We’ve all seen those internet cartoons and funny stories, inspiring pictures, etc that seem to circulate over and again. This is an example of viral marketing.

With internet campaigns, giving something of value for free is essential – even if just information. Two great and recent examples are Larry Winget’s postcard service. If you go to Larry’s website you can send a brash postcard to a colleague with Larry screaming any one of a number of rude motivational platitudes. A second great example is from Colbie Caillat. Her song “Bubbly” skyrocketed her to international stardom, bypassing American Idol, by being circulated on MySpace.

But the net is not the only place viral marketing exists. Brick and mortar operations can join in the fun by:

*Offering incentives to existing customers to tell their friends
*Provide complimentary seminars open to the public on their products and services
*Establish themselves as a credible and reliable source for the media. Regardless what you do the media is starved for information and is always on the lookout for resources for quotes and information.
*Offer to write for industry trade publications. These specific periodicals are always in need of fresh new content and are a great and free way to put your name in front of thousands of potential news customers.
*Let mainstream publications know about your expertise as well.
I was recently quoted by Entrepreneur magazine on a concept called Horizontal Marketing. They published the story online. Within days the story had been picked up and reposted on 114 different websites including MSNBC and The Washington Post and it cost me nothing – That’s the power of Viral Marketing. And despite what the internet Gurus preach about social networking to spread your message, there is no faster, more effective or credible way to take you message across the globe then by getting media exposure
*Host Charity Events
*Sponsor a reading initiative in your hometown
*Donate books to a local Library

There are literally hundreds of ways to get tons of free exposure for your product, service, company or cause. All it takes is a little creativity and initiative.

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