Marketing

How to make viral marketing work for you

Everything these days is about viral marketing — whether it’s called buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing or network marketing, it’s all the same: A marketing strategy that allows people to pass the message on to others. And yep — it multiplies like a virus, but with much more positive results.

The basis of Gizmo Design has been networking and viral marketing. After we’ve met, you then [hopefully!] reach out to your friends and colleagues — and my business grows. It happens through forwarding this newsletter, passing along my name, or sharing my marketing materials. A referral is never unwelcome!

But technology is being used in more and more innovative ways to make viral marketing something you’d want to share. Like your other marketing efforts, creative should be attractive, fit your demographic and your brand’s image, excel in execution [no errors!] and be trackable.

Even more important is the realization that viral marketing should not be your only tactic: Make sure you are employing other methods and the viral will simply be part of the overall strategy.

Viral marketing at its simplest
Perhaps one of the easiest viral marketing campaigns is free email accounts like Yahoo! or Hotmail. One user gets a free email account, then sends an email to a friend. At the bottom of that email is an invitation for a free email account. In turn, that friends signs up, and the free email grows and grows. In cases like Gmail, there are invitations to sign up, creating a unique and mysterious service that others clamor for. Today, Gmail invites are as ubiquitous as Hotmail accounts, but the interest was served and the word was spread.

Innovation abounds online
So what options are out there? Old Spice utilizes video and referral emails: With When’s She’s Hot and their own parody When You Stink, you can create music videos based off of — what else — their commercials. You can view them and share with friends. In turn, their friends can email this on, or create their own.

The movie “Wedding Crashers” did something similar, allowing you to “crash” their trailer. The results were invariably funnier here — everyone wants to see themselves in the picture.

These options are fairly design-heavy, but fun and funny e-cards, interactive Flash presentations that put the user in the action are great ways to appeal to your audience. These sorts of tactics are becoming fairly standard among retail and entertainment sites, but they work for others as well

The same can be said of a recent “mad libs” promotion I did for a video recording and editing services client. It’s no longer on their site, but in return for providing a bit of information, prospects could put in their fun preferences [whether favorite color or TV show host] and the next page neatly spit out their information in a fun mad libs format. [If you’d like to see this in action, let me know.]

With a simple bit of interactivity, the user has fun, and you have additional information.

Bad viral means, don’t send viruses
Of course, you have to keep in mind that every idea is not a good one: In 2004, a new version of the game “Resident Evil” was launched, the storyline based on a virus outbreak. They sent out text messages to cell phones saying, “Outbreak: I’m infecting you with t-virus, my code is ******. Forward this to 60022 to get your own code and chance to win prizes. More at t-virus.co.uk.” For those not “in the know,” this obviously resulted in panic attacks and many phone calls to the game manufacturer. The marketing agency had to publish a press release stating it was a stunt.

The moral is, if it has a negative connotation to the majority of the world… it still will when you use it in your marketing. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of great ideas out there:

  • Writing ebooks and articles
  • Writing a blog
  • Putting a “refer a friend” link on your site and in your emails
  • Customizing your email signature
  • Customized screensaver [great for retail and entertainment sites]

These are just a few. I often write about the latest viral marketing I’ve found in my blog, but I welcome your finds.

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Lisa GhisolfHow to make viral marketing work for you

Free and cheap website promotion

Last month I talked about SEO’s role in your web site and marketing plan. Now, how about some free ideas to push your site ahead?

Signature lines. The signature function of your email client is great for your contact information, but don’t forget to add lines to highlight your web site and links to new items you’ve added to the site. Highlight any deals you offer as well.

Forums. Find forums where folks request information on topics you’re an expert in, and offer your advice. Don’t forget to add your signature line! This can lead to new clients, but also establishes your expertise in your field. Ryze is one such forum source, as are Yahoo! and MSN groups. Visiting once a week will get your name recognized for minimum time outlay, but don’t overdo the sell tactics—your purpose is to give your name and some vital info., not a tired sales pitch.

Directories. Apart from search engines, directories are another way to share your company—think Yahoo! rather than Google. Google your category plus “directory” [as in, “law firm directory”] and you’ll find a directory that appeals most to you. Be careful with whom you share your company listing—some are little more than glorified spamming databases, but credible ones will list reputable companies and likely also give you statistics. Some charge fees, which is good and bad: Gizmo Design is listed in a directory that I pay for “premium” listing space in, and have found it profitable, though I’ve tested others to no avail. You will find out fairly quickly if your referrals come from these sources, and often pricing is set up so you can test for a few months and evaluate results.

Share it everywhere. Put your URL on everything you share with customers—advertising and marketing materials, letterhead, promotional items, uniforms and more, especially if it is not just yourcompanyname.com. It reduces confusion with other companies, and offers a place for people to get free information on your company. Offer a deal, discount, or contest, and you’ll gain even more hits.

Stuff your invoices. Ask for referrals and feedback with your invoices, and you’ll gain insight into your customers’ experience, plus some possible new business.

Have any ideas? Share them below or shoot me an email!

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Lisa GhisolfFree and cheap website promotion