Viral Marketing Needs DM Principles

Share this content:
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the latest installment of "Buzzword Roulette!" Our contestant this month: viral marketing.

But now, the real question looms: Will viral marketing become just another phrase in a long line of hype? Will it suffer the same fate as last year's contestant, push technology? Will it wind up alone and penniless, like last August's long shot, portal?

Or maybe, in a time where half the world still believes in stock options and the other half is jumping ship to the next great "pre-IPO company," we finally will learn to use some principles of direct marketing and apply them properly. A viral marketing campaign without any direct marketing principles is useless.

So what is viral marketing? I like Internet marketing expert Jim Sterne's definition: "Viral marketing is word-of-mouth on steroids." If someone sees an advertisement, maybe they'll click. More than likely, they won't. If someone tells someone how great something is, the percentages skyrocket. With a viral marketing campaign, a promotion will generally reward a customer to forward an e-mail with an incentive of a contest or a discount.

Viral marketing is an afterthought. People rarely realize that it has merit, and it usually comes to pass when companies notice that the largest amount of new users come from current users.

Afterthoughts rarely work. Viral marketing should be implemented as a staple in any good online or offline marketing plan. Viral marketing when managed properly is predictable, quantifiable and scalable.

The following are ways how viral marketing should work:

• Give your users a reason to spread the word. Regardless of how good the reward, people aren't going to recommend something that proves disastrous to them. Without a good customer-service-based foundation, your campaign won't make it off the ground. Provide your users with a good foundation, and add to that a localized call-to-action that rewards them for spreading the word (contests, points, T-shirts, etc.).

• Allow your users to add a personal touch to the e-mail. Remember, viral marketing works when your customers believe in what they're sending. They're not mindless drones doing what you tell them to do.

• Provide the recipient with a reason to respond (discount offer, etc.) and a clear path to follow. What's in it for me? If you can't answer that from the beginning, rethink your plan.

• Test, test and test again. Test to see which offer is a driver of referrals, and which drives the best response. Is it something as simple as a different subject line? Perhaps the first line in the e-mail is the clincher. Play with them. How are the results? Test again. Never assume that simply because one campaign is working, it will continue to do so.

• Quantify it. Measure number of referrals, number of responses to referrals and sales resulting from those referrals -- position against test offers and make sure that your numbers continue to climb. If they don't, do not wait to see if they will again; change the promotion, try something new.

Viral marketing is not a means in and of itself. It's one rung on the ladder of marketing success. But when used correctly, viral marketing can be a powerful amplifier of your marketing curriculum, lowering customer acquisition rates and increasing your sales.

Next Article in Digital Marketing

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

We recently were named B2B Magazine's Direct Marketing Agency of the Year, and with good reason: We make real, measureable, positive change happen for our clients. A full-service agency founded in 1974, Bader Rutter expertly helps you get the right message to the right audience at the right time through the right channels. As we engage our clients' audiences along their journey, direct marketing (email, direct mail, phone, SMS) and behavioral marketing (SEM, retargeting, contextual) channels deliver information relevant to the needs of each stage. We are experts at implementing and leveraging marketing technologies such as CRM and marketing automation in order to synchronize sales and marketing communications. Our team of architects and activators plan, execute, measure and adjust in real time to ensure the strategy is working as needed and change things if it's not.

Find out more here »

Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here

Relive the 2017 Marketing Hall of Femme

Click the image above