Viral Marketing

We’ve all heard about – and, most likely, seen firsthand – the successful effects of the viral marketing campaigns engaged in by the likes of Hotmail. At the end of each and every single one of its free web-based emails that gets sent out on a daily basis, Hotmail has its logo and tagline sitting there. One wonders how many new customers it signs up on a daily basis thanks to all of those millions of emails that get sent out every day.

But, what does that mean for your small business? Have you ever thought about how you could use this method of marketing to your advantage and what it could do for you? Hotmail is not the only company that has been able to ride its own coattails. With the proper strategy in place, so you could too.

At the very heart of this method lies the idea of offering incentives. What better way to motivate somebody to work for you than offering them something for that work. So, whether you use focus groups, online surveys or other means of market research, what you really need to do is figure out what those incentives would be.

The trick to viral marketing, however, is not just in offering cash incentives, but in really figuring out what your users’ needs are. For instance, in one classic case of viral marketing gone wrong, Sony began a college promotion whereby it offered thousands of dollars worth of its products to college freshmen. After receiving a poor response, it began to focus not just on cash, but on figuring out exactly what the students would want. Soon, Sony switched its gears and instead of just offering cash, offered a dorm room full of their electronic products. Although the value of the second offer was far less than the first, it proved to be much more successful.

The advantage of using this type of marketing is that it doesn’t have to cost entrepreneurs an arm and a leg to perform, and the results can be huge. While not all companies have had the success of Hotmail, or even “The Blair Witch Project,” the possibilities for profits are still there for the rest of us. As long as you can successfully identify what it is that would trigger your existing customers into advocating to others, the formula for success is not that hard.

Viral marketing is likely to become a more important means for companies to promote themselves in the future, especially as more and more people begin to use the Internet. Email has already become a regular part of everyday life for most, and the volume sent increases by the day. Although it is difficult to measure and track, it is likely that greater numbers of marketing agencies will become experts in this field, and thus develop increasingly sophisticated analyzing techniques. Then, we will all be able to quantify and see more clearly the results that the likes of Hotmail have been claiming all these years.

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