Six Tips for Gutsy Viral Marketing
We've all heard stories about the man who traded a paper clip for a house, watched as Prince generated an untold amount of publicity for his work by threatening to sue a dancing baby on YouTube for copyright infringement, and laughed when the "Leave Britney Alone!" video grabbed mainstream media attention and caused even more interest in Britney Spears' antics -- just in time for her new album release.
Now business-to-business marketers are going viral too, picking up on homegrown and consumer interest to push all sorts of products. When you look at some of these high-flying, over-the-top tactics that generate tons of buzz, you begin to ask yourself: "What can my company do to ramp up from nothing to superstar status in such a short time?" Of course, finding the right trick can be difficult and certainly not fool proof, but there is some advice that stands the test of time.
- 1. Be interesting. Does that seem too simple? Maybe, but those two words sum up the essence of what makes a successful word-of-mouth campaign, online program, direct mail piece, podcast or blog. Don't believe me? Read any of marketing guru Seth Godin's books, and you'll find that when you distill all the advice down, "be interesting" is the simple message that underpins it all.
- 2. Give away valuable products or services. "Free" is the most powerful word in your vocabulary. Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract attention. Adobe Acrobat gives away its free document reader and now owns the PDF market. By giving away just enough functionality to use the product, Adobe practices delayed gratification in the hope that Reader users ultimately will buy the PDF-creation product.
- 3. Provide for effortless transfer to others. Take your lead from health care professionals: Viruses spread when they're easy to transmit. Make your marketing message easy to transfer and duplicate: e-mail, Web site, graphic and software downloads work great. The Internet is a terrific way to disseminate information because it promotes instant communication. A digital format makes copying simple. From a marketing standpoint, simplify your marketing message so it can be transmitted easily and without degradation. Shorter is better.
- 4. Let your customers do the selling for you. This is an absolute act of bravery. How many companies these days put prospects in the same room with customers who are using their products and let them have an unfiltered discussion about what works and doesn't with the company? It's rare, but it's oh-so-effective.
- 5. Make customers into heroes. It's a simple message: "It's all about the customer." Customers don't care about you, your solution, even your products. They care about their pain and how you can solve their problems. That's on the business side. They also are people, and people love to be praised, cared for and made to feel special. Make customers the center of campaigns, blowing up pictures of them into larger-than-life stand-ups, and peppering their faces over collateral, CDs and presentations.
- 6. Make existing communication networks work for you. The Internet turns strangers into friends. Sites such as LinkedIn exploit these relationships. Place your message into existing communications, and your message goes out to one person's broader network, which could consist of hundreds or thousands of people. Good marketers have long understood the power of these human networks and work to capitalize on them.
So pay attention to current events, and begin to capitalize on them by thinking about the ways you can develop your campaigns based on news of the day. Piggyback on them, build upon them and watch your business grow exponentially.
Steve Gershik is the director of marketing innovation at Eloqua Corp., a Toronto-based supplier of automated demand generation applications and expertise for B-to-B marketers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.