The ASPCA’s Ayumi Stubbs on Viral Marketing
Viral marketing, or “tell-a-friend,” e-mail campaigns can be an effective tool for broadening the reach of marketing messages because they encourage recipients to share your missives with their friends and family. As forwarded communications are received from a trusted source, this approach can be a particularly useful way for nonprofits to generate awareness of their cause, and to drive new constituents to a Web site. This week, Target Marketing talks with Ayumi Stubbs, manager of Internet communications for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), about how the nonprofit is using viral marketing to spread its message and drive donations.
Target Marketing: How long has ASPCA been using viral components in e-mail?
Ayumi Stubbs: Since 2001. We started asking people to voluntarily forward our e-mails to their friends from the beginning—even before technology was available to do automated “E-mail to a Friend” buttons.
TM: What types of messaging do you make viral?
AS: Everything we e-mail—weekly newsletters, advocacy alerts and fundraising appeals—[has a viral component.] In addition, we encourage people to e-mail any [message] on our Web site to their family and friends. All articles on our Web site have an “E-mail to a Friend” link. Many thank you pages also have buttons and links that encourage people to spread the word. For example, our Web site visitors can sign up on our Web site to receive a free pet rescue sticker for their window. After they submit their order, they’ll see a thank you page that encourages them to use our “E-mail to a Friend” link to tell their family and friends that they, too, can get a free rescue sticker to keep their pets safe in the event of an emergency.
TM: How do you encourage recipients to pass along e-mails?
AS: We always provide a link or button for members to use if they want to. Other times we may specifically ask them, using language like, “Help us spread the word!”
TM: Do you track pass-alongs; if so, how?
AS: Yes, our eCRM [vendor], Convio, allows us to track usage of our “E-mail to a Friend” links and forwarded e-mails, since not everyone uses the link we provide. They often use the forward function in their e-mail program. We also track the actions taken by the people who receive viral messages, [such as] if they register on our Web site, make a donation, buy something from our online store, etc.
TM: What have been the results of making e-mails viral?
AS: It has increased donations and store purchases, Web site registrations, traffic to our Web site … the list goes on! People trust what their friends and family think, so we really depend on our current members to help us spread the word and introduce the ASPCA to people who may not have known about us otherwise.
TM: What are your current plans to expand the viral aspects of your e-mail?
AS: We’re actually planning on expanding the viral aspects of our Web site [by] making more specific asks to our visitors to help us spread the word about everything from fighting animal cruelty to pet care. We also are exploring the possibility of giving our members the ability to create their own Web pages on the ASPCA Web site to help us raise funds. They can create anything from a memorial page dedicated to a beloved pet, to a wedding page for collecting gift donations to the ASPCA. It would be completely viral and would depend on our members to spread the word about their ASPCA pages.