You certainly know by now that term "viral marketing" is not just another dot-com cliché. Quite contrary, it describes incredible, unmatched power of Web to promote your business by marrying email to traditional concept of "word-of-mouth."
Viral marketing, concept of making each customer a marketer by encouraging word-of-mouth referrals, is indisputably one of most effective mediums of ongoing self-promotion a site can employ. It gives Internet companies a cost-efficient, proven tool to increase traffic and lower advertising costs.
Hotmail originally broke through mold by proving that companies no longer needed to spend millions on flashy advertising to become best and biggest in business. With a simple viral marketing campaign they effectively cornered market with a budget that spent money on original customer acquisition and not over-the-top Super Bowl ads.
However, instead of just standing by idly and hoping it happens, you can actually "drive" viral marketing by crafting an extremely effective viral marketing program targeted to your audience. This article will provide you with key steps to create a viral marketing program that will power your business to new heights of success, and do it for a fraction of cost of other promotional efforts.
-DO EVERYTHING RIGHT FIRST
Your potential customers now have power to tell colleagues, friends and family about great web site experiences in greater numbers and far faster than we could have imagined just a few years ago. Think of power of a dense email address book and a few mouse clicks. In fact, that is "fuel" behind viral marketing. The downside is they can do same thing regarding bad experiences with same efficiency and speed. Research has shown that people share bad experiences up to 5 times more often than they tell about good ones. Before you post a site to your server and invite people to visit it, everything should be quality tested and in perfect order. While software makers can sometimes get away with shipping buggy software, you can't issue a "patch" to a site that has already turned off your target audience because in this market, your audience will go somewhere else, fast. And instead of gaining customers "geometrically", you'll be losing them exponentially.
-TWO TOOLS: Buttons and Links
There are two basic tools in your viral marketing arsenal: buttons and links. The idea is that with a single click a visitor can share your site with others, and those people in turn can do same. The goal in designing and placing these buttons and links is to make them obvious, easy-to-use, and perhaps even rewarding to use. By making your buttons more obvious, you give visitor a visual cue to pass your site on to a friend and take an active role in creation of your own viral marketing campaign. You can take an even more active role and move beyond mere suggestion by actually offering your visitors an incentive to pass something on.
-ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS
The analysis is pretty straightforward. For your buttons and/or link to work, you've first got to get it in front of your target audience of potential customers. Second, your potential customers have to be able to readily tell what it is that has been artfully put in front of them. It's that old three-click rule - if you can't find what you want on a site in three clicks, you're going to surf elsewhere, and if you can't understand what you're reading immediately, you're going to tune out. Part of what needs to be clear to potential users is what they need to do and exactly how they can do it. If you fail in any of these elements or if you confuse your message with unnecessary complications, you're potential customer is gone, and you've blown your possibly one shot at a few seconds of their attention.
Your referral tool needs to, at minimum, accomplish seven critical things:
1. Stand out from clutter of page. 2. Be instantly understood 3. Embody a clear call to action. 4. Give clear instructions on how to act. 5. Be placed effectively. 6. Offer an incentive. 7. Make offer simple, clear and obvious.
-BUTTON VS. LINK
Button: Eye-catching, can be graphical. Link: Line of blue text. Both viable, both serve their respective purpose. The tool you choose will depend on two factors: 1) what you want your visitor to share with others, and 2) context in which your visitor will be sharing. If you want people to share content items such as articles or white papers, you can use either a button or a link, although a button is more appropriate as it's more attention getting. Also, if context is your site as a whole or a specific product or a service on your site, then a button is preferable because eye-catching buttons can be designed and placed by using simple code that will load almost regardless of browser or bandwidth. However, when context is email, whether mailing to your own opt-in list, doing a targeted promotion, or simply sending "Thank you" emails when customers submit an order, you are better off sticking with a link. Many of your potential customers don't have email that supports HTML, and even if they do, a button can easily get chewed to bits in cyberspace when moving across platforms and programs. A good rule of thumb is site = button and email = link.
-OPTIMIZE YOUR BUTTON
To optimize design of your button, look back to seven elements of success. To fulfill first rule, and to stand out from clutter of page, button needs to be small enough not to take up too much above-the-fold real estate, but not so small that it won't be seen. Simplicity is key here - your button should have a pleasing and eye-catching design, not one that will give viewer a headache from Flash overkill or frightening color combinations. If your user doesn't know what your aesthetically pleasing button is for, they're probably not going to use it. This is where you need to do what your elementary teacher always admonished you to do: use your words carefully. Clearly spell out in straightforward terms what button is for, why you want your user to use it, and finally, how they go about using it.