Today I would like to talk about how to apply viral marketing in practice. The way is the same as with any other type of marketing, carrying out a campaign.
And since the best way to learn is always by example, let’s see how I did one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns in Resources for SMEs.
It was early in the journey, and I still didn’t have an audience, a product, or even a very concrete idea of what I wanted with my initiative. Yet despite that, I quickly began to focus on the only thing that mattered: getting customers.
Hence, he was trying to quickly create an audience from which to generate those customers as soon as he had a product. Since I had no means, I decided to use viral marketing.
Step 1. Define the objectives
This is always the first step of any marketing campaign, viral or not. If we don’t know exactly where we want to go, we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get there.
My 2 key goals were:
- Attract traffic to my website.
- Build a new mailing list with contacts, since in my previous initiative, it had been shown as the key element when it comes to getting income.
Since I was starting completely from scratch and with no budget, I couldn’t aim for the moon, so I made exactly these goals like this:
- At least 1,000 monthly unique visitors after 8 weeks.
- A mailing list of between 500 and 800 users.
- Viral Marketing Campaign Audience
Step 2. Clearly define the campaign audience
The correct order of things is:
- Define the audience we are targeting.
- Design the campaign idea that best fits that audience.
A lot of people do it the other way around, come up with a great idea and then find someone to endorse it with. But just as when I advise startup entrepreneurs, I try to instill that the market comes first and then the product idea.
It doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world if there isn’t a market that wants to buy it. That’s why it doesn’t matter if you have the most brilliant idea for a viral marketing campaign if we are not sure that there is an audience that needs what I am going to show in that campaign.
The steps within this step were:
- Make the profile of the person you want to reach in this campaign, especially young entrepreneurs very inclined to technology and entrepreneurship on the Internet.
- Think about what this type of entrepreneur needs most. What do you want and have a hard time finding out there?
In my particular case, my audience is very similar to me. That is an important advantage because you know a few things about their desires, what goes through their heads, and what keeps them from sleeping at night.
As this type of entrepreneur tends to like technological tools, especially 15 years ago, when these were very scarce, I knew that I wanted to go that way.
It was time to take the steps of field research. Specifically, in a viral marketing campaign, we want to investigate:
- Empty (now we will see what this is).
- Successful campaigns.
- Mass contagions.
- The best places of contagion.
- market gaps
Step 3. Investigate market gaps
Once we know the audience, it is time to see what holes they have inside.
During this viral marketing campaign, my go-to book was Seth Godin’s Idea Virus Unleashing, where he insisted over and over again that viral ideas love a vacuum.
This basically means that what I want with my viral marketing campaign is customers and not just entertainment. Being the video of the month on the Internet or winning an award at a festival for the most original ad is of no use to me.
That is why I worked hard to detect what the gap was in the audience. I wanted to reach out about what was missing. Many companies back then (I’m talking about quite a few years ago) wanted to have CRM and customer relationship management software, but back then, they were very expensive or very technically complicated for the small entrepreneur.
I considered other options, but this was the most attractive and the most tangible.
Step 4. Research relevant campaigns that have been successful
Once I had the right void to fill, it was time to see how the best had done it.
When one starts to look at initiatives of this type, one realizes that the viral ones that succeed are based on:
- The mood. The typical funny Internet video keeps coming to you through various means.
- Following the majority social current. That is the typical series, song, character, or nonsense that everyone talks about. You follow her, and you are interested in being on the crest of the wave and not being a social outcast in the next conversation. This is a powerful incentive.
- The selfishness. Which is the one we will want to use most of the time in viral marketing campaigns like ours.
Step 5. Investigate possible mass contagions
Mass contagions are those people who are likely to spread our virus among many people if they come into contact with it.
In fact, they are the key to everything.
As with a real virus, if it affects an isolated hermit, the contagion will not go far, but if it enters someone whose circle and social influence are large, we will soon have more cases of contagion.
So my next phase was locating people who could spread that virus more often, and I made a list of every last name I could think of.
For my specific case, I looked for bloggers and webmasters of pages with traffic. For almost all cases, I always look for those who work or have a hobby of making criticism, analyzing or giving opinions on company and marketing products, some old contact of those who know everyone, etc.
Step 6. Investigate the best places of contagion
Just as it is not the same to infect one person as another in terms of the possibility of contagion to others, it is not the same to release the virus in inhospitable mountains than in the center of a big city.
That is why we have to see the best places to put the message that spreads the virus.
Videos, social sites, or even begin to spread it through traditional means of promotion can also be used if we see that it is the best place to start spreading it.
Over and over, I wondered:
- Where do those I want to infect gather?
- What do they read, listen or see?
The best way to spread the virus is with a mix of good spreaders and good places of contagion. I may have created some phenomenal videos on Youtube, but if no one sees them, they will not be of any use to me.
As we can see, the result to be achieved in these steps are listed. The longer, the better. They will serve us when we get going.
So, when I started my viral marketing campaign:
- I sent an e-mail to my personal contacts, saying that if they met someone they were interested in, spread the word that they would be doing them and me a favor.
In addition to that, I discussed it on various software blogs.
- I also included it in Softonic-style directories (it was the king of software websites back then), where people go to find programs.
- I commented on it, always asking for permission, in various forums dedicated to the subject of CRM and business.
That is, I spread the seed of the virus in all the places that those I wanted to reach frequented.
For many years, I kept receiving interest in the subject without me having to make any effort or payment.
Step 7. Designing the viral
Now that we’ve done the research work and have our lists, there’s the design work. With the previous knowledge, we get into our “laboratory,” and we will have to outline 2 things:
Incentive and contagion mechanisms.
The viral element itself.
However, this has not been my only introduction to the world of viral marketing. Based on this campaign model, I carried out others. Obviously, some were better and others not so much but, in general, I always had good results and, above all, they allowed me to get contacts without having to spend a lot of money.
However, it is important to note some not-so-hopeful things about viral marketing.