Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Is it time to go Viral?

I was thinking about viral marketing and how to take advantage of it if you don’t have a gee whiz product. What I mean is this, what if you don’t have the kind of product that would cause someone to pass it on to their e-mail list. That is one of the primary premises behind viral marketing. What are you saying that’s worth repeating? That’s pretty hard for a lot of companies. What they do just isn’t neighborhood party chatter. Most of your neighbors probably don’t know what you do for a living and don’t care. Either that or it’s so common place they don’t think twice.

We can get advice for solving this problem from two primary places. (This is based on my limited reading so feel free to add your own sources) First is a great book by Chip and Dan Heath “Made to Stick”, and the other is Dan Tapscott’s book “Wikinomics”. Wikinomics is a little of a challenge to me because it reeks of socialism, but that another subject for another time. So here is how I think we can go about building a viral experience that will promote our company.

If we don’t have that mind blowing concept or product that is going to make almost everyone sit up and say “WOW”, then we need to find an angle that will make some of them at least say “Interesting!” The concept does not have to be directly related to your business. It can be tangential to it. Here’s an example: Let’s say I do technology consulting for billing systems in the wireless telecommunications market. It may be pretty hard to get more than a few people to say “interesting” more or less “WOW”. But if I start a Blog or drip marketing program concerning the latest developments in consumer mobile devices, it could go viral and it is in the same space as my practice.

You might be able to find the right subject by using collaboration with, not just your employees, but customers and suppliers. Put some type of reward out there for the best ideas. It doesn’t have to be big, just enough to spur interest. Remember people love recognition over material things. The banter back and forth concerning the ideal subject may turn out to be the viral marketing you’re looking for. Even if it’s not, this is where Chip and Dan come in. Their book will give you the step by step instruction you need to build a story that will not only stick in the minds of those that hear it, but cause those same people to pass it on.

Just like varnishing a table…Let dry and repeat…. Keep in mind to build a brand around viral marketing the same rules apply as traditional marketing….Consistency of the message. Don’t bounce around from subject to subject. Pick something with staying power and build on it. I would start with a Blog, as opposed to drip e-mail marketing, because there is a better feedback system with Blogs. If you are not getting comments and visitors, then it’s not going to go viral on you. Once you figure it out, you can add it to your drip marketing program with some level of confidence that people will read it and pass it on.

If you’re really serious about this, hire a professional to help. They can help craft the message so that it has the highest impact. They can also optimize exposure to attract viewers.

"If the Internet can be described as a giant human consciousness, then viral marketing is the illusion of free will."
- By George Pendle

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