Viral Email Marketing – The Secret to Word-of-Mouth Advertising Online

Would you like to learn how to make your marketing message take on a life of its own and spread like wildfire… for free?

In this issue, as you may have guessed from the title, we will be discussing viral marketing. This is a unique breakthrough component that can be added to just about any online campaign to get it to spread far beyond the limits of traditional marketing messages. You can save money and increase your results and did I mention it can be done for free?

What is viral marketing?

The term viral marketing has come to refer to advertising campaigns that utilize their audience to spread the marketing message. It’s called viral marketing because it utilizes people as the “hosts” to carry the message in much the same way that a virus works. The idea (to carry the metaphor further) is to make your message “contagious” so it infects others that your company may not yet have come in direct contact with.

Time for an example…

I’m sure you are all familiar with Hotmail (now MSN Hotmail). Well, this company was an outstanding example of how viral marketing can work. They did hardly any marketing to start. Instead they gave away free email accounts to anyone who wished to sign up. The only catch was each email message they sent from their Hotmail account was accompanied with a little notice in the footer telling people how they could get their own free Hotmail account and a hyperlink to click on. That’s it!

It worked like magic. Their user base exploded as people who used this email system continued to spread the word whenever they would email a friend or business associate. The rest is history.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Great for Hotmail, but how does that impact me? How can I utilize viral marketing to promote my business?”

Today you see many companies trying to give their campaigns a viral component, but somehow they fall short. People send out newsletters and ask, “If you like our newsletter please forward this to a friend or coworker who might also benefit.” It’s an attempt to go viral but it lacks a special ingredient…

Another marketing campaign to promote an industry event might ask registrants to “invite a friend” and include a box in which to enter their friend’s email. However, this ultimately never reaches it’s full viral potential. Why?

What’s the secret? Why don’t audiences typically respond to these benign requests? How can we get our audience to spread the word and promote us to those who are near and dear? How can we make our message “contagious?”

I had the privilege of working with a company that showed me the answer. They were selling a “viral marketing system.” Unfortunately since this is relatively easy for anyone to do on their own, once they know how, anyone can do this free on their own. This is why they ultimately went under. But the principals they followed for viral marketing work.

They recognized the key component to recruiting an active bunch of messengers was to — offer an incentive.

Hotmail’s genius was that the incentive was inherent in the product itself. It was a messaging system. People who used the service spread the word without even thinking about it. Their incentive was the ability to have a free private email account that was accessible from any Internet terminal.

What about your company? What incentive can you offer to get your audience to promote your services to their closest friends and business associates?

Here are the keys to getting your message to go viral and take on a life of its own.

4 Keys to Going Viral…

#1 You Must Reward The Messengers

People are interested in doing things that benefit them. Without a reward they will likely ignore your request. Offer a reward or “bounty” for spreading the message and helping to market your products and services to friends, family, and coworkers who might benefit.

#2 The Reward Must Be Immediate (Or Nearly Immediate)

People don’t like to wait. Offer something you can deliver on quickly. A free informational report that appeals to your target audience, a discount or a free upgrade of their service can work very well. The need for the reward to provide instant gratification is key.

That’s why reports, software and discounts work so well as incentives. They can be transmitted over the Internet with little waiting.

#3 Extend The Reward To Everyone — Even Those Referred

The true magic of viral marketing is when you receive a customer who was referred by a friend, who was referred by a friend, who was referred by a friend…

If the first person is the only one to be incentivized to pass the message along, invite friends, etc.. it will not go very far. You must extend the reward to those who were referred also.

#4 Make The Messenger’s Job Easy!

With Hotmail the action was very easy. In fact, the messenger didn’t need to do a thing! By simply using the service they spread the word. Most other services and messages will require a little more effort on behalf of the user to get the reward, but it can still work quite effectively.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples…

EXAMPLE ONE – Refer Some Friends, Get-A-Reward

In most cases when someone buys from you online or registers for your service or event, they will have to fill out a form. In the form you can say, “Do you know of a friend or coworker who could benefit from our services? Send them an email and we’ll send you this free report instantly!”

It’s easy to do. Just include a few fields in which the sender writes their email address and the email addresses of 3 friends. Include a small area for them to write a message or invite. Better yet, have a standard message already written for them! All they have to do is fill in their addresses and the addresses of a few friends and hit submit. Their message will get sent listing them as the sender. Seeing the message has come from a familiar source will help ensure it gets read.

The programming isn’t too difficult. If you need help contact the folks at They specialize in creating email referral systems.

EXAMPLE TWO – Double Your Email Reach And Media ROI

We’ve all seen the request, “if you know someone who could benefit from this email (or newsletter) please forward this to them.” What’s this missing? Incentive.

Let’s spruce that up.

Are you emailing to promote an event or have a newsletter and would like to increase the subscriber base? Why not incentivize people to do so with a free report download?

Make any reports or information are of interest to your target audience and relates to your product or service.

This works great as a reward for them to tell others in their field about your event, service, software, newsletter or whatever!

What does it cost you?

Nothing! Just write a white paper or special report. You may have one already if you combine some past newsletters.

On the Internet, distributing reports and white papers is free. And if its done correctly it can help to brand your company and offer your company as a credible part of the solution!

Other incentives that work well include:

  • Free software downloads
  • Service upgrades
  • Discounts
  • Special reports

There are many other ways to employ viral marketing. Be creative. Promote your reward everywhere: on your home page, in your postal mailings, in your emails, at your tradeshow booth and in your newsletters. Your message will infect more people. The media dollars you spend will also stretch further as you allow people with industry friends and contacts to help you spread your message.

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