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Marketing / Business marketing

Viral marketing campaigns: How do they work?

You’ve probably heard of viral marketing, but what actually is it and how do viral marketing campaigns work? Read on to find out how to apply the principles to your business.

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Viral marketing is a method of advertising that encourages others to spread the message about your product – like a virus. This means more people will be exposed to your message, thereby increasing potential business. Viral marketing is more powerful than general advertising because it conveys an implied endorsement from a friend.

If you’ve been walking around the city and seen words written in chalk on the pavement, then you’ve seen viral marketing at work. The same viral marketing principles apply to businesses of all sizes:

Make your message memorable and ‘sticky’

Viral marketing requires your product or service to come up in your customers’ conversations with others. This means there needs to be something about your product that people will want to talk about. Longwinded or uninteresting messages are hard to repeat, let alone remember, so you need to make it simple and clear enough for a six year old to understand. Nike has the ultimate example here – “Just Do It”. It is so well known now that it’s become part of American culture.

Cultivate your reputation

The most critical precondition for successful viral marketing is reputation. Nothing will sabotage and choke off viral marketing faster than a reputation for poor quality or poor service. Whatever else you do, you must cultivate a positive reputation for your products and services.

"If you’ve been walking around the city and seen words written in chalk on the pavement, then you’ve seen viral marketing at work."

Create incentives

You can also get people talking about your business by offering incentives They don’t even necessarily need to relate to your product or service. Some of the simplest viral marketing campaigns involve offering free books or products as incentives to those who introduce new people to your business.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business marketing section.

Create a buzz by offering free stuff

People love sharing great value and free stuff. Offer your customers something low or no cost and invite them to tell others about it. They feel great because they get to introduce something valuable to their networks – all at no cost. Now you have them on your contact list, you can begin the sales process on your other services.

Use other people’s resources

The most creative viral marketing campaigns use other people’s resources to get the word out. Affiliate programs, for example, place text or graphic links on other websites. Or authors might give away free articles or chapters to seek to position their articles on other people’s web pages. Now someone else’s newsprint or webpage is relaying your marketing message.

Adding a viral marketing campaign into your marketing mix can be a legitimate strategy if well thought out and well executed. And it can also be a lot of fun!

Megan Tough

runs Complete Potential, a company that helps businesses solve their strategy and people problems. She loves being a solopreneur, and when she doesn't have her nose to the grindstone, is fulfilling her other passion of fitness and health.

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