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Posted: 2005-01-14 / Author: Nancy Richardson

Viral Marketing Magic

It may sound ominous, but viral marketing is one of the best things that can happen to your business. This is one virus that you actually want to spread. It doesn't spread germs or create havoc. Viral marketing can expand your market and increase your profits beyond your wildest expectations. So, what is viral marketing, how does it happen, and where do you start?

At the heart of viral marketing is a message from your business to the market you want to reach. That message could be about a new product, a special promotion, an interesting development in your industry, or even the launch of a new business.

Viral marketing is not something you do. Viral marketing happens as your message spreads. It isn't that simple, though. People have to want to spread it. Your message needs to be in a form that makes it easy, preferably effortless, to pass it along. Just like a virus.

An intriguing story can be the catalyst to spread your message. That doesn't mean that the information itself has to be front page news. As the saying goes, it's all in the presentation. If the story itself doesn't generate enough interest, there's always a story behind the story.

Here's an example:
Maybe you don't believe that your products or services make headline-grabbing news. Try a different approach. Think about why you started your business instead. You might have discovered a true need for what your business offers under circumstances that were unusual. Maybe the genesis for your business venture was inspiring. If so, that story may be educational, or entertaining. Relate your experiences in a way that involves the reader. That can help ensure that your story will generate enough interest to encourage others to spread your message.

Another strategy is to play to the concept of viral marketing, which is to pass it along. When creating your message, emphasize the importance of other people receiving this message. Who will it benefit? Whose life might be improved?

With viral marketing, your objective should be to elicit a response that prompts your message to be passed along. People like to be helpful. They also like to be the first with an interesting piece of news or some useful insight.

If the recipient thinks that your message can also be of value to others, they will want to spread the word. You can encourage this response with the wording of your message. Be descriptive in who can benefit and how. They may be: starting a business, on a diet, a working mother, or planning to upgrade their computer. Whoever your market is, paint as clear a picture as possible of who needs to receive your message.

Don't forget another great motivator. Tangible rewards can help promote your business with the original recipient and encourage them to spread your marketing message to others. Offer a free trial or free samples when someone passes along your message. If tracked to a purchase or registering for a free newsletter, a cash reward can also be very cost effective when you consider what a customer is actually worth.

Sometimes a combination of incentives yields the best results. In many cases, no extra incentive is needed to inspire the spreading of your marketing message. That depends on your market and your message. The medium used is also a critical part of the equation.

Viral marketing is all about passing it along. As a medium for your message, the internet is ideal and inexpensive. People go online to find information and to communicate with others. That's the perfect atmosphere for the magic of viral marketing.

Make it as easy as possible to spread your message. You can't get much simpler than forwarding email.
If that click forwards your message to a group, whose members belong to other email groups, the internet can quickly and dramatically expand your market.

Viral marketing works. Pass it along.
Nancy Richardson publishes a resource for small businesses.

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