April 7th, 2009 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Media & Marketing

The Power of Viral Marketing

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A funny thing happened to me one morning a month or so ago.  I got up, made the bed, got cleaned-up and wandered down to my office to do some work before the kids got up.  This was all pretty much the status quo until I looked at the email inbox on my laptop as I walked through the kitchen... KABOOM!  I had over 20 eNewsletter sign-ups, lined-up one after another, in my inbox...     huh?

Our website states that we will send you a FREE Breastmilk Storage Guidelines fridge magnet if you sign-up for our eNewsletter.  We would get people signing-up "here and there" but nothing like this!  I looked at the sign-up forms and the subscribers were all being referred by this particular website that listed "free" things.  We Google our brand name (PumpEase™) regularly to monitor our brand, address any customer service needs and to keep an eye open for new testimonials etc.  We had seen the fridge magnet offer on other "freebie" sites for quite some time, but nothing notable had ever happened in terms of a flurry of subscriptions.

Then it got referred to another give-away site and another and another...

I finally had to temporarily pull-down and rethink the offer.  By the time I did that, I had almost 90 subscribers - all in less than 2 hours!  Now this may sound like peanuts to some (business) people, but for us, a start-up early in its second year of business, it was quite substantial.

We have now reinstated the offer, however with a built-in email address verification so we at least know we are receiving valid email addresses in exchange for the fridge magnet/envelope/postage and labour spent fulfilling them.  For example, one of the email addresses was "idontthinkso@no.com".  Um... no.

I contacted the owners of the "freebie" websites, explained our situation and after a few days, the eNewsletter sign-ups petered-out to a more "normal" frequency.  I should note that after verifying the email addresses manually, we fulfilled every single magnet, including one that we sent all the way to Russia (our offer is now only good in North America).

This is the first time I have ever experienced anything that belonged to me or any of my websites going "viral".  It was scary and exciting all at the same time.  Scary, because I felt a bit out of control (yes, I'm a control freak), however the reinforcement of the sheer power and speed of the internet was both inspiring and most definitely exciting!

According to Wikipedia, viral marketing "refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages. The basic form of viral marketing is not infinitely sustainable."

A simpler definition, from marketingterms.com is "A marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message."  So basically, glorified word-of-mouth marketing (my fave marketing channel).

If you Google "viral marketing", the results exceed word-of-mouth marketing4.2 million.  Wikipedia has captured the top organic result and following it you will find "The Six Simple Principles...", "7 Tricks..." and "The New Rules...".  So there is lots of free advice out there.  But do you think viral marketing can be planned?  Or do you think it just happens?

According to the CMA (Canadian Marketing Association) "Viral is Not a Strategy" - you can plan for it all you want, however, in the end, you don't decide if something goes viral... everyone else does.

In my humble opinion, you can look at and learn from other campaigns that have gone viral.  Be inspired by them; dissect the "why" of the viral outcome; try to pull something from them that may work in turn for your business.  And keep plugging away - it will happen when you least expect it.

And now for some inpsiration:  The Top 10 Viral Marketing Campaigns of all Time.  My wheels are turning...  ooooh...  aaaaah...

So I am sitting here waiting for one of my blog posts to go viral...............................

Ahem...?  I'm waiting...  Hellooooooooooooooo?

Have you ever had anything go viral?  Tell us about it by dropping a comment below.

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Shirley Broback says:

That's hilarious! LOVE your posts!

Posted on April 7, 2009

Wendy Armbruster Bell says:

Thanks for the comment Shirley! I didn't know you were reading :-)))

Posted on April 7, 2009