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Old School Tips to Make Your Viral Marketing a Success

07.16.2007 · Posted in Manufacturing Articles

In 1999, three young movie makers released a low budget film that by all rights should have disappeared quickly or at least wound up in the bargain bin at your local department store. Instead, the Blair Witch Project has been labeled a classic while grossing over 240 million dollars worldwide. So why did this film succeed when other low budget movies of various caliber have failed? Of course you have to credit the filmmakers for coming up with an inventive storyline but more than anything the bulk of the praise goes to the ingenious viral marketing campaign unleashed by the Lion’s Gate movie studio.

Eight years ago, using the internet to promote a film was quite revolutionary. Since then online word of mouth has not only become standard operating procedure but also has been taken to the next level thanks to the emergence of new technologies and information appearing almost daily. However there are still some old school tips you should consider using to make your viral marketing work.

1. Give It Away

This is a centuries old technique. A new business creates a buzz by giving away free samples of their product or service. On the internet, nobody exploited this method better than Hotmail. By giving away free email accounts while using various word of mouth networks, Hotmail grew to over 12 million subscribers in less than 2 years. A short time later, Microsoft came knocking and bought Hotmail for an estimated 400 million dollars.

Now no one is saying that a big conglomerate will show up at your door ready to hand you a blank check but the power of the giveaway cannot be overstated. If people feel you are giving them a quality product or information, they will be more likely to spread the word about your business.

2. Make It Small

In the latter part of the 19th century, Montgomery’s Ward was the king of the mail order catalogs. The arrival of this massive volume of tools and products was a major event in many American households. So how did Sears and Roebuck, a late entry into the mail order game, eventually rival and then surpass Montgomery’s Ward? Among the many brilliant ideas implemented by Richard Sears was the smaller catalog. Volume wise it remained just as thick as Montgomery’s Ward but as Sears explained when you place the two catalogs on your coffee table, you will almost always stack the smaller on top of the larger. In other words his directory would be the first one you reached for. The Sears catalog also proved to be much more portable.

Most of the innovations since that time have been about making something smaller and faster. The computer as an example went from warehouse size to personal pc to laptop to handheld. You can do the same for instance using small reports of five to ten pages packed with information instead of mega volume ebooks. People don’t have the time (or patience) to sift through a huge ebook. Instead break into smaller easily digestible chunks, that people can get thru quickly, then share with others.

3. The Promise

Richard Sears also came up with the slogan that has impacted businesses worldwide from its inception: Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. Naturally, Sears didn’t want to give money back but what he did by making this promise was to put his integrity as well as the company’s front and center. In essence, Sears was daring the consumer not to like the product. It worked and many businesses followed his lead but more importantly, the slogan created a buzz.

You can do the same for your online viral marketing campaign. The key is to not over do it. Making unrealistic promises about your products or service is a recipe for disaster. People will see right thru it and potentially spread the word in ways you do not want. Negative publicity in some cases maybe better than no publicity at all, however if you are just starting out online, the last thing you want is to create a buzz that hurts your business, so keep it real.

Viral marketing can be used in many ways to increase web site traffic, sales and get your name out there. New innovations such as video and social bookmarking are making it even easier but don’t let the latest tool replace what has worked for years and years. Combine the old with the new to build your own successful viral marketing campaigns.

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