Friday, November 20, 2009


Viral Marketing:

Contagious Profits

Viral marketing sounds new and high-tech but it’s been around since the first street vendor gave out free samples of dried dates a few thousand years ago. In essence, viral marketing is simply putting the goods and services out there to tempt others to see what’s up for sale. As any good pizza place will tell you, the exhaust fan draws in customers better than any print adverts. People smell that pizza cooking and that brings them in.

The Advantages to Viral Marketing

The biggest advantage is cost. Viral marketing is free or extremely low cost, perfect for online business owners on miniscule marketing budgets. For the $15 cost of some printed business cards, you can start your own viral marketing campaign. Lots for cheap.

Another advantage is that viral marketing, when done well, is self-perpetuating. It expands of its own accord, saving you time and, again, money. For example, if you leave a stack of business cards for your pet sitting service at the local vet’s office, each person who takes one becomes a potential salesperson for your biz – someone who will tell a friend or neighbor about your service. Viral marketing at its simplest.

Finally, viral marketing can be turned on a dime. If plan A isn’t working, you can switch to plans B, C and even D quickly, in part because you haven’t invested heavily in plan A.

So, viral marketing in the real world isn’t new, but on the w3 it’s still a fairly fresh concept – but one that’s been around long enough to have a proven track record.

Stationery, Business Cards and Local Adverts

There are lots of opportunities to use viral marketing to draw visitors to your space. Let’s start with your business card, stationery, invoices and such. Does your web site address appear on all printed documents associated with your business? If not, you’re missing a no cost marketing opportunity because you have to pay for those things anyway.

Check out TV adverts. Somewhere on most ads you’ll see a reference to the company’s URL – its website. Watch an ad for Ford Motors and you’ll see right there on the TV ad. Why not? Ford’s paying for the ad so why not push the company’s web site at the same time.

You can do the same with print and non-print materials like company stationery and local TV adverts. In fact, wherever you list a contact telephone number, list your web site’s URL as well. It’s just another way for potential customers to learn more about your company and convert from potential customers to buyers.

Web Cards

In addition to printing up business cards with all of you company information and a cool looking logo, print up some low-cost web cards. You can even do this yourself with a decent color printer and perforated business card stock available at any office supply store.

A web card should be colorful and eye catching. It should include your URL and a brief description of what you’re all about. So, a web card might look something like this:

Hand these web cards out to anyone. Keep them on the counter and stick one in every shopping bag if you run a brick-and-mortar outlet. Stick one in every shipped order. Give them to family and friends to pass along to others. Attach a web card to every invoice and every piece of correspondence that leaves the office. It’s so low-cost all you need is one sale to recoup your marketing “investment.”

Referral Incentives

There’s nothing like a word of mouth referral to develop a core base of dedicated buyers. If one customer likes your goods and your client care, s/he will tell others just how good you are. And then they tell their friends and their friends and before you know, the world is beating a path to your “better mouse trap” cyber shop.

Lots of sites have a “Refer a Friend” option but they aren’t used as much as they could or should be. However, by offering a small incentive, this online feature will certainly get more use. So what do you offer? Well, it doesn’t have to be much.

Offer a free discount coupon (cheap) or a free entry in a prize giveaway or maybe a free e-book. Just provide a little incentive for a visitor to recommend your site to a friend or family member and you’ll more than pay for the cost of the referral.


If you check your pen and pencil holder you’ll probably find examples of viral marketing – giveaways. There’s a cool pen from your bank, a text marker from the local vet and a pencil with a garbage can eraser from your trash hauler – each with the gifter’s URL prominently displayed.

Try this. Google “promotional items.” You won’t believe what pops up. There are companies that do nothing but sell imprintable promo items. Coffee cups at 79¢, tote bags for just 49¢, key chains for 10¢ and t-shirts at $2.59 a piece. Pens, in quantity, are just 9¢ apiece. So, you give away these low cost items. And, surprisingly, they get spread around from friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor. That one gel pen that cost you 19¢ might be seen by 10 different people.

Mail Promos

This won’t be cost effective for smaller sites with a limited number of clients, but if you have a client base of a few thousand, consider printing promo cards delivered to customer’s mail boxes by snail mail. (You remember that, don’t you?)

Now, it’s going to cost per card for printing and, even with a bulk rate stamp, postage could get pricey – especially if you’re e-mailing 10,000 pieces. But…

…if you cover a very narrow market niche, or your site sells high ticket items, this dual pronged approach may deliver the results you’re looking for.

And hey, add a short promo offering 15% off all items your customer buys when s/he refers a friend.

Your Billboard? Everything Moving. Everything Standing Still.

If it moves, put a bumper sticker on it – nothing but your URL and a few words about what you do or sell: The Consignment Shop That Cares. Boom. You’ve said it all, or your bumper sticker has. And that bumper sticker is going to be seen by thousands of people. (Note: Don’t put bumper stickers on cars without the owner’s permission. It tends to make them mad. And, it’s illegal.)

Window signs, “Knitter on Board.” is all you need. And knitters will love them.

If it’s standing still, think about posters, yards signs and even billboards with nothing but a URL and a brief description of what visitors will find there – www.KXOY Rocks Your World!

On-Line Viral Marketing

Post blog entries on other sites related to your market. Each will have an arrow pointing back to your site. and other social sites give you free space to list your site’s URL. “Hey, man, don’t forget to check out my site at www.whoeverI cuz it rocks.”

Enable visitors to download coupons, T-shirt decals or plans for a cool paper airplane. Give them something free. Just make sure it has your URL in big, BIG TYPE. Just the URL and one or two words to describe what you do…

where the ‘60s rule

…is all you need to draw collectors of vintage ‘60s memorabilia. Groovy, man!

So, Spread Your Virus

It’s part guerilla marketing, part digital theater, lots of hype and a whole lot of fun. And, once your guerilla tactics make initial contacts, your URL will start to build brand recognition.

Just be creative. Money isn’t a major factor in viral marketing but creativity and innovation certainly are. So, spread your virus, spread your URL with anything from preprinted pads (great for printing companies) to really cool coffee mugs (perfect for boutique coffee shops).

In no time, you’ll be highly contagious and.that’s a good thing in ecommerce.

Not getting the site traffic you expected. No problem. Give me a call and let's do some business - YOUR business.


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