Viral Marketing: The Illusion and The Possibility

Viral Marketing: The Illusion and The Possibility


Every once in a while, I’ll get an inquiry about our services that goes something like this:

“Can you do some Viral Marketing for me?”

When asked to expand on what that means, eventually this is the description that emerges: Some kind of hook or video that is so irresistibly interesting that it “goes viral on the web;” in other words, people share it with their network of friends, who share it with their network, and what results is a geometric explosion.

Predictably, the other part of the equation usually comes up during the discussion, “Oh, and can you perform this miracle for almost nothing? I really don’t have much of a marketing budget.”

(Imagine an audible “sigh” from me at this point.) 

It’s hard to know where to begin, but rather than going negative, let me point out that Viral Marketing is being effectively done every day, though it is anything but accidental or cheap.

When a certain energy drink company first started out, one of their primary strategies was to give out free samples on college campuses for people who were studying for exams. I saw this first hand back in 2001 when I was sitting in the library, waiting for my daughter who was auditioning for a part in a Shakespeare production at Iowa Western Community College.

This approach turned out to be hugely successful, and it doesn’t take an MBA to figure out why. The company connected with a strong need in their target audience and provided an affordable solution that actually worked. They didn’t have a gigantic media budget to shotgun their message across huge demographics in mass media, so instead, they connected directly with a small (but highly vocal) submarket that would passionately share the product with others.

“Ok fine,” you say, “But I can’t walk around giving out samples of my product or service, so how can I use Viral Marketing?”

The answer lies in the single most important aspect of the new web-driven marketing paradigm:

Today, consumers utilize the power of the Internet to find exactly what they want. The implications of this phenomenon are earthshaking, and yet the vast majority of people still haven’t seen the light.

Here it is in a nutshell.

It used to be that the only way to connect with your target audience was to “push” messages about your product or service out via mass media. The idea was, among this large group of people who would be exposed to your ad, at least some of them might currently be interested in what you were selling.

Now with over 97% of all people actively searching for a product or service on the web via their smartphones, tablets, and computers, all you have to do is to show up near the top of the first page.

Think of it this way; would you rather pitch your solution directly to 500 people who are ready to buy, or to 60,000 who have some people who might be interested in the future?

That’s why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still the single most important strategy every business needs at the foundation of their marketing efforts. When you connect directly to people who are ready to buy via your website with videos, testimonials, and creative content that provides a solution to their felt needs, you can win a majority of those customers.

And then when you wow them with stellar customer service and create a long-term relationship, guess what they do? They tell all of their friends and… bingo …you have just successfully utilized Viral Marketing.

Cheap? NoAffordable? Yes. Easy? No, but if you hire the right team, it can be easy for you, because it frees up your time to do the things you should be doing for your clients.

Uploading a video of a cat riding a skateboard might sound entertaining, but the real world alternative of connecting with buyers is a much better strategy for your business. And in the process, you actually get the opportunity to enhance someone’s life.

And that is a great thing.