referrals, replicable files, link popularity, affiliate programs, joint
ventures and so on. Of those, the affiliate program is the most popular and
the one used by most ecommerce sites, like Amazon.com, etc.
But let's take a look at
some of the other methods used -- namely networking systems, replicable
files and leveraged links.
1) Networking Systems
Joint ventures and
networking systems are processes through which you are constantly and
systematically exchanging leads with your alliance. On the Web, this
technique is one in which a systematized method of cross-promotion between
you and your alliance through a joint marketing effort is developed. While
it is considered unethical to share email addresses, there are many other
ways to create systematized networking systems.
For example, the coupling
of complementary coupons or special offers from two or more parties that are
exclusively marketed to each other's audience is one method. While
different, such offers are combined as a single campaign. However, each
party member promotes the package to her respective base of clients or
subscribers; no contact information is actually exchanged.
Here's an example. You
could find a non-competing business -- 1) one that caters to a target market
matching yours, and 2) one that offers a product or service that logically
fits or can be bundled with yours. Through a phone call or email, ask that
business if it would be interested in creating a special offer, where
products from both businesses could be combined into a single, special (even
"exclusive") offer, and promoted to each party's respective market, for a
split in profits.
While the preceding example
discusses the coupling of offers, either for a limited time or with a
limited quantity, another example is the process of amalgamating products,
services or information that complement each other, indefinitely, into a new
and completely separate product. If your alliance sells a product that
bundles well with yours, for example, she can add to her portfolio your
products as bonuses, add-ons or even additional products, which may be
customized or co-branded.
In other words, beyond a
simple affiliate program where the other sells your product for a commission
or licenses it for extra sales, both of you create a new and entirely
distinct product that can be sold on both sites, simultaneously. And as a
result, you also share in each other's resources, including clients,
experience, loyalty, exposure, sales potential, site traffic and affiliate
networks (especially if you both have an established affiliate base that can
be easily mobilized).
For example, you sell
cookware online. You can easily team up with a publisher specializing in
cookbooks and throw a book in the mix. While you raise the price and split
the profits with the publisher, you instantly raise the perceived value of
the cookware through a co-branded approach or a combined package of
non-competing products or services. And best of all, each of you market the
"new" product separately while sharing in each other's networks -- thus
doubling the marketing effort.
2) Replicable Files
With the advent of
computers and the Web, copying and pasting is one of the easiest things to
do. Granted, it is also one of the reasons why viruses can spread
tremendously fast, as well as why programs such as Napster are such a point
of contention for many copyright holders. But putting the legalities aside,
one can certainly take advantage of this ease of replication in order to
expand one's exposure -- quickly and effortlessly.
If you played video arcade
games about a decade ago, you might remember one called "Zero Wing." It's an
arcade game in which a inter-galactic battle takes place in the year 2101,
where your job is to defend planet Earth from an alien invasion led by the
dreaded warrior Cats. While Zero Wing may have been a favorite among
teenagers, the fad faded until video game manufacturer Sega Genesis released
their version of the popular arcade game in 1998, giving it new breath.
But this time, an animated
introduction was added. "In 2101, war was beginning," it quipped. A dialog
between the ship's captain and Cats ensued, offering these priceless gems:
"You have no chance to survive make your time." "All your base are belong to
us." "Someone set up us the bomb!" And many others.
Obviously, this poor
Japanese-to-English translation has made a few people grin. But in the
summer of 2000, a strange craze began. Graphically-altered files populated
the Internet -- on message boards, newsgroups and emails. They included
pictures of outdoor billboards, businesses and road signs donning "All Your
Base Are Belong to Us" insignias.
"'All Your Base' spread
from office to office like a benign virus," writes Chris Taylor in a recent
Time Magazine issue. This benign virus to which Chris is referring is a rock
video (developed in Shockwave Flash), which is, essentially, a mini- slide
show consisting of "All Your Base" pictures (download it at
PlanetSeige.com, the 'All your Base' craze, which started as a tiny inside
joke, has now become "an explosively popular Internet phenomenon." National
newspapers, such as the Ottawa Citizen, USA Today and San Francisco
Chronicle, wrote articles about the "conspiracy." An online retailer sells
even AYBABTU memorabilia (see
Obviously, using viral
marketing with replicable files can be tremendously effective, spreading a
message very quickly. Thus, using the Internet as a way to automate,
leverage and increase the spread of that message using these easy to copy
files can help to multiply your marketing -- almost exponentially.
For example, files that can
be easily downloaded, copied and spread around include ebooks, applications
(John Audette, the owner and moderator of
http://www.adventive.com/, calls these "ad-apps," short for
"advertising-oriented applications") and web-based, traffic-generating
scripts (like referral systems, discussion forums, free email accounts and
For instance, my website
offers a free ebook entitled "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning."
It's a freely downloadable and distributable PDF file -- a format that's
compatible with PC's and Mac's -- at
http://successdoctor.com/offer.htm. As of today, I estimate the
number of downloads to be over 120,000. Others simply link to my site, which
increased my site's link popularity and search engine ranking. Others offer
it directly on their sites, or co-branded the book with their business.
shows and screen savers are some of the many tools you can use. Let me share
with you an example. Just recently, I consulted with an online business and
suggested as one approach the creation of a viral marketing tool. While the
name shall remain confidential for obvious reasons, it was a personals site
(i.e., a classified ad site for people looking for an encounter, friendship
or the "love of their life").
My suggestion was the
creation of small application, with the help of an economical programmer --
even a student of a local technology school. This small yet freely
replicable file can be a survey of sorts, much like a "love meter" or "love
test" application that questions recipients, analyzes responses and offers
suggestions. Examples are personality profiles, levels of compatibility
between mates, astrological signs and so on.
The application can display
links back to the site, especially for retrieving the results. In other
words, once the questions are answered by the recipient, the application
does not offer the results in a direct sense but provides links back to the
site for users to click and read about their specific "score." Consequently,
users are then "pushed" to visit the site to retrieve their results, similar
to online greeting cards. They will hopefully be interested in browsing
further once there.
This is just one example.
Freely distributable applications (or "ad-apps") like these can be made in
many different ways for many different situations. Here's an example: a
financial advisor sells a stock tips book on his website. Her ad-app is also
a survey but used much like an initial free consultation instead. Once the
application churns out the results, the text can include references back to
the book or links back to the site. To illustrate, one answer can say
"Thank you for using the
investor quotient evaluator. Your 'IQ' is 120, with a [whatever] personality
type. It means that you are a savvy yet careful risk-taker, and [... etc].
You have an affinity for [whatever] stocks. Chapter 12 of my book, 'What Big
Bulls Don't Brag About,' offers a series of specific strategies for
investors with your quotient. To order or learn more about the book, click
3) Leveraged Links
Online, publicity is a
required marketing component. With the help of viral marketing, however,
your message can spread online with results that are faster and more
far-reaching than any other form of word-of-mouth advertising. The ultimate
goal is to populate as many emails, message forums, newsletters, newsgroups
and websites as possible. Offering free content with a resource box at the
end linking back to your site is one of the easiest ways to multiply your
Some sites and even
applications, like those mentioned above, can help to spread it for you. You
can syndicate your content through third parties, like
http://www.mastersyndicator.com/, or use applications that can
stream content directly on one's desktop, like
http://www.promote-ivator.com/. Similarly, the greatest leverage of
all is that of other people's marketing efforts. You want to multiply your
link all over the Internet through the help of other people without much
effort on your part. Of course, this can be achieved in many ways.
Look at Hotmail's success,
for example. A link to Hotmail.com and an invitation to register for their
free service is added at the end of each message sent through their system.
And the result: hundreds of thousands of users registered in less than a few
months. You can certainly use a similar tactic by simply offering something
for free and encouraging others to link to you, promote it for you, or pass
it around freely to others.
If you don't have anything
free to offer, another strategy is to create a message that incites
curiosity -- an idea or a "buzz" about your business, including any buzz
through which you are visible -- and encourages others to disseminate that
message, especially online. Creating curiosity is the key, for people are
instinctively curious. If you can somehow tap into that common human
behavior, your message can spread very fast.
Here's a case in point.
Nearly half a million people a day were calling a New Jersey investment
firm's voice mail just to hear the sound of a duck quacking. Their automated
reception, which began with those typical corporate prompts, such as "to
request a new account kit, press two," included as its final option, "if you
would like to hear a duck quack, press seven."
The brokerage firm, which
has a mallard as its mascot, decided to throw in the sound of a duck
quacking as an option on their toll-free line. Being the last in a series of
several message prompts, the broker thought that nobody would even notice.
But word spread so quickly that, with the phone number circulating
throughout the Internet and particularly by email, more than 270,000 people
called the line by the end of the first month. "We didn't do anything," said
the firm's CEO. "We just left it on our voice mail and the Internet took
care of the rest."
Nevertheless, the first
step in viral marketing is to develop your unique selling proposition, or
USP. Aside from all the other steps, if you master this one you will create
word-of- mouth advertising as a natural byproduct, without effort. You can
generate curiosity by adding a sense of mystery to your message, even an
oddity or incomplete story -- one that only your product or site can
complete. People will need to buy it (or visit it) in order to find out the
"rest of the story."
Then leverage your
marketing by using tools that can help the viral process. Write an ebook.
Create a screen saver. Program an application. Offer a checklist. Record a
sound bite. Give a free online consultation. Digitize a video. More
importantly, if you can use a network of people that can help to distribute
them freely for you, either by offering an incentive or adding an element of
curiosity, you will propagate the knowledge of your existence on the Web
very quickly, like a virus.