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How to Multiply Your Marketing Like a Virus
By Michel Fortin

We can learn the way viruses work -- and apply that process to online marketing. Called "viral marketing," the concept is generally to proliferate the knowledge of your existence on the web through other people's efforts. Be it word-of-eye advertising, referrals, affiliate programs, joint ventures and so on, it all comes down to that fundamental business process called "networking." And according to Jill Griffin's wonderful book "Customer Loyalty: How to Earn it, How to Keep it," we are more open, trusting and loyal when doing business with or being marketed by people we know -- and we certainly refer them to others more often as well.

Make Your Net Work

Online, networking is probably more important if not essential since the web is dimensionless and expansive. It grants you the ability to reach corners untapped -- areas that would have been unreachable otherwise. However, there's a lot of hype lately about the benefits of networking, but I personally don't advocate traditional networking (the "I'm open for business" kind) because, in my experience, it hasn't brought me anything substantial in return.

While it can be a fantastic marketing tool, the way in which networking is conducted is often the reason why it does not produce any favorable results. When you're only networking, more often than not people will want something in return -- otherwise, they will lose interest or stop sending referrals if you don't take the time to recognize their efforts. And if you don't, you will paradoxically need to network even more, which defeats the purpose.

A way to consistently reward others is to turn your networking efforts into systems -- in other words, to develop strategic marketing alliances. If you and your alliance share a same target market, you can effectively cross-promote or share markets with each other. While there are as many different forms of systematized networking systems out there as there are businesses, one of them that has been quite effective for me is what I call "info-networking."

An info-network is one in which information is exchanged in some form or another between parties. It includes qualified leads that you can both share, or information about each other that is promoted to each other's market, clientele or subscribers. As long as your alliance logically shares a same target market but without directly competing with you, it could be potentially rewarding. For example, this includes swapping ad space in ezines, posting reciprocal links, exchanging banners, co-advertising, promoting exclusive offers, submitting articles for publication, participating in discussion lists, and so on.

But info-networking goes further. It also refers to mailing lists where you can swap each other's prospect or client lists. While privacy online is becoming an increasingly important issue, it doesn't mean that there has to be an actual sharing of such lists. For example, website owners and ezine publishers have opt-in lists that range from 100 to 100,000 people. Many cross-market their lists, such as offering single mailing "solo ads" (of course, at a cost). But if you maintain your own ezine or opt-in list, the advantage is that you can swap ads, "solo" mailings or listowner-endorsed exclusive offers with each other.

Joint Ventures, Affiliate Programs, and Exclusive Offers

However, there's another form of networking that may be more effective, particularly for those who do not share or cross-market their lists. I call it "auto-networking," which goes beyond simply submitting your site to search engines, other websites or "free-for-all" links pages -- all with the hope that they will produce something in return. It's a process through which you are constantly and systematically exchanging leads with your alliance. On the Internet, this technique is one in which a systematized method of cross-promotion between you and your alliance through a unique, joint marketing effort is created. It is also often referred to as a "joint venture."

For example, this includes the coupling of complementary coupons or special offers that are exclusively marketed to each other's market. While different, these offers are combined and marketed under the banner of a single promotion. Another is the process of amalgamating products, services or offers that complement each other's portfolio. If your alliance sells a product, they can add to their offer additional bonuses (products or services) from you, which may include an exclusive special offer for one of your products.

You can even create an entirely distinct product, service or information package from both companies and sold simultaneously from both sites. 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. Best of all, you each market the "new" product separately while sharing in each other's traffic, market, lead-base and referral-sources (i.e., network) -- thus doubling the marketing effort.

Here's another: If you're a software programmer and you have created a program that, say, targets businesspeople, don't just give it away. Offer it to other sites that target businesspeople and let them offer it. While your program may not relate to your alliance's product, they both appeal to a same market and together make the offer more irresistible. In addition to the fact that your program makes your alliance's offer more palatable, if your shareware is copyright-free you get your software to multiply itself rapidly -- especially within a higher quality market by virtue of the nature of your alliance's business.

Ultimately, you can create affiliations, alliances, referral-sources, and centers-of-influence that can help propagate the knowledge of your existence on the web and, like a virus, multiply your online marketing punch. Focus on building a successful business using some of these effective strategies and the knowledge of your existence will spread like wildfire.

Related Articles:

Small Businesses and the Power of Strategic Alliances 
Strategic alliances are opportunities for small businesses to accomplish things that would otherwise take much more money or staff time. This article explores several ways small businesses can collaborate with other business entities.

Joint Ventures Can Help You Reap Big Profits
Joint ventures are one of the most effective marketing techniques being used by Internet marketers today. Joint ventures are where different parties pool each others marketing resources together to achieve a profitable outcome. Joint ventures usually benefit both parties more than if each party had attempted to do the marketing campaign on their own.

Blow The Competition Away With Viral Marketing
Viral marketing is essentially a marketing strategy that grows the marketing message at an exponential rate without any effort on behalf of the marketer.

Get Viral For Painless Marketing
The secret to avoiding disaster is to craft a realistic marketing plan: a plan which takes into account your time, your budget, and most important of all, your emotional makeup.

Michel Fortin is a master copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Get a FREE copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," and subscribe to his FREE monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill," by visiting now!

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