Viral Marketing

If you’re not utilizing the power of viral marketing, you may be missing out on a very effective new tool. This form of Internet-based marketing relies on the use of blogs, seemingly amateur Web sites like YouTube, and grassroots media campaigns to generate widespread word of mouth interest and “buzz” for a new product or service. A typical viral marketing campaign aims at generating media coverage via unusual, stories, funny video clips, interactive advertising games, images, and text. These are then passed from user to user at an extremely rapid, exponential (“viral”) pace, often reaching hundreds of thousands or millions of people for far less cost than would be possible using traditional marketing tools.

Due to its ability to generate extremely a high, rapid response rate for a relatively low cost compared to traditional marketing methods such as direct mail, viral marketing is a very popular and powerful medium. The following quick guide will help you create your company’s viral marketing campaign.

Give away products or services

In the world of viral marketing, it’s usually a good idea to give away something for nothing. Most successful viral marketing campaigns provide a free product or service to attract attention. Giveaways could include a complimentary brochure or software program with limited functionality, or a free button or pin. A discount on a service or product may generate interest, but “free” typically accomplishes the task faster and draws more people.

Make it Easy to Pass along Your Message

Like actual viruses, a viral marketing message spreads fast when it’s easy to transmit.

The medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and replicate.

Use e-mail, a special Web link, or graphic, or provide a free software download. Viral marketing works because it’s so simple and inexpensive, so use a digital format to make copying easy. Also, viral marketing is most effective when the message is short and direct.

Make Sure Your Mail Servers Are Ready

If you’re using e-mail as the core of your viral marketing strategy, you must ensure that your mail servers have enough capacity to handle exponentially larger amounts of traffic.

So it’s a good idea to plan ahead for easy and rapid addition of mail servers. This will put you in a good position to manage the campaign. You must build scalability into your viral model.

Utilize Existing Communication Networks

Most people are social and develop a close circle of friends, family, and associates. A person’s broader network may consist of hundreds or thousands of people, depending upon his or her job or social status. People on the Internet develop networks of relationships, consisting of circles of people with whom they regularly communicate. So it’s important to leverage such things as popular Web sites that draw large volumes of traffic or permission-based e-mail lists that potentially can reach millions of people simultaneously.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope that you enjoyed this article and that it will help you supercharge your marketing effort, leading to increased sales. Thanks for reading!

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

The Rise of Video Web Content

Video has notoriously dominated the entertainment industry, and thus the advertising industry for a half century. Recently though, the 300 pound gorillas of the video entertainment industry have taken a beating. So many factors have curbed their power, and now we are looking at an emerging opportunity to gather some of that power to ourselves by using the hypnotic mystery of video ourselves in the online venue.

The internet has certainly brought the middlemen of nearly every sector to their knees. If we look at entertainment brokers as middlemen, could we imagine creating our own content, promoting our own productions, and controlling more of our own traffic and advertising potential? Some innovative web developers have taken us halfway there.

YouTube, Guba, Google Video, Blip TV, and many other providers of free video sharing sites have given all of us the power to publically publish our own video content. The productions are rightfully short due to the issue of bandwidth as well as file storage, but there is also the issue of the truncated attention span of the modern day internet surfer. Even with these episode length curtailments, there are still many respectable serials up on these free sharing sites, and they are quite well done. As a matter of fact, there is something to be said for short, powerful punches of entertainment. In effect, serials made up of short streaming episodes can add up to impressive, award winning quality, production results.

We would like to advocate the concept that a new art form is being organically developed as we speak. There does seem to be a further impediment to the serious pursuit of the art by the masses however. This is not to say that there is no pursuit at all, just that what is being done is not really serious. It might be guessed that a factor in the inhibition to the seriousness of the majority of the efforts we see on these video sharing sites is that there is really no incentive for anyone to create gripping, well thought out, well crafted, and well acted content. What we’re talking about is money. There is no compensatory incentive.

This is not to cynically say that the only legitimate motive for quality from the unwashed masses is cash. We simply have to understand that most people need to spend their time on activities that will put food on the table, not on self expressive, artsy whims of fancy. Some may have the luxury economically to do both, but most of us do not.

There are also technical barriers. While shooting and editing video is an activity that is well within the technical savvy of more and more people, there is admittedly still a predominant portion of our contemporarium that are not yet up to the entire task; not to mention being up to the frustration of posting that finished production up on the internet for all to see.

What we do see however, is that there is a vast sea of tech capable people now in our culture. These people do take time to shoot random, not so well crafted, moderately well edited, video content. There is really a huge volume of it. With this knowledge, there is a certainty that if the art could be made economically viable, people would try to do better at it. If it were possible to make a living, people would flock to the opportunity and give it their best. I think it safe to say that we haven’t seen the best yet.

In conclusion, may we just say that it should be a goal of programmers and strategists to figure out how to make the art of short episodic streaming video a profitable profession for main street Dick and Jane. Let them in on some of the profit potential and some of the advertising / networking power. Some strategist have been working programmatically on that kind of application. I know this, because I am one of them.

Jeff Rogers is the President and Founder of www.dragnetmarketing.com. He is an online networking strategist who believes that relationships are just as important online as they are face to face. In order to have good relationships one has to give something up to get something back. Mr. Rogers has made it his focus to make the give and take more fluent and utilitarian through his strategies. Get online and on the street tactical advantage with Dragnet Marketing strategies and self managed viral Video Pages.

Building Targeted Media Lists

You have all these great story ideas about your company and its products, you’ve written your press releases with a sure hand and are ready to get the word out. But where do you start? Other than reading the bylines in your local newspaper, you know no journalists. Well, it’s time to start meeting some and begin building relationships with them, just as you would with a new customer or prospective lead.

Building media lists is very much like building your database of key customers or a list of new leads: you must know your audience and your market intimately. First, think about the geographic regions you want to target, based on where your customers and potential customers are. Then, think about the publications of interest to your customers in those regions. It could be a daily newspaper, a local magazine, or even a trade publication. What are the local TV affiliates in these areas? Are there any local community newsletters? Create a master list, then find out the correct contact at each outlet for your type of business story or product area. Sending a release about a new piece of software to the travel editor at the Boston Globe will simply wind up in the circular file. But by learning the name of the technology editor of the business section and finding out how she likes to receive newsworthy information (phone, fax, email, snail mail only), you will be one step closer to having your story heard and considered by the right person.

Where to Find Media Contact Information
There are many free and paid resources available to help you build your media database. Visit your local library for a listing of regional publications or free online sources like political parties (they sometimes have listings). Or use search engines to find specific newspapers, magazines, or local TV stations. Look up the media outlet online. Many of them have specific places on their websites where you can submit your release directly to the publication. There are also paid services like PR Newswire and Vocus that will not only build your lists for you, but handle the distribution as well. These services offer huge master databases housing every publication from The Town Tattler to the New York Times. Gather all the information you can, including the journalist’s name, specific title or department, phone, fax, email, and snail mail address. If possible, determine how the journalist would like to receive information. Some prefer email, others fax, and some still say “write only,” which means if they receive anything other than the old-school press release in a #10 envelopes officially stamped by the United States Post Office, there’s a good chance you’ll never hear from them.

Be sensitive to these folks’ time, too. Calling a reporter to “chat about an idea” while he’s on deadline trying to file a story will not only aggravate him, but will most likely ruin your chances of any story placement in that publication.

Lead Times
If you’re looking for some free publicity for an event, don’t call two days before it’s scheduled to take place to see if the newspaper “could put something in tomorrow’s paper.” Newspapers traditionally work on a three to four week lead-time; magazines anywhere from six to 12 months. TV, sometimes in less than an hour! If your event is on June 12, you’ll want to send out your press release by the middle of May. If your new product launch is slated for fall 2009, start thinking about sending information to magazines by spring/summer 2008.

Understanding the journalists’ world and how they operate is the key to building a successful media list, one that’s juicy with hot contacts and leads looking for the right story to tell. Just remember, developing your media list is like developing your customer list. Get to the heart of what the media want and when they want it – then deliver it! And while a big mass media list covers more territory, your story pitch may not apply to all on the list, reducing your chance for good quality editorial success. But if you have a targeted, well-thought out list that contains up-to-date contacts, there’s a good chance you have the start of some beautiful relationships, which ultimately will garner some fantastic free publicity!

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)

Why Blogging is Important to Your Business

In a Business Week article from February 2008, blog tracking firm Technorati Chairman David Sifry said that his company indexed about 112 million blogs, with 120,000 new ones created each day. Were you one of them? He clarified, however, that of those millions, only about 11 percent of them actually included new posts.

Sifry contends that about 99 percent of blogs aren’t delivering useful information (e.g., a mom blogging about her kid’s first day at school, spam blogs), but that still leaves a healthy helping of new blogs sprouting up every day that are gathering readers, fans, and potential leads for the businesses that have committed to using this viral marketing tool. As a blogger, you could (and should) be promoting your business and your ideas to existing customers and employees as well as prospective buyers.

Blogging is not a fad. The phenomenon that Sifry cited is still gaining momentum a year after Sifry quoted those statistics. So, what are you going to do with this valuable information?

If you’re like me, you don’t like to hear yourself talk too much, let alone put your thoughts on paper (or computer screen in this case) for the entire world to see. But isn’t that the point? You want to spread your ideas to build your platform as a resourceful and innovative VAR. Blogs, done correctly, can do this for you.

When blogging started to become popular in 2005, I know I was one of the skeptics who thought, “Who would want to just listen to someone’s random thoughts?” It seemed that blogging was either self-righteous, self-serving, or politically motivated – none of which appealed to me. I deemed this task to be time-consuming and very low on the ROI scale. But now, blogging has gone mainstream. Visit the site for any established company and you’ll likely see a blog page there. You have to ask yourself, if it didn’t work, would they all be investing their time in blogging?

Blogging should be an integral part, if not at the forefront, of your web and marketing mix. Blogs will change your world. Here are a few reasons why you should leap onto the blogging bandwagon:

– Blogging provides a casual way to communicate with your current customers as well as potential new customers. The conversational tone allows you to initiate and engage in a discussion in a very soft-sell manner, where you can showcase your strengths, products, and services without screaming “buy me!”

– The personal touch helps to cultivate relationships that will, in turn, build loyalty between you and your customer.

– A blog where your customers and visitors can interact with you presents the exceptional market research tool to actually learn what your customers need and then use that information to deliver the goods. Your customers are happy because they have found instant solutions, provided by you!

– Blogging involves very minimal investment. Some blogging sites are free; others may charge a fee. Ultimately, though, you want to have your blog on your website to benefit from search engine optimization. The major investment is your time in being vigilant about writing and posting your blogs. Frequency and consistency is key to success here.

– SEO and blogging go hand in hand. Search engines are looking for websites that are constantly being updated with new content and useful information. Be sure to incorporate tags and keywords in a relevant manner. These are simple words that people will use to search your topic on Google or Yahoo! Updating your blog frequently (every two to three days) and creating topical tags will garner a higher search engine ranking.

Statistics show that more and more adults are using the Internet and paying attention to blogs. Consumers use the product reviews from bloggers to assist in their buying decisions. They either bookmark their favorite blogs or receive them daily into their email via RSS feeds. Blogging is an opportunity to reach out to the masses, yet make it personal. It builds credibility about you and your brand and positions you as a thinker, leader and a resource. Your thoughts will become a direct link to increased leads and sales. And in this tough economy, blogging is one of the economical ways to market. You can’t afford not to blog.

A dedicated marketing professional, Michelle Kabele has been helping technology companies develop award-winning channel partner programs and marketing strategies for over 10 years. Michelle has worked extensively with small businesses throughout North America.

Michelle has an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management (Evanston, Ill.)