Viral marketing depends on a high pass-along rate from person to person. If a large percentage of recipients forward something to a large number of friends, the overall growth snowballs very quickly. If the pass-along numbers get too low, the overall growth quickly will fade off. Viral marketing is more powerful than third-party advertising because it conveys an implied endorsement from a friend or loved one. Although clearly delineated as an advertisement, the spillover marketing benefits are powerful-much like the efficacy of radio commercials read by your favorite DJ.
In this article I’m going to discuss how it can be used to grow your all essential, opt in mailing list. But what about subscriptions to your newsletter? Can they too be effected by this type of Marketing? YES they can. But how? This depends on how difficult and successful you want to make it. Not that these two factors necessarily go hand in hand.
The most basic form of using viral marketing automatically, is probably a tell-a-friend script. I’m sure you’ve seen them, you’ve probably used them as well. All you have to do is type in someone’s email address into a form, and the website will usually have text pre inserted into the form telling the person how great you think the website is, but you could always add your own instead. Your friend receives an email which to them looks like you are telling them about this fantastic new website and hopefully he will sign up to the newsletter to find out more. This can be manipulated in other ways. For example what if you did a questionnaire, then, to get the results of the questionnaire, not only does the person have to sign up to your newsletter, but they have to fill out a tell-a-friend script for three friends, telling them about this questionnaire. Then, those three friends sign up, take the questionnaire, and oh look, they have to sign up to the newsletter to find out the results, oh well, lets tell three more friends each. This has a huge snowball effect, and should see you exponentially growing your opt-in mailing list. This isn’t too hard to create either. Just go down to elance.com and ask a programmer how much he would charge for such a thing. Signups are also valuable.
However, you must remember that you must start your marketing efforts with some fuel, and that fuel is people. You have to start with at least a few people filling out this questionnaire for this to even begin. 0 people telling 3 friends each still equals 0. Another way to grow your mailing list, is to pay people for every subscriber they send your way. This isn’t exactly the type of marketing I’ve been discussing throughout this article, but it will grow your opt-in list quite well if you pay enough and enough people start doing it. I think that 10 cents per subscriber is fair.
If people start sending you more subscribers than you can afford to pay, then you can always stop it for a while. But remember this, is you treat your subscribers well, then you have a life time value of them, which is worth far more than 10 cents.
Hotmail.com used this form of marketing in a small way that produced big results. At the bottom of each of the emails sent, they included a small line that said something like “Get your free email account with hotmail.com”. This meant that every time an email was sent from hotmail the recipient would read this and perhaps think, “Hmm free email account huh? Better check this out. This resulted in hotmail’s huge growth in a relatively short period of time. Eventually Microsoft brought hotmail.com for an obscene amount of money.