Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability, SEO, relationship marketing and consumer psychology.


A Marketing Marriage Made in Heaven

A (long) while back we talked about viral marketing, that online technique that harnesses the distinctly human tendency to tell others about their experiences and turns it to your advantage.

Course, you can sit around twiddling your thumbs hoping folks chat up your site to others. Or you can get your ducks in a row and create an extremely effective program that actually drives viral marketing and helps you build your qualified house list.

Guess which way is the Grok Way?

With all the buzz about email marketing list strategies, who do you think has the best (and cheapest) lists going? If you answered “Why, my delighted customers, Grok” then take two giant steps forward! Take a happy customer and her dense email address book, and you’ve got the raw materials for a marketing marriage made in heaven. Now you just have to help it along.

Remember the ducks?

Duck Number One - Delight!

I did say happy, delighted customers. Before you start directing people to your site, make sure the entire experience is going to leave them delighted. Viral marketing works both ways, except folks are much happier to relate bad experiences than good ones. The last thing you want is for your viral marketing efforts to blow up in your face!

Duck Number Two - Ask!

You are far more likely to get action if you ask for it. As a general rule of thumb, create an eye-catching graphic button for a Web site (remember: Flash is trash and animations irritate like crazy), a hyperlink for an email. Put one near the top (catch them when they are first engaged) and also at the bottom (catch them when they’ve gone through the information). Your referral tool must:

·Stand out from the clutter of the page without taking up too much valuable above-the-fold real estate

· Be placed effectively - at the point where your visitors or readers are most interested

· Embody a clear call to action

· Provide clear instructions on how folks can use it

· Provide assurance - it doesn’t need to be a fine-print legal document, but let the referrer know your intentions and your privacy policy

Duck Number Three - Reward!

Add an incentive to your viral marketing request and you dramatically boost the odds your customers will make a referral. Let’s face it … many browsers give folks the ability simply to email the Web page or forward an email to their friends, which doesn’t give you the names.

The key is to keep your incentive intrinsic to your audience, so the referral brings you a qualified registrant, subscriber or buyer. If you give away something everyone wants - say a television - you’ll get lots of names of people who aren’t the sort of qualified customers you’re looking for. Think Verdi-CD-to-an-opera-club, or free shipping on your next order or entry in a contest.

Generally, a coupon isn’t the incentive most folks think it is. To be an effective reward, the coupon has to be pretty compelling, like substantial savings for stuff your customers already buy regularly. And it turns out percent-off coupons work better than dollars-off (or whatever monetary unit you trade in) coupons.

Duck Number Four - Track and Test!

You are never going to learn which combination of elements works best in your situation unless you track all your results and test repeatedly. Tracking and testing will let you tweak both your referral tool and your incentives so you get the best bang for the buck.

My friends Bryan Eisenberg and Brad Powers summed up the power of viral marketing this way:

“When used properly, nothing can match the power of viral marketing. It is so effective because it is based on personal opinion, much the same way an editorial carries more weight than an advertisement because it’s coming from a trusted source. You trust your friends and colleagues to send you material that is interesting, useful and pertinent to you personally. Trust will always be more powerful than flashy design and expensive ad campaigns.”1

So what are you waiting for?

1 “A Power Viral Marketing Primer: Buttons, Links and Clicking - Oh My!” Brad Powers and Bryan Eisenberg. Adventive.


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GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledges and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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