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2009.2 May - Viral Marketing Isn't!

Submitted by Admin on Wed, 13/05/2009 - 01:52

The term Viral Marketing has given the internet a bad name in the eyes of the public. They look with suspicion on any product or service which is promoted through websites or by email. In many cases justifiably so.

The marketing is not viral. It is the grass roots response to a product or service that exhibits the viral characteristics. We have seen it happen many times before the internet was even a dream. Take, for example, the Pet Rock, Hula Hoop, Cabbage Patch Kid ... Everyone had to have one! The public response to something inanely simple was completely out of balance with the marketing effort applied to it. Many crazes have been driven by technological advances. A stellar example of this is the invention of pantyhose in the late 1960's which made garters and stockings unnecessary, and made the mini-skirt craze possible!

All the internet has done is to improve the distribution of information. People are able to communicate more efficiently, and with a wider audience than ever before. The sudden successes of Hotmail and Gmail happened suddenly because of the ease of communication. They happened because they had a desirable product. We have lost sight of that.

If you have something that nobody wants, no amount of marketing, viral or otherwise, will save you. If you do have a desirable product or service, marketing is necessary to inform your potential customers, or nobody knows about it and nothing will save you. If your marketing is successful, and you establish a client base, you must deliver the value to the clients that your marketing promised, or nothing will save you. So we have the first three rules:

  1. Create a product or service that you can differentiate from what is already available, and which will have value to your potential client.
  2. Inform the potential marketplace about your product or service, and why they should obtain it from you.
  3. Make sure that your clients are satisfied, and encourage them to spread the word.

If you are successful with these three steps, and your product or service has wide appeal, then the response in the marketplace will likely grow. If you encourage rapid communication, then the response might be considered 'viral'. But the very first thing you have to do is the same as everyone has had to do in business for all time. Create value, and deliver it at a fair price, then be prepared to meet any demand that may arise from the response.

Too often we hear of people saying that they tried to advertise something, and the advertising didn't work. Today we are hearing the same thing about viral marketing. Let's get real here! Either the product was already widely available, there was nothing to offer to the market, or the advertising did not inform the correct people. Or worse, the demand exceeded the ability to supply, and potential clients were disappointed.

If we have something to sell, we should not get caught up in technique and lose sight of the basic principles. Once our product or service is established, and we know our demographics, then informing our market about it is necessary. Choosing the right medium is crucial, but the public is not stupid. If we start to apply so-called viral marketing techniques, and they perceive that we are more interested in method than integrity, the efforts will fail.

We need to get back to basics, and to let the public determine its own crazes. And yes, feel free to use this article on your site!

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