Viral marketing revisited....

by : Richard Grady

If you have spent any time at all studying Internet marketing, then you are bound to have come across the term 'viral marketing'. In fact, it is one of the first things that most people learn about when starting their Internet journey and very often it is a subject that is quickly forgotten or discarded as being an unrealistic way of generating traffic. However, I did something this week which made me look at viral marketing in a new light and proved to me that it is incredibly effective.

For those that don't know, viral marketing is used to generate traffic and it works by getting other people to spread the word about your website. Because of the fact that you are using other people, your 'message' can spread across the Internet very quickly - just like a virus, hence the name.

One of the most common ways of using viral marketing is by writing an eBook that contains links back to your website and allowing other people to give the eBook away or resell it to their own customers. If you manage this process correctly, you can end up with hundreds or even thousands of people distributing your eBook. Because of the fact that every eBook has a note of your website link in it, a fair proportion of the ultimate readers can be expected to click through to your site (and hopefully a few of these will buy something from you).

Of course, viral marketing doesn't have to be based around an eBook - another way of using this technique is to create a site that is very unique or amusing. The sort of site that you look at and 'just have to tell your friends about'. These sites can generate huge levels of traffic in a very short space of time as each person emails their friends to pass on the website URL.

Now, the reason that I say that people often give up on viral marketing as being unrealistic is because it can seem like an incredible task to write or design something that is going to have mass appeal AND then get the word out to enough people and persuade them to start passing your eBook/link/whatever on to even more people. Also, viral marketing doesn't always happen quickly - it can take several months or even longer for the traffic to start flowing at a reasonable level. To be honest, I am pretty much an 'I want it now' kinda guy and for this reason, I haven't really relied on viral marketing that much for my own businesses (or so I thought!)

So what happened this week?

Well, nothing super-exciting really - I simply did a search on Google for the following term: 'UK-Trader's UK Wholesale Guide'. As many of you will know, this was the first eBook I ever published back in 2001. I also issued resale rights on the first version of the eBook (again in 2001) but quickly stopped selling the rights as I was spending too much time policing those that chose to sell it in breach of the resale rights conditions.

Anyway, my Google search revealed over 2,000 search results for the above term! Now, whilst some of these results related to my own websites and those of my affiliates, a massive number were in respect of sites that were selling the 'resale rights' version of the eBook or that were acting as an affiliate for someone else that had the resale rights.

Considering that I had only issued resale rights in limited numbers, during a period of just a few months and over three years ago, I found the number of search results quite incredible. Just imagine what sort of numbers I could have generated if I hadn't stopped selling the resale rights and had allowed my viral marketing to continue.

Even if each of the above references/links generates only one visitor to my websites each month, that is still over 2000 free visitors every single month. In addition, not only do these visitors not cost me anything but I don't have to do anything to get them :-)

I was so surprised at the above results that I am planning on releasing resale rights to the latest version of my wholesale guide in the near future and if you have a product to which you can apply a viral marketing technique, I strongly recommend that you give it a try. What have you got to lose? More importantly, what have you got to gain?

One other thing to bear in mind is that once the word is out 'virally', it is quite literally impossible to stop the traffic that your marketing virus will create. So to sum it up, if you get it right and create the perfect viral marketing campaign, you will end up with FREE traffic every month that you don't need to DO ANYTHING to receive and that would be IMPOSSIBLE to stop, even if you wanted to! Sounds great to me :-)

Copyright 2004 Richard Grady