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Creating a viral marketing epidemic on the web 12 March, 2007

Posted by varoom in Selling.

If you have the kind of product that lends itself to marketing through the web then a viral marketing strategy could work for you. Viral marketing comes in many forms but the desired end result is the same an avalanche of customer demand for your product or service. How is such an avalanche of demand achieved?

If the answer to that question was easy then every idea would be a success. However some aspects of how such viral marketing schemes succeed is well known. In any marketing activity there comes a point when a critical mass of customers occurs and the product launch hits a successful ramp up of demand. This point was termed “The Tipping Point” in Malcolm Gladwells’ book of the same name. He gives many examples of how products launched and became a volume success after hitting a critical mass of customers. This behaviour is very much like a virus epidemic and perhaps the term “Viral Marketing” was drawn from the same theme.

He gives examples of how Fax machines and Cell Phones only became successful when they crossed over the tipping Point and became important for everyone when the numbers hit a critical mass.

In order to try to duplicate the same epidemic effect we need to employ the same behaviours of a “successful” virus. We need to infect key groups of potential customers with the idea of the product, use the product and then recommend it to others. The selection of these key groups and their ability to interact and communicate with other groups is a key factor. If we infect only a small isolated group it’s unlikely to impact other groups. We need to get broader impact.

Identifying these target groups, how they get their market information and how they choose new products is critical to success. Groups which interact, even occasionally, with other groups are important to proliferation of the marketing image.

These groups can be approached through user groups, clubs, agencies and associations. We can communicate to them through their preferred media publications, information sources and circulation lists.

We can offer them free trials of the product with discounted upgrades to get the market inertia going. All the usual techniques of marketing can apply.

But remember it’s the segmentation and selection of the right groups, of the right size and with the right kind of interconnectivity that helps push your product to the Tipping Point.

Greville Commins



1. Alec Gullon - 12 March, 2007

Good post clarifying some points people sometimes fail to grasp when thinking of ‘viral’ marketing.

I particularly liked the example you used about the cell phone. That’s the best and clearest way I’ve ever seen it put.

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