BizEngine Blogger Dave Choate is taking the 16-part Inbound Marketing University online course. He’ll share what he learns from each lesson with readers over the course of the next three weeks.
Write down everything you know about marketing. We’ll wait.
Got a list? Okay, now take David Meerman Scott‘s advice and tear up that paper, stomp on it, pour a little gasoline on it and add a lit match to the mix. Now you’re ready to take on viral marketing, as IMU instructor Scott sees it.
It may not be the strategy of choice for many companies, but there’s a lot to be said for launching a viral campaign that requires relatively little initial exposure but then spreads like wildfire across the Internet. Make no mistake, though: This can be a time-consuming and creatively-challenging process to follow.
Small Effort, Big Payoff
Scott cites the example of the opening of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, which was not unveiled in a media blitz. Instead, he said, a representative held a private announcement online with seven bloggers, a move that very nearly got her fired.
To the surprise of nearly everyone, word spread with a quickness that was borderline magical. The seven bloggers posted, the online world was abuzz, mainstream media sources picked up the reports and within 24 hours, Scott reports that the news had reached 350 million people.
Not all of us have the clout that Harry Potter does, so it might be unrealistic to expect equally dynamic results. But it is evidence that you can reach a larger audience by bringing your news to the right people and counting on the breakneck speed that information travels at on the Internet to make it happen.
One of the things that jangles the nerves of many companies is the idea of losing control of the message, something that has to happen for viral marketing to work. Scott argues that the loss of the message is the only way to ensure it’s reaching the maximum number of consumers possible.
One of the flaws of the traditional marketing approach, Scott argues, is that it is too broad in scope. Instead of targeting the “faceless” population at large, he said, it’s in a company’s best interest to get to know its target audience and focus its efforts on those customers. The message can still spread from there, he said.
Promoting your product and not what it can do for the customers you’re trying to market to is also a mistake, he said.
“Nobody cares about your product but you,” he said.
If those nuggets fly in the face of what your company has traditionally done, Scott said that’s the point. To effectively market on a viral level, you must forget what you know.
“To be successful, you have to unlearn what you’ve learned,” Scott says. “On the Web, you are what you publish.”
Discuss that advice in the comments.