Five Steps to Successful Viral Marketing

Copyright © 2008 Steve Shaw

I'm sure we've all heard of 'viral marketing' - the first question is usually 'What is it?' (and I won't insult your intelligence by telling you it's nothing to do with ill health).

In brief, you can apply the term 'viral marketing' to any strategy that encourages others to pass on your marketing message.

This can result in exponential growth of traffic to your web site, and therefore, if appropriate to your site, your level of sales as well.

A viral marketing strategy should be an essential element of your web site's promotional strategy, and in this article I'll tell you five different ways you can achieve this.

You may already be following some of these suggestions, and if so that's excellent. But I'm sure there will be others here you can try as well. This applies to myself as well - each strategy takes time to implement, the important element is to work towards them, and over time your traffic and your sales will gradually build, and your business will expand. Persistence holds the key to success on the internet.

1. 'Send to a friend' script

We've all seen them, those buttons on web sites inviting us to 'Send to a friend'. You generally enter in the names and email addresses of people you would like to recommend the site to, and the script will then send those people an email containing the URL of the web site together with a short message.

Here's some resources you can use: - claim you can add it to your site within 10 minutes, charge from $99 per year - claims to track your most sent pages and your most active people; from about $6 a month - popular free CGI script - CGI Tell-a-friend script for $39.95, free trial version is available - another ASP script - a JavaScript version, allows you to send to a friend via normal email

That's probably enough to choose from!

2. 'Freebies'

Giving something away for free is one of the most powerful marketing methods available.

Giving something away for free in the *right way* turns it into a VIRAL marketing method that is much more powerful.

For example:

Giving away a free ebook will encourage people to sign up to your newsletter - great result.

If you include in the ebook links to your own web site and information about the products and services you want to promote, you'll increase your traffic and your sales - even better result.

If you encourage people to give away the free ebook themselves, you've suddenly turned it into a viral marketing program that will bring you exponentially increasing traffic and sales - excellent result.

The important thing is to ensure the freebie actually has some value and has a quality that reflects on the quality of your business - don't give away something just because it's virtually worthless, it will reflect badly on you and the results will be poor.

Instead, give the 'freebie' a realistic value, tell people what this is and then let them download it for free. However, ensure you use the mechanisms above to ensure that giving away something of value actually brings you results in the end - there is certainly delayed gratification involved here, but if you do it right you'll be on to a winner.

3. Write articles

Web site and ezine owners are constantly on the look out for articles, tutorials and other content they can use. Writing articles is one of the most powerful ways to spread your marketing message at targetted web-surfers. All you need to do is allow people to republish it for free, as long as they include a resource box at the end of the article containing details of your web site, or even of your ezine.

If you want an example, take a look at the articles I've written on my site at, and notice the resource box at the end - these have already been published in various forms and in various locations across the web, increasing the traffic to my web site (and let's not forget this article as well of course). You'll also notice various articles by other people on the site too, that I got hold of just by searching the sites listed below - see how quickly and effectively your marketing message can be spread all over the web by webmasters and ezine owners who need content!

As well as posting the articles on your own site, and distributing them to your own mailing list, there are also various places online where 'publishers' and 'authors' meet, i.e. you provide the article, and other people publish it for you if they are interested:

Idea Marketers*

Web Source*

Directory Of Ezines*


Yahoo Groups:

Dime Co:

Ezine Articles

Go Articles

The resources marked with asterisks (*) are particularly recommended due to the powerful results they can deliver.

4. Affiliate programs

Most of the successful web sites use an affiliate program of one sort or another, that encourage other web masters to partake in publicizing someone else's products or services in return for a commission on the sale price. I'm sure we're all familiar with these.

I personally use ClickBank because they handle both the affiliate program (so I don't have to manage it at all) and the payment facilities, and it's all incredibly easy to set up. For more information:

5. Word of mouth

Many businesses grow through 'word of mouth' recommendations. Sure, the 'Send to a friend'-type scripts and affiliate schemes can help with this process, but often web sites are mentioned in other interactions between people. This can be a powerful mechanism, both offline and online, and should not be ignored.

From my own experience, my business has grown largely because of the kind recommendations my customers make to others of the products and services I provide.

You can encourage this process by providing the highest quality customer service possible, and ensuring that any products you sell or recommend are of top quality.

You've heard the phrase 'Customer is king' - I'd extend this to say you should treat every single customer as the most important customer you have ever had, in this way you will easily impress them and attract more customers (perhaps very significant ones) through these referrals. The alternative is bad or unresponsive customer service and poor quality products - this will certainly get you bad publicity that will damage your business.

There are of course many other techniques you can try, but these are my top five favorites, so try them out and see the traffic to your web site explode. It's hard work, but when you see the results you'll consider it more than worth it.

Steve Shaw creates systems and software for effective e-marketing. His popup generator software provides an easy way to get around the popup blockers, and sign up subscribers fast. You can also create virtually any other type of popup for your web site in seconds. For more details visit: