3 Uncommon Steps to Successful Viral Marketing for Startups

viral marketing

We previously discussed in last week’s blog post the 4 features of successful, high-growth startups. The first feature, viral marketing, is an incredible opportunity for startups to gain awareness and market their product before, during, and after launch. The contemporary digital transformation of society has allowed startups the opportunity to reach thousands to millions of prospective customers from all kinds of backgrounds, beliefs, and locations.

“Virality” is crucial in today’s market, as well. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean it’s required. Without it, people would have to market their very digital products and services in-person or in other traditional means that would definitively limit their reach and potential audience. It’s a great way, sometimes free, to acquire new users.

Virality, furthermore, is a design principle that requires a specific, strategic flow for new and existing users to engage with—that is to say, it doesn’t happen by chance, it doesn’t happen without being engineered, and it isn’t about populating your websites or landing pages with a few share buttons here and there and hoping it “goes viral” on its own.

When working on viral marketing, you need to consider several factors, including your customer acquisition cost (how much it costs to get a new user to download your app, buy your product, or use your service) and the viral coefficient (how an existing user can generate new users, and how many). Viral marketing can help lower your CAC, and it’s important to understand your audience insofar as you know who to target based on their viral coefficient.

Yes, you know that you need to know your targeted audience and their behaviors, likes, dislikes, preferences, and where they live. You know that you need a strong landing page and beta testers to sell your product before it’s even launched.

You may even know that you need a strong social media presence and that you need to take advantage of the digital ecosystems to which your users are connected. But what about some of the alternative strategies you may not have considered? We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to things you probably didn’t think about with viral marketing.

 

1: Emphasize and Harness the Emotional Impact by Connecting to an Idea

Remember that your product is about people and solving a problem that they commonly have. Connect what you’re selling to a powerful idea, like beauty, acceptance, equality, or something that resonates with your target audience. For example, if it’s athletes, then consider determination and courage as your selling point.

When you market your product, make sure that the flow of messages contains real user stories and takes advantage of emotional design to connect people to their basest instincts. They may rationally know they need your product, but if you can sell it that you stand for something and support a specific vision of the world that aligns with how your users see the world, then you’ve got something special. Make sure the keywords you use are associated with the idea that you want to get across. Remember that you’re not just selling a shirt, or a ride, or a service that makes your life easier—you’re selling an experience, a set of engagements that need to be enticing and exciting and feel very real and human.

 

2: Offer Rewards for Sharing, and Make Sharing as Easy as Possible

Let your users do your work for you, and let them share your product or service with the world. If you’ve done what you’re supposed to do and have provided them with something of such sheer quality that they have no desire to use anything else like it, then they’ll want to share that with the world—especially if there are rewards.

Remember that social proofing and mimesis is a powerful tool. People will naturally imitate others, and if they see their friends using and referring a specific app, they will want it simply because others have it.

What can act as motivation for your users to share your product? Consider offering $10 off of your service for a user to refer their friends. Offer something fun like a coupon they choose for hitting the share button on your landing page. Just make it super easy to

 

3: Be Wary of Growth You Can’t Sustain

Keep in mind that sometimes viral marketing works, and sometimes it really works. The risk you run of being extremely diligent in producing a successful viral marketing strategy is that your product, service, or app can explode digitally and make your company grow quickly—sometimes, it might be too quickly.

Make sure that you have the right considerations in place for when demand exceeds your supply. If too many people are downloading your app and want customer service beyond your capacity to respond to them, consider getting more employees or scaling back your viral marketing efforts. Don’t run faster than your shoes can handle.

Keep track of what isn’t working and fix it, and remember that the follow-up is just as important as the first impression. Viral marketing isn’t a one-and-done thing. You have to be diligent and make sure that you’re fixing what isn’t working. You have to make sure you’re responding to every user and their concerns, so that your feedback is always rock-solid. If you’re marketing in the digital world, you need to be careful about your footprint and the impact bad reviews can have and how long they can follow you around, and how hard they are to scrub.

As we mentioned, viral marketing is about utilizing free and available digital marketing channels to reach a wide range of people and lower your CAC so that you can focus on investing in your product’s development, in fixing bugs after launch, in expanding your reach, and so on. Viral marketing may not always be free, but it’s certainly worth your investment, whether of time or energy.

The benefits of viral marketing cannot be understated. You can reach people who you will never meet face to face across the country. You can get people to test your product before going to market and work out all of the bugs in your product or app. You can raise awareness and get downloads before you’ve even released a single thing. And, most importantly, you can easily reach people who need what you’re selling the most. That’s what it’s all about, right?