Blood, sweat and viral marketing

Shit doesn’t happen. Shit takes time and effort.

I was recently in a meeting where co-founder of a next-big-thing-startup, when probed about marketing plans, said something to the line of we’ll do something viral so we don’t need to worry about marketing too much. Right. I’m in no means a viral marketing expert but this much I know: viral marketing does take time and effort.
There seems to be a widely spread misconception that viral marketing doesn’t cost anything and that if you do even tiny bit of it, customers will turn up on your door or website like zombies. In my view this is only true on four occasions. First, companies like Skype or Facebook whose product is so viral in nature that they seem to grow “just like that”. Second, brands like Apple or Obama that have such loyal followers that every step they take is echoed on blogs, social network profiles and T-shirts of fanboys across the world. Thirdly there are those whose idea is just so spot-on that no-one can refuse to pass it on to a friend. Blendtech’s Will it blend? campaign is a good example of that. And lastly, some just get lucky because a celebrity blogger somewhere happens to like it.
That leaves 99% of folks to make viral marketing happen with their sweat and/or marketing dollars. I’ve seen the behind the scenes of quite a few viral campaigns, and none of them have been super cheap or super easy to do. Take my recent task of generating blog coverage for Pledgehammer. I now know I have to do about a dozen units of work (this can be an email, blog comment or a guest blog post) to receive one unit of coverage. I’ve made north of 250 contacts to get about 20 people interested and writing about Pledgehammer. That’s good many evenings and weekends spent on creating “something viral”. (Luckily the weather has been rubbish). See here, here, here (got to love this one) or there for results, more links are available on Pledgehammer blog.
Long story short – viral marketing is a powerful thing, definitely worth some experiments, it just takes time and effort to work.

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