Getting More Customers – Using Viral Marketing

Getting More Customers – Using Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing is the process of motivating your existing customers to refer others to your products or services in large numbers.  In the startup world, going viral means that every customer you acquire brings with them through referral at least one other customer.  When you get there, you have exponential growth!  Just be sure you have scaled your product or service for this level of growth before you get there.  See my page on scaling at  I have worked with lots of companies that called me after they rapidly expanded, then fell back because they could not scale up to meet that demand properly.  Not only does this damage your reputation but can leave you with too much fixed cost and too little revenue.  Now we can be talking turnarounds.  You can see my page on this at .

Viral marketing begins by creating a viral loop that works for your customers and then getting customers into the loop.  A basic loop can be as simple as (1) a customer is exposed to your product or service, (2) that customer tells other potential customers and (3) those potential customers are exposed and some portion buy from you.  Then the process continues with the new customers.  That’s the loop part.

There are different types of viral marketing:

Word of Mouth – This is the old fashion kind.  The product or service is so great that customers just want to tell all their friends.

Inherent – The customer only gets value by inviting others.  Think of Skype or Snapchat where the product is not useful until the people you want to communicate with are also customers.

Collaboration Based – The product may be useful for a single user but is much more useful when used in a group context.  Think Google docs or sheets where multiple people can edit at the same time and see each other’s changes.

Imbedded in Communications – This is where the use of the product makes others aware of the product.  Think about sending emails from your phone and having Sent from my iPhone or sent from Verizon appended to every message.

Incentivized – The customer gets an incentive to tell others.  Think about Airbnb, where you can get account credit for a referral.

Imbedded Buttons or Widgets – The supplier embeds buttons or widgets in the product that make it easy to share.  Think Facebook or Twitter.

Social Networked – The customer’s activities (including the use of a product) are broadcast to others.  Again, think Facebook.

So what does viral mean?  Well, if the number of others that each customer recommends who actually sign up is greater than 1, then you have viral growth.  That is, you get one or more additional new customers for each customer you acquire.  That is going to be really fast growth.  If you get one additional new customer for every two customers you acquire, that will be very helpful but not viral.

The other thing that affects your growth rate is the speed at which the loop occurs.  Your growth will be markedly different if the cycle time is 3 days or 3 months.  You will need to do everything you can to shorten the cycle time and to keep people from dropping out of the loop.

So to be effective using this channel, try to build a loop into your product or service.  Then make it easy (reduce friction) so people don’t drop out and make it as short as possible.

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