The Complete Guide to Viral Marketing

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Viral marketing is not a quick fix as it takes a little while to get the ball rolling but once it does it can be absolutely phenomenal. So today I want to tell you about a simple system that you can employ in your business right now, for free, that could have an enormous impact on the success of your company -- and bring you the level of profit that you could only dream off. I call this “The Domino Effect”.

The Domino Effect reveals the way that simple changes in your marketing methods (just like pushing one domino over)  can have far reaching and long-lasting “knock-on” effects -- the Domino Effect can make you some serious profits because once it’s started, there is no stopping it!

The Domino Effect is really about viral marketing -- push the first domino, and it sets off a chain reaction, now there are many ways to instigate a hugely successful viral marketing campaign including things as simple as the infamous YouTube videos like “Charlie bit my finger” with over 8,156,823 views, followed by the next installment “Charlie bit my finger again!” With over 478,436,912 views - that’s almost half a billion views!
In fact since I first checked the number of views for you the number has risen to 481,658,653, that’s an increase of over 3 extra million views.

An article in the New York Times recently reported that the dad who shot the “Charlie bit my finger” video, Mr Davies-Carr said that his family had earned in excess of $158,000 from the video through advertisements. But in fact if you do the math the video has earned much more than that. Top traffic generating videos like Charlie bit my finger can earn up to 3 dollars for every thousand views. Which is $300 for every hundred thousand views, or another way of looking at it is $3000 for every 1 million views.

So at the time of writing this blog that means that this little video has probably earned in the region of $1,444,975 dollars!. And what’s more it’s still growing, at the rate of almost 10,000,000 views every month. That means that Mr Davies-Carr and his family are making around $1000 every single day!

I’ll be telling you more about viral marketing methods and resources a bit later in this post and also other posts too, but right now I’m going to be talking about viral marketing via a simple email.

Viral email marketing -- just as sending that first email can set off a succession of forwarded emails that will spread your marketing message to hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people. It's the most powerful form of advertising known to man -- an Internet version of word-of-mouth advertising!

To create an effective marketing strategy, there is no need to spend huge sums of money on advertising or many hours of your time devising more creative ways to reach your customers. Most online marketers will see enormous increases in their profits if they just make simple changes -- little tweaks to the system that will resonate with prospects and bring them flooding to your website.

First of all let's look at viral marketing. This is one small change to your marketing strategy that could deliver huge results in terms of spreading your marketing message and increasing traffic to your site. If you are not currently using viral marketing -- you should be!

The Concept

Viral marketing is a fantastic marketing technique that taps into social networks to spread your marketing message far and wide. Although the name ‘viral’ conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images of nasty infections, the name has stuck, probably because it so aptly describes how effective the method is – your message is literally spread like a virus.
Start with just a few emails and then, like a virulent epidemic, they will spread like wildfire through a network of social contacts, reaching hundreds, thousands and even millions of people – all potential customers!

Actually, viral messages are nothing new – they have evolved from old fashioned marketing via word of mouth and even the early pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing methods, used by companies such as Amway (, were examples of viral marketing that relied on social networks to spread the marketing message.

There have been many examples of successful viral marketing – including the classic free email service from Hotmail, the album Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails, Dynamic Surfing (Quicksilver), Cadbury’s gorilla advert (you can see this on YouTube) Nike’s touch of gold advert and Burger King with their Subservient Chicken campaign. The subservient chicken viral campaign did so well over 1 billion people saw the advert, and that’s without spending any mainstream marketing dollars. It was simply viral. You can see full information about this campaign here. In fact this blog is actually assisting it to keep going viral years later!

Many of these viral marketing campaigns have reached millions of potential customers within days and have gone on reach out to tens of millions even hundreds of millions of people and more importantly, have made millions for their owners and shareholders!
With the advent of the Internet, email can deliver your message with phenomenal speed and mind-boggling efficiency – practically free!

Important components

Like a line of dominoes, you have to create the right conditions for them to fall one by one – when these conditions are right and your dominoes are aligned correctly, you could rapidly topple hundreds or even thousands of them. In the same way, you have to create the perfect conditions and introduce the right components into your viral marketing campaign to ensure your message is passed on. So what are these important components?

•    Easy to pass on: People don’t like to be inconvenienced, especially in the instant world of the Internet. A simple click of a button to forward an email message is all that should be expected of your prospective customers if you want your message to be passed on.

•    Gives something of value away for free: The truth is that the vast majority of Internet users are looking for something for free, whether it is information or a free product, or even just a great money saving offer such as a generous money-off voucher. Find something relevant to your product or range of products that you can give away – in the past, traditional businesses called this the ‘loss leader’. It’s nothing new and is a tried and tested method that has been adapted for the Internet. Just make sure it is something of value, if you want to beat your competitors!

•    Exploits human psychology: It is important to understand what it is that motivates people to pass on your message. There are several factors that compel people to share something and your message has to include them or it will simply be deleted. We will discuss these factors a little later.

•    You can actually deliver the goods: You also have to ensure that you have access to enough products or can provide service for large numbers of customers if your campaign is successful – you don’t want to run out of widgets just as a mammoth number of orders come in. Even with a downloadable product, which can potentially supply an infinite number of customers, you have to make sure your server can handle a surge in demand or your site could crash.

Could it really work?

Absolutely, and there are plenty of success stories out there proving that viral marketing can and does actually work. It’s not really a new phenomenon but the speed and efficiency of the Internet has catapulted viral marketing into a whole new league – now we can reach millions of Internet users around the world in a matter of days.

The real trick, if you are using viral emails, is to get your messages read and spread and not deleted before they are even opened. Believe me, once you get the recipe right and include all the right components – the Domino Effect really works!

What Spreads Like Wildfire?

Hot topics

What is it that makes someone want to share their emails and take the time to click and  FWD?

We all get heaps of emails every day, and if you're like me, most of them get deleted before they're even opened. So what is it that makes us interested enough to actually open them and forward them on to friends and associates?

After all, when you think about it, the quality and content of these emails reflects on our own personal standards, such as our sense of humor and personality. We are not likely to forward anything that reflects badly on us or makes us look ridiculous.

There are millions of people working from offices around the country, indeed the world, that are looking for some light relief in a day filled with drudgery. This is one reason why viral marketing is so successful.

Another major reason why viral marketing works is that humans are social animals─ we love to communicate with others. A cheerful message that makes someone feel good, a joke, a cute picture, some interesting piece of new information, or something that will improve someone's life is a simple way to communicate with others.

It is often said that we forward these snippets of information in an email as a way to stay in touch when we have limited time to do so in person or over the phone.

If you want to make viral marketing work for you, you have to tap in to this human psychology.

The ahhh factor

Women, particularly, are likely to send on anything with the ahhh factor. Things like:

•    Pictures of cute animals or babies
•    Endearingly stories about the funny things children say
•    Stories of human endeavour
•    Stories about heroic rescues
•    Stories about courage over adversity
•    Romantic stories

Think about the sort of stories, information and pictures you find in some of the women’s magazines.

Women love to gossip and pass on titbits to their friends -- they also tend to socialize more than men.

This can give you a clue as to how you can send your marketing message to thousands of women using the Domino Effect -- embed your sales message in an email that has that ahhh factor.

Is your product aimed at women? If it is, you should consider how you can incorporate the ahhh factor in your marketing message to make sure it gets passed on.


We all enjoy a good laugh; it helps to brighten up the day. That is why emails with a decent joke, a funny story, or an amusing picture get passed on. We enjoy sharing humor.

While individual tastes in humor vary enormously, its appeal is universal. If your products appeal equally to men and women, children or teenagers, you could consider using humor as a vehicle for delivering your sales message. Think about incorporating the following into your viral email:

•    Jokes
•    Funny stories
•    Anecdotes
•    Humorous pictures

Be careful though, you do not want to offend your customers and turn them off to you forever. Steer clear of anything controversial, rude, racist, political, or anything that you might consider a bit risky. Stick to good clean fun and you shouldn't go wrong.

You should avoid using humor if you are trying to sell something of a serious nature. For example, if you are selling a funeral service, a joke email may not be appropriate. Use common sense!

The Shock Factor

The information we get via emails can sometimes be so shocking or surprising that we feel compelled to pass them on. If you read an email and think “yeah, so what”, it probably won't go further than the trash bin.

If we find something shocking or incredulous, we are likely to pass it on–that is why we receive forwarded emails on the following topics:

•    Photographs of astonishing feats
•    Unbelievable stories of human endeavour
•    Precarious predicaments
•    Outrageous stories or events

Again, as with humor, use the shock factor carefully. You do not want to offend prospective customers. However, if you can find some amazing piece of information, or something outrageous that is relevant to the theme of your product, then you could get a lot of mileage out of it in terms of viral marketing.

Anything astonishing, outrageous, bizarre or unbelievable is also highly memorable and this principle is used very effectively in feats of memory.

Using bizarre or larger than life images as a way to remember something is also advocated as a method of improving your memory by experts such as Tony Buzan the inventor of mind mapping ( Get your customers to remember you...


Photos can depict and trigger a whole range of human emotions. They can be funny, sad, shocking, heart-warming, surprising, disgusting —to name a few...

A picture can often express much more than words. If you can find the perfect photo or illustration to backup your marketing message, something compelling enough for people to pass on, then you could be onto a winner.

You can get royalty free photos from although there are a range of high quality companies that offer this service.


Again, as with pictures, video clips can express much more than words. A well chosen video could be a fantastic way to get your marketing message across and ensure that your email is passed along the chain.

If you can, create your own video and make it relevant to your product. Make it funny, heart-warming, bizarre or outrageous, but make it memorable and worthy of sharing.

Post your video on YouTube and send the link, or the video clip itself, in your email. If you can't produce your own video, there are thousands to choose from on YouTube -- if you find one that is just perfect, contact the owner and ask their permission to use their clip in your marketing email.

New information

Do you have any new information that would be interesting enough for people to forward to their friends and family?

Are there any new developments in science and technology or a new discovery of some sort that would bring genuine and worthwhile benefits to your prospective customers? If so, it could form the basis of a viral marketing campaign.

Do your research and be on the lookout for potentially marketable information. Make sure it is relevant to your product and compelling enough to attract people to your website.


We all love a good story. The best stories get passed along. They have to be bite sized; short enough to get read and topical or persuasive enough to merit getting forwarded on.

Are there any interesting stories that you could use in an email that have the potential to incorporate your marketing message? Do some research, and look out for:

•    Interesting stories in the news
•    Stories on TV or radio
•    Magazine articles
•    Stories on the internet
•    Stories passed along by word-of-mouth
•    Short fictional stories
•    Anecdotes
•    Fairy tales


Lots of people like to do puzzles or crosswords on their coffee break, or when they have five minutes between jobs at work. The interesting ones get forwarded on.

You could find a way to get your marketing message passed along on the back of a puzzle of some sort:

•    Mind benders
•    Quizzes
•    Riddles
•    Crosswords
•    Word games

You could offer prospects a free gift or prize when you visit your website with the correct answer.

Free stuff

If you could offer something of value for nothing, like Hotmail and Yahoo did with their free email addresses, you could be onto a real winner.

Consider what you could offer for free that would have wide appeal:

•    Reports
•    eBooks
•    Downloadable audio books
•    Other MP3 downloads
•    Software
•    Subscriptions
•    Licenses
•    DVDs
•    Vouchers

In your marketing email, include a link to your website where prospects could acquire their free products. Get visitors to sign up and give you their email address in return for something free, so you can build your list quickly.

You could also email a free eBook, with no copyright restrictions, that allows people to forward it on and spread it around as they choose. Within the book, you should have your website address with a further compelling offer that will generate traffic to your site. Again, get visitors to sign up and give you their email address.

Make it Personal

When you're deciding on the nature of your viral marketing email, consider whether it would be something you would be happy to forward on to your own friends and family. You could try several test emails on people you know and get their reactions.

Sometimes, Internet marketers tend to forget that their prospects are real human beings, with feelings and individual opinions. It’s easy to depersonalize your prospective customers when your only contact is via email.
It is crucial that you approach each contact on a personal level. Write your email message as if you were writing to a good friend.

Subtle Advertising

When you think about how many people could see your email through viral marketing, or follow-on emails to a downlink, you would be mad not to make the most of it!  Consider incorporating an advertisement as a header or footer, or as a PS in your email.

You can make it subtle by presenting it as a tip or a way to offer help.  For example if you have an eBook on Internet marketing strategies, you could include in your email something like:

PS: Do you need help with your marketing?  David has some
great tips and advice at

You could include banner ads or pop-under’s in your emails. Have a look at these websites for some rotator software that could be useful some have a free trial that might be beneficial to you., &  As your business grows you will develop more and more products; it might be useful to have rotator software that will ensure all your products are advertised for however long your emails run.

Another subtle way to advertise your high priced products is to create a product that would be worth around $50 and give it away for free.  Within this product -- which could be a transcript of an interview or a derivative of another product -- you have links to higher priced products. You effectively whet their appetite for more with your free product.  You can use this method very effectively with your thank you page.

When someone subscribes to your site or buys one of your products, send them a thank you email and offer them your free product -- make it look like it is an exclusive offer for members only that would normally cost them $50.

You can use this sort of subtle advertising in many of your products -- the trick here is to let your subscribers feel they are receiving something worthwhile and that there is even better to come...

If you have an affiliate program, you can get your affiliates to do the same sort of subtle advertising in their emails and watch the Domino Effect in action when you see your sales figures soar!

Mass Market or Niche?

Another question you should ask yourself is whether to try and appeal to a mass market or whether to concentrate on a niche. If you already have your product in place, then you have to work with what you have got; unless you want to start from scratch, of course.

If you want to market your products using viral marketing, you are probably going to need to appeal to a mass market. This is because you have no control over how your emails are forwarded on and to whom.

Your marketing is generally untargeted and the momentum is likely to dissipate far more quickly if you have a specialist product that appeals to just a small group of people. For viral marketing to work, you need people who are interested in your products.

On the other hand, if your product has wide appeal (like the free email that Hotmail and Yahoo had on offer), your marketing “virus” could continue spreading for long periods of time: showing a really strong Domino Effect.

So what areas have wide appeal? Well, you can do your research and see what's topical at the moment or choose from a quintessential list of subjects that are known to appeal to large numbers of people.

Subjects such as:

•    Business and making money
•    Personal development
•    Dieting and weight loss
•    Investments
•    Relationships
•    Hobbies
•    Addictions
•    Property
•    Computers and the internet
•    Emotional issues such as fear and phobias
•    General entertainment and celebrities
•    Sports
•    Health
•    Happiness

I'm sure you can think of more.

If you can find a subject that you know a lot about that you could become an expert in, then you could create a long-term business from related back-end products rather than go for a one hit wonder that never makes any money (few front-end products actually make much money).

Just make sure that your offer appeals to a wide variety of prospective customers if you want your marketing virus to spread to as many people as possible, maybe your viral campaign will reach the 1 billion mark too!