You’re not alone if you’re feeling gun-shy about doing a viral campaign. After all, you’re likely dealing with increased pressure to shrink or further optimize your online budget, not expand marketing tactics. Particularly a campaign method that’s difficult to conceive and fuzzy on how to measure returns. OK, so quit reading this article now and go back to your table-stakes activities.
You know, whitepaper downloads, Google adwords, webinars, user conferences, trade show, etc. – the same activities your competitors are also proficient with.
Ok, you’re still reading. Let’s see if we can agree on the following common factors in your environment:
1. Increasing challenge to get mind share with target audience. Everyone is way too busy.
2. Corporate and product differentiation is gradually more difficult. Every buzzword and marketing tactic is in full use in most industries.
3. Marketing & sales pitches fall short in the online world as it’s simple to ignore. There is no one across the table or on the phone to be polite to.
4. Your target audience can find valuable information online at their discretion. They can research products & solutions on their own time and communicate with peers. They can also enter bogus info into a form in order to get those restricted materials. Or, abandon the form altogether. And, quickly.
Amazingly though, the unavoidable downpour of social media stuff (communities, forums, networks, or web 2.0 whatever you want to call it) means that tried and true marketing tactics also need an appropriate shift, a new runway. This seemingly crowded, indefinable, internet movement has created a parallel scheme for you to connect with your target audience.
Here’s what’s in your favor:
1. People love diversion. Despite being overwhelmed with work & family to the brink of going nutzoid (perhaps you’re already there), the moment you are exposed to engaging entertainment – something that speaks to your personal interests such as a joke, a story or a video of a dog howling Silent Night while banging incessantly on the piano-- you are suddenly whisked away into a mindless activity that no amount of workload can compete.
2. Sub-cultures exist everywhere and they typically cross boundaries. A person’s interests cross the lines of immediate contacts and expose everyone to a virtually infinite set of people networks. Similarly, a relatively unknown hobby, interest, or vocational skill like bagpipe players, AJAX developers, families with ancestors who were beheaded by guillotine (yes, it exists), or 80’s music fan clubs, can become critical mass virtually overnight, regardless of economic or regional background.
3. Industry bloggers and media are far more apt to write about social-economic issues affecting a segmented market than product updates or proverbial customer case studies.
4. B2C marketers have shown the way to emotional connection and role-based marketing. Whether or not it uses drama or humor, new examples are cropping up every week.
The bottom line is your target audience has the ability to monitor how and when they consume knowledge and information, and the bulk of attention will be directed to content developed for them. An entertaining video that’s “about me, understands me, for me” is what gets the attention, the diversion. Hence, why you really need to consider the viral campaign approach.
What steps can you take?
1. Consider an emerging market where your worry is not the contacts you have, it’s all the people who are appropriate for your products & services that have no idea that you exist. Sure, you can buy a list and run a decent campaign, but so can your competitors and you’re back into the mind share game of attrition.
2. For your next product launch, rather than a landing page on your web site with associated forms and marketing materials, promote a microsite in a viral video sans corporate logos and branding. What would your audience least likely expect from you – that’s what will get you noticed.
3. Take a real hard look at what’s going on with your target audience right now. What internal, external pressures? Who do they trust? What type of people work in those functions? What do they discuss between themselves? With whom does their work impact? Who do they rely on to get their jobs done?
4. Rather than map viral campaigns to your standard lead gen metrics, take into account a new type of marketing demand generation, called “a conversation.” Conversations can be measured in terms of interaction with site visitors, page views, video views, volume and quality of blog mentions, or posted comments. If you have a registration (recommend email address only), make it optional…and also use it to capture comments or ask questions, but not a requirement to view or engage.
You have a tremendous opportunity to build your company’s online reputation through viral campaigns. It’s up to you whether to consider, embrace, and execute. Sure, there’s risk, but there’s the risk of being ordinary too.
Dan Ziman is an independent B2B marketing consultant and was the creative director for Tibco’s award winning online campaign – Greg the Architect. He can be reached at 650-359-5964 or
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