I’ve written before about the perils involved in the pursuit of viral marketing. on the surface, it appears that viral marketing is a GREAT way to get “free” marketing by creating enough “buzz” to elevate a marketing campaign from “ordinary” to “viral”.
Fortunately, marketing doesn’t carry the risks of say, oh brain surgery. When you screw up and make a marketing mistake, people don’t usually get PHYSICALLY injured as a result. Oh sure, some money may be left on the table if you make a marketing mistake, but it isn’t too difficult to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and get back on the right track. In other words, in most cases, marketing mistakes won’t kill your business.
One of the reasons I question the value of a viral marketing campaign is because of how QUICKLY you (the business owner or marketing professional) can lose control. Once a message goes “viral” it takes on a life of its own. Like its namesake, the viral campaign mutates and adapts to the host. The message changes as its spread and often the end product may be little resemblance to the original marketing message.
This is what happened to Naomi Dunford over at IttyBiz.
Naomi is a very smart cookie. She’s bright, she’s captivating and she’s fun. She launched her freelance marketing biz with the intention of helping micro businesses with the task of marketing. In other words, her “niche” market is teeny-tiny businesses. That is who she writes for when she’s posting articles to her blog because those are the types of people she wants to attract as clients. In her words,
“I write a blog for IttyBiz owners and wannabes. I write for people who don’t know if they can justify the purchase of a printer. My readers cannot afford a thousand dollars an hour. They can’t afford a printer, for God’s sake.”
Naomi is brilliant!!!!
I think Naomi is a brilliant marketer because she’s practicing what I preach which is tightly targeting a niche audience. Because Naomi is tightly targeting her niche audience, she starts having a same conversation over and over again with her clients. Naomi recognizes that if her current clients are stumped by the basics of SEO, then maybe other potential clients are also scratching their head over the whole SEO thing.
See, that’s the GREAT thing about choosing a target audience for your products or services. It makes it SO much easier to develop other products and services for your current clients/customers.
In the language of this blog, Naomi is making what is known around here as a MAJOR SALE. She’s selling an intangible (her marketing expertise) which hits heavy on these two elements of the Major Sale:
- There is the potential for a long-term relationship between you and your customer.
- The consequences of making a purchasing mistake are high.
Mark Silver on his Heart of Business blog in the post Why and How to Create an Information Product writes:
The job of a good information product is to help people dance along off to the side, out of the spotlight. This will not only help them get some of the results they need, but it will also get them ready to get out on your dance floor and engage more deeply with what will really help them: your main products and services.
I love Mark’s word picture. I’ve got to work on creating better word pictures here.
Using the language of this blog (which IMHO is way too “grad school-esque” but I’m trying to lighten up) Naomi’s decision to sell an eBook is a “Minor Sale” product with the intention of establishing enough “trust” to enter into a Major Sale relationship. The plan for any information product is usually for potential clients to buy the eBook and get to know, in this case, Naomi. Prospective clients read Naomi’s blog, buy her book, see that she is, indeed the “real” thing and then eventually hire her.
Because she KNOWS her audience, she put a rock bottom price on her eBook. Her people are not ones who will spend $795 on a monthly membership site. She knows them and priced her eBook for them.
Again, Naomi is so smart!
Because Naomi is a gifted marketer, she sets up an AFFILIATE program so others can sell her eBook. This way, others can make a little cash on the side by promoting her product which, in the end will bring more paying clients into her marketing practice. She makes it a healthy commission and gets a LOT of people promoting her eBook. All is well until Brian Clark over at Copyblogger gets into the loop and writes a review.
Naomi is stoked and
NINJA SEO SCHOOL GOES VIRAL!
This is where Naomi’s marketing dream turns into a business owner’s nightmare. Naomi didn’t create an “information product” when she wrote Ninja SEO School. She included support with the product. It makes PERFECT sense if you view this through the “Naomi wants to get more clients who are fun and who ‘get’ her” lens. It makes LOUSY sense if Naomi is subscribing to the “get rich quick, here’s my book, gimme your money” line of thinking.
When the marketing goes viral for SEO Ninja School, Naomi does what any sane business person would do: she stops selling the product. She doesn’t want to ruin her reputation by promising support she can’t provide so she sets an end date and stops selling the product.
Unfortunately, the viral marketing machine is in full swing. Naomi is getting HAMMERED by people who want a piece of the SEO Ninja School action but didn’t learn about it until it was too late.
Be careful what you wish for when it comes to viral marketing. I drum I repeatedly pound in my book Beyond the Niche and in my practice is that an effective advertising campaign can be the best thing, or the worst thing, that can happen to your business.
Oh, by the way, ever since I put a small business OUT of business by crushing them with too much business, I’ve always tried to prepare clients for that possibility. I am now careful to define with my clients what success looks like for them because my definition of success may not be the same.
Last year, when I got slammed with a huge influx of business, I put my head down, worked through it and emerged with a better business model. I’ve worked with clients though that when faced with the same “crush” chose to “die” instead of “change”.
Naomi’s brilliant and she’ll emerge from this stronger (and funnier) as a result of her experience. Just remember – viral marketing has it’s down side as well as its upside. I’m sure that Naomi now wishes there was some way of turning off the faucet for her viral marketing campaign. However, she’s still getting visitors who come to her site expecting to be able to buy her eBook.
There is no “off” when a campaign goes viral…. be careful what you wish for….