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The Ultimate Viral Email Marketing Guide

Updated on September 24, 2013

Viral email marketing is one of the most powerful types of email marketing campaign you can employ, and it is also the most cost-efficient as it leverages the power of your network of contacts and their network of contacts to spread your message.

However, contrary to what some so-called gurus are saying, there is really no sure-fire way to get your message to go viral, but don't take that to mean you can't do a few things that will help increase its chances of spreading like a virus. There are actually a few things that will help your viral email marketing campaign become successful, such as:

1. Instant Gratification

Give people something instantly. Coupons, free items, free materials or free access to something are good instant rewards. Just make sure that it is, indeed, free. Don’t require them to do something in order to get what you are giving. Just give it away.

Make it as easy as possible to get what you are giving away for free. If you are giving away coupons, let them print it instead of asking them to pick it up from somewhere. If you want them to download something, let them download it anytime and not set a deadline. Give them the link so they can access the site anytime. If you want them to get discounts, automatically apply the discount or give them a code which they can paste somewhere before check out so they actually see the discount being applied.

2. Actual Value to their Life

Give away something that they can actually use and will add value to their life. Giving away coupons for their grocery or lingerie has an actual value. A pdf of how to make money online that has been spun 100 times by different email marketers has not real value.

If you want people to become your marketer, give away something worth marketing.

3. SIGNIFICANT Additional Bonus for Sharing Your Content

Offer an additional incentive to those who will share your email but make sure that the additional incentive is significant and has real value. Telling them that they will get 1 point for every share and they need to get 1,000 points to get one more coupon is just not worth it.

Make your incentive attractive and inspiring. Let’s say you’re selling children clothes, you may offer additional dress or pants or 1 year 50% off on everything they buy if they get 5 people to sign up on your newsletter.

4. Compatible to the Platform

If you want your email to go viral, make sure your material is email friendly. Keep in mind the “limitations” that email providers set. That includes:

  • automatically blocking images
  • Gmail’s tabs
  • people that open their emails via their mobile phones
  • speed of internet connection

Ask yourself:

  • Will your email be easy to view on their mobile phones?
  • Will your email even make it to their primary tab if they are using Gmail on their mobile phones?
  • Will your email still deliver the message if images are blocked?
  • Will it load fast if the user’s internet connection is slow?

5. Easy to Share, Easy to Access

Make it shareable

You can't force people to make your email go viral but you can encourage and guide them into doing so. One of these is by formatting your messages in order to make it easier to share, such as including "Forward this" links in easy to see and click places, as well as subtle call to actions like "Like this Story? Share it With Your Friends."

Use platforms capable of accommodating millions of traffic

You also need to make sure that your links are working and will load fast even if the user’s internet connection is slow. For example, instead of hosting your own video, it is better to put it on YouTube since their system can handle simultaneous streaming from millions of users.

6. Make Your Message Unique and Interesting

Before your email goes viral, you have to ensure that it's something worthy of going viral first, and frankly, if it can easily be found anywhere else or if it's something that people are already aware of, there is much less incentive to forward it. Make sure your email is any one or all of the following:

  • relatively unique
  • entertaining
  • interesting, and
  • provides value to the reader.

In this case, it actually helps to know your target audience, so that you can put yourself in their shoes and check if your email is something that you would forward to your friends if you received it on your inbox.

Odie listed the top motivations for people to share something online:

  • Hilarious
  • Odd in a good way
  • Connects to the users on an emotional way
  • Familiar or common or easy to understand
  • Thought Provoking
  • Known and acceptable to many but rarely covered
  • Fun to talk about

7. Be Subtle About Your Desire to Go Viral

Being blatant in your attempts to make things go viral is a sure fire way of getting people to ignore your mails out of spite. Don't ever mention the word "viral," and don't give readers any ideas that you want them to share this because you want it to spread, as people tend to get turned off by those tactics because they feel like they are being used. Instead, you should believe in your message's appeal to the reader and ask them to share it to their friends because of the proper reason - that their friends will like it, not because it will make you a tidy profit.

8. Try to Get Several Influencers

There are people who have strong digital pull. When they paste links on their sites, people click it. If you can get several people who have strong digital pull, it would be easier promote your email.

Better yet, you can ask these influences to paste your link on their social media sites or email it to their subscribers.

You can establish a partnership with these people. Usually, they do like giving away freebies to their followers. If you can give something to their followers, they would be glad to help you out with your campaign. They can very well send your email to their own subscribers.

9. Send it to the right people

If you want your email to go viral, you need a list that is active. You might send your email to 10,000 subscribers but if 9,000 of these emails are dead or inactive, you are down 1,000 people that MIGHT share your email.

Remember, however, that .12 percent response rate is the usual response rate digital direct marketers expect. Direct mail boasts of 4.4 percent response rate. Not so attractive, is it?

That gives you even more reasons to make sure your offer or your content is compelling enough to inspire those that will actually read your email to share them.

10. Lastly, Ensure that Your Viral Campaign is Still Tied to Your Brand or Product

There is a tendency for overzealous marketers to be so caught up in the moment and to think so far away from the box that they start to forget that their goal is not just to make the message go viral, but to promote their brand or product through a viral campaign, resulting in some campaigns spreading like virus but ultimately not doing anything good for the brand because the marketer forgot to tie it in with their product.


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