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Set Expectations: Viral Marketing Doesn’t Do Much for Direct Sales

Keep your goals for viral marketing old-school.

Ava Seave By Ava Seave
02/06/2009 -05:01 PM

Viral marketing can decrease acquisition costs for new customers because your current customers essentially endorse your product when they send along a game or video they think is funny or interesting—and of course is associated with your product.
However, the acquisition cost calculation needs to be done over time, since a viral marketing campaign almost never leads to direct sales from that game or video viewing. The right goals for a viral campaign should be a lot more old school: Does this campaign generate leads and does it help with brand recognition?
Judging a viral campaign’s success for lead generation is straight forward—count the number of the leads that close and judge the quality—i.e. total revenue—of the new customers. To count, how many leads land on the registration form and actually fill in the information, and how many abandon? What percentage of leads make a transaction? What is the cost of the lead and the cost of the order? Compare these statistics to all your other sources, naturally.  
Does this campaign help with brand recognition is a harder question to pull out a quantitative answer.  You can point to the number of downloads or pass-alongs as new exposures to your brand, and we assume exposure will lead to recognition. You also could look at what terms are put into search engines that lead to your site and determine if this indicates the effectiveness of the campaign.
For a great primer of viral marketing, marketingsherpa.com’s How to Viral Market is excellent. My business partner attended the Webinar and showed me the “tool kit” which is a 75 page manual with extremely practical advice.

Ava Seave is a Principal of Quantum Media, a strategy and marketing consulting group.

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