Viral marketing. It sounds like something you want to avoid like the plague. But it’s really something you and your business need to catch now.

If you’re not yet familiar with the term “viral marketing” let me give you a basic definition. Viral marketing is simply a strategy that encourages individuals to “willingly” pass on a marketing message to others. It takes advantage of rapid multiplication to explode your marketing message to thousands or millions of people.

A viral marketing virus acts similar to a biological virus. But, the big difference between a viral marketing virus and a cold or flu virus is that people willingly pass the marketing message on. Not too many people really want to share their cold with others, but they’ll be more than happy to spread your “digital virus”. And when they spread it, they can spread it much farther than a biological virus. Your message can spread around the world in a matter of hours.

To summarize the benefits of viral marketing:

1. It’s cheap. You can create your own viral marketing message in the form of an e-book or video and then it costs you little or nothing to get the message out.

2. You can reach a huge audience. There is no other way your message can spread so quickly to a large audience for so little cost than with viral marketing. And the best part is that people are passing your message to their friends and associates so you get an implied endorsement from them.

3. You can build your reputation. If you create good, quality information that’s being passed around, you can quickly be recognized as a expert. And when you have the reputation as being an expert in your field, you sell more products. You “build your brand” faster with viral marketing.

4. You can combine it with other marketing methods. This is a method you absolutely should be using with your email marketing and affiliate programs. Email is still the most effective way of spreading your virus. You can also use it with off-line advertising such as direct mail, classified advertising, or display advertising to drive people online.

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5. You can sell products other than your original target product. You may create a viral message to sell one product but find out that your potential customer is interested in another of your products instead.

6. Viral marketing tools are easy to develop. There are easy ways to create e-books even if can’t write (or think you can’t). There are also easy tools to create viral marketing videos. It doesn’t take a big budget or a lot of talent to create a viral marketing virus.

These are the major benefits of viral marketing. When you use it you may find others that are unique to your business.

The concept of viral marketing really isn’t new. Off the Internet it is essentially any form of “word-of-mouth” advertising. It also works similar to “network marketing.” However, just like all things Internet, it can’t have a normal name. Before the Internet who would have imagined naming a company something like Yahoo! or Google? Or how about using words like “spam” other than for an unidentifiable meat product. Regardless of how it sounds, the term viral marketing is the perfect descriptor of this Internet marketing method.

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