Email Marketing Acquisition - Viral Hero

Most people view email marketing as the process of marketing to a list of email addresses that you acquire. However, that’s not exactly right. They are mistakenly assuming that the conversion tactic (important, but not what we want here) is the same thing as the acquisition tactic (what we want here). Let me show you the difference. EMAIL CONVERSION:
  • Using permission-based tactics to market a product to a list that you generate. Such as offering a “lead magnet” in exchange for a user’s contact information. The goal being to convert them into a customer via an autoresponder.
Using email as a conversion tool is obviously important. But it’s not so much a method of viral feeding as it’s something you use once a lead has already been acquired. EMAIL ACQUISITION:
  • Acquiring a new list from a source – such as an information broker or another company – to market directly to that list in a non-permission-based way. (Which could be seen as spam.)
  • Marketing a new product to existing contacts who opted into your list for something different.
  • Collaborating with a complimentary product or service cross-marketing to each other’s list through the lens of providing an extension of the same value your subscribers opted in for.
The third acquisition tactic listed above is the one I would advise pursuing the most.

Email Marketing: To Feed, or Not To Feed

  It takes quite a bit of time and effort to build up an email list of subscribers who trust you and engage with what you send them. Marketing to an existing list of engaged subscribers through a partnership (whether paid or cross-promotional in nature) usually gives you the most bang for your buck. This engine can scale pretty well, and it can also be incredibly personalized in its best form. Strive for as personalized and as valuable a campaign as possible. Whether it’s email being sent out by you or somebody else on your behalf.

Email Marketing and Virality

  By this point you’re hopefully clearly aware that email often serves as the most logical viral carrier for our viral loop – so I won’t elaborate. However, taking this one step further, we can use email marketing as gasoline for your viral fire. How? By leveraging your transactional emails that currently contain no call to action. For example, let’s say you just purchased online some scuba diving equipment from Scuba Steve’s Scuba Shop (which isn’t a real store that I’m aware). You instantly get a receipt for your purchase. This is a transactional email. You received it based on an action you took within their application. Normally, this is just an informational email for your records. However, if Scuba Steve is a Certified Viral Hero Black Belt, this email likely will also contain a call to action. This call to action would say something like, “Unlock a promo code for 50% off a Scuba Steve Snorkel when you share your purchase on social media using this link!” Scuba Steve would also have a similar call to action prompting his customers to share his shop with their friends in all the other emails he sends out. This ensures each email serves a purpose, and shares unique viral value for the customers receiving them.

Become a Viral Alchemist

  As Scuba Steve’s email shows, viral engineering can transform lumps of coal (i.e. email notifications with no existing calls to action) into lumps of gold (i.e. emails that can drive business value and additional traffic). With enough lumps of gold in your safe, one can become very rich. And buy a whole lot more scuba gear. Here’s a helpful tip: Be sure to craft the language surrounding your viral value – and potentially even your viral incentive – on the past and current behavior of the user. For example, if a user just purchased a product, make sure your viral incentive is something related to that purchase. Like a promo code for a future complimentary purchase, 2 free months of your subscription offering, or something equally as pertinent. If the value you are sharing doesn’t make contextual sense to the user given their situation in that moment, it won’t be nearly as effective for you.

What’s Next

  Everyone is well aware of the concept of marketing through ads, social media, search engines, and email. So as we make our way through the 16 non-viral marketing methods to fuel your viral engine, there’s a good chance you’re thinking to yourself: “Travis, tell me something I don’t know.” Alright, how about this: Bet you didn’t know those. Here’s another:
  • One of the best ways to achieve viral growth is to turn your engineering into marketing.
Confused? Let me enlighten you.  

How Can Building a Micro-Product Fuel Your Viral Product?

Think engineering is just about building your product? Think again. Through the right lens and proper planning it can be just as effective at virally growing your product. How? I’ll tell you in our next chapter.


Travis Steffen
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