viral signature marketing

Before we dig into viral signature marketing, let’s recap.

So far we’ve covered five of the 12 Different Types of Viral Marketing. In the previous post, we dove deep into the world of embeddable viral marketing, and saw how YouTube used it to grow faster than any company ever.

Along the way you’ve likely noticed similarities. That’s because every type of viral marketing follows the same basic trajectory:

  1. A Prospect is exposed to a product from an existing Advocate within their network
  2. A Prospect is interested enough to request more info, becoming a Lead
  3. A Lead is interested enough to begin using the product, becoming a User
  4. A User reaches an “Aha!” moment in realizing the core value of the product, becoming an Acolyte
  5. An Acolyte reaches a second “Aha!” moment in realizing the viral value of the product. They send one or more invites to their network, becoming an Advocate
  6. Rinse and repeat.

Where the mechanics often differ is where, why, when, to whom, and how Advocates are exposed to the product.

Viral signature marketing, our sixth type, works in a very similar way to embeddable viral marketing. When users decide to use a 3rd party product, they immediately see how their own users can benefit and so include the 3rd party product in their own product’s user experience (e.g. embedding YouTube videos). This ultimately provides an onramp back to the 3rd party product’s site (e.g. a link directly back to YouTube).

So what’s the difference between the two?

Where the Third Party Product Lives


The primary difference between embeddable viral marketing and viral signature marketing is NOT how the tool is used, but where it lives. In other words, does your entire user experience live within your site, or do you bounce users out to a 3rd party location, and then bounce them back in?

If you’ve got a website, and you’re bolting on additions as if they’re native experiences – like a video from YouTube – this is typically embeddable viral marketing. However, if you have a page on your website that’s hosted elsewhere, OR your entire website is built using a third party tool, this is viral signature marketing.

But merely being in the right place at the right time is not alone what defines viral signature marketing.

The Key Component of Viral Signature Marketing


An additional requirement is some sort of “signature.” For example something such as “Powered by PRODUCT NAME.” This signature is linked back to the 3rd party site. If this signature does not exist, it’s not viral signature marketing. In fact, it’s not viral marketing at all because users have no way of automatically passing it onto others.

For example, if you’re using a website builder that you can completely white label so most visitor would never know what it’s built on – this is NOT viral signature marketing. However, if by using the tool, there’s a “signature” somewhere on the site saying something like “Powered by WordPress” and this is linked to a place where visitors can find out how to do the same thing – that’s now viral signature marketing.

Viral Signature Marketing Done Right


Here are a few strong examples of viral signature marketing at work:

  • Recurring billing platforms like Chargify and Recurly, and affiliate marketing platforms like Clickbank, use viral signature marketing via their hosted checkout screens. The brands are exposed to potential users via a “” in the URL bar or a “Powered by Chargify” message at the bottom of the payment page. When they’re done paying, they’re dropped back onto the original site. (The first two also offer embeddable options. ClickBank is less subtle, and the entire checkout screen is very visibly branded as ClickBank.)

Click Bank Checkout Screen - Viral Signature Marketing

  • PayPal uses viral signature marketing through their hosted payment forms. On a site’s checkout screen, users click a button that says “Pay with PayPal.” They are then taken to a hosted checkout page on PayPal’s website to pay for the goods. After paying, users are typically dropped back onto the original website. (This branded payment button is also a form of embeddable viral marketing.)
  • Typeform and SurveyMonkey use viral signature marketing on their hosted surveys. (Both of these have embeddable options as well.)

Typeform Survey - Viral Signature Marketing

  • Zendesk and Groove use viral signature marketing on their hosted customer service tools (though again, both have embeddable options).
  • WordPress and Shopify both have fully-hosted website builder options (and surprise, surprise – both also have options you can install and host yourself, which is a form of embeddable viral marketing).

Should I keep going?

Three Things to Remember


  • Prospects actively demo all of these products WHILE getting value out of them through the use of another product. Which is a strong conversion tactic. This gives prospects the ability to visualize how they may be able to do the same thing.
  • If Prospects like what they’ve seen while demoing the product within another experience, it serves as an understood recommendation or endorsement by the person using it. Which is another strong conversion tactic. Especially if that experience is seen as smooth and effective.
  • Almost every example of viral signature marketing I’ve listed above also has an embeddable option. This is because not every user will want a hosted option, but the company behind the tool will want to keep leveraging viral marketing in some way. You’d be wise to do the same.

Some services allow users to “white label” their tools. This means you can actually remove their clickable branding element if you’re willing to pay for the privilege. This is typically more of a desired feature if your linked branding element is an eyesore.

Alternatively, services like PayPal have created such incredible trust that site owners actually WANT to display their branding because it gives them a conversion lift on their checkout screen. Such a level of trust is something we all aspire to, but only a handful ever succeed at.

What’s Next?


In the next chapter, we’ll dig into an often overlooked form of viral marketing. Most famously, it pretty much resurrected Apple’s entire company, and helped brands like Amazon and Udemy build their businesses into market leaders.


How Did Apple Resurrect Their Brand to Become the Most Valuable Company on Earth ?

In the mid to late 90’s, Apple was in a bad place. But little by little they began embracing a strategy that helped transform them into one of the most valuable companies in the world. We’ll show how in the next chapter.


Travis Steffen
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