Savvy Internet marketers have jumped on the viral marketing bandwagon, successfully creating buzz for their products and services quickly, easily, and cost-effectively. Much like Tupperware parties of yesteryear, viral marketing is the digital form of word-of-mouth advertising. The “virus” of your message spreads via the Web and e-mail.

The Internet is the perfect tool to integrate with your marketing campaigns. It's much easier for meeting attendees and customers to forward a targeted e-mail to colleagues within their address books or distribution lists than to tell them all. And chances are slim that a recipient will photocopy your printed brochures and mail or fax them to others.

Tips and Tactics

Electronic information is the easiest to forward, so consider e-mail your viral vehicle to success. Here's how:

  • Provide subscription-based content about your meeting on your organization's Web site, such as extensive meeting details, promotions, and message boards and listservs that will foster community interactions between attendees.

  • Allow participants to post testimonials about your meetings on your Web site. Add a “Recommend-It” button.

  • Add a button that says, “Forward this meeting information.”

  • Publish information about meetings in an e-newsletter.

  • Play to invitees' behaviors and motivations. Consider messages that focus on humor, information, and professional development.

  • Leverage existing marketing collateral with additions and edits. Remember, your campaign should be sustainable. Often the best promotion materials for this year's meeting are post-marketing materials from last year's meeting. This can extend your messaging and create a nice transition from year to year.

  • Consider a Web-based game or animated graphics. When Nike sponsored the San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race, the company wanted to use something fun to spread the word. It created a popular screensaver game that 70,000 people downloaded from the Web, resulting in nationwide exposure.

Consider the following steps when planning a viral marketing campaign:

  1. Identify the target audience. This includes understanding their behaviors and interests.

  2. Decide how to spread the message. You may choose a simple, informative e-mail, a slogan, or an application.

  3. Perform “value matching”: Make sure the message, distribution vehicle, and target segments are aligned to deliver your goals.

  4. Find ways to extend the life of your message. Incorporate viral marketing into your current marketing strategy. You can extend your reach, increase Web traffic, and receive a better return on your investment when it comes to building your meeting's brand.

Edward Lang is VP of strategic partnerships for Cvent, Arlington, Va., a meeting registration and e-Marketing application service provider. Reach him at elang@cvent.com or (703) 226-3570.