Hotmail added a Hotmail link to every email sent through the service in 1996 (bringing in up to 12 million users in just 18 months for a little more than $100,000 spent on marketing.
Think of viral marketing as word of mouth on steroids. This approach to marketing is not new — Mary Kay Cosmetics, Amway, and Faberge Shampoo long ago proved there’s good money to be made when friends tell two friends.
Hotmail adding a link on the bottom of every email sent or Ikea encouraging their customers to forward an invitation for a store wide sale are both excellent examples of Viral Marketing. Hotmail succeeded, while Ikea�s viral marketing campaign turned out to be disaster. People blindly forwarded the emails, trying to secure more discounts for themselves, and for the most part the effort was considered to be a spam. Ikea stopped the campaign, as it was diluting their brand instead of promoting a sale.
One person’s viral marketing is another person’s spam , so it can be as big a risk as an advantage to a brand. According to Sandeep Krishnamurthy, a professor of marketing at the University of Washington, viral campaigns work better for promoting Net-based services than products, and they work best when it’s a free service or a free component to a service. They also are more effective when aimed at a homogenous customer base — cable subscribers or telephone users, for example — or a social network that communicates often.
In every case, viral efforts must provide value to sender, recipient, and company. Putting your web site link on the bottom of your company emails can only benefit you. Also tell your friends to tell their friends about your business and it�s website. All it takes nowadays is one line in an email, and after all people lend a message credibility just by being who they are. Make use of it.