marketing is the process of implementing means through which the knowledge
of your existence self-propagates. Like a virus, your visibility spreads
throughout a network of people who refer you to each other. Unlike
unsolicited advertisements or "spam," which usually stops once it reaches
its destination (and the reason spammers must keep spamming in order to
remain successful), viral marketing continues to spread almost effortlessly
since the people who refer you to others know each other. Also, those who
get to know you (or to know about you) through third party referrals grant
you a higher level of confidence, credibility and loyalty.
is crucial in the offline world. Online, referral or network marketing (as
they are commonly known) is vital. Why? The key to marketing success in the
offline world is "location, location, location." The Internet is no
different. In other words, your marketing success depends highly on the
number of locations you appear -- places on which your site, link, company
or product name exist. In essence, it is to be in as many places as
possible, talked about by as many people as possible and seen by as many
eyeballs as possible. Success online is all about "location" too!
Remember a dictum a mentor
of mine once told me, which is: "Implication is far more powerful than
specification." In other words, if you tell people you're the best, that
you're the leader in your field, or that your product is the best solution
to their needs, your self-serving promotional bias makes it all suspect.
Your statement is rarely believable at face value. And if you do make such
claims, you will have your work cut out for you in order to prove them.
However, if someone other
than you says to another that you are indeed the best or that you do have
the best solution to their problems, how much more believable will that
person's statement be? How much more credible? The answer is "definitely
more." Accordingly, referrals and networking systems are not only important
because they create an awareness of your business (or because they create
traffic in the online world), but also they are important to the degree to
which third party marketing indirectly communicates greater credibility,
superiority and value of the products or services you offer.
In his new book (which I
highly recommend) "The
22 Immutable Laws of Branding," Al Ries stresses the importance of
leadership and how that leadership is communicated. According to Ries,
people never buy the best -- they only think they do. They usually buy the
leader (or what they perceive as being the best). And that perception is
often molded by what they are told and by what others do, not by what is
fact or by what is being advertised.
Coke, for example, outsells
Pepsi. But according to Ries, taste tests reveal that Pepsi is the better
tasting brand. So, why does Coke still beat Pepsi in sales? It is not
because it is the leader in the marketplace or promoted itself as such but
because it is known as the leader.
Coke was the first cola "in
the mind" of the marketplace and thus the one most talked about, even to
this day. When a person is introduced to cola for the first time, he or she
is often told to try Coke. People in restaurants still refer to the word
"coke" as the generic name for colas, even when only Pepsi is served. Why is
that? While other colas are bombarding them with marketing messages, people
have heard of Coke first and most likely from other people.
Consequently, if your
business or website is unique, focuses on a niche or is the first in some
category, the knowledge of your existence will spread quite naturally,
almost like wildfire. But creating systems and using specific tools that
will leverage the spreading of that message helps to multiply your marketing
punch exponentially. Such tools stimulate word-of-mouth advertising, which
is more effective than general advertising. For along with communicating
your existence to the world, word-of-mouth advertising helps to cast that
aura of leadership and superiority.
Networking systems, for
example, include strategic marketing alliances, joint ventures, and
affiliate programs. Online, they are often called referral traffic
generators. And unlike the more traditional traffic generators such as
banners and search engines, these specific tools are much more effective
since they are used by third parties and not by the original advertiser.
Nevertheless, if you
received a call, letter or email from someone you know (and especially
trust) referring you to a particular company, how much more credible will
that referral be when compared to a blatant advertisement coming from the
company itself? You got it… More. Much more.