We’ve talked at some length now about how to get your customers to come and visit your website repeatedly, and engage with you in some economic form through your internet activity. Now it’s time to get them to bring their friends.

To: Everyone I’ve ever met
From: Andrew Dubber
Date: 14 May 2007

Subject: FWD: Check this out!

I posted a music video on the website a few days back. A clever and cute music clip in which a band called the Sneaks take their public funding to the racetrack and bet it on a horse. It’s a funny, surprising idea, and it’s ended up doing the rounds.

I found it on a website that I read often, and people that read New Music Strategies have sent it to friends of theirs.

As a matter of fact, this morning I was sent a link to the YouTube video by somebody in Australia who knows someone who knows someone who reads the blog. They wanted to know if I’d seen it, because they thought I’d be interested. They even put the phrase ‘Check this out’ in the subject line.

The Sneaks video had gone viral.

Not Nizlopi viral, perhaps, but viral nonetheless. And, you know, there’s still time. Perhaps someone will submit the video to Boing Boing or Neatorama — and that will put a rocket under it (if jet propulsion is indeed the way to make viruses more virulent).

Personally, I hope it becomes huge.

Effective Marketing
I have no doubt that the key to success online is effective marketing. And the good news for our purposes today is that like many things, effective marketing can be magnified many times over by the involvement of the internet.

It’s a friction-reduced environment for word-of-mouth advertising, where it’s just as easy to tell 100 people a good story as it is to tell one. And as for flyering — imagine if everyone you gave a flyer to your gig was able to give a dozen of their friends the exact same flyer. And then they could do the same. That’s what perfect endless replication of digital media allows for.

But you’ve got to do the marketing right. And the laws of marketing do not change online.

It’s about having a good story — something that people will want to tell other people. That story can be in video form, as was the case of the Nizlopi and Sneaks viral marketing — but it can just as easily (or, rather, almost as easily) be done with text or audio.

There are many examples. Here’s one of each to get you started:

The Lascivious Biddies did very well out of their podcast, in which they bring the audience behind the scenes — to rehearsals, trips to the gig, backstage moments — as well as excerpts of live performances and conversations. Not only was the podcast itself a hit, it was an internet word-of-mouth phenomenon. Every other podcaster talked about it, and you could listen to the steep curve of their success show by show.

Bloggers make a point of creating flagship content: helpful or fascinating articles that people like to send each other links to. Copyblogger’s Copywriting 101 is something I’m always referring people to.

Good marketing’s not a secret — although there are secrets of good marketing. At its most simple, though, it’s about connecting the right message to the right people using the right channels at the right time.

But this goes to an earlier observation: your website is not a promotional strategy. You need a promotional strategy for your website.

Have a compelling story. A Unique Selling Proposition. What is different, unusual, special or otherwise notable about what you do?

Telling people that what’s cool about your band is that you sound like Green Day is not a USP. Sounding like Green Day might be a plus for your target audience — but there has to be a different story to be told.

The thing that makes you different as a band, a company, a product or a service is the thing you want to be putting out there. And you need to be putting it out there in a way that will encourage other people to send it on. Find a strategy to get people to retell your story, and re-retell it.

My Own Attempt
For me, the strategy I’m trying out is what you’re reading right now.

Having completed the series (last instalment in a couple of days), I’m compiling The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online into an e-book.

I’m getting it redrafted into a pdf file that can be downloaded from the website (soon, honest), emailed to friends, printed off and filed away for reference.

Anyone who wants The 20 Things can come here to read the blog, or can simply download the finished document. They can then email the link to other people they think might be interested — or just forward the pdf file on to their entire address book.

More importantly, I’m doing a couple of extra things with it to help make it viral.

First, I’m not making people jump through hoops to get it. I don’t need your email address. You can just have the ebook — free, gratis, no catches. However, if you want to collect email addresses, you can always give The 20 Things away from your own website and require a signup first, if you like. I have no problem with that.

You can even print it up, change all the fonts, put pictures in it, get it bound, stick your logo all over it and give it to — well, whoever you want to give it to. Hell, you could make an audiobook version, set it to music, or work it into an interpretive dance routine, if you like. Knock yourself out.

I only ask a few things:

1) you don’t sell it (or include it in something you do sell)
2) you say it was written by me
3) you include a link to New Music Strategies

Fair enough? See what’s in it for me? Exactly.

Obviously if you want to use it in a commercial context, we can have a conversation and work something out. But for the vast majority of people who just want to read it and refer to it to make sure their music business (or, actually, pretty much any small-medium business) is on track, this will be my gift to you. Hope you find it useful.

Check This Out
Whatever you do or make, give a thought to making it something that people will want to send to other people. Your best marketing is word of mouth, because online, word of mouth is exponentially more powerful.

Whatever it is you do, try and think of a way to encourage people to include it in an email with the subject line: ‘Check this out!’… and then look forward to seeing it come round again in a week or so with the subject line ‘FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: Check this out!’