Gmail Success: Is viral / referral marketing the future of the net?| by David Callan It seems to be a favorite strategy of those who play catch-up and end up succeeding in a big way on the net.
Bill Gates used viral marketing in setting up his free email service Hotmail when he suddenly
had to change gears after initially failing to see the impact that the World
Wide Web was going to have. He needed an effective strategy to catch up with
industry leaders Yahoo.
Now Google have successfully used the same strategy to successfully launch their free email service gmail. As a matter of fact, many other wildly successful new services have used the referral marketing strategy to launch their ventures and grow at blinding speed.
Referral Strategy Solves A Major Problem With Free Services Online
One of the huge advantages that viral marketing techniques have brought is to correct a major emerging problem with free services. Free services and tools on the net have proved to be the norm. In fact free samples even in the offline days has always been considered one of the most powerful marketing and distribution strategies ever created.
However free things tend to lose value fast when they are widely available even to those who do not need them. Free samples have always worked best, offline, when you specifically have to request for them, giving your contacts details and in many cases your physical address.
Online free services are so widely available that it is becoming increasingly difficult to market anything free online.
However, everything changes rather dramatically when a free service is no longer widely available but requires somebody to refer you. This requires some effort from the potential user of the free service or tool to actively seek out users to try and get a referral. It also gives current users a value perception of the free product they are using because it is not widely available to anybody.
The new free email service from Google, Gmail, has been extremely successful in penetrating the fiercely competitive world of free email, already dominated by much older players like rivals Yahoo and MSN. Apart from the great new features which includes 2.5 GB of email storage and great search features, one of the main reasons for the rapid expansion and accomplishment of Google’s gmail within such a short period of time, has been the viral marketing strategy. Although gmail is a free service, it is not accessible to everybody, you have to be introduced or reffered by somebody already using the service.
Why Referral Marketing Is The Future That Is Already Here
All indications are that referral marketing and many variations of other referral marketing techniques will continue to play a central role on the net for many years to come.
Apart from helping to create value in free services and products, it is also a great way to advertise and create awareness in an online environment where other marketing methods are proving increasingly difficult to use.
For instance, banner advertising at web sites usually produces very poor results and an extremely low response rate. One of the reasons is that it is very similar to offline conventional advertising and the truth of the matter is that people hate to be advertised to online. This is the reason why ugly textual ads that do not have the benefit of full color, are very effective and always out-perform banner ads or any other form of online advertising. The reason is that they look more like part of the content at a site than advertisements.
The other extremely powerful online marketing tool has always been email. However the problem with email is that the widespread problem of SPAM has forced ISPs to take increasingly stringent measures to curb the menace. The result is that quite often, we are not able to receive, even mail that we want. This has been a big blow to many legal and acceptable forms of email marketing like the use of opt-in email lists.
The magic with referral marketing or viral marketing as it is often called is that one can start with a handful of clients or subscribers and rapidly grow their client list from these few people who will introduce the product and recommend it to their friends, who will in turn do the same.
There is really no denying the power and impact of referral marketing.