From my keynote to the e-Dialog Client Summit:
1. Ask for a forward: More people pass along their email when you remind them to. Put a big "Tell a Friend" link in every message. Even if they don’t use your form, they’ll see the request and do it.
2. Design unbreakable emails: Test test test to make sure your email can be passed along infinitely without breaking. You can’t go viral if you don’t pass this test.
3. Make the forwarders feel special: Include some offer that makes recipients look good when they pass along your message. Give them an insider deal, advance news, or a secret discount code.
4. Add a benefit for the friend: Give people a reason to send something to their friends. You’ll get more forwards from people who feel like they are genuinely helping their buddies. "Hi, I wanted to give you this discount code/helpful tip …."
5. Add a multiplier: Add a reason why someone would share your message with 10 people instead of one. A "whole family" discount, 3-for-one coupon, or a deal good for anyone with the same company domain in their email.
6. Put a Tell-a-Friend form everywhere: Add a form to every page of your web site. When someone is about to refer a friend (giving you a free, high-quality lead)make it easy and immediate.
7. Design Tell-a-Friend emails well: When someone refers a friend, what does the friend get? Probably some generic text email. That message should be exciting–and it should convert almost 100% of recipients to click. (It was a personal recommendation from a friend … if that doesn’t get clicked, nothing will.) If not, keep working on it until it’s perfect.
8. Track revenue from forwarders/talkers: You probably have thousands of names in your database that you treat like low-quality prospects because they never buy. But you’ll be surprised when you give them credit for orders placed from emails that they forwarded. You have a lot of high-value evangelists on your list generating a ton of business from their friends.
9. Create campaigns for forwarders: Once you’ve identified these forwarders, start creating campaigns just for them. Target people who like to forward offers with great offers specifically designed for them to share with friends.
10. Study viral success to create another: Here’s the truth about viral email: You never know what works. Examine any message that gets unusually high forwards, and try to learn what caused the referrals. Start building likely-to-get-forwarded content into all your messages.