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10 ways for email marketers to do awesome word of mouth marketing

From my keynote to the e-Dialog Client Summit:

10 WOM Tips for Emailers

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.

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  1. Ann Cummings October 21, 2008 at 5:58 am #

    Love all these tips – how do you do #2?

  2. jlsimons October 21, 2008 at 12:30 pm #

    Awesome list, Andy — thanks for making me jealous. Nirvana would be the budget to do all of them on every campaign. And you could build a whole website, blog or business just around helping people execute all of them.

  3. Julie Power October 21, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    I second Ann’s request: How do you test for failproof forwarding? Never heard of that problem before.

  4. Morten Schuster Rossel October 22, 2008 at 6:19 am #

    First of all I think – making sure that people that get a “send to all mail” also have the feeling that it is sent to THEM.
    Personally I think that is the biggest challenge – how to “mass” produce forward-mails that work without loosing value.
    I am a huge user of the “friend” intro – meaning that you try to find an entrance that suits everybody and still is for the individual – like saying Hey my close friend wrote this to me – would you do me a favour to also support/read this – and maybe adjust it to your friends. Kind of an “open source” email that keeps on growing and becomes more effective. But the bottom line is to remember that – if you market something FALSE-ly it will back fire in your face.
    By the way are you ever coming to Europe?
    Have you heard about the Kaospilots/the Hub before?
    Would you be interested in being a part of a Guerrilla Fighter course here in Holland? No rules – No Price – Sky is the Limit.
    Kind regards Morten

  5. Andy Sernovitz October 22, 2008 at 7:45 am #

    All email design is a pain to get right, so you need to test, test, test. To create an email that doesn’t break, you should forward it to a lot of different email clients on different types of computers. Sent it from Windows Outlook to Gmail to Mac Entourage to Hotmail … and see if each recipient can still read it. Also look what happens if someone adds a message to their friend at the top. Is it legible, or do you have a dark background that makes it impossible? If your original message can survive reasonably intact across 6-7 systems, you’re in good shape.

  6. Tammy June 29, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    How do you implement #8 – “give them credit for orders placed from emails that they forwarded”

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