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#4.07: Spread The Word — The Gap’s “Casting Call” Issue

Good viral marketing is never an accident. Learn how The Gap used every trick to turn a simple email campaign into a viral marketing success.

1> Viral Marketing Isn’t An Accident
2> Ask For Their Email Address
3> Ask Them To Forward To A Friend
4> Ask Them Again

1> Viral Marketing Isn’t An Accident

The ultimate hope of email marketing is the possibility that a single message is going to turn into a viral marketing phenomenon, getting forwarded to millions of new customers. On that rare occasion when you get lucky and it happens, make sure you’re ready to capture that new business. You need to make sure that you have all the pieces in place to support and enhance that word-of-mouth energy and turn it into new business. The Gap recently produced the email marketing campaign “Casting Call,” which was a search for new models to appear in Gap print advertisements. What looked like a simple email contained all the essential elements of a great viral campaign. They received more 500,000 votes for new models, from the millions who had received the email from friends.

2> Ask For Their Email Address

You never know who received your email message from a friend. Make sure every new reader is given multiple chances to join your list. Many great viral marketing opportunities fall flat because they fail to ask for email addresses — which is priority #1. The Gap asks recipients to sign up for a list three times. The email message contains an offer to subscribe to the list if you received it from a friend. Then, when you click on the link in the message, the form to vote in the contest asks you to join the list again. Finally, when you submit the form, the page you are taken to has yet another offer to subscribe. You should always assume that anyone who gets your email may not be a subscriber themselves — you still have to do the work to get them on your list.

THE LESSON: Convert word-of-mouth prospects into new customers by doing what it takes to get permission to email them again.

3> Ask Them To Forward To A Friend

Want to know the best way to get readers to forward your message to a friend? Just ask them. Every email should boldly and specifically ask readers to pass the message along. The Gap’s email says, “Spread the word about the Gap Casting Call,” with a big link to a special tell-a-friend page. The form you land on makes it easy to send a message: 1) It knows your name, even if you are replying to a forwarded message, 2) It lets you send to multiple friends, and 3) it allows you to attach a personal note. Best of all, the form is short and simple. The only trick they missed was taking the opportunity to repeat their privacy policy, which would have further increased response rates.

THE LESSON: The little things add up. Be smart about your forms and watch your subscribers do the work for you.

4> Ask Them Again

Here is a lesson that is repeated as often as it is forgotten: Follow through to the finish. After using forms to solicit information, use your “thank you” page for one last push. After readers complete the forms in The Gap’s contest, they are taken to a clean, simple web page. What’s on that page? Yet another request to sign up for the email list, with another large ad for the promotion. In addition, Gap uses the page to cross-market a sale at Gap stores.

THE LESSON: Use every last impression to get what you want.

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