The words viral marketing can sound a little disturbing, but it’s an unfortunate name for an extremely profitable marketing scheme. Whether it’s referring to people or computers, the word virus has never really been a good term. It’s something associated with destruction and death, but that’s not what viral marketing is about. If used properly, viral marketing can be a valuable asset.

The basic concept of viral marketing is that you start small, but employ others to help you spread your product or ideas. Think about someone getting a virus – at first only that person gets sick, but they also spread it to three of their friends. Then each of those friends spreads it to three more people. Eventually a large percentage of the population has been infected with the same virus.

Now, imagine that virus is your advertisement or product. You start by adding a few customers, then eventually, everyone has been exposed to your message. Viral marketing is just a method of not only sending someone information about your product, but also giving them the incentive to pass on your materials to others that they know. Assuming each person it reaches passes it on to more than one person, the number of people who hear about your products and services will grow exponentially and reach thousands upon thousands of people. Even if just a small percentage of the people you reach end up becoming your customers, you still have the potential to make a large profit.

To have a successful viral marketing campaign you need to have a good product, a good copy, but most importantly, a good incentive to pass the copy or product on to others. So what exactly makes a good incentive program for viral marketing? While all incentives are different, most of them have one thing in common – they’re free. Whether it’s a free service, a free product, a free newsletter, or even a free ringtone, free brings people in.

Before picking an incentive, you need to make sure it’s something you can afford based on your product and potential income. There’s always the chance that if you have a great incentive, your message will get passed on, but you still don’t have good sales numbers. But assuming average sales, you should still be able to make a profit from your campaign, deducting the cost of the incentives.

A good viral marketing campaign not only has good incentives, it also makes it very easy to pass the information from person to person. It may be a button added to your website or social networking page; it has to be something easy, fast and virtually effortless. The easier it is to pass the idea on, the better it’s going to work. It works even better if it uses the resources of others instead of your own.

If you’re looking to expand your business exponentially like viral marketing campaigns can, be sure you can handle the amount of business you’ll be getting if your campaign works. Having thousands of people use your product or come to your website isn’t much of a help if your website crashes or you can’t properly distribute your product. If you are going to market virally, get ready ahead of time for a rush of business.

Viral marketing may sound a bit like a “get rich quick” scheme but it has proven it’s effectiveness over and over. But it does require thought, planning, and sometimes a substantial investment.

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