When launching a viral marketing campaign might not be a good idea

Just like word of mouth marketing or social media marketing are not always useful in some circumstances, the same goes for viral marketing.

It depends from the marketing goals, the people you want to connect with, the story you would like to spread, the type of products or services you sell and much more. 

However, with the right creativity and story, virtually anyone can succeed in viral marketing. But, let’s face it, viral marketing is more compatible with some businesses than with others.

Here is a checklist with some possible reasons that can help you work out whether your business is “viral compatible” or not. Forgive me for the term “viral compatible”: in the end viral marketing is about stories and not about your business, but you get my point, right?

1. Your business might be too ‘niche’ to spread.

Look at a time line of the biggest viral marketing successes and you will notice that many of them share one feature: mass appeal. Many of the marketing campaigns that receive the greatest deal of attention tend to be built around products that are universally appealing. This presents a difficult situation for niche business owners. If you specialize in drainpipes, it is unlikely you will pick up steam with a viral marketing campaign (but not impossible…). Niche businesses, while occasionally successful as viral marketing features, tend to benefit more from other forms of marketing. Of course this does not apply to all niche business. Think about the viral success one simple campaign to find new employees can have if it’s done the right way, regardless of the size and activities of the business. Or think about how Mark Manguera manages to use Twitter to sell plenty of Korean BBQ Tacos with his Kogi truck. But, you know, sometimes too niche might be simply to niche.

2. Your business isn’t consumer-friendly.

Going viral comes with its fair share of downsides, and the first is that your business is likely to receive much more investigative attention than it once would. If your business model is built on recurring billing and consumer-unfriendly tactics, it is unlikely that a viral marketing campaign will bring in more good exposure than bad. Feel free to test the waters, but do so carefully.

3. Your product just isn’t exciting.

Carpet cleaners have mass appeal, but they are unlikely to go viral. Likewise, everyone needs toilet paper, but it is rare to see a tissue company invest in anything other than TV and print advertising. Viral marketing might require mass appeal, but having mass appeal does not guarantee viral marketing success. But again, it’s certainly possible if you have some very creative minds surrounding you. 

4. You don’t have the resources to live up to it.

If your viral marketing campaign is a success, there’s little doubt that your business will swell in size dramatically with the extra attention. If you are a one or two person operation, how will your business cope?

This is one part of viral marketing that is very difficult to plan for. When you bank on success and roll out extra resources, a failure can really hurt. 

Smart businesses do not plan for sure-fire success, but still leave options open to cope with a potentially explosive marketing campaign. 

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