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Why "Going Viral" Shouldn't Be Your Goal

It’s no wonder why businesses aren’t making an impact in the online world – they’re constantly focusing on the wrong things.


It seems like everyone is trying to go viral these days.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are struggling to make an enormous impact online. They spend innumerable time and resources on the elusive goal of virality.

But the reality is: going viral isn’t a goal you should set.

In fact, only focusing on viral marketing is a quick way to destroy your entire digital marketing campaign. It’s no wonder why businesses aren’t making an impact in the online world – they’re constantly focusing on the wrong things.

Definition of Viral Marketing

Seth Godin defines viral marketing as:

Viral marketing is an idea that spreads--and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause.

You’ve undoubtedly seen many examples of viral marketing throughout the web. It almost always happens in the form of a wildly popular video., including all of the following examples:



Given the wild success of these videos, it’s no wonder that others are trying to follow in their footsteps. It seems like a harmless endeavor – but it does, in fact, have many dangers.

The Dangers of Focusing Only on Viral Marketing

Focusing online on virality puts your brand in a precarious situation. Namely, you’ve spent all your resources on the wrong objective.

You see, a truly viral video has many facets working together. It’s not typically a fluke that happens by chance. Yes, we’ve all see the “accidental” viral videos; but those are the exception, not the rule.

In fact, true viral marketing takes an entire team and tons of resources to execute effectively.

And as a small or medium-sized business owner, you shouldn’t invest a vast amount of resources into just one, unreliable portion of digital marketing. Instead, you need to focus on winning the online game through concrete tactics that bring real results.

Where You Should Focus Instead

There are plenty of online marketing tactics and strategies out there. But whether you want to run a content marketing strategy or a short PPC campaign, one truth stands true:

You must understand your audience and have a flow for converting them from viewer to customer. Without this in play, you’re shooting in the dark and hoping for the best. And that’s no way to treat the marketing efforts of your business.

When you place your focus on these foundational portions of your marketing strategy, you’ll be able to create and deploy a successful strategy.

Overlook them, and your digital campaign will fail.

Are you ready to lay a firm foundation? If so, I’m happy to walk you through exactly how to understand your audience and build a funnel that converts them into customers...

Gain a Deep Understanding of Your Customers

Everything you do in marketing must start with the customer.

That’s one of the main reasons why viral marketing doesn’t work for so many companies – it’s focused on the company itself, not the customer.

Start with a deep understanding of the mindset, behavior, and drivers of your audience. That knowledge will fuel future campaigns, tactics, and strategies. And – perhaps most importantly – it will set you up for success.

I’ve found that the best results come when I take two main steps:

  1. Interview my ideal customer.

  2. Build and document a strong persona.

This duo enables me to create success for my digital marketing clients, regardless of their industry. Let’s talk about each element just a bit...

Interview Your Ideal Customer

Find someone that you believe is your ideal customer. Now, reach out to that person and ask for an interview. It could be via email, phone or even in person. Just make it happen.

This gives you the prime opportunity to really dig into the mind of your target audience.

If you’re stumped on what to ask during the interview, Impact has a great article outlining several questions. A few of my favorites include:

  • How did you end up where you are today?

  • Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?

  • How do you learn about new information about your job?

  • What associations and social networks do you belong to?

A one-on-one conversation should reveal more about their wants, needs, and behaviors than any amount of generic online research.

Build a Strong Persona

After gathering all that information, it’s important to build on it and document your insights. Otherwise, you’ll forget, and all the value you acquired through your interview(s) will be lost.

A strong persona includes a few basic elements:

  • Background: Family? Job title? Career path?

  • Demographics: Gender? Income? Location? Age?

  • Identifiers: What is their demeanor? How do they prefer to communicate? What identifies them from other personas in your arsenal?

  • Goals: What primary and secondary goals do they have for the business?

  • Challenges: What primary and secondary challenges stand in the way of their goals?

  • Your Value: How can your product/service help them achieve their goals and overcome their challenges?

  • Real Quotes: Capture real quotes they shared during the interview process, or things you’ve heard this persona say in the past.

  • Common Objections: What excuses will they use to not buy from you?

  • Elevator Pitch: How could you sell your product or service to this persona in just a few seconds?

Develop a Strong Conversion Funnel

Understanding your customer isn’t enough – you must also know what to do with that knowledge.

One of the first things I like to do is to come up with a conversion strategy. After all, if I’m not using the knowledge of my audience to convert them, what use is it?

While each business will have its own unique strategy, the elements and importance of it remain the same across all industries.

Elements of an Effective Conversion Funnel

A well-rounded conversion funnel will attract and convert your audience. It’s about taking advantage of every opportunity and not leaving money on the table.

But in order for that to happen, you’ll need to make sure your funnel has some specific key elements. Otherwise, it may fall flat.

These elements include:

  • Something worthwhile to grab attention. Your brand needs to create something that captivates. Everything from your web design to the content on the page.

  • Clear, concise messaging. The message you present across all online platforms needs to be consistent. It’s how you build trust and credibility with those in the funnel.

  • Compelling offers that lead to action. Once you’ve established your value, your funnel needs to have offers that compel people to take action.

  • A guarantee that reduces anxiety. New investments can feel nerve-wracking. Present the funnel with guarantees that lessen the risk and highlight benefits.

  • Points that build trust and credibility. Use things like testimonials, client logos and other points of social proof to showcase your authority in the industry.

  • Enough information to make a decision. You’ve got to have enough information if you want people to choose your company. Anticipate and answer all questions with your content.

Each of these elements builds on one another to create a strong sales funnel. Missing out on even one of these elements could keep your business from reaching its full potential.

Incorporating a Conversion Funnel on Your Website

Traditionally, sales funnels worked off of a variation of AIDA (attraction, interest, desire, action). But in today’s generation, it’s not quite that simple.

Instead of looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, we now place a larger emphasis on consumer behavior, retention and continued nurturing. It’s an open-ended pathway that doesn’t stop just because someone made one purchase.

As a digital marketer, you’re on a never-ending mission to growing and keeping your customer base. It’s not just a one-time deal and you’re done. In fact, I’d argue that the real selling starts after you’ve made the initial sale.

Not only is it easier to sell to old customers, it’s more cost-effective.

But you can only accomplish this through continued attraction and engagement of people that have purchased from you before. And that only happens when you build and incorporate a sales funnel into your website.

Personas + Funnels = Sales

When you’ve got these two aspects working together, sales will increase. And you won’t need to reach millions of people with a viral video in order to make it happen.

It all starts with a deep understanding of your customers. From there, you can build a sales funnel attracts and converts. And all those conversions add up to sales!

Now that you know what you should be focusing on, get out there and make it happen! And who knows –maybe your hyper-targeted campaign will be the next thing that the Internet needs to spread like wildfire!

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