How to Make a Product Go Viral


Having your product go viral is, I bet, the dream of every marketer and product manager. We’ve got used to seeing big brands amaze us with incredible marketing campaigns going viral all over the Internet. However, most of these companies have enormous budgets and resources to make viral products. Can small companies or companies with a limited budget create something extraordinary and catchy? 

The truth is that viral marketing is not about budgets at all. It’s about certain product features and user emotions. 

To kick things off, let’s start with the basics.

Here’s the definition of virality I use:

Virality is a product’s ability to attract new users by means of the existing ones. 

The product is considered “viral” when it reaches the stage when it’s actively shared by users. Basically, users generate the product’s growth themselves. 

To understand the product’s viral mechanisms deeper, I want to mention another thing that plays a major role in growing products and businesses — “product-led strategy”. 

In simple terms, a product-led strategy (PLG) is a go-to-market strategy where the product itself plays a key role in user acquisition, activation, retention, and monetization. 

In companies using a product-led approach, marketing and sales departments usually are closely connected with product development. For example, the goal of marketers in such companies is not just to generate leads but to spread knowledge about the product. In fact, product knowledge is a tool for creating a positive customer experience. It allows marketers and salespeople not to hard-sell their products,but help users solve their problems and adapt the product to their needs.

A PLG strategy implies building an AARRR funnel (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, Referral). The ‘referral’ part is basically all about virality. However, to make your product viral, you need to measure and optimize every phase of your customer funnel. You cannot neglect the ‘acquisition’ or ‘retention’ part and focus just on the ‘referral’ phase. It doesn’t work like that. 

Let’s see what you can do at every stage of the funnel to increase the odds of success. 

Acquisition

Product-led companies usually rely on a freemium, or free trial, revenue model that allows users to experience their product without having to pay upfront. This strategy opens up the top of the funnel to a large number of potential customers much earlier in their journey. It also means that your product has to demonstrate its value within a short period of time to convert users to paying customers. 

Freemium and free trial revenue models can take on various forms. In a free trial, users get the full product experience for a limited period of time. With freemium, users keep using the product indefinitely, with some restrictions. 

The two main types of freemium are:

  • Reduced features: extra features require upgrading to a paid/premium plan;
  • Reduced capacity: a limited number of things users can do within the product;

Activation

To activate users, you need to demonstrate the product’s value early. The faster the users understand the benefits of your product for their purposes, the more efficient the activation process will be. Early value can be shown by posting a demo project on the home page or demonstrating some real-life examples of how the product is used by other users. 

It is important to communicate the value of the product:

BEFORE a user signs up 

WITHOUT a payment request

WITHOUT spending too much user’s time 

In fact, you need to make the onboarding process as simple as possible with the help of educational content, video-explainers, templates, etc. 

Retention

To make people keep using your product and return to it again and again, they need to accumulate something in your product — content, connections, tasks, documents, photos, messages, etc.

Revenue

The best way to increase revenue is to increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and decrease your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). CLV is the amount of revenue you earn from a customer during their lifetime as a customer of your company. CAC is the amount of money you spend on acquiring your customer. including marketing, sales, meetings costs. An optimal ratio of CLV to CAC for growth is 3:1. 

Referral

The nature of virality is based on three mechanics:

— invitations

— visibility

— demonstration

Let me explain each of these components. 

I guess all of us pretty much understand how ‘invitations’ in products work for a product’s virality. Existing users invite their team members, friends, colleagues, family members to do something together. You invite your friends to chat with them in Zoom, or you invite your team members to communicate in Slack. Referral programs are also a part of the ‘invitation’ strategy. However, these invitations mean getting some benefits for you. For example, PayPal’s users could receive $10 for referring a friend. Users of Dropbox could earn more space for their own accounts by inviting new users. 

Another virality component is ‘visibility’. Users boost a product’s reach through visible components. For example, when sending a newsletter with MailChimp, there’s a branded footer at the bottom. The same goes for Survey Monkey — when taking a survey, you’ll be aware of the brand even if you’ve never heard of it. 

Lastly, people demonstrate content created with the help of certain products. Designers share a Figma link with their team members to collect feedback about the project’s prototype, or managers create a roadmap in Miro and demonstrate it sharing a link with colleagues. 

All of these three components  — invitations, visibility, demonstration — have a direct impact on the product’s virality. 

A step-by-step guide to craft a virality within your product:

  1. Build an AARRR funnel.
  2. Optimize each stage according to the rules we’ve formulated earlier. 
  3. Understand what product features and content is valuable for your users and for people who don’t have your product yet. 
  4. Track how users are interacting with your content through analytics tools to understand the conversion rate between each step. 
  5. Once you fathom how users interact with your product, make them feel emotionally triggered based on why they are engaging with the product.

Author’s bio: Anna Grechko is a marketing enthusiast and knows the field inside out. She is the marketing specialist at Smart IT. Sharing knowledge is a big part of her career, so Anna actively seeks to spread good vibes, and collaborates with the great tech and marketing minds of the world. 

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