Viral marketing for everyone – even B2B?

In his Viral Marketing Manifesto, Robert Scoble talks about how is his initial fervor for RSS had blinded him to something more important – viral marketing. The idea is to create a marketing campaign that is so compelling and cool, that people are absorbed by it and it distributes itself like a good rumor.

This got me to wondering, as many marketing concepts do, about just how possible it is that this concept can be used in the industrial sector. The company I work for manufactures industrial control systems. We advertise in trade magazines, if at all. We do have a very nice booth at the larger trade shows. What is the vehicle for the marketing virus? Is television necessary?

A blog is an obvious vehicle, but the problem is that developing any audience for the blog will take a lot of time and effort, and after the virus “event” it will likely have to be reworked and redirected. All of that takes time, and has a rather indirect payoff. In our industry, blogs are basically unknown. There are one or two news blogs, but they’ve been around forever.

Then it ocurred to me that while the viruses Scoble was discussing, Subservient Chicken, Honda Cog Ad, ILoveBees, were all transient “events” of pretty short duration — a few months? Other viruses in nature work more slowly, could a marketing virus?

Which leads back to blogs, and back to RSS feeds. Can a blog be a slow-acting virus? If it’s entertaining enough to be linked to and read by a wide audience, does that qualify as “viral action”? If the Audience is mostly people who would never buy you product (indeed, who couldn’t identify it if you put one in their living room) does it really matter?

When I think about The Tinbasher Blog, he doesn’t write that much about sheet metal. But it’s still entertaining. I doubt I’ll do business with him very soon, being in a different country and not working in purchasing and all, but still it’s worth reading. The phrases “butterfly effect” and “long tail” keep tumbling in my head.

I think the Basher illustrates a principal that is viral in nature – his blog is unusual. If there were 15 other small-sheet-metal-shop blogs out there, all along the same lines, we in way other industries probably woulnd’t read any of them. But there aren’t. In the same way that if we had stuffy noses and other cold symptoms pretty often, we wouldn’t notice having a cold either.

So maybe the way to leverage viral marketing in a small B2B business is to simply create the entertaining and unusual, and keep it tied to the business just enough to maintain a relationship. Maybe a little daring and audacious. And let the virus work over time.

2 thoughts on “Viral marketing for everyone – even B2B?

  1. Basically, I’m not a sheet metal expert. I write more from a company perspective as opposed to being a sheet metal tips blog. It’s not necessarily a conscious choice, it’s more that I’m the chap in charge of the websites and I decided to throw a blog in there to see what would develop.

    My target isn’t sheet metal DIYers or sheet metal workers per se, but designers, or ordinary people who wouldn’t know a hand bastard from TIG welder.

    Maybe I might be able to get one of the other guys onboard just for the tech stuff. But, if we’re being honest, industry specific naval gazing blogs would be as dull as dishwater.

    I wouldn’t have a problem if every sheet metal shop had a blog, and you’re right, maybe the ‘unique factor’ would disappear, but at least we’d have our own little corner of the blogosphere.

    It’d be nice if you could be told more about the oddities that go on behind the scenes at most work places. I think it’s just a bit more interesting. At the end of the day, we don’t talk that much about sheet metal at our place and I presume the same goes for most workplaces.

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  2. I heartily agree on being told more about what happens behind the scenes. I think one of the problems some businesses have today is that with the web, desktop publishing and all the other tools at our disposal for building an impression, it’s easy to breed unmeetable expectations.

    And, since everything is written in a mostly sterile corporate voice, it’s easy to give the impression that the place is run by automatons instead of people.

    Do you ever feel that we take first impressions so seriously, we begin to think they’re the only impression?

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