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unleashing the idea-marketing book, seth godin

unleashing the idea-marketing book, seth godin

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Published by: azaleea_rose on Sep 17, 2010
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12/02/2013

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When Hotmail launched their free email service, they did almost everything right. They

built a product that was worthy of an ideavirus. They made is smooth. They built

amplification right into the product. They approached the right people and started with just

enough push to make the thing take off.

But then they made a huge error.

They forgot to get permission to follow up. They failed to ask their users (the folks who were

infected by the virus) if it was okay to send them an anticipated, personal and relevant email

every week. They didn’t build an asset.

As a result, the Hotmail website has one and only one way to make money. By selling banner

ads. And nobody clicks on banner ads when they’re reading their email. So advertising on the

Hotmail site is super cheap. And probably overpriced.

We’re talking a multi-billion-dollar mistake here. If they had permission to follow up with

20 million people every single week with an email that was filled with useful information and

relevant ads, they could easily sell the slots in this email for a buck a week. That’s a billion

dollars a year in lost revenue, which, using stock market multiples, is a gazillion dollars in

market cap. All because they forgot to ask for permission.

Let’s face it: It’s unlikely that every single idea you come up with is virusworthy. If we’re

going to have to grow our businesses in a reliable, predictable way, it’s unwieldy to have to

depend on an ideavirus catching on every time we want to grow. We still need a way to

communicate with people directly, to do it when we want to, to talk to the marketplace

without a filter.

Advertising used to be the way to do this. But what a waste! What a waste to have to pay a

magazine for an ad to reach a user you already have! You’ve got a pair of Nike sneakers in

your closet. But Nike has to buy an ad to reach you—they don’t have permission or the

ability to talk to you directly.

Unleashing the Ideavirus

175

www.ideavirus.com

Same is true with Stevie Wonder. You bought “Innervisions” because you heard it at a

friend’s house, or on the radio, not because you saw an ad. Yet when Stevie comes out with a

new album, his record label has to start all over again, interrupting you using mass media.

Both Stevie and his label waste a huge asset every single time you buy an album. They have

no idea who you are, and worse, they don’t have permission to contact you again.

The challenge of the idea merchant is to turn the virus into an asset. And you turn the virus

into an asset when you ask the user for permission to follow up directly!

This is probably the biggest mistake that ideavirus marketers have made to date. They launch

a virus—a website, a book, a record, a software program, a food—and enjoy the fruits of the

virus while it lasts, but fail to gain a long term asset. And without that asset, they can’t

launch new products or leverage their existing ones without long lag times and the high costs

associated with contacting the users they’ve already converted.

Unleashing the Ideavirus

176

www.ideavirus.com

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