The Orchard Agency, Melbourne Australia, eCommerce Email Marketing Specialist Agency


A Viral Marketing Success Story

It’s no secret that building your email database is a key strategy to growing your business, both online and offline. Good list growth requires constant attention, and strategies, to ensure that you’re gathering new leads to compensate for your list churn rate (unsubscribes and hard bounces can churn through up to 30% of your list every 12 months!).

A great way to achieve a quick win and give your email audience size an immediate boost is to run a viral marketing campaign (think refer-a-friend or member-get-member).

It’s important when planning a viral campaign to understand exactly what makes your audience tick. A good viral campaign relies on creating a sense of buzz around your product. You need to give it the wow factor, so much so that when people read about it they will automatically want to tell their work colleagues, their friends and their family.

We are currently running an integrated viral campaign for a client and we’d like to share with you some key results and learnings:

The Client: Red Spice Road

Campaign Objective: To promote the new private dining room areas at Red Spice Road. To highlight recognition on as one of Melbourne’s top 25 dining experiences. To be used as a platform for acquiring new database growth.

Campaign Summary: Red Spice Road’s target audience are passionate ‘foodies’ who appreciate the communal, shared dining experience that Red Spice Road is famous for. To tap into this audience we needed to create a campaign that would appeal to both their appetite and their sense of occasion. We created the campaign to ‘Win a unique private dining experience at Red Spice Road to share with up to 25 friends’ valued at $2500. We proposed an online campaign incorporating Email, Facebook & Twitter to maximise the user’s ability to share across a number of channels. To increase the chances of the campaign becoming viral we ensured entrants also received an additional entry for every referred friend who enters (tracked via unique referral code).

The Seed

We launched the campaign via a single EDM to the Red Spice Road email (click the image below to enlarge).

The creative included a hero image of the Lotus Private Dining room, a strong headline and concise copy. To maximise click-through traffic we included a double call-to-action with both text and image buttons.

As with all email campaigns the subject line was going to be a key element in ensuring a good open rate. We had to be particularly careful given the nature of the email with the use of the words “win” and “prize” and we needed to avoid using any exclamation marks to ensure good inbox deliverability.

With this in mind we decided to perform 2 rounds of A/B split testing to ensure that our subject lines were achieving maximum cut through.

The subject line testing included the following variants:

  • Win the ultimate private dining experience for up to 25 friends
  • Win an exclusive private dining experience for up to 25 friends
  • Share an exclusive private dining experience with up to 25 friends – Enter now

The best performing subject line was “Share an exclusive private dining experience with up to 25 friends – Enter now” which achieved open rates almost 3% higher than the two that contained the word “win”. This is an important lesson for all email marketers and possibly highlights that the word “win” in the subject line was causing the email to land in the junk folder rather than the inbox.

With the A/B test results in we declared the winner and launched out to the remaining list. The initial seed campaign received open rates almost 25% above the clients’ campaign average with a click-through rate in excess of 64%.

Going Viral

With the competition seeded out to Red Spice Road’s email list, it was important that the entry mechanism and the ability to share across multiple channels was a simple and easy process.

To capture the competition entries we built a custom landing page with a simple entry form requiring only name, email and mobile number (for simple data capture, less is more – don’t request personal information such as Birthdate unless absolutely necessary). The form also has a mandatory tick box to opt-in to the Red Spice Road email database to ensure list growth. No opt-in, no entry!

The landing page:

Upon submit the user receives a unique referral URL that they can share with friends to increase the number of entries they receive (the viral component). By simply sharing this URL with friends, the unique code is tracked and an additional entry is awarded for every referred friend that clicks on the link and enters the competition.

When the referred friend enters the competition – they too are assigned a unique referral code that they can share with their friends and in no time at all the viral nature of the competition ensures that the original message starts to reach a much wider audience.

We made it as easy as possible to share the referral code by including Facebook, Twitter and Email share buttons with each entrants unique referral code embedded into the url. We also created an automated confirmation email sent to the address supplied containing the unique code to make it easy to share the details within your email address book. This also assists in identifying ineligible entries using incorrect or bounced email addresses.

Confirmation page share options:

The Result

Competition entries indicate more than 60% of all entrants were via referrals (the majority of which were email referrals, followed by Facebook and Twitter). The campaign achieved 30% growth in the total size of the Red Spice Road opt-in database.

Have you had success with running a viral campaign? Tell us about it.


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