Topic: case study

Terrible Birthday Results

A young rider at a horse show in Australia.Unless you are on my email list (where you get 20 free buzz marketing lessons), this will not make so much sense.

Early in the week I tried an experiment with my email list. I sent out an email where I packaged 3 ebooks into one file and sold them for $9. Just for one day (Actually a day and a half) and in a more personal way.

This blog post is the details of the way I did it and the results I got.

Before I begin, let me say THANK YOU to the people that are on my list.

To Begin With

Some basic params – The list is small, under 1,000 people because I purged it a year or so ago. While my list is small now, I usually enjoy a 40% open rate. I frequently get people asking me to resend one of the buzz marketing courses because they keep them all saved, refer back to them and send them to clients. (Nutty, I know, but thanks)

This whole campaign took me about 2 hours. Imagine if my list was bigger, the results would have been bigger too.

Negativity Boost

Anyone studying email marketing knows that a negative subject line gets a higher open rate. But that does not take the creativity out of it. It just means you can pique someone’s interest more. So my subject line was “How to have a terrrible birthday.”

49% Open Rate – And still climbing.

Study Emails you like to read

I have also been paying attention to the emails that I like to read – very closely.

Here is what I have noticed. I do not care if you are selling something or not. I respect that people need to make money. However, it is an absolute crime if you do not make it interesting for me.

I read emails where the personality shows through.

I read emails where I feel like I know the person and I believe they know what they are talking about.

I read emails if the person has made me laugh in the past.

I read emails if the person has helped me make money in the past.

What I do not read

I have some good friends and I am on their email lists. I like them, but I do not open many of their emails. Why?

  • I know they publish long articles – and I do not have time to read a random article or long newsletter.
  • They only use their email to sell stuff.
  • They never provide instant gratification – You know, those people that always invite you to free webinars or tease you with things you have to buy.
  • They do not write in an authentic voice.
  • They do not seem like real people when they write.
  • They do not make me smile.

So, I am telling you this because I really do have an email strategy, and the above observations play into it.

My goal is to build a list of people that enjoy reading my emails, find value in quick tips and articles and really know me even if they have not met me.

Can email make you a Celebrity?

Since that email two days ago, I have attended two business events. In both cases, people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the email. Were they daffy? It was a sales letter! Emails also poured in with people saying they could not wait to find out what happened.

The Ultra-Secret Trick

I am not here to tell you I made millions off of a $9 product. I had nearly a 50% open rate, nearly 50% of those people clicked the link to look at the product and about 8% of the people that opened the email purchased the ebook. Great percentages, but small list. I made about $300.

If you did not get the email, let me tell you this was a very personal and fun email to write. I talked about how we spend money on our kids for birthdays, but not much on ourselves. (Gee, do you think that hit a cord with a couple of people) I promised to spend whatever I made on myself for my birthday. Plus, the three ebooks were worth about $40 if bought separately, so it was a great, one day deal if you were interested in them.

The Ultra-secret trick was no ultra-secret trick. I told a personal story that entertained (at least some) people. They seemed to appreciate it and want to know more. I was selling something, but not tricking them into it. People do not seem to mind that. I know I do not mind that.

So how am I spending my bonus wealth?

#1 – My kids get to buy me something with part of it. So they are taking me horseback riding. I thought it was my birthday!

#2 – A group of normal stuff like dinner, some clothing (I have lost 50lb in the last year and need some 1/2 sized clothes, replacing everything is expensive.)

#3 – I am going to set aside a portion for a new video camera I want. Video is a great way to entertain and teach – and I am committed to doing more of it. I am just not equiped properly yet.

Again thanks. I feel really privileged to have such a responsive and interested group of people signed up for my emails.

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Grow During a Recession

Hopefully by now you are getting some visibility as an expert in your industry via your blog and other web resources.

One of my favorite things to do is be a part of someone else’s efforts.  This gets easier as all the other visibility stuff kicks in.

For example, I was invited to submit a contribution to an eBook on growing your business in a recession.

The author made it easy by asking specific questions so that I could hone my message and spend minimal time contributing.  He gets free content, I get buzz, plus he is allowing affiliates to get 65% of the sale.

Note a bad deal for me since it only took a few hours to think about the issues and write my portion.  And since this has gotten rave reviews from business owners, it is selling well and I am getting buzz and visibility.

So how can you do the same thing?  Here are several ways.

  • Write a testimonial for something you like and send it to the company or person.
  • Write a guest post on someones blog.
  • Contribute to an ebook
  • Contribute to a book
  • Participate in a case study

When I get a testimonial, I love to promote it and the people that give it.  It really is a win/win.

This comes down to asking one simple question:  How can I encourage other people to market me?

It is easier than you think.

Viral Marketing

The generic globe logo used when Firefox is co... The trick with viral marketing is to not only create something that goes viral, but to have a goal and outcome for it as well.

A good example of this was when I signed up for a simple piece of software that would monitor the blogs I like so that I could comment faster on the good posts.  I do not remember how I first found out about it, but it got me on the guys list.  Later I joined a broader system that was a monthly fee.

No, this is not a huge viral marketing example like Hotmail was.  Instead, it is interesting because it was fairly viral and it was targeted to his audience.  He knew exactly what his audience would be interested in and he wanted to grow his list of people that were likely to buy his other products.

Not a trick – it was good marketing.  A good give-away that generated a list of people willing to pay for more down the road.

Too often, something goes viral and people refer to it as viral marketing.  Unless it has a marketing goal it is just a popular thing.

Here are some examples of Viral marketing goals.

  1. Email List Development – This is probably the big one.  It is easy to integrate and you can get a lot of value in the future from your list.
  2. Up sell – of course, if you up sell too hard you are probably not going to go viral.  Unless you are Frank Kerns and very obvious about it.
  3. Branding – If your video just went viral, you are probably not getting emails or anything.  Hopefully it is strengthening your brand and getting people to go do a search on you.
  4. Traffic – Your viral marketing item may have all kinds of links back to your site for case studies, instructions, a forum for users, etc.  It depends on your product.
  5. RSS Subscribers or Twitter Followers – If your viral item is interesting, you can encourage other people to follow your twitter or rss to find out about updates and new items.

Viral marketing Ideas

So what things can go viral?  Here is a list of the common ones.  Before you assume you know exactly what everyone wants, go look at sites that list these kinds of things and see what is popular.  Youtube for video and for software.

  1. Free Software
  2. FireFox Toolbar
  3. Funny or (highly) informative video
  4. PDF Download – Report or Case Study
  5. Blog Theme or Widget
  6. Friend option in web service (Like LinkedIn, Plaxo)
  7. Audio Recording
  8. Deal too good to be true (For real, not just telling them that)

OK, I am sure there are more but this give you a good idea.  Remember, Viral marketing is not about getting the most video views.  It is about having a goal and a target and giving those people something they have to spread to their friends.

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Dean Hunt – Buzz Marketing Guest Post

Exactly How I Got a Stampede of Web Traffic

Dean here from – Today I will show you exactly how I milked an article to get a stampede of web traffic.

Today I am going to show you a step by step guide on exactly how I got a random story onto the main page LAST WEEK.

Here is the back story: My biz partner bet me $1000 that I couldn’t get a random article onto the main page.

He found 3 random articles:

1) A self help article

2) A gadget review article

3) A religious article

He game me a time limit of 3 weeks to transform one of these articles and get the new version on the main page. I could modify the article, but couldn’t do a complete re-write:

Spoiler Alert: I got the self help article onto the main page 48 hours later. I didn’t even need to use articles 2 and 3.

I took a few screenshots, and I am going to show you the EXACT tricks and techniques I used to do this.

Here is the article that I had to transform into viral gold:

Here is my version of the story:

Here is my version at

I thought that the original article was pretty good, but there was no way it was going to get on the Digg main page. So I knew I had a lot of work to do to create some viral content.

The Dilemma

Many people contact me and say “Dean, I would love to get some viral success for my site, but I don’t have your creativity”. My answer is that ANYONE can get millions of visitors for ANY article. But 99.99% of marketing experts prefer to talk the talk instead of walking the walk, so the only way I could prove just how easy it can be, is to use an EXISTING article and transform it.

My dilemma was that I was technically using someone else’s content. This was a catch22 for me. If I create an article from scratch, people will just say it was my creativity that did it, if I use someone else’s article, then it is not morally correct.

However, this case study should help thousands of webmasters achieve viral and buzz marketing success.

To be honest, the content in the original article is nothing new, but I have credited the original article anyway.

Below are nine of the main techniques and tricks I used to transform the article into a buzz article. Remember, this mini-series is not just about, if you create buzz with your article then you will be mentioned on authority sites and powerful blogs.

Trick 1: A Global Appeal

This trick is based on the law of averages. I am sure you are all familiar with the term “niche”, well here is the trick… niche-focused articles often aren’t as successful with viral content as content with a global appeal.

Here is an example: Let’s presume that 100 people see the original procrastinator’s article. Of that 100, 40 of them have never heard the term “procrastination”, so they are not going to enjoy it. Let’s also assume that another 20 are not going to fully understand or appreciate the humor in the article. Finally, let’s presume that a further 10 people don’t understand the word creed.

Note: Don’t make the mistake of presuming all your readers speak fluent English.

So from this example we have alienated 70% of all the readers.

An article simply cannot go viral with ease if 70% of all readers are not going to understand it.

So clearly I had to make it have a more global appeal.

Step one was to change the focus from procrastination to not being a loser. What % of people are familiar with the term loser? I am guessing close to 100%.

In one simple step I have increased the probability of this article being a success by 70%, simply by changing the focus/topic.

Trick 2: The Negativity Slant

This is an area I have studied a lot over the past few years. Here is how it works:

Content with a negative slant will get discussed more than a positive slant.

“Bad news travels faster than good news”, and we can use this knowledge to our advantage. Have you noticed what % of the news is bad news? It is a HUGE %.

Look at the buzz stories of the past month and here are some of the articles you will see:

  • iPhone disappointments
  • George Bush (almost always negative)
  • Paris Hilton prison stories (mostly negative)

Did you know that Paris Hilton created an official petition to prevent her from going to prison?

Did you know that there was also a petition at by some entrepreneur that claims: “She did the crime, she should serve the time, no special treatment!”

The “Jail Paris Hilton” petition got more than three times as many names as the official one, and the site has had millions of hits.

Trust me, a negative slant will ALWAYS have more chance of going viral.

I personally saw the effects of this phenomenon with the “Bizzare Google request” blog post that was described as the “viral marketing success of 2006”:

So here is what I did to the original article… instead of saying something positive like “How to procrastinate less” or “How to succeed with procrastination”, I made it negative with my title “10 Step Guide to Thinking Like a Loser”, you can see my version here:

Trick 3: The Killer Headline

Unlike the other two tricks, this one is common knowledge…

You can have a great piece of content, but if your headline sucks, your content will NOT get seen.

ORIGINAL HEADLINE: “Procrastinator’s Creed”

Do you think this is a good headline?

I have already shown you why around 70% of Internet users will NOT like this title. So let’s look at my headline again:

VIRAL GOLD HEADLINE: “10 Step Guide to Thinking Like a Loser”

Which do you think will grab people’s attention?

Below I am going to show you in detail why this headline is an absolute killer headline.

Trick 4: 10 Steps to Viral Heaven

Ok, here is the trick… people love lists! There have been many discussions about why lists are so powerful in, but we can save that for another time… all you need to know is that Internet readers LOVE lists. Anything in list format is a surefire winner with the Digg crowd.

Note: Apparently “top 7” is the magic number:

This was another killer mistake that the original author made. He ALREADY had the content in list format, he just messed up the headline by not including a top 10.

So to improve the original article I simple added a number to the headline. Easy!

Trick 5: Stand out from the crowd

This trick applies to both your headline and your content. The Internet is a VERY crowded place, and there are millions of webmasters who are trying to grab some attention. So if you want to get noticed then you MUST stand out from the crowd.

Seth Godin uses this as the focus of his “Purple Cow” book

There are hundreds of thousands of articles on procrastination, and I knew that I had to stand out from the crowd with my version, so I created a headline that would achieve that.

I guarantee that my headline really stood out from the crowd at

If you are struggling to think of ways to be creative with your content, then grab a pen and paper and just start writing as many wacky ideas as possible. Be creative, controversial, edgy, wacky, unique… try it all.

You can never be too creative!

Trick 6: Curiosity Killed The Cat

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but with buzz marketing it is a killer technique.

The key to this is to create a headline that raises people’s interest. You can do this by giving a teaser in your headline.

Looking at the current frontpage content, there are some articles that attract curiosity:

Gas consumption per day: U.S. vs. Rest of the World
Thanks for dying Jesus! [PIC]
The 9 Most Meaningless Corporate Slogans

Wouldn’t you want to read those stories?

Note: The gas consumption article breaks my “Global Appeal” rule, but they get away with it because the vast majority of Digg readers are American, and a decent % are America Haters (ouch).

Trick 7: Image Is Everything

This is one of the easiest tricks. All you have to do is simply add an interesting photo/image to your story. It is that simple!

I don’t know the exact reason for why this is so effective. Personally I feel it helps with the packaging (See trick 8), and it helps present the content in a superior manner. I actually did an article recently that got on StumbleUpon simply because the image I added was so amusing.

So here is what I did for the procrastination article: I added the following image to the article:

Trick 8: Perfect Packaging

Packaging = website template.

If your site looks crappy then you are reducing your chances of going viral. There are some exceptions (Craigslist), but generally you will get more attention if your site looks great.

I recently posted part one of this buzz marketing study on my personal blog:

Then I was asked to guest blog for a major web development portal. So I published the same article here:

Guess which article was featured by Darren Rowse at the hugely popular

You guessed it, the awesome web template at fadtastic meant that the case study was packaged much better there.

Tip: Ensure your site looks great, also try and make it look like an authority site (add a feed, contact-us, disclaimer etc…)

Trick 9: Shifting the Focus

This is a powerful trick that I used to great effect on the procrastination article. What I did was shift the focus of the article from first person “me/I” to second person “you”.

In the original article the tips were in this format:

ORIGINAL: “1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.”

I simply switched this tip to second person:

VIRAL GOLD: “Learn that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.”

So why is this trick so powerful?

There is a reason that Internet Marketing experts talk in second person in their sales letters… example: “Do you want to know how you can make $1000 per day?

By focusing on the reader you make them seem more involved in the story. It also helps keep their attention.

Have you ever been chatting with someone who is talking constantly about themselves? Boring isn’t it!

I re-did the article and switched the focus on the reader. This was very powerful, and helped ensure that people left loads of comments both at the blog and at


Above are 9 of the tricks I used to transform a decent niche article, into a global viral success.

I don’t know how many visitors the original article got, but mine has had over 65,000 unique visitors thus far.

Please note that these tricks will require some practice and patience. But with time you will be able to master them.

Personally I have used these techniques to get over 2 million unique visitors to my articles for FREE.

I hope you have enjoyed this chapter, as always I welcome your questions and feedback.

The next chapter will expose some of the myths about viral marketing.


Note: I was recently asked to compile more of my tactics and tricks. So I am busy working on that right now. If you would like to be kept informed of any updates and tips from me, then send me a blank email to:

If you want to read more from Dean then see his straight talking business advice and the non profit young entrepreneurs portal for more tips and tricks.

The Accidental Blog

A few days ago I mentioned the success of this blog as a way to promote our business and philosophy. We did not initially think it would play such a critical role in our success. One unexpected result is that I have a blogger account, and the blog is not an integrated part of the rest of our web presence.

Anita Campbell of Small Biz Trends recently moved to a more professional solution and I thought some of you may be interested in what is involved. Here is her case study.

She reported to me that her search engine traffic has gone way up, and she is happy with the move. The moral of her story is the sooner the better, so I am going to have to think about moving some time soon myself.

Online Lead Generation