What Viral Marketing Can Teach you about Growing Your Service Department


One of my favorite authors is Nik Kolenda. He doesn’t write novels, or screenplays, or op-eds. He writes long form blog posts on such exciting topics as pricing, fonts, and linguistics. All his posts are rooted in psychological research and studies. Sounds dull, but I love it.


His latest post, How Viral Marketing Actually Works, can be applied to growing your service business. Here’s a lightning recap of his findings:


Small Networks can make Large Impacts


Basically Nick found that things go “viral” when they start out in a small, highly connected group, like a group of friends, who share the info between each other. A person in that group then shares with one of their other connected groups, say their co-workers. Someone in that group then shares with one of their other groups, say their family. And so on.

I hope Nick doesn’t mind but I used his graphic here to illustrate.

The trick, Nick says, is to start with a group that has a lot of connection and interaction. They tend to share “stuff”. He gives a great example of how Facebook used this approach to grow enormous by starting with Harvard students.


So here’s my crazy leap to how you can use this approach to dominate service in your town…


Start with One Street


Target just one small street in a suburb with 20 homes or so. When you get a service call on that street, use that customer to start reaching group their connected group – the neighbors.  The neighbors will start sharing and chatting with each other about your company. As you get more business on that street, someone will eventually share your story with one of their other connected groups, and walaah, you’re going viral. 


Go Digital


The best way to market in this day and age is digitally, mostly through emails and social media. So you’re probably asking, how do I target a street digitally? The answer is you need to get email addresses or social media accounts of the residents. You could knock on each door and ask, but you’ll likely won’t get very far. Instead, ask your first customer on the street for help. Maybe give them a voucher if they get you 20 email addresses. 


Typically, if you buy an email list, email addresses will run up to $1 each. So 20 email addresses are worth a $20 voucher. Now you have 20 neighbors you can target. Send them emails and ask them to follow you on social media.


If you need advice for email marketing, check out Kate Burt’s post, How To Get Rolling With Email Marketing. 


Use the Connection


You are trying to get this small interconnected group to share your company amongst each other. For those 20 houses, tailor your marketing to them and ask them to share. How about a custom subject line in your emails to them? 

Example: Hillberry Street residents get 10% off tune-up this month 


Then ask them to pass along the discount to their neighbors by forwarding your email. Their neighbors may already know about the discount, but hearing it from a peer reinforces the message. 


I’m sure you could brainstorm many more ideas than I’ve floated in this blog. The takeaway is to focus on a small group that interacts often and get them talking about your company. Invariably they will tell others outside their group and you have a nice viral strategy.


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