ThinData published this advice, on Viral Marketing Programs, today in the Email Strategies Newsletter.


We are a financial services firm planning to include a viral marketing component in our next email campaign. Can you recommend any best practices to reduce any potential risks and increase the campaign’s success?


When including a viral marketing component in your email campaigns, one of your top priorities should be to demonstrate your commitment to building trust. To achieve this, at a minimum take the following five actions:

  1. State Your Purpose. Be very clear about your intentions with your viral program and about what you plan to do with the email addresses that you will be collecting.
  2. Respect Personal Information. Keep in-mind that the addresses you collect are not subscribers until they choose to subscribe themselves. To comply with the rules set out by Canada’s privacy legislation (PIPEDA) you should not retain this information or assume you can send any follow-up emails to them.

    (Visit The Marketer’s PIPEDA checklists for practical tips for running online campaigns that are compliant with this Federal legislation.)

  3. Clearly Identify Yourself to Referrals. When you send a triggered message to the email addresses entered by the original referral source, use your email address as the from address address as opposed to the referral source’s email address (see example below). In this way, you are demonstrating that you respect the referral source’s email identity.
  4. Reduce Risks of Abuse. Use a CAPTCHA in the form that collects the email addresses. A CAPTCHA – which is short for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart” – helps to dramatically reduce the potential abuse that spammers can inflict on you or on the owners of the emails you have captured.
  5. Answer the Question: What’s In It For Me? Go beyond sending the referred friend a link. Rather, describe concisely why they are receiving the email and the value of taking action.

For example, referred friends of those who download ThinData’s whitepaper “The Marketers Guide to Successful Email Delivery” receive the following message:

From: ThinData []
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2007
To: Friend’s email address
Subject: ThinData’s Marketer’s Guide to Successful Email Delivery

Dear (Friend’s First Name),
(Referral Source’s First and Last Names) thought you would be interested in downloading ThinData’s whitepaper entitled, The Marketer’s Guide to Successful Email Delivery. This guide includes:

  • Best practices to address email deliverability challenges; and
  • An action checklist

Take me to the whitepaper.

Follow these five steps and you will increase the success of your viral email marketing efforts while building trust with current and prospective subscribers.