Viral marketing is a way of multiplying recognition of your goods and services by inducing customers to pass on a marketing message. This means that input by you is minimal and you get potentially exponential growth of your customer base.

By relying on the internet's close knit communities, viral marketing techniques aim to promote your goods and services to a wide audience by word-of-mouth communication. A good example of this strategy is Hotmail, which sends a link to its site with every e-mail sent by a user. This is a particularly good method of marketing when your goods or services are of interest to a wide variety of people.

Consider the following strategies to promote your goods and services using viral marketing:

Make referrals easy: Have a 'Recommend-it' button on your website so that customers can easily e-mail the web page to their friends, or if it's a specific product promotion try a more direct referral, such as 'Let your friends know how much money you saved at anywebsite.com'.

Give rewards for referrals: Implement a 'points per new user referred by you' scheme. Then allow users to redeem the points for goods or services. Alternatively, offer free products, heavily discounted products, a prize giveaway or cash bonus to users who introduce new customers. The value of the new customers should more than compensate for the initial outlay.

Sponsor give-aways on your site: Donating prizes not only has the advantage of a banner link, but you can also ask for the e-mail addresses of entrants.

Provide useful information: Send out e-mails with summaries of your goods and services, or create lively articles with links to your products in the text. But beware of turning away customers by spamming.

Free website or content: You could allow people to sign up for a free website on your server (most servers provide web space), but make it compulsory for them to have your linked banner at the top. You can also allow people to re-print your articles on their sites with the condition that they have a link to you. This is an effective method of gaining increased exposure without doing any extra work.

Have an original or unusual website design: This will make your site memorable and get people talking, as well as increasing your chances of receiving press recognition. A good example of this is suck.com's “dancing baby”.

Ensure your URL is highly visible: Include your web address on your e-mail template and on any packaging you may use. This will help increase your website traffic and potential sales opportunities.

Remember: positive word-of-mouth is the key to viral marketing. Provide your customers with a good value product or service, an easy method to let others know about it, throw in a prize or points scheme for good measure, and sit back and watch your customers drive business to your site.