A Simple, No Cost Viral Marketing Technique

How many business emails do you send in a day? Dozens? Hundreds? Now multiply that by the number of people in your company. The number of contacts that your company’s employees correspond with every day dwarfs the number of friends or connections they may have on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Fortunately, there’s a simple, no cost way to leverage the power of your company’s email network and it’s a tool you probably use already. It’s called an email signature. The problem is, most people think of their email signature as simply a short cut, a way to provide contact information. What they ignore (and ‘fess up, you’re probably one of them) is that an email signature is one of the most potent viral marketing tools available.

Most standard email signatures are of the name, title, phone, email, and Web address variety. Now imagine if that email signature also included a call to action – nothing promotional or over the top, mind you – but a link to a blog, a white paper, a Webinar, or trial software. Imagine implementing that email signature across your company. Suddenly, you’re delivering a business offer daily to potentially hundreds of thousands of people. Keep in mind, of course, that the typical email gets replied to, and copied, and forwarded, so the viral potential of your new email signature goes well beyond the people you correspond with directly. Even if the click-through rate is miniscule, you’ll be generating incremental traffic, downloads, and sales leads at virtually no cost.

All it takes is a simple line of copy added to the end of your contact information. Here are some ideas to ponder:

Get insightful commentary on hot ERP trends: [link to company blog]

Try our award-winning storage software free for 30 days: [link to free trial]

Gartner names [Company Name] “visionary”: [link to analyst report]

Hear live how companies cut travel expenses 30 percent: [link to archived Webinar]

Feeling creative? Add HTML or graphics. Here’s an ad that appears at the end of emails from the UK office of Ingres, the open source database company:


The ad links to an informational microsite. (I would prefer it link to a dedicated landing page with a single, compelling offer, but that’s just me.)

Here are some guidelines for an effective, offer-oriented email signature:

1. Use information offers (e.g. white papers, blogs) that have broad appeal.

2. Use compelling benefits and avoid heavy-handed, promotional copy.

3. Set up a dedicated landing page and unique URL so you can track click-throughs, leads, and (dare I say) ROI.

4. Keep the copy short, and if you use graphics, keep them short also so as not to increase the vertical size of your email signature substantially. Nothing’s worse than an enormous, space-hogging email signature repeated over and over throughout an email thread.

If you’ve seen a great example of a viral email signature, email it to me and I’ll share it in this space. (Don’t worry – I’ll remove all private contact information.)

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6 thoughts on “A Simple, No Cost Viral Marketing Technique

  1. James Obermayer

    Great ideas Howard. While I have used URL links in my signature, I haven’t taken it one step further to say something such as:

    Free Membership in the Sales Lead Management Association, etc,, with an embedded link.

    I have seen some companies, NewLeads comes to mind, whereby they provide a “demo” button which links to an on-line demo of their product.

  2. Adriana

    Thanks Howard…From the lead nurturing perspective,however, would another CTA to the initial one be a distraction? Any best practices on how to deal with this in nurturing e-mails?

  3. snesich

    Excellent, practical suggestion, Howard. I’m always certain I’ll learn something of genuine value when I visit your blog. Thanks!

  4. Howard Sewell


    I had in mind using these kind of email signatures for the type of garden variety emails you and I use in day-to-day correpondence, NOT for lead nurturing emails or any other marketing campaign. In that context, as you point out, the CTA in your email signature could compete with, and distract from, your primary offer.


  5. Howard Sewell


    I would take your idea one step further and describe SLMA membership in benefit terms, i.e.

    Get access to free lead management tips, articles, events – Join SLMA today!

    or something similar. That way you’re not just extending an invitation, but also explaining why someone would want to join in the first place. Cheers,


  6. Ben Cogan

    Great Article, great point on how use the email signature, I also use it as you mentioned but I’ll change it immidiatly, thanks for the insight!


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