“Our product will be viral!” - This is one of the most common answers entrepreneurs provide when asked about their go-to-market strategy. Unfortunately, creating a viral product or even just one small viral campaign is extremely hard and rarely succeeds. Hence, nothing irritates investors more than hearing this answer from an entrepreneur.
On the other hand, this doesn't mean it’s impossible to create a viral product. Sometimes it is possible, but it requires your product to have at least three of the following five characters:
Solve a huge problem or satisfy an enormous desire. Google’s search engine is a perfect example. At that time, the amount of information grew exponentially, while information was manually organized according to different categories (remember AltaVista?). Thus, to find relevant information, you had to endlessly drill down into categories and sub-categories. Since anyone who used the internet also searched for information, Google’s search engine solved a huge and constantly growing problem.
Be an amazing product that anyone can use. Continuing with Google’s search engine, their innovative approach provided a very simple solution. The then new search engine helped finding the most relevant information significantly faster than before. And as important, the usability was even easier than the existing solution – just type what you’re searching for and get a list of the most relevant links. No more struggling to figure out which category you should drill into.
Have a short, simple and interesting story. Google’s search engine had such a story – “Just write what you’re looking for”. Solving an annoying problem with such a simple solution intrigued anyone who used the internet.
Create a very strong incentive for users to ask their friends to join. Facebook is a great example. There’s no value in having a Facebook profile if your friends aren’t there. Thus, there’s a natural incentive to invite your friends. In addition, if you’re not on Facebook but all your friends are, there’s a huge social pressure to join as well.
Have amplifiers as the core of the product. Amplifiers are sharing tools that allow spreading a message from one to many. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or any other social app, the core of these products is its ability to share stuff with your network. By doing so, every user also shares the existence of the product itself. So amplifiers are great for spreading the word about your product. However, don’t forget that by themselves, they are not enough for creating a viral product.
To conclude, if you want investors to believe that your product can be viral, you must be able to demonstrate that it has at least 3 of the 5 characters above. Otherwise, you should remember that it’s extremely hard to acquire new users, and be able to present an alternative go-to-market strategy.