Blackhole marketing

August 26, 2007

These days most people working on the web understand the importance of word-of-mouth.

It’s cheap.

It’s effective, because people still believe things their friends and family tell them!

It’s also easy, provided you follow a few simple rules.

It’s not quick though, so you do need to be patient. To quote Rachel Hunter: “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”. So, don’t burn all your cash in the first 6 months.

But, is “viral” growth enough?

Every week there are memes which spread online like a virus, only to disappear just as quickly, normally never to be seen or heard from again.

If you look at the sites which have been most successful with this sort of approach they have another critical ingredient: something which keeps people coming back.

To extend the virus analogy you need to infect people and make sure they stay infected.

Perhaps we need a different (more positive) way of describing the desired effect?

How about “Blackhole Marketing”? The product needs to draw you in and continue to hold your attention.

The feedback system used by sites like eBay and Trade Me is a good example. Once you’ve done a few trades and established that you are a trustworthy member it’s much easier for you to continue to buy and sell via Trade Me than it is to switch to a different site.

Josh from First Round Capital talked about a similar idea recently in relation to social networking sites: “Catch And Release” Business Models

Apart from eBay and Facebook, what are some other examples of sites that have the blackhole effect?