How Viral Emails Can Drive More Sales Than Promotional Emails

The Challenge: Viral emails can often generate greater response and revenue than sales-focused emails. Following are examples and tips for sending engaging/interactive emails that do not contain sales pitches or feature products.

MediaAirNB Case Study

The holidays are an important time for the travel company AirNB. They recognized that holiday greeting emails are very common and devised a unique campaign. They developed a way not just to send a holiday message, but an interactive campaign that encouraged customers to send a thank you note to travel hosts that assisted AirbNB's travelers during the year. The email was sent with the purpose of getting the audience to engage with one another, not to drive revenue.

Response and engagement rates were very strong:

52.3% open rate -- up from the previous average of 27% to 30% on regular marketing emails.

26.5% click through rate -- increase over the 8% to 12% on regular marketing emails.

• The subscribers who used the tool sent an average of 7.5 emails.

• AirNB increased sales with 600 bookings as a result of this non-promotional email.

Career Builder Case Study

Career Builder tied in a very successful viral email campaign to their widely acclaimed Super Bowl ad featuring chimpanzees performing common office duties. The campaign was named Monk-E-Mail and uses personalization to engage email subscribers and ease of use to ensure follow through of customizing and forwarding emails.

The engagement and increase in the site's popularity as a result of the campaign was staggering:

CareerBuilder was rated the #1 career site.

29 million unique users visited the site within the first four months (25% increase in traffic); more than 55 million total visitors.

More than 150 million Monk-e-Mails have been sent and played.

22% of message recipients went on to send their own messages.


1. Timing is important. AirNB is in an industry where travel is not an everyday event; the holiday email campaign was good timing because December is a time for travel or planning future travel.

2. Personalization is key. AirNB pre-populated the emails with each customer's bookings from the previous year and included images of each user's profile, making it easy to send the message.

3. Be Humorous. As CareerBuilder showed, a viral email is your chance to lose the serious sales attitude.

4. Ease of Use is essential to enable a high volume of viral actions.

5. Do Not Muddy the Message. Once you decide to go non-promotional, do not include any promotional content. Concentrate on the focus of engagement.

Ernan Roman is recognized as a Customer Experience innovator and was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame for creating three transformational methodologies: Voice of Customer Relationship Research, Integrated Direct Marketing, and Opt-in Marketing.

He was also named by Crain's B to B Magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in Business Marketing".

Ernan is also the author of the widely read blog, "Ernan's Insights on Marketing Best Practices", (, and author of "Opt-in Marketing" and "Integrated Direct Marketing".

ERDM's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, NBC Universal, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec.

As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based strategies, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with customers and prospects of these clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high value customer relationships.