Designing a Viral Product – a fresh approach to innovation

Viral marketing is hot right now. In the new world of social networking, a digital outreach strategy is essential. But it may be more useful to develop products that are intrinsically viral. According to a recent HBR article adding a “share” button to a product can increase peer-to-peer influence over product purchase by 400%.[i]

As an example, one of our technology partners developed a new product that provided a very innovative solution in their chosen field of expertise. They had already been successful with this technology in another industry and now felt the time was ripe to test it out in financial services.

But that was a couple of years ago and the journey from innovation to market adoption can be long and painful. Many an innovation can die on the vine for lack of early clients. Plus, their target market was large banks, asset managers and hedge funds. Not an easy sector to penetrate even in the best of times.

Then in one meeting, a large multi-national financial institution, asked if the product could be embedded in SharePoint. The partner had already created an Excel add-in opening it up to a massive installed base of existing users. But by embedding it in SharePoint, the product became instantly viral and its potential market increased exponentially. This institution had 30,000 internal clients and the SharePoint functionality provided the perfect ‘share’ button.

Originally aimed at traders and risk managers within the bank, it also now offered a potential solution for the institution’s external clients creating an opportunity for new revenue.

Then, by combining the product with Microsoft Surface, the collaboration possibilities extended to yet another distribution channel.

While viral product marketing is a great way to engage with clients, creating a product which is in itself viral can be an even more powerful way of rapidly accelerating the adoption process and broadening the market opportunity. The new world of social computing is not just about tweets, blogs and wikis, but extends to how we conceive, design and develop the products of the future.

[i] “Forget Viral Marketing – Make the Product Itself Viral” Harvard Business Review, June 2011.