Sadly, Shark Week has come and gone again.  But there are only 51 more weeks of “Cash Cab” until it returns for an unprecedented 24th week of shows featuring killer fish flying through the air and hosts using such technical terms as “chumsicle”.   Though the blood in the water may have dissipated for another year, the single-minded effectiveness of predators that have survived for over 400 million years got us thinking about how to survive in the competitive waters of online marketing.

 Top 3 survival lessons from Shark week for the second half of 2010: 1. Maximize your main event engagement

Shark week is the reward for enduring the other 51 weeks of the year.  What are you doing to gather momentum and build expectations for your big event?  Do you have a make or break moment in time such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas?  Regardless of the event’s timing or length, you need to engage your new and existing list members uniquely to pique (and peak!) their interest at the right time. In the final weeks leading up to the main event, the Discovery Channel starts their full court press.  In this year’s TV ad campaign, they paired an experienced viewer with a more novice viewer.  Each spot ran on their network and others, speaking to both the old hands and uninitiated, and in a clever way engaged viewers not only to tune in but to bring a friend.  Can you name the top 3 sign-up strategies you have to increase engagement for your online 12:00 AM Black Friday Sale?

2.  Build characters, landmarks, and leverage them, don’t shill them

The Discovery Channel Started in 1985 with $5M dollars and is now behind TBS and the Weather Channel as the #3 Cable Programing Network (   Wherever you are in the development and growth of your brand and community, pay close attention to your legends and icons.  Translation, don’t eff up what your community likes about you merely to sell product.  Rather, invite them to participate in your promotion.   The big hosts on the Discovery Channel don’t merely promote Shark Week, they integrate segments on sharks into their programs.  Your community is smart, they will know the difference between the willing participation of brand legends and the relentless hammering away at an upcoming sale.

3.  There’s Blood in the Water, You gotta be a Shark

Sharks are highly focused predators with attributes and skills that make them lethal killers.  What are your competitive differentiators and advantages that make your story so interesting as to make it a must open? You are competing against every other email, across a sea of businesses, for engaged attention.  To grab hold your community’s interest, you can’t just simply have facts, figures, deals, opinions, or a great idea.  You need an engaging story that your community picks up and wants to share!  The more you can sharpen your teeth and bite in with a unique story, the more engaged your community will be both now and when you need them for your “shark week.” Safe Swimming!