Sumo is a plugin that helps webmasters to boost their traffic. In early 2015, Noah Kagan (founder of Sumome) announced that the software had reached more than a billion users in 2014. The graph is quite impressive …

1 billion users reached in 1 year - and exponential growth!
1 billion users reached in 1 year – and exponential growth!

Where does this exceptional success in one year come from?

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Of course the product is excellent, but it is not enough. This curve is the consequence of something everyone is talking about without really understanding it: viral marketing.

Why is it not enough to be viral?

This is the scenario we all have in mind when it comes to virality:

  1. You create a funny / moving / unique video / article / parchment…
  2. Everyone shares your link;
  3. You make millions of views;
  4. Everyone signs up for your site / buys your product / asks you to marry.

But here’s the problem: Unless you’re paid for advertising, getting a lot of views isn’t enough to generate revenue.

It worked for them ... but will it work for you?
It worked for them … but will it work for you?

To illustrate, there is only the example of Antoine Blanchemaison from MasterBlog who created a viral video that exceeded 624,000 views at the time of writing.

In his review article (which I strongly recommend), Antoine writes:

“The purpose of my video was not to gain traffic to my site, nor even to gain YouTube subscribers or views on my channel, but only to test the mechanisms of viral video.

Of course, the impact on my business is low, and I now have thousands of subscribers who are not interested in what I’m doing, which may penalize my next videos.

But the bright side is that my video went viral, and I could understand why. So I’m going to try to apply what I’ve learned in my next videos, in an area, this time, that interests me. “

– Antoine Blanchemaison, YouTube: How I made 430,934 views and 5K subscribers in 8 weeks

So what made Sumome use viral marketing so successfully?

In a word: persuasion.

If that sounds a bit simplistic, don’t worry, we’ll go into details together.

The K factor: virality is a matter of conversion rate

Virality allows you to put your pitch in front of a lot of people, but that is not enough. Your pitch must also be powerful enough to convince a prospect in just a few minutes.

This is called the K factor:

The K factor is the number of average users that each new user earns you.

In other words, K = (number of invitations sent by each customer) x (conversion rate of each invitation).

If K> 1, each new customer brings you (on average) at least one additional customer. This is what allows you to have exponential growth, like in the graph I showed you at the beginning of the article.


Simply put, Sumome was able to reach 1 billion users for two reasons:

  1. Their product is great (people want to tell their friends about it);
  2. Their site is very persuasive.

I’ll let you interpret what “excellent product” represents in your market. However, as Conversion freak, it is my duty to ask myself: Why is the Sumome site so effective in converting visitors to users?

Cialdini and the 6 principles of influence

src=”” alt=”impact-handling-robert-cialdini” width=”228″ height=”344″ />The best system to analyze persuasion techniques used on a site is to use the 6 Principles of Cialdini.

In Influence and manipulation, psychologist Robert Cialdini defines 6 principles of persuasion:

  1. Social proof;
  2. Authority;
  3. Coherence ;
  4. Appreciation;
  5. Reciprocity ;
  6. Scarcity.

Let us observe together how each of these principles is applied on the Sumome site.

Note: if you are curious about the book, click here to discover my audio summary of all the chapters.

Apply the 6 principles of persuasion: the example of Sumome

1. Social proof: we follow what others are doing

When we have to make a decision, we look at what others are doing and we follow suit. In other words, if you arrive at the Sumome site, your first instinct is to answer these questions:

  1. Do other people use this product?
  2. And what do they think?

Sumome answers your questions with no less than 6 different forms of Social Evidence:

1a. Customer testimonials

Customer testimonials are the most used form of social proof. Sumome is no exception:sumome testimonialTo note :

  • Very specific testimony (mentions precise quantified results);
  • Identifiable source, therefore credible (name, first name and URL).
1b. Case studies

A case study takes more time to write than a simple testimony, but it can be even more effective. Case studies are the lever favored by Sumome for their social proof. For example, this article describes how one of their users generated 1,800 email subscribers through a single blog post:

sumome ps 1 case study stories

1 C. Logos & institutions

If you have prestigious clients (or have been mentioned in the press), this is an obvious mark of credibility:

sumome ps logos

1d. Customer ratings

The evaluations combine a testimony with a numerical score. They allow you to reassure your customer that they are making the right choice (hence their intensive use on Amazon).

Sumome mainly uses them on the parent site Appsumo:

sumome reviews

1e. Social activity

Social activity is expressed in two ways:

  1. Sharing on social networks;
  2. Comments on your site.

As a result, Sumome encourages not only sharing (which we all do), but also comments in particular on Appsumo:

sumome comments

1f. Numbers

What impressive figures can you highlight on your site? For Sumome, the figure of 1 billion affected users has been strategically put forward (and it works! This article is proof of that).

The home page also highlights the number of sites that have installed the plugin:

sumome numbers

2. Use authority figures

If the elements of Social Evidence present on the site were not enough to convince you, Sumome also relies on the authority figures of its market (also called “influencers” in marketing jargon).

For example, successful blogger Pat Flynn mentions the tool in his summary “9 Tools and Apps I’ll Use More Than Any Others in 2015”:

sumome pat

Sumome’s success has also been greatly facilitated by the notoriety of its founder Noah Kagan (employee # 30 at Facebook, # 4 at Mint and founder of Appsumo).

Take this ad seen on Facebook for example:

sumome pub

If you don’t know who this individual is, this ad has little impact. But if you recognize founder Noah Kagan, she is very persuasive. (Note the “inside joke” side, where you are not told who it is – the implication is that you are already supposed to know it).

3. Appreciation: we want to be associated with cool people

Unlike many companies, Sumome’s tone is not “serious” or “professional”. On the contrary, Sumome goes to great lengths to appear as a human and accessible team. Everyone wants to be human and accessible, but few sites do. The challenge is to combine two aspects:

  1. Provide information about the humans behind the site …
  2. … While bringing value to the visitor.

Most sites separate these two elements: they have functional elements on one side and an “about” page on the other that nobody reads.

This is not the case with Sumome. The team’s personality is infused with all the features, especially the theme of food. Some examples :

  • Call to action to FAQ:sumome liking
  • The ratings on Appsumo are left in “taco”:

sumome taco grade

  • The article “A week in the life of a Sumo” describes the daily life of the team and kills two birds with one stone by operating as a job offer;
  • The article “The 2016 Sumo Reading List” describes the team’s strange literary passions.

It may all sound “not very serious” … but is it effective in terms of marketing? Considering the success of Sumome, it looks like yes.

4. The first step is the most difficult

Sumome knows that the hardest part is convincing you to install the software on your site. Once you are invested in the product, you will tend to continue using it.

Their goal is therefore to make starting as simple as possible, by putting forward a simple and attractive call to action: the free trial.×178.png 300w,×266.png 450w” alt=”sumome try it now” width=”500″ height=”296″ />The use of the principle of consistency is at the heart of the marketing strategy, since Sumome is in fact a series of tools:

sumome tools

The genius idea is that all of these tools work through the same plugin, so if you’ve installed just one of these apps, you can install any of the others with one click.

In this way, Sumome uses your inertia to its advantage: it becomes easier to stay in the Sumome ecosystem than to install a different plugin each time.

5. Reciprocity: we want to help those who helped us

The principle of reciprocity says that we naturally want to help those who have helped us in the past.

Sumome implements it in several classic ways:

  • They allow you to use the basic version of their product indefinitely;
  • They post useful tips on their blog and newsletter;
  • They run contests with prizes to be won.

Some of the tactics used are more surprising. For example, in exchange for the first 2000 installations of the “Heatmap” tool, founder Noah Kagan promised to drink a glass of hot sauce, video to the key:

sumome hot sauce

Of course, the choice of the challenge is not trivial and adds to the “personality” of the brand.

6. The power of limited time

If something is rare – or is available only in a limited way – we want it more. This technique is used in different ways on Sumome. For example, products are often listed with the mention “Limited availability”:

sumome limited time

The mother platform Appsumo has built its popularity on limited-time discounts:

sumome eoj

Events taking place live also create a deadline not to be missed:

sumome live

Go further

The 6 principles of Cialdini apply in different ways depending on the site. Sumome is a good example, but this is just the start!

If you want to make your site more persuasive (or decrypt your competitors), download the Persuasive Web Page Checklist (PDF format).