Do you have the K-Factor?

Not to be confused with the X-Factor and Simon Cowell’s increasingly unbuttoned shirt, K-factor (also known as viral coefficient) is a term used to describe the virality of your business. It doesn’t matter whether that virality comes from shares, likes, word of mouth or fancy flyers that get passed around the office – it’s all a matter of K-factor.

Why do I call it the K-factor? It’s actually a term borrowed directly from the study of epidemics. In medicine the K-factor is the number of people an infection will pass to; in marketing it’s the number of people your customers will convert to your business for you.

So, what on earth does this have to do with growing your digital business? An awful lot if you want your business to spread as fast as Gangnam Style, that’s K-pop! In fact, one of your key goals should be to grow your K-factor as much as possible. After all, if your customers do your marketing for you then you can put your feet up and let them do the work instead!

The ideal situation and the one to aim for is when each customer converts at least one other customer to your business. That customer will convert another customer, then another and, voila, you create a viral loop. This is how great businesses – and epidemics! – begin. It’s why the K-factor is a great measure of your success and growth.

If you’d like to understand more about how K-factors work then I’d suggest reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell or Tribes by Seth Godin – two of my all-time favorite books. Right now though you’re probably asking how you can calculate the K-factor of your business.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy if your business is a digital service like Laundrapp:

X (number of invitations sent) * Y (% conversion of invitations) = K-factor

Take a moment to do the math before you read any further.  

Ready? Then what it comes down to is this: In both medicine and marketing, a K-factor larger than one means growth and a K-factor less than one means decline. If your K-factor is more than one then any marketing activity you do will accelerate your growth and you can relax. If it’s less than one, you need to constantly search for new customers by yourself and you can’t stop pushing, ever.

The good news is that there are plenty of great examples out there which show how to boost your K-factor in a pinch. One way to do this is through referral programs, for example. The very best of these are double-sided referral campaigns which incentivize customers to share your business in return for rewards – an approach which has been very successful for Uber, Dropbox and Laundrapp to name a few.

Another simple way to improve your K-factor is through social sharing and making it easy for customers to share good news about your service. Some people will say customers only shared Uber and Dropbox because they offered rewards, but I believe these were inherently great services that people wanted to talk about anyway.

Never underestimate the positive impact of delivering a great service. It’s admittedly tougher to track the conversion rate… but I’m working on it!

Now, it’s time to get real. If you’re not tracking your K-factor already then you need to start now. Measure it, refine your approach and repeat – digital services would do well to adopt this sophisticated approach if they want to harness their virality in the same way as K-pop stars such as Psy!

Edward Relf is an award winning digital entrepreneur and self-professed digital disruptor. He is Co-founder & CEO of Laundrapp. For more details visit