We’ve had a busy few months over at Business Scene. We’ve recently launched the new website and the forums (confession: I am a forum junkie, I love the conversations that you can have) are just getting active.
Forum marketing is an excellent way to market products and business services for free. But there are a few tricks to marketing on forums without getting banned. You have to be careful not to do any blatant advertising (except in the blatant ads section ) or you’ll get banned very quickly. Nobody likes the advert bore.
The number one thing you should do when you’re new to a forum is create an interesting profile.
- Your profile should make people want to get to know you
- It should make your ideal customer aware of your business
- It should engage and have hooks to keep someone reading (we make this easy on Business Scene by having a Q&A section to share quotes and favourite business books)
- Add an avatar that’s a picture of yourself, at the very least a picture related to the business you are in.
Let’s explore the avatar angle a bit more. If you’re in the dog training business, you might put a picture of a dog – preferably your own. In the golf business, it could be a picture of your favorite golf pro. You get the idea. People prefer human beings to talk to over a logo any day of the week. If you add a business image then sure, people will click through to your profile to see “who” you are, so have a picture of the real you there as well. I can understand people’s reluctance to add their own image, having an image creates greater trust towards you. It’s worth having one compared to not having one.
Next, start creating posts that answer questions. You should never mention your website or product at this point. Being a member of a forum is being part of the community – you’ll be there to give people helpful answers to their questions and post an occasional thread of your own to spark a discussion or provide helpful tips.
The point of this activity is to start establishing yourself as an expert in your field. By giving people valuable answers, you’ll be seen as the go-to person in your industry. As forum members start to recognise your contributions, they’ll start looking for your posts, and engaging with you. When this happens you know you are on the right track.
Check the rules of the forum to make sure they allow links in signatures. If they do, you can add a link to your site. Often this option is linked to a premium membership offering, this is to prevent forum spammers and build an engaged community. You might prefer to link to a landing page in your signature, so you can start building a list of forum visitors that you can market to later. The link to a landing page option should be personalised to every forum you market on.
Don’t do anything to draw attention to your signature – such as continually telling people, “I have more information on the site in my signature.” When you point that out you start the slippery slope to self promoting and treating people like idiots. Tailored advice to the question asked is more valuable to you and your reputation. Just keep posting as you have been, giving out helpful information and building relationships.
After you’ve built up a very good reputation at the forum, people may start searching for you on their own. Make sure your name on the forums is featured in the text of every project you promote, because you need to make it easy for people to find your products if they start looking for them via search engines.
You might even be able to partner with the forum owner after you’ve become rather well-known around the forum. You could offer a standard Joint Venture, or you could just ask the forum owner to become your affiliate. You might offer them a special deal, with a higher percentage of commission than your normal affiliates – or a discount reserved just for their members.
Respect the forum boundaries. Don’t private message people and ask them to check out your site unless you already have some sort of previous relationship with them. It annoys people when this happens and it will start to damage your reputation. The only time you should ever draw special attention to a project of yours is if someone makes a post that specifically asks for recommendations about products and you sell that product. The chances are if someone asks the question your friends in the forum will go and recommend you anyway – they want to support you for all your helpful advice.
For example, if someone asks, “Does anyone know of any good books that can help me market my business?” You could probably get away with posting, “Actually, I wrote a book about how to market your small business in just four days. If you’re interested, you can find it here on Amazon.” If it’s an invitation to provide a product link, it’s probably okay – but otherwise, let the forum traffic conversation carry on, on its own.
Siphoning traffic. Forums are an excellent place to siphon off traffic – but don’t just post a link. You need to add a catchy headline to your forum post and then a blurb about what the post is about and who it would help. Two paragraphs is ideal. Some people would prefer comments to be made on the blog post, whilst members of the forum will respond on the thread. When that happens you can link to the forum post in the blog post saying “We’re discussing this post in more depth over here”, your regular readers can come across and join the debate or they can comment on the post.
Forum marketing is a fantastic way to promote your business and we’d like to see you over in the Business Scene forums, drop by and say hello.