Participating in message boards, discussion groups, bulletin board, and discussion boards is a great way to generate traffic and sales. Most forum participants visit these sites to review information, ask questions, learn things and to meet people. The goal is to post valuable content that will encourage people click on your link or to find your website via a search engine.
Identify who you want to target and the forums you want to participate in. Ask your customers and prospects what forums they participate in.
Here are some questions that you should ask your self:
- What are the top forums that your target market participates in?
- Who is the best person to participate in each forum (marketing, tech support, sales)?
- Which forums are you competitors participating in?
After the Research
- Identify traffic - make sure they have enough daily traffic to make it worth your time.
- Narrow- pick the top 3-5 forums within your niche.
- Register - register with your chosen forums and create a user profile. Add information about yourself, your business and a company logo.
- Signature - create a signature with your name, URL, and description.
Forum & Message Board Directories
In addition to using a search engine to find a forum you can visit the following site.
Ways to Market on a Forum
- Signature links - when posting or replying to other peoples posts customize your signature to include a link to your website and a brief description of your business.
- Leave comments - commenting on a blog that is in your niche can can bring in quality visitors. Your comments should provide helpful tips and valuable information. This is a great way to set up yourself as an expert in your niche.
- Ask questions - post new questions that offer insightful information to other members.
Forum Marketing Guidelines
- Reputation: The key to forum marketing is to establish credibility.
- Grammar and Spelling: Poor grammar and spelling mistakes can hurt your credibility and the public image of your business.
- Training: Train your employees to participate using value-based participation. Everybody must be on the same page; each must deliver the same messages and interact with customers at the same level. This consultative approach can make them trusted advisers.
- Don't Sell: Do not directly sell your product on the forum. Avoid spam-like posts. Most forum participant don't like this. Offer advice, not your product or service. If you do decide to mention your service as an answer to a question, be honest and state that you work for the company. A soft-sell is more appropriate.
- Invite People:Inviting your customers and prospect to engage and participate in forums. This is a great chance to showcase your knowledge and ensure that they are not participating in forums that your competitor visit...and you don't.
- Know the Rules: read the forum's FAQ so that you are familiar with the posting rules before you begin posting.
Creating an Clickable Signature
- About you: Add something about you (name, title, education, etc). Think credibility.
- Heading: Create a short and catchy headline that's benefit based (e.g. Learn how to market your business). Make it linkable to your website.
- Subtext: Complement the headline with a descriptive benefit based description. (e.g. Wham! is a marketing wiki that will teach you how to increase your sales). You can put a free offer to encourage a click. Keep in mind that the post will most likely outlast your free offer.
- Formatting: Make sure that it has a color that stands out over the rest of the signatures on the forums, but not annoyingly. Don’t use colors that are difficult to read. Some signatures even permit pictures.
NOTE:Make sure to check the forum's site rules about what they consider acceptable, so that your banner will not get you kicked out of the forum.
Metrics to Track
- Brand awareness: Track if there was a significant increase in awareness of your brand, product, or service.
- Brand perception: Has as a thought-leader, customer, or vendor perceptions of your brand changed -- positively or negatively?
- Members and advocacy: How many advocates have been created? Has there been an increase in active members of your community? Analyze the impact of viral marketing activities.
- Return On Investment: This very cost-effective strategy's biggest investment is time. However you need to know how much it costs versus how many leads and actual sales you secured.
- Individuals in Team: Monitor whether the performance of any individual salesperson improved because of this initiative.