Forum Marketing for Small Businesses

23rd Nov 2008
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Looking for an inexpensive way to spread the word about your small business online? Forums can be a valuable resource for getting the word out about your company's products and services, establishing credibility for yourself and your business, and driving traffic to your website.

Forum marketing has the perfect price tag for small business owners. It's free to participate in forums, so this activity can easily fit into your expense budget. However, benefiting from forum marketing does require time, effort, and consistent activity.

Find the Right Forums

The first step to effectively market your business through forums is to identify the most appropriate forum websites for your purposes. Start out by conducting online research to identify established, heavily trafficked forums that are relevant to your business and that appeal to your target market.

The best way to identify appropriate forums for your marketing purposes is to spend some time surfing the Internet looking for forum websites relevant to your business. For example, if your business provides corporate logo embroidery services for small businesses, it's a good idea for you too look for good small business marketing discussion boards.

Spend a few days monitoring the forums that appeal to you, and see what kinds of discussions take place on them. To start with, choose one forum that seems to be the most active and appropriate for your business, and register as a user.

Keep in mind that you are participating in this forum as a representative of your business, so choose an appropriate username. If your goal is to brand yourself or your company, it's a good idea to your real name or your company's name as your username.

Create Your Signature Line

Before you make your first post on the forum, you'll need to create a signature line. This usually consists of two to three lines of text that show up on every post you make. Look at the other posts in the forum for examples of signature lines that are appropriate for the board. Typically, the best signature line for marketing purposes is one that contains your name, a brief tag line, and a link to your website.

Establish a Credible Presence

The same principles that apply to face to face networking opportunities also apply to online networking. You have to build credibility with the participants of your selected forum by contributing to the conversation in a helpful and productive manner. People participate in forums to get to know other people with similar challenges and to find useful tips and advice. You can't approach forum marketing as a direct sales avenue for your business.

When you're new to a forum, you have to establish trust and credibility with the participants by offering useful information, tips, and advice without asking for anything in return. As the other forum participants get to know you and see that you have valuable contributions to make, they'll grow to respect you and become interested in learning about you and your business.

However, if your first posts on the forum are obvious attempts to sell your own products or services, you won't be welcomed into the community with open arms. As a matter of fact, you'll likely be viewed with disdain and suspicion by the regulars. If you come across as someone who is participating in the forum just to try to sell something, you'll never win the respect of the other participants.

Comply With Forum Rules and Policies

Most forums contain a post near the top that clearly spells out the rules and policies for participation. It's important to read and understand this information before you begin posting messages. Regulations may vary significantly among forums, so don't make assumptions without checking the written policy. If you fail to comply with the rules, knowingly or unknowingly, you can get banned from participation.

Be A Consistent Participant

To enjoy the maximum marketing benefit from your forum posting activities, it's important to participate on a consistent basis. It will take time for you to build name recognition and credibility with the other members. The best way to make progress is to post helpful replies or original questions on a regular basis.

Try to set aside a few minutes each day to catch up on the latest forum postings. Time spent reviewing your chosen forum and making relevant posts is time dedicated to an important marketing activity for your business. Remember that every time you post to the forum, if there's a link in your signature line, you're creating a backlink to your website. This helps your website's ranking with the search engines.

Additionally, as other members see your continued activity on the forum, they'll begin to get interested in learning more about who you are and what you do. Eventually, forum participants will start clicking on the link to your website, where they just might decide to do business with you.

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