How to make money from forums.
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Forum Marketing FORUM MARKETING By: http://FreeIMTraining.Biz © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 1 Forum Marketing Table of Contents The Most Important Thing to Remember Selecting the Right Forums The Power of Forum Marketing Forum Etiquette Responding to Inquiries to your Posts Ad-Free Sites More About Signatures Other Benefits of Forum Marketing Recommendation © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 2 Forum Marketing The Most Important Thing To Remember Forums are all about community. People gather over common backgrounds and interests, a set of shared experiences, or collective subject matter expertise. They form relationships. They tend to segregate into different groups – cliques. There is frequently a caste system whereby you need to rise through the ranks via your participation before you can partake in some of the better benefits of the community and get to know some of the more powerful players. There are established rules that must be followed to join a community. There is a leader. There is usually a team of people assigned to help the leader oversee the community. They have special powers and responsibilities. There are frequently unwritten rules you must follow to survive. There are good guys who welcome newcomers to the community perhaps not unlike like the welcome wagon in your own neighborhood. There are self-serving bad guys who are out to make others look bad. There are also village idiots who are there to entertain and amuse us. These forum communities expect its members to give as much as they get, thereby making the community larger and stronger. There is melodrama and gossip, too. Don’t get caught up in these. Yes, joining a forum is like moving into a new neighborhood. Before you can reap the benefits of your new surroundings, you must get to know people and allow people to get to know you. You must become a valuable contributor to society. Just about the worst thing you can do when joining a new forum is to start trying to promote your products. People will tune you out and may even ask you to leave. You could get banned, and never be allowed to join the community again. And don’t forget, communities like to share information with other communities. Rumors can spread through forums all over the world based upon your poor behavior. So, my friends, remember this well: you can probably make a lot of money promoting your products online through forums, but if you do not first become a productive member of the community you are joining, you will never be given the opportunity to promote your products to them. Be a good neighbor. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 3 Forum Marketing Selecting the Right Forums Before you begin posting your promotions in forums, it’s critical that you get a lay of the land of each forum you are targeting. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in you getting banned from a board with your very first post. Your best bet is to lurk for a while, reading posted threads, getting to know the popular participants, their styles, sense of humor, and sensitive touch points. If you give it a few weeks you will see novice marketers stumble all over each other as they attempt to blast the forum with meaningless promotional plugs with obvious affiliate links. They tend to be ignored. To have any success on a forum, you must be smarter than this and learn the rules of engagement. Every forum is different and has its own quirks. While you may bump into people from other forums whom you know, many forums are a reflection of their creator. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 4 Forum Marketing The Power of Forum Marketing Push versus Pull Marketing Now I didn’t invent forum marketing, and not every offer I posted resulted in an equal number of sales, but I did make sales to a bunch of strangers relatively easily and quickly. Given the choice between doing an email campaign to my lists and promoting through forums, I would prefer to promote through forums for several reasons: 1. In an email promotion, you are pushing your promotional product out to the masses. Unless your product is very hot and unique, it will probably result in only a few sales unless your list is quite large and very well groomed. In addition, with SPAM filters, half of your intended audience may never even receive your email. It’s getting harder and harder to sell via email campaigns. 2. In a forum promotion, you are pulling in forum members to read your posted message. Like an email promotion, they may never read your message, but because you are posting your promotion in a well targeted and trafficked forum, it is more likely that you will generate sales faster and in larger number. What Product Should You Sell? In forums where advertising is allowed, members regularly troll for good deals, especially those involving unique products that solve a previously unsolved problem or products that be resold for profit. Not sure what to sell? Lurk and read the discussion threads for a few weeks to see what types of problems and questions get surfaced repeatedly. Therein lies the secret to developing new products and targeting your promotions. For instance, I noticed the trend in publishing article-rich web sites to earn money via Google AdSense ads. There are many tools out there to generate web sites quickly. Several years ago, I had created a tool called Table Genie that you can use to generate unlimited web page templates. It is unique in that the web pages have round corners instead of the typical square corners. After watching the Google AdSense fever rise, I asked my developer to add some features to Table Genie that would make it more attractive to online marketers wanting a new way to quickly create new Google AdSense web sites. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 5 Forum Marketing Within a week my developer added features to Table Genie that enabled it to create multi-page web sites with headers, navigation and Google AdSense codes with just a few clicks. A week later I launched the revised Table Genie on the Warrior Forum and watched as I sold over 20 copies over a few days time. At this point I was hopelessly hooked. I realized that by carefully posting well-written sales pitches for products appropriate for my intended audience, I could sell copies of all of my products fairly effortlessly. The really good news was that there are a ton of other forums and discussion boards, and while all of them do not allow advertising, they have opened up a virtually untapped audience of prospective buyers for me. The benefits are huge: Due to the sheer number of forums, there is a virtually unlimited audience for my products and services The ability to target products to a specific niche’ audience is very easy, especially by using some of the tools described in the prior chapter. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 6 Forum Marketing Forum Etiquette Every forum has it own rules and regulations. If a forum says no advertising, they mean it, but there are some possible ways to subliminally promote your product without attracting undo attention by the Forum Administrator. If a forum does permit promotion, then make sure you understand their stipulations. If in doubt, ask the Forum Administrator. Always make sure you post your promotion in the right area of the forum. Many forums have a special area dedicated to advertising, promotions, and joint ventures. Do not be afraid to emulate the promotional copy style of others so long as the voice and approach reflect well for you and your product. If a technique works for others, then try using it yourself. Ultimately, the best offers are written in a fresh, new voice. While every forum usually has some rules published on their site, there are both written and unwritten rules to the forums you need to be aware of. Here is some additional advice you should take to heart: Double posting your promotion in different areas of the same forum usually violates a forum’s posting policies. Posting more than one related promotional message constitutes flooding and is equivalent to spamming. If an offer is not producing sales and drops off the first page of a forum, do not delete it and then repost it to get it back to the top of the forum listings. This is called bumping and is frowned upon strongly. Wait a few weeks, and then post a revised offer. Never be discourteous to others. Avoid confrontation. Forum members who take the time and effort to respond to your posting should always be thanked first and include their name (“Thanks, John, for your interest in Table Genie. Let me answer your questions in order …”). Then respond courteously. Take complex or difficult issues offline. Learn the forum’s culture and do your best to blend in and be helpful. Always post promotional offers in an area that has been approved for advertising. Use the Search function, if available, to search for keywords related to your promotion. Read the archived and existing discussion threads to learn the best way to introduce your offering. Never hijack someone else’s thread for your own marketing purposes. Participate and be responsive for other people’s legitimate requests for assistance. Don’t use © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 7 Forum Marketing their thread as a means to stand on a virtual soapbox and start pitching your product. You can usually get the email address or domain URL of the person who initiated the thread, and contact them directly via email if you want to introduce them to your product. Using all caps or large or small fonts or all bold or italic is not only hard to read, it's generally considered poor forum etiquette. All signatures and avatars must abide by the forum signature and avatar rules. Just because it's not listed in the forum posting rules, does not automatically make it OK. If in doubt, ask the forum administrator. Welcome newcomers and let them know your areas of subject matter expertise and offer to help them in any way possible. This type of behavior has a way of coming back to you in a positive way and helping you immensely, both in sales and in building your online credentials amongst your peers on the forum. Do not chastise newcomers for not reading or practicing the forum’s etiquette. You are not owner of the board. Forum decorum and enforcing the rules and regulations of a forum is the responsibility of the Forum Administrator and its moderators. Never argue, insult, or flame others. Remember, participating in forums is a privilege granted to you by the forum owner. If you continue to willfully break the forum’s rules, despite continued warnings from the moderators and forum administrators, you are liable to be banned from posting. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 8 Forum Marketing Responding to Inquiries to Your Posts Most people online have purchased ebooks that explain how to write sales copy, how to create a web site that sells, and how to promote through email. However, few people truly understand the after sales process and how to provide excellent customer service. Forum marketing is different from passive web site sales and email sales. Assuming you have become a valuable member of an online community, and your promotion is well written, you should be prepared to receive immediate feedback to your offer. People will ask a million questions. And it is not unusual for several people to ask the same questions. Usually this shows that you have not written a good sales pitch because you have failed to provide all of the details. Answering the same questions over and over again, either publicly through the forum, or through private email, can become frustrating and tiresome. Remain cool. Follow these helpful tips to build credibility and long-lasting customer relationships. Doing so will also increase customer satisfaction and your sales: Check forums daily for new responses to your offer. Be responsive and answer all emails immediately. Be sure to answer all of the questions put to you. Treat people fairly. Don’t talk down to people. Educate them where necessary. Remember that one angry prospect will tell the world how bad your product is or what an a**hole you are, so handle all support inquiries in a timely professional fashion. If someone purchases your tool, and simply lacks the ability to use it, then offer to refund their money immediately and do it joyfully. This is a quick, cheap way to avoid issues later on. If you feel responding publicly could do more harm than good, then respond privately and post a public response that says you will send a private email to that person ASAP. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 9 Forum Marketing Ad-Free Sites If a forum site posts rules that say there are no ads allowed, then do not post blatant ads promoting your products. Instead, carefully follow the posted threads to determine the hottest topics, and then participate in the discussion for a few weeks to build a relationship and credibility with the forum members. Then, so long as the rules allow it, you can begin to use other techniques to subliminally promote your products: 1. Signatures: Marketers have been using signatures on their email messages for years to promote their products and services. In fact, that’s how Hotmail became so popular; through simple signature lines they grew their service virally to millions almost overnight. Likewise, most forums allow you to add a multi-line signature to all of your postings. Add links to your product’s web site with a simple brief description. Consider using provocative questions instead of blatant links (ex: “Why does my site perform so well?”). 2. Articles: Post articles for discussion and embed product references and site URLs once or twice throughout the article and in the author byline. People will read your articles and some will click-through to learn more through your embedded links. Some may even ask for permission to re-publish your article on their own sites or in their own newsletters. 3. Recommendations: Try to look for ways to directly solve a fellow participant’s problems by explaining how a particular product can help them. Give personal examples of how you have used the product or service, and then include a link. Not all forums allow you to include affiliate links in your responses, so be careful. Cloak a link or use redirection wherever possible. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 10 Forum Marketing More About Signatures There are some good and bad ways to sell through signatures. The more direct you are, the weaker the signature, and the less of a chance someone will click it. As with any type of promotion, even a short signature requires thought and effort and creativity. Here are a few ideas for you to consider: A basic signature file should include your name, email address, and company name. Word your signature in a thought-provoking way. Use humor and make it funny. Write it as you would a headline for your web site. Pose an insightful question. Make a shocking statement. Consider legitimately joining discussions and letting your signature do your marketing for you without directly promoting your own product. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 11 Forum Marketing Other Benefits to Forum Marketing Gaining Introduction to Influential People You can meet some heavy hitters through forums. People you may have only read about through their web sites or ebooks suddenly become available to you. Be mindful of the fact that these folks are very popular and besieged by requests for assistance. Be respectful and show restraint in your introductions and questions. Building Credibility With Your Constituents If you are relatively unknown and have been working under the radar, forums can present you with a new audience eager for information about you and your products. Use this opportunity wisely. Trying to sell something to everyone you meet will make you look like a newbie affiliate marketer and you will be shunned. Don’t be a used car salesman. Look for legitimate opportunities to help people and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Build a relationship with your peers, and then suggest they look at your product. Remember, you have a relatively captive audience in a forum. People have elected to join the forum, and have qualified themselves as being prospects for your products by doing so. If they join an SEO (search engine optimization) and you have an SEO tool or ebook, then they already have a level of interest in your products and services. Take your time. Sooner or later you will have your opportunity to promote and sell. Finding Suitable Joint Venture Partners While you will have ample opportunity to promote and sell your products, there are even greater opportunities to meet prospective joint venture partners. The more popular the forum, the better the chances are that it will attract experienced joint marketers and super affiliates looking for good deals. Here you will find people with the experience, abilities and email lists who can successfully introduce your products to hundreds of thousands of people for a percentage of the sale. Developing Valuable Back Links to Your Web Site Some marketers build their link popularity from having multiple forum listings. If the forum is highly ranked in the search engines, and the Forum Moderator has not blocked spiders from scanning the forum, all postings may get indexed. So if you post to multiple forums on a regular basis and include your product name and web site link in your messages, you can expect a percentage of these messages to get indexed by the major search engines, thereby possibly improving your visibility and page ranking. © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 12 Forum Marketing RECOMMEDENDATION How To Post At Forums - For PROFIT! What you will discover: * how to find exactly what forum visitors are looking for * how to quickly create a resource that will answer their questions * how to make superior postings to get people to visit your resource - with no hype and no ads and no affiliate links * how you will profit handsomely from these visits More Free Traffic Guides at http://FreeIMTraining.Biz © Free Internet Marketing Training | All Rights Reserved 2009 Page 13