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If You Interact, They Will Come

Aug 17, 2007
Prospective buyers on the Internet are the most skeptical, non-believers on the face of the earth. Sadly, the actions of many Internet Marketers have spoken much louder than words. Our marketplace has been scammed and cheated to the point where visitors to all of our sites enter with a negative attitude. It may be subconscious, but it's there all the same.

I'd like to think that most of us are trying very hard to run honest and valuable web based businesses, but there are many who stain the marketplace for the rest of us. We spend a great deal of time just trying to convince our visitors that we have a high level of integrity and that we really do have their best interest at heart.

After a while, they realize that we are telling them the truth and they become long-time customers and friends. But how do we get to that point? What magic bullet do we have to advance our prospects to a level of trust?

There is no magic bullet. But we do have a tool that will help us tremendously and we'll all have fun using it on a daily basis. It's called a forum. The good ol' soap box. A venue where we can discuss issues of mutual interest, resolve problems and share ideas. It is the most valuable asset (next to your customer list) that you can have on your web site.

I want to discuss some ideas and approaches you can take to set-up and run your own forum. You can also link to someone else's from your home page if you want to provide your visitors with a forum, and you don't want to run your own. Either way you're providing valuable content to your subscribers. They have access to this collective body of experts where somebody will surely provide the answer to their question or comment.

But first, let's talk about some of the dos and don'ts in a forum environment. Forums are meant to be informal. That means nobody cares about proper grammar or spelling and shorthand is okay as long as other members know what you're talking about.

Forums are not the place for blatant advertising and marketing. If you own and run the forum, then you can do as much subtle advertising as you want. After all, it's your venue. But don't get too carried away or the members will go elsewhere to discuss their issues and ideas. Along this same line, allow all members to add a back-link to their web site in their signature line, but make it crystal clear that any attempt to advertise their site or products will result in their post being rejected by the forum administrator. If members post a good comment, others will happily click on the link in the posters sig line and visit their site.

Try to incorporate safety measures to keep automated posters from deluging your forum with bogus comments just to get a back-link. This degrades the value of the forum for all of the legitimate members who genuinely want to share ideas. It takes a bit of work, but require administrative approval of posts before they are posted if necessary.

Be sure to participate in your own web forum or discussion board. Post your comments, answer members' questions, and ask your own questions. If it's your own forum, include your product text link under each message you post. If forum members read your message and like it, they may click to see what else you have to offer them. Don't do this if you're visiting someone else's forum.

Forums help create a long-term relationship with your entire customer and visitor base. You can stay in touch with them through your forum without becoming a pest (after all, they chose to sign in and participate. Nobody forced them.) And remember, when you stay in touch, people don't forget about you or your business.

As I mentioned above, allow people to use your forum for their own web site. Some people don't have one. Just include your banner ad at the top of the board. For example, you could say, 'Don't have your own discussion board? Link to ours and invite your visitors to use it.'

Forums help create an online community. When people get involved in your community, they will regularly return to communicate with others. You could also invite your online community to free "how to" classes hosted on your forum.

Your visitors will want to chat with other people who are interested in a similar and particular subject. They may also talk about how they enjoy your products and services. Your will visitors and prospects may see everyone chatting about you and your products and that might persuade them to buy.

Publish FAQs for your business, products and web site on your forum. They can be questions about different parts of your business arranged by category. You can answer questions about your products, business, web site, free e-zine, affiliate program, message board, forum, free e-book and other services.

Build interest with a larger online community by giving your visitor's bonuses for participating and posting in your forum. Try free products, ads, etc. For example, you could say, 'Participate in our forum and get this FREE report! How To...' Another example, 'Get this free e-book just for posting a comment or idea in our forum!'

Most people want to associate with others who have similar interests. Give your prospects a free membership to a private forum created just for them.

Hold free online 'how-to' classes or seminars. They could be held in your web site's forum. The idea of 'live' information will definitely entice people to visit your web site. You will become known as an expert on the topic and you could hold them weekly or monthly to get people to revisit your web site again and again.

Improve your customer service through your forum. Answering your visitors' questions in your forum will give them the feeling of care and concern, all done in a timely fashion. You'll also benefit by having all of your forum members giving their spin on the subject as well. Soon, your forum will become known as the 'Ask the experts' venue for your subject matter or niche.

Above all else, interact with your forum members on a regular basis. This will show them you care about them. Always be interested in what people have to say, answer their questions, give them compliments, and take the time to talk about things other than just business. They'll keep coming back for more of your expertise and - your products.
About the Author
Don Resh is CEO of WebForce, Inc. A more detailed bio is available at:

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