Do you get a headache from thinking about where to find more visitors?
I sure do, mainly because the rules of eCommerce marketing have greatly changed.
You can’t rely solely on SEO as a main source of traffic and instead, need to come up with alternative traffic to your site. But that’s exactly the cause of the headache in the first place.
Of course, one way is to try advertising your ecommerce site. Another is to focus on paid traffic like PPC or Bing Ads. Both can be quite effective, yet quite costly at the same time.
Not having a proper advertising budget I recently decided to try something different in order to bring more visitors to my store.
I started using forums to promote my business.
By all means, using forums as a means of promotion is not a new marketing technique. Dan Rhodes and many other marketers have been using forums to increase their number of their visitors for a long time. For me though, it is a relatively new method of gaining more traffic.
Forum Marketing Is Relatively Cheap
Unless you have a proper budget for advertising or PPC, finding different marketing channels might be difficult. Yet, using forums can be quite cost effective. And, most of the time, your biggest investment is the time you put in into such project.
Forums Offer An Opportunity To Build Your Image Of An Expert In Your Field
Nowadays buyers are well aware whom they want to buy from. They want not only the best price and best service but they also need to be sure that they purchase from someone whom they trust to be an expert in their field. There are a number of ways to build such an image but none are better than actively participating in conversations with prospects and buyers and helping them at the same time.
They Offer a Chance to Give Recommendations
Forums are also ideal place for product recommendations. Many prospects turn to specialist forums for advice on which specific product will be the most suitable for their needs. By monitoring those conversations, you can gain an opportunity to give recommendations and point them to your store.
But there is a second layer to that. Your recommendation will stay online on the forum, meaning that any new person going through a discussion has a chance to see it.
What follows is the process I am using to promote my store through forums. I can’t say that this is a definite guide, however, so far it has been working very well for me.
It probably goes without saying that first you need to find potential forums and particular conversations to further analyze if they are worth your time and effort. You can do that in a number of ways:
Use Google Queries
Monitor For Forum Mentions
Another great way is to use dedicated software to monitor for forum mentions. One such software allowing you to monitor forums for specific keywords is BuzzBundle. The software itself seems to use various Google queries to find conversations on specific products.
Another software able to perform a similar task, although possibly on a smaller scale (I haven’t tested it fully yet, hence can’t give a definitely opinio) is mention.
Use Link Prospector
Link Prospector, as the name suggests is a tool SEOs use to find specific link opportunities for their campaigns. However, if used cleverly, the tool can help you find much more on the web than just this.
The software has a forum finder module built in allowing you to find forums by niche or even a product name. Moreover, it can show specific pages on which the keyword you used for research, pointing you to specific conversations.
Set Up Google Alerts
Lastly, set up Google Alerts for mentions of your niche or products on specific forums.
Unfortunately, not every forum or conversation you find will be worth your time. Since forum marketing is so time consuming, you should focus only on forums that you feel will offer the best return on your time investment.
To find out if a forum you discovered is worth joining in, I check it against these criteria:
When it comes to specific conversations, here’s what I check:
One of the most common questions is whether you should use a persona or act as yourself. Unfortunately, I have no single answer for this. I use both approaches, depending on a forum. On some I am posting under a persona, as my posts are more recommendations that would probably work better if they weren’t coming directly from a store owner. However, in some cases I openly state that I run a store in that niche. These are the conversations though which I try to build my image of an expert.
I guess the best way is to experiment with both approaches to see which one works best for you.
Joining in to the discussion isn’t the only way to use forums to build your business. Since most of these people are in some form of a buying mood, you can consider availing of other methods to promote your store to them:
Many forums accept sponsorships for specific sections or even the whole forum and this is a great way to promote your business but also become seen as an influencer in your niche.
Similarly, you can purchase banner ads to run on a forum, ensuring that many of its members will see your name there. By far, it is not a very effective approach, however, I have heard it working for many, especially when coupled with a discount or other type of an offer (something that might be hard to communicate to forum members in any other way).
Forums are a great way to connect directly with your buyers and prospects, build your image of an expert and also recommend products you sell. However, this form of marketing requires time and effort to bear fruit. If done well however, it can bring a highly targeted traffic to your site.
Do you use forums to promote your store. If so, are there any other tips you could share with us?