This is another awesome guest post from my business partner Greg, following up on the post he did while I was on vacation
This article is a follow up to my Forum Marketing for E-Commerce, which encouraged you to try forum marketing. After you have found a forum and signed up as a sponsor, someone within your company should be in charge of posting. My previous article has some marketing suggestions while this article is more of a general guideline. Below I have outlined some suggestions to help you and your company post successfully.
Be informative but don’t overindulge
Posting successfully requires that you share your knowledge about a topic and give detailed answers when applicable. Writing a one line response is unlikely to inspire the reader to trust you and follow your advice. Writing a really long response may take up too much of your time and it encourages other forum members to expect similar responses. Instead we recommend you find the balance between a detailed and concise response.
Check the forums on a regular basis
I check my forums once a day for the most part and twice a day on really busy days. You can often subscribe to threads so if someone responds to a thread you will get an e-mail notification. I always check my PM (Private Message) Box every time I go on a forum. This PM Box is an internal messaging system on the forums similar to e-mail based off your forum handle (aka your forum name). Get in a routine you are comfortable with and stick to it.
Don’t be afraid to answer a question with a question
Ideally you want to answer posts in a timely manner but sometimes it pays to ask someone follow up questions so you can give a more specific answer. For example someone may ask us “How can I make my paint shine more?”. There are infinite combinations of products and steps I could suggest so so it is challenging to provide an appropriate answer. I might ask them to provide a detailed list of what products/steps they are already using, make/model/year/condition of their vehicle and their detailing goals. This helps me better understand the person asking the question and what type of answer I should provide. You won’t be able to know every last detail but you do need a reasonable amount of information to give an effective response.
Don’t be lazy, add links and pictures
If you are taking the time to post make sure you maximize your efforts. If you reference your product or any information on your site make sure you hyper link back to that specific page. This simple step makes it so much easier for a customer to get on your website and start shopping. Additionally anyone who searches for that product on the forum in the future has a good chance of finding your post and the hyper link. Make sure you add a picture of the product, before and after pictures or any other type of visual information (charts, graphs, etc.) if possible. Any kind of visual information is far more likely to grab the readers interest. Don’t forget you can often hyper link the pictures back to your site as well.
Don’t oversell or push your products
When appropriate make a response that explains why your product(s) may be a good choice for someone on the forum. Highlight some of the differentiating factors that make your products special and get the customer excited. If your product truly works you should be able make sales and have customer testimonials speak for you. Try not to list every single fact about your products or bad mouth competitors. If you push too hard it makes it seem like you are hiding something, similar to how most people feel towards infomercials.
Maintain professionalism at all times
Forums are a place where people come to learn and have fun. Members can essentially post whatever they want and as every knows there is little to no accountability. Forums are not a place for you to go around and correct every post that has misinformation. No matter how tempting it is I _never_ engage in any kind of argument on the forum. This is especially hard when someone says something bad about our business or products, but you just have to let it slide. In a couple of days the posts will fade and the good reputation you have developed will shine through.
Forums have all kinds of posts that wander off topic that can be interesting but they can detract you from your objective. Avoid chit chat and stay focused on the task at hand. Some forum members will swear or use graphic language in a post. Stay professional at all times with your posts and the community will always respect you, even if you seem more formal than most. Remember everything you say represents you and your company so make sure you are totally comfortable with it.
Do not bad mouth the competition
This is a very difficult topic to cover because there are many fine lines. I make every effort to never say anything bad about the competition. Everything you write can be found by your competition and it could come back to you, so post responsibly. This can be really tough when someone says a rival product or company is better. Here are a few examples of posts I might see and how I might respond to them without bad mouthing the competition while promoting our products.
Forum Member: Is the Mother’s Wax the best wax out there? (at Detailed Image we do not carry this wax or brand)
Detailed Image: There are a lot of great waxes on the market, but what works best is often subjective. In my experiences I have had outstanding success with the Chemical Guys 50/50 Limited Edition Paste Wax . This wax offers a really deep and glossy shine on virtually every color paint. It applies and removes with ease and is one of the more durable waxes I’ve used.
Comments: In Example #1 the response avoids putting down a competitors product (Mother’s Wax), while promoting one of our favorite waxes. I don’t like to directly compare my opinion of a competitors product to one of our products when possible. I feel it’s a lose lose scenario no matter whether your comments are positive or negative. I can explain why I don’t like the competitors product and some readers will feel I am biased towards our products. Occasionally I compliment other products but I generally don’t want to promote the competition either if possible. As a side note I hyper linked our product as you should.
Forum Member: Do you like the Mother’s Cleaner Wax or the Chemical Guys 50/50 Limited Edition Paste Wax better?
Detailed Image: Both products will help protect the paint but they are not the same exact kind of product. The Mother’s Cleaner Wax will polish and protect in one step, which we call an All In One (AIO) product. For these types of products I recommend the Klasse All In One (AIO). The Klasse AIO has powerful cleaning properties and it also leaves a very durable coating of protection. The Chemical Guys 50/50 Limited Edition is pure carnauba wax that is designed to give the paint that extra deep reflection that really catches your eye. It will also protect the paint by repelling moisture and road grime.
Comments: Example #2 is a more difficult question because it more directly asks us which one we like better. Again I will avoid a direct comparison with regards to my opinion. I will bring up that these are two different kinds of products (AIO vs Wax). For the AIO I will suggest one of our products that is the same kind of product. I will also re-emphasize why I like our wax as well. This avoids putting down a competing product and makes the forum member aware of other options.
In short you want to be as professional as possible and stand behind everything you put on the forum. Use good business practices and you’ll find the forum will embrace you and support your business.