Business forums have two types of participants:
1. Solution Seekers - Up and coming entrepreneurs and business owners seeking solutions to launch their business idea or improve their current operation.
2. Solution Providers - Professionals with a bottom-line goal of gaining visibility for their businesses and capturing new customers.
The purpose of my story is to address the latter population.
In addition to participating in this forum, I participate in other forums, too. It amazes me to see the posts by the shameless self-promoters that apparently think they accomplish something positive by throwing up a post similar to, "I have the latest, greatest gizmo that you can't live without - and you can't live without it because I say that it is the latest and greatest". Some posters even include this type of message in a thread that isn't related to their product or service they're pitching.
From the response that I get from other community members, combined with the lack of views that these posts receive and the absence of responses to the initial thread, I have a hard time believing that shameless self-promotion pays off. If they achieve anything, chances are high that that they are irritating other participants, creating a negative reaction for the poster's business.
I guess that some practice this tactic because they believe that there isn't a payoff for giving away free business advice. This is a huge mistake. Let me enlighten you to the flipside of self-promotion, and as a result, you will significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your goal for gaining visibility for your business and capturing new customers.
In all of my posts, I sincerely try hard to address the problem at hand. I may not always give the "correct" gold star answer for the immediate situation, but I try my best to provide something of value that both the solution seeker and other readers can think about and apply to their businesses.
Here are just four amazing results that I get from giving:
1. I receive a significant percentage of traffic to my site because of people clicking through from my posts or referrals from other forum members.
2. I have other members recommend me in their posts (a special thank you to "MoveForward", "Phanio" and other members here). It is far more effective to have others promote you than it is to self-promote.
3. I receive inquiries from other quality members in online forums resulting in excellent joint venture programs. For example, it was through a business forum that I connected with La Comunidad Online, establishing a relationship to be their sole partner for a new PR program that they are introducing to their customers starting October 12.
La Comunidad receives over 600,000 unique hits per month by more than 50,000 unique visitors making it one of the nation's largest online communities for the US Hispanic market (representing over $1 trillion in spending power by 2011). This gives me a dual benefit. I earn business from La Comunidad's advertising customers seeking professional PR help and I am visible to their significant readership - potentially resulting in further business.
4. And last, but not least, I earned customers from forums because they believed in the strength of the advice that I provided and the selfless manner in which I provided it.
So if your goal is to win business by participating in online business forums, take a serious second to think about whether you are shamelessly self-promoting or providing valuable, relevant insight.
I can guarantee you from my own results that the payoff for selfless advice far outweighs simply pushing your own products.
All the Best,
The Solopreneur's Guide