Getting Customer Traffic With Forums, Advice Columns, and Discussion Groups

If you know your product well, you can earn expert status and new, prequalified, ready-to-buy customer traffic by participating in forums, advice columns and other discussion groups. This venue for free advertising is known as social networking. Customers are more likely to do business with people they feel are knowledgeable and helpful – generous with advice.

Once you have chosen where to participate, this can be a once a week or once a month project. It will take only a small amount of your time, while providing valuable customer contact and free advertising. To get started, browse the magazine and newspaper racks of your local library, news stand or bookstore.  Use your favorite search engine to check the internet as well. Pick out publications in the fields that fit the demographics of your customers.

Many paper publications have an online presence, and other publications are online only.   Check the table of contents for regular departments within the publication that include reader comments or feedback. This could be a forum, letters to the editor, advice from the readers, an “I have a question” column, or a guest writer column.   If possible, read through several issues to get a feel for the kind of reader feedback they accept. Multiple issues can often be found in libraries or online. See if it allows any contact information, your business name or at least your real name. These are the ones you want to concentrate on. Usually, at the end of the section, there are instructions for how to participate. Many will accept mail, email, or fax. Others will direct you to their online blog, forum, or chat room.  

Answer readers’ questions on a regular basis, and get known by both the readership and the publishers. This can lead to a guest writer feature promoting your business. After participating for awhile, contact the publishers and ask about being a guest or freelance writer for the publication. Even if you are not the best writer, most publishers will polish the article for a proven knowledgeable contributor.   Pose a question yourself from time to time. Ask questions that will give you more understanding of what your customers look for in a product or business such as yours. For example, the brands they like the best or methods, equipment or types of services they utilize. Be sure to reply and thank them for the answer and include, if possible, any positive feedback relevant to using their suggestions.

Use these answers to upgrade your product line and your advertising, whether it is a physical product or a service. If the publication would be a great source of prequalified, ready to buy customers, but won’t allow contact information in the posting, try running a classified ad in that publication letting people know you are the person in the forum and name the products you have that they want.