Promoting your crafts and handmade items on forums
Forums are hugely popular these days and you can usually find a popular one on just about any topic you can imagine. While not necessarily created for marketing purposes, a lot of sellers do seek out and participate on forums in hopes of getting the word out and eventually selling more of their handmade items.
So does promoting on forums work and is it worth the effort? Here are the basics:
Why do sellers promote their items on forums – Forums are meeting places where like minded people can congregate. That is the general purpose behind them. From a marketing perspective, a lot of like minded people in the same space can be very valuable and a lot of sellers do try to take advantage of that. Some forums have hundreds of thousands of registered users.
How can you promote on forums? – The rules when it comes to trying to sell on forums have changed throughout the years as more people have abused the privilege. On just about every forum you can still pick your own display image, or avatar, that people can click on to see your profile page.
It is on your profile page where people can find more information about you. You can display your background, interests, and most importantly, a link to your website.
Still used, but with more stipulations, is a personalized signature that shows up at the bottom of every post you make. A lot of people just do quotes or funny sayings, but sellers look to place a link to their items down there.
Promoting by becoming known for something – These days the most common way that sellers do get orders from others on a forum is by being active. They answer as many questions as they can and start becoming known as the expert on a particular topic.
Eventually, more people will be interested enough into clicking on your user name to view your profile, and maybe even to your site or shop. I know this sounds like a very indirect approach, and it is. It takes a lot of time and only a small percentage of people will ever see what you make. With most forum rules though, that is about all you are really allowed to do.
What is frowned upon? – Every forum is different but there are some commonalities. The first is, you do not want to sign up for a forum and immediately start posting links to your handmade items. You’ll get reprimanded or your posts will just get deleted.
The second thing is you have to read the rules about forum signatures. Sometimes you cannot put a link there at all and in other cases you can eventually earn your way up and get permission to display a link to your shop.
Are you reaching your target market? – A lot of people have trouble with this. Ultimately your target market is going to be those type of people who are primarily interested in Purchasing the types of crafts that you make. Usually those that make things and those that buy them are two very different types of people. Let’s go over some examples.
I’ll use crafts in general as an example. As a maker and seller of handmade items, you probably frequent those forums that most interest you. You are probably on those sites where everyone is posting up what they made and tossing new ideas back and forth. While interesting, those people are very similar to you and are most likely doing the same thing you are. Sure, some may buy from one another, but most are there so they can either learn how to make or how to sell items for themselves.
What if you didn’t sell a product, but offered a service instead? Let’s say you were an expert at SEO and started participating on a craft forum. If you answered everyone’s questions about their SEO then you would become known as the SEO expert. A certain number of people would be looking for more information and would visit your profile page. Some may even purchase your course, your book, or even hire you to help them do SEO of their website.
As an SEO expert, your target market is just about every person on the forum who is trying to sell their crafts online. See the difference?
What if your passion was animals, dogs in particular, and everything you made was either for dogs or was dog themed? You could participate in a dog related forum where you would be knowledgeable enough to answer questions since you are passionate about the topic, but the others in the forum could also be a market for your products.
What types of items sell to people on forums? – All kinds, from inexpensive to high dollar, and from products to services. Your effectiveness of selling what you make hinges on your participation in the forum, how knowledgeable and helpful you are, and whether you are in a forum comprised of people that are your target market.
What does happen in craft forums is sellers do sometimes purchase from other sellers. It is definitely hit or miss, and most of the items are usually on the lower end of the price scale, but it does happen. I think you are more likely to get sales from your peers if you do sell lower priced items.
If you were an excellent painter for example, selling in galleries around the world, and participated on “The Joy of Painting” forum, how likely would it be to sell any of your art to the other artists? Probably not very likely. I think price has a big part to do with it.
What are the downsides to promoting on forums? – The biggest thing is the time commitment. When your time is limited you really want to focus on those things that bring in the most return (sales) for your amount of effort. It takes a lot of time to write educated responses to numerous questions on a daily basis. To get well know on a particular forum you could be doing that for a long time before you saw real benefit.
I think that the forum promotion approach is a viable option if you found an active forum comprised of your target market. That could very well be your primary way that you build up your business. If there are other marketing options though, they would probably give you better results from both a time and revenue standpoint.
What are the alternatives? – If you want to do something where you are educating people as well as selling your items, a blog is a good alternative. You could promote and place links to your items as much as you like and you would actually own all the content on it.
For less of a time commitment, paid advertising, Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, or just having a Facebook page, Twitter, and possibly a Pinterest account could definitely get you results with minimal daily time allotment.
Have you ever sold your handmade items to someone that found you through a forum?