[Note: Many of the pages explaining how this forum works (like this one) were originally written before changes to the forum management and structure in April 2013. The information below has not yet been updated to reflect those changes. EP is a large site and there are plenty of pages that need updating, so please bear with us - we'll be amending this page as soon as we can!]

I recently put together a guide for newcomers to the site on what is and isn't considered fluff here and how to avoid making fluff posts. Today's guide is on how you can benefit your business via your participation on these boards.

I would like members to gain from their participation, to get more business, to make more money. To that end I do this:
- I drive traffic to this site from my other properties (which are market leaders in their own right)
- I actively work to send our members business
- When people who know me from elsewhere approach me privately for assistance with due diligence, SEO, help with buying sites, brokering, anything, I send them here to find someone
- I find potential sites for you to buy and post them in BSTE
- Various other things

But this is a non-commercial forum and I've noticed some commercial activity creeping in that is not in the spirit of the game. So I need to clarify what this forum sees as commercial activity and how you can benefit your business without running foul of what's expected.


How to benefit your business:

You can benefit your business by
a) Having a small, discreet signature with a link/s as per the Forum Rules
b) Making such sensible posts and knowledgeable contributions/answers to questions that both members and non-member visitors are so impressed they follow your link to find out more about you.
c) No other way

My experience: You'll gain more from this subtle approach than from directly promoting your business. If that's not your style then thanks for dropping in, it was nice having you.


Private Messages

There've been more than a couple of cases where I noticed registered members who come here not to post but to lurk around waiting for a thread on their subject of interest so they can PM the person who started the thread and offer them assistance.

If you're an SEO company (no SEO company has been sending PM spam so far so I feel this is the diplomatic choice for an example) you can
- start threads with some useful (original) content on SEO related subjects
- provide intelligent and helpful answers when SEO comes up in threads
- raise good questions about SEO that get a debate going
You'd be surprised at how much more business that brings via people voluntarily contacting you.

What you can't do:
Lurk around/use the search function to find mentions of SEO related terms and then PM the member who has an SEO question and offer to help them. That's not how it works. You want to help them? Post your answer in the thread.

What if you want to PM them to provide free assistance? Still not allowed. Your intentions may be genuine but it can be easily exploited by those marketers who're in the business of giving a bit away for free in an attempt to "capture" a new customer. It's promotional even if no money is involved, for example: Sending someone a PM asking them to sign up to your newsletter where you've answered his question in detail. Post your answer in the thread instead.

I encourage doing business by PM, but only if the customer approaches you first. Anything else is PM SPAM and I take it seriously.


Signatures

Your primary purpose on these forums should be to engage in discussion and debate, to share information and to learn. Any business benefit should be ancillary, something that happens by chance, not design.

By having a signature, you're already demonstrating you have a business site that may be of some interest to members. And that's fine. But then you have to be even more careful about not sounding promotional. Mentioning in posts about "our clients" or "what we do in our business" is drawing attention to your signature/your business i.e. promotional. If you have a signature, your posts are expected to be of an even higher standard. If someone has made hundreds of good posts and mentions their (signature) business just once or twice, it's clear that they aren't here for promotional reasons; I won't be anal about this. But if a large enough percentage of a member's posts talk about the business in the signature or refer to it even indirectly, it does suggest s/he is here for the wrong reasons. There is a high level of subjectivity involved in deciding when a post is assisting a signature and, unless you have a few hundred posts, it's safer to just not have a signature at all.

Exceptions

I may allow exceptions to the signature rule and I may allow someone to draw attention to their signature, but that would only apply in a very, very few and select cases. If Google signed up here tomorrow and Googleguy has a link to Google in his signature it would be unreasonable to expect him to never mention Google. For that same reason, I'm also making exceptions for leaders in our markets, for example:
Flippa.com
escrow.com
and a few others. But if your site is not on this list ask for it to be put on first before you draw any attention to the site in your signature.


Conclusion

Most members participate in the right spirit and many of them have found that they've benefited more that way. I don't want to sound tyrannical with this post, but I do need to protect those members and the newbies who sign up trusting this forum to be a good source of information. I don't advertise to members, I don't sell them any products or services - I leave all the business to you. But I will not have anyone touting for business here. The customer is the one who needs to make the first approach.