What are fora? Let your customers engage each other with a bulletin board like vBulletin

Posted by tom klein August 2, 2007

While it’s tempting to think of your communications with your customers and prospects as a broadcast, it’s really just a conversation. What’s surprising is that one of the best tools available to facilitate online conversations, exists in most companies, if at all, as part of the customer support function. Don’t you want to engage your customers and prospects BEFORE something goes wrong?

VBulletin provides one of the best web bulletin board systems (aka “BBS”). These systems let you structure and support a conversation with your customers. What’s key here is to understand that your customers can have a perfectly fruitful conversation . . . without you. BBS’s have existed, egads, well before the advent of the web, way back in the dial-up era.

For under $200, you can have a BBS up and running on any subject imaginable (dog lice, Cooking Light, crappie fishing) carrying your brand registration (or even just using one of many low cost themes available online, perhaps a nice orange one with a science theme ), and engaging your customers. Aren’t you interested to know what your customers might say to each other?

Systems like vBulletin, while charging a relatively low fee, also give you access to all of the software code, so you can customize beyond the cosmetic.  Also, it makes use of free database software (MySQL) that almost any web host can set up and manage for about $5 / month.

Creating your bulletin board is just a start. Next, you need to promote it, structure some of the subject areas covered, and ensure that whatever gets created is integrated throughout your site. A successful BBS is likely to be very sticky, bringing customers and prospects back to your site over and over.

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