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[ARTICLE] 10 ways to Make Money with your forum - without adsense or cpa offers

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Business Coach, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    As a business coach, people hire me to help them increase profits.

    Because I have owned and managed multiple forums as well as coached many owners, I notice the same challenge faces the majority of forum owners.

    How Do I Make Money With My Forum.

    Usually they have worked with some cpa (clickbank) or cpm (adsense) network and experienced less than stellar results.

    I often tell my customers they are underutilizing their resources when it comes to fans, members, traffic and eyeballs.

    Forum owners have a unique type of repeat traffic. Owners have influence over the community and are voices of respect and authority. Use that to your benefit if you are trying to profit from your forum.

    I think the worst way to make money is an 3rd party driven ad model. This is any form of advertising provided by a network and includes cpm/cpc offers provided by adsense, etc and cpa offers provided by clickbank etc.

    You basically are making pennies to send people away from your website and become someone elses customers.

    I believe that model is dead. A waste of your efforts in the least. In fact, the LARGER your forum and the more traffic you get, the LESS you want to use adsense!

    Direct sales models will be much more profitable. If you do not have the time or resources for such, then try a joint venture where you can split the profits. You should get no less than 50% and ideally should make 70-90% of PROFIT (as compared to revenue).

    Here is a short list to get your mind going on how to make profits with your forum

    1. Branded Items
      T-shirts, mugs - cafepress can get your feet wet but the profit margin is small. I suggest partnering with a local vendor and sell limited editions of items. Think outside the box, what about specialize posters, or autographed pictures or DVDs of celebrities. What about pet gift baskets for your members? Get creative!
    2. Direct Ads.
      Sell the ads YOURSELF...and don't limit yourself to banners. You can theme your forum, have sponsors for specific sections, add special menus...the sky is the limit
    3. Premium Membership.
      Many forums are afraid of this, but the ones that have them pro$per. Keep the main functions free and come up with incentives that are valuable to your member base for a premium membership. Ideally multiple levels and a monthly fee (so people can quit when they want) will bring the most profit and be most well-received by members.
    4. ebooks.
      Ebooks are easily housed on your forum and sold via paypal or other processor. Your members will find them valuable and you can even make a specific forum to discuss the topic matter and application. No matter what subject matter your forum covers, there are sure to be ebooks available to help members. If there are none available (highly unlikely) - WRITE ONE. If you are not comfortable writing one, hire someone who can. Go to elance, scriptlance, freelancer or even your local busines coach {shameless plug] can help.
    5. Ice Cream
      seriously, sell candy, ice cream, flowers, gift baskets, wrapping paper etc during special holidays. Instead of going to a "cpa" site. Use a fundraiser company. They will give you a large cut and you just have to take the orders. Use this for profit, or to help your favorite charity using part or full profits. When a charity is tied in, your members will get behind it in greater numbers.
    6. Private Label.
      Everything from books to merchandise can have your label placed on it. This is different than co-branded items or traditional merchandise. Instead of a t-shirt with your forum logo on it, think clothing line named after your forum. Instead of selling someone else's book, imagine one that is authored by YOU because you purchased the copyright.
    7. Software
      Your members are already online. They need antivirus, photo album, apps, etc that are interelated to the type of forum you have. Find something that fits, find a source and sell it!
    8. Color
      If you have an active forum with creative or expressive types, you can sell upgrades. Special trophies, ribbons, forum functions like adding color or tagline to their name to show in the post bit are things people will pay a buck or two for. A dollar or two is not much normally, but when multiplied by hundreds or 1000s is pretty nice.
    9. sell the forum
      That's right sell the actual forum itself...for 24 hours! If your forum is even semi popular, offer it at auction or fixed price with the buyer earning the ability to "own" the forum for a day. The winner gets their picture in the header, the name of the forum is changed and they get a special forum all to themselves to moderate as they wish. You might be surprised at how many members (and companies wanting to pitch to them) will want to be "king for a day".
    10. Special Sections and Events
      Create a section for "special" people. Or have a special chat or seminar. Members pay a one time fee to have access. Sell "tickets" (access) for a limited time or to a limited quantity. Make sure you are involved and contribute as the owner.

    now that I have written all that, i think i will submit an extended and revised version to my ezine account, so...

    ©2011 Maurice Evans. all rights reserved


    I know of a dozen more ways, but I hope this at least gets you thinking outside the box.

    What creative ways have you used to make money with your forum as an alternative to adsense/cpa?
    Azula, Akela, LoadedDiaper and 11 others like this.
  2. Quillz

    Quillz Well-Known Member

    Good advice.
  3. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    thanks - use it!
  4. Markos

    Markos Well-Known Member

    Good article Maurice...thanks. :)
    Now i tried the "Premium Sponsorship", but in italian market the users are used to want everything free...it's not simple to create the value sufficient for sell a premium sponsorship.

    A nice idea can be to create a virtual currency, like in much fb games, that can be acquired to do some actions (acquire forum privileges, premium accounts etc.)
  5. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    Throw in a t-shirt, partner with someone who has incentives that you can give away withhhe membersbip. Make it a very small amount, recurring.

    Yes forum bux/currency/credits are GREAT ways to make money.
  6. Markos

    Markos Well-Known Member

    Ok, but the revenue of a t-shirt or of a garget is very, very low. I can't see it for a perpetual recurring earning system...
  7. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    yeah, you have to share a percentage of each sale of a shirt.
  8. Shelley

    Shelley Well-Known Member

    Unless you can outsource to your/ a local printing firm. T-shirts are dirt cheap buying in bulk, though you would have to consider shipping but I think the profit margin without relying on an online distributor and going alone would make you a stinking rich ******* in no time. Pending you have a devoted large enough community that don't think your an over zealous unprofessional admin who's just out to make money, wield their staff and shout at the rooftops "thou shall not pass" type of thing.
    Business Coach likes this.
  9. steven s

    steven s Well-Known Member

    I mail site decals for the asking. When it comes to t-shirts and merchandise in general, you really need to find a way where you don't need inventory or do the shipping.
    Our car club had merchandise and it really becomes a pain to store and ship.
    Everyone loves decals. OK, not everyone. Many car enthusiasts love decals and my site is for enthusiasts.
  10. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    Hide Your Wife Hide Your Kids T-shirts sold for $60

    Hoodies, Jackets, Sweaters and Bombers catch a premium price. Standard "T" shirts go all day long in usa for $9.99-19.99 which only cost $3- $6 even in small quantities.

    There are all kinds of themes and contests that can be run, all kinds of ways to keep it fresh. Don't limit yourself!
  11. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    Look for a distributor that offers "drop shipping". You send them the orders and the money, they ship the product.
  12. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    I've seen most of these ideas before, but it's always good to be reminded of them - thanks Maurice.

    My members have previously worked amongst themselves to order cycling jerseys, caps, tights, and shorts. I paid the clothing manufacturer, but my members did all the work of ordering and distributing them. There was no profit made, and after packing and postage was accounted for our "branded" jerseys came out reasonably expensive; thankfully our dedicated members didn't mind, and it's become a bit of a thing to spot other branded CC'er's out on their bikes!!!

    I've bought the IPB shop application (Nexus) for CycleChat to try and sell kit directly. I'm planning on making an order of the most popular sizes, but my personal time is limited due to family commitments so I'll still be using volunteers to send out the orders, and as a result don't feel too comfortable charging a big mark-up.

    I think a lot of people have a dream of being able to make a living from their forums, so any advice that can inspire people to try a bit harder or experiment with their revenue streams is good.

    Does anyone else have any ideas for things us aspiring millionaires billionaires could try? ... lol :)

    Shaun :D
    HydraulicJack likes this.
  13. grant sarver

    grant sarver Well-Known Member

    Hate to brag, but I've made a small fortune with my forum.......course I started with a large fortune!
    HydraulicJack, gordy, Todd and 5 others like this.
  14. steven s

    steven s Well-Known Member

    Most small fortunes start with large ones. :)
  15. TNCclubman

    TNCclubman Well-Known Member

    where did my Tom Vu post go?
    Todd likes this.
  16. Business Coach

    Business Coach Active Member

    How do you make a million dollars with a forum? Spend 5 Million. [​IMG]
    Saburov likes this.
  17. grant sarver

    grant sarver Well-Known Member

    Then there was the forum owner who won 10 million in the lottery. Asked what he planned to do, he said "Oh, I'll just keep right on with my forum till it's all gone"!
    EQnoble and Business Coach like this.
  18. craigiri

    craigiri Well-Known Member

    I use number 2 very successfully - and just to give folks an idea of the difference, I would guess I get at least 10X as much revenue from having a targeted advertiser (who I sell banners to) as opposed to adsense.
    That goes for forum pages.
    When it comes to regular high value article pages, the difference is not as vast - adsense does well by them.

    Another neat hint - it's important to separate out your forum rooms when it comes to ad placements. That means if you had a home improvement site with roofing, flooring and kitchen rooms, you could sell each of these "rooms" separately for a high value. Better yet, you can use a banner rotation program to sell fractions of each room - for instance, you can sell 1/4 of all banners in rotation at top and bottom of every thread page in the forum.

    I hacked together a program to make this work on my forums...and I just look at the code here...it could be done pretty easily with this sw.

    Good luck to all.

    Oh, as far as fortunes, I have a claim that very few can duplicate. I first made an actual profit from my web site in 1995 and it has been profitable every day since. No dot-com boom and bust, etc......

    The other day I read a resume for a local guy who heads an innovation group. His history bragged that he helped raise 190 million for blah-blah....did some googling and found that he not only raised that, he lost every cent of it and more! Amazing what qualifies for a resume these days!
  19. JulianD

    JulianD Well-Known Member

    Great article! Thank you!
    Business Coach likes this.
  20. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    One thing that has kept me from hosting/selling ads directly on my site is a grave concern regarding negative threads about a paying advertiser.

    I don't overly moderate my forums and allow people the freedom to post threads regarding poor quality service and kit, but I don't imagine a paying advertiser would be too happy at seeing such threads on a site they are financially supporting.

    How do you deal with this situation on your own boards?

    Shaun :D
    Trombones13 likes this.

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