My company recently launched a product and I've been attempting to build up the page rank of the product site by building up inbound links to it. To kill 2 birds with one stone, I've been searching around for blog or forum posts related to the problem that my product solves (to both get an inbound link and create awareness of the product). What's a good approach to suggesting my product to these blogs or forums without getting flagged as spam? Build a relationship with the blogger first? Suggest my product along with others? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I would say there are only two rules
Always put a disclaimer at the end of your email. Something like "Disclaimer : I work for ACME company who produces the ACME Dynamite I mentioned in the email"
You can't. Do not suggest your product - just participate in forums and be supportive and helpful. Be open about your association. Never promote your products or company. Ask questions and give expert advice.
If you're visiting the site to only promote your product, then you are being spammy, and there's no way to phrase the message and make it appear otherwise.
Instead, seek out relevant forums, participate, and provide useful advice (not just product suggestions). Something like Stackexchange lets you put your company info in your user bio, and they make it clear that this is where it belongs. For the small minority of posts that actually need product recommendations, then disclose that you work for a company that could be helpful, but do this after you have established yourself within the community.
It depends on the forum/blog and on the type of post you're commenting on. Some forums don't mind it if you include a signature at end of your comment and include a link in it. Know the forum's policy and adhere to it. Most importantly, don't make dropping the link your focus. Engage when you can actually provide value.
As far as types of posts....if someone is talking about your topic or industry, just focus on providing a useful comment (without a product mention/link). This is all about content marketing and community engagement. The value is indirect, but still valuable. Do enough of this and you'll build a reputation and develop relationships in your space. In time, these will lead to mentions, links, etc.
On the other hand, if someone asks a question like "are there any products that do X," I think it's fine to mention your product. Three things though - 1) disclose who you are!, 2) don't be too salesy...I actually think it works in your favor to mention alternative products as well (builds trust and, if your product is best-of-breed for your target market, you shouldn't be afraid to do this). 3) if you've built good relationships with product advocates, you're much better off having them tell your story for you.
Caveat to all of this - there are many tools in the content marketing toolkit. Commenting can be time consuming and for an early stage company, you might be better off with other tactics (e.g., how-to blog posts, "ultimate guide" type of eBooks, content curation, etc.). It's best to evaluate these tools in conjunction with your market and your goals and then pick the most cost effective tactics.