Unless you have good, interesting and valuable starting content on your forum why would anyone spend time there or consider joining? They are not going to.
I would suggest you create a repository of intellectual property (IP) that is available to forum members only and is uniquely position with how-to information.
Market to all of your current and previous clients, prospects and anyone you know and share with them the exciting new place / community you have created (after you built the initial content) and invite them to check it out and join.
I would charge for membership yet select a smaller group of subscriber that would become the initial group (for free) to start the momentum of posting going.
Promote and market your new site and forum in every possible media: news release, networking events, verbally with anyone you talk with, speeches, newsletter, blog, your paperwork (invoices, correspondence), get people to interview you on their blogs (written, audio and video podcasts).
Feature the best of the posts in your monthly newsletter (assuming you have one) and create enticements to have new members join.
Strive to become “the place to go” for the greatest and latest of your industry wisdom.
When possible discuss “success stories” and share on your site and inside the forum.
Create a referral network both domestically and internationally that would send your target audience to the forum and to you.
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