When Craig Newmark founded Craigslist in San Francisco in 1996, no one could have predicted that the site would one day host an estimated 15 million monthly visitors from more than 300 communities worldwide. And yet that's exactly what Craigslist has today. The online marketplace features classified ads, help wanted ads and even personals ads from regular folks in every major metropolitan area in the world, as well as many smaller cities and suburbs. It's a simple tool with which to do effective, targeted online marketing, and it's perfect for today's cash- and time-strapped entrepreneur. After all, whether they feature products, services or people, ads on Craigslist are ideally suited for small businesses because they're:
- Easy to read
Choose your wares wisely
Craigslist isn’t everyone’s ideal marketplace. If your business model relies on higher price points, for instance, or a steady flow of walk-in customers, online classifieds probably aren’t for you. If you offer personalized services, however, such as tutoring or home repair, or if you sell competitively priced goods such as furniture, electronics or collectibles, Craigslist could be exactly the sales forum you need. It’s also perfectly suited for people selling real estate, businesses that want to promote their eBay store, companies that sell products regionally and sole proprietors who offer creative services such as Web site design.
Advertise according to geography
Despite its simplicity, marketing on Craigslist requires some basic planning and strategy. The first step is deciding in what cities you want to market your business.
- Craigslist has classified communities in more than 300 cities worldwide; identify which cities you service and develop a unique ad and posting schedule for each of them. Consider using a posting tool, such as Net Gain’s Craigslist Auto Poster or Craygo, to make posting ads every day in multiple markets as easy as clicking your mouse.
Build an ad
The simplest Craigslist ads—those with just essential text and a good photo—are also the most effective. Be direct in your approach and keep your sales pitch short. Answer questions about your product or service before customers have to ask them and always include basic information, such as price and availability. Finally, remember to include important keywords so that customers searching for specific items can find you.
- In a sea of postings that look identical to one another, it can be challenging to create an ad that stands out from its neighbors. Designers such as Sophic and Lonzo Designs, which operates Craigslist Ad Design, can help you design an attractive, effective Craigslist ad that gets more attention and generates more sales.
Craigslist isn’t just a place to sell your stuff; it’s a place to interact with your community. That community tends to be wary of businesses that simply post and profit on Craigslist. Earn your customers’ trust, then, by interacting with them in the virtual Main Street that exists on Craigslist. Respond to others’ postings, participate in areas of the site where you’re not selling and engage in conversations as both a consumer and a business owner.
- Perhaps the most popular destinations within Craigslist are the discussion forums; visit relevant forums to communicate with other sellers as well as potential buyers, and to establish an active presence for your business within the Craigslist community.
Those who post on Craigslist must abide by a strict set of rules that govern the online community, which exist to protect buyers and sellers alike in this anonymous marketplace.
It will take you some time to figure out what ads get the best results on Craigslist. Test ads of varying length and content, posted during different times of the day and week, to find out what works best.
- Make tracking results easy by assigning a unique email address, telephone extension, P.O. Box or Web site referral code to each version of your ad that you post on Craigslist.