Founded in 1995, Craigslist is the dominant player in classified websites. When you’re thinking about selling or renting something, the first site that comes to mind is Craigslist. It’s that awareness (and the fact that it’s free!) that makes it so effective as a lead generating tool. Alright fine, we know it’s not sweat equity free but there are no monthly or pay per ad charges for posting… yet?
As simple as creating and posting an ad on Craigslist is, there is definitely an art to creating effective ones. I’ll be honest, I was never that type of guy who could walk up to a woman, spark up a conversation, and ask for her phone number. I’d get too nervous, stutter some, pick my nose without realizing it, say something wonky and awkward and walk away empty handed. Creating an effective Craigslist ad is the same process as getting that phone number from someone you’ve been eyeing up in a crowded bar. The big advantage, of course, is you’re not face-to-face, your nose won’t itch, and you don’t need to wear cologne. Here are the 3 components that make up an effective Craigslist ad:
You need to have an effective “pickup line”.
“If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together.” When generating your title make sure you’re trying to capture their attention, stand out from the crowd, wear a mohawk in a room full of crew cuts, and wear a tie-die shirt to a black tie affair. You want to make people stop, read… and click.
Engage that someone with good “conversation”.
The conversation here, of course, is your ad text itself. Are you selling the apartment without sounding sales phony? What voice are you using? Are you getting people excited and longing for more…?
Have a good call to action (aka “get their phone number!”)
Do you have a clear clickable link to email or redirection to your website or a phone number that’s easy to find? Make it easy or risk losing them.
I can’t help you get a date (my wife is already taken) but I can give you some tips to help make your ads more effective:
Get a Craigslist posting tool.
Not using a posting tool with some type of analytics is like throwing a dart at a dartboard with a blind fold on. How do you know which ads are being viewed and converting? Not only do these services offer excellent analytics but since they’re a content management system you can load in your best stuff and make it easier for your leasing teams to post good content. Here are some good posting tools you can try: RentSentinel | RentEngine | Property Solutions none are free but the benefits surely outweigh the recurring costs.
Don’t be boring.
So tell me… which title catches your attention more?
A) Great house for rent.
B) U Deserve More! Beautiful, Bright & Contemporary!
C) Near shopping and 95.
There is such a big difference between telling me about a “Great house for rent” and describing a little of what my living experience could be like. Stop using ambiguity (Great, near) in your titles and draw pictures using words. One bedroom apartment could become ‘Gorgeous wooden retreat with romantic master suite’. Playing some linguistical acrobatics with your titles can beef up your pick up lines and help you get those digits. Remember as people are scrolling through mounds of ads, it’s your job to make them STOP and click on yours.
Don’t misspell words…EVER.
Not in the titles, not in the descriptions, not anywhere. Period. Oh yeah and DON’T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS EITHER. Yelling at your prospects isn’t a great way to start your relationship.
Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Have a property that just isn’t seeing the traffic you think it should? Here are a couple of experiments you can try:
Change your specific location.
If you get too granular with your specific location (aka you get too… ahem… specific) you might confuse your intended audience. Why? In my picture above, Bel Air Edison is a community just north of Baltimore. People out of state will have no idea it’s only 30 minutes away. Try a week of using Baltimore instead and see what you get. Let you determine someone doesn’t want to live that far rather then they determine it for themselves.
Change the times you’re posting.
Here’s where a posting tool can really help because you’ll be able to see the times when your ads have been effective. If you’re in a rut, try switching your posting times around. Research shows that posting before noon, before 3pm, just before 5pm and one around 8pm works well. Yes I said 8pm…where’s your dedication?
Replacing titles with some from different areas.
I’m sure most of you are doing this already. Visit somewhere outside of your current posting town and see what titles are being used. This stuff isn’t copyrighted, take some…and use it for yourself.
Post in a different area…temporarily.
It’s not recommended that you do this for a long period of time OR change your main Craigslist location weekly. A little experimentation won’t hurt you but don’t overuse it. We have a property that is located half way between two different Craigslist towns. Which one works better? Experiment.
Don’t be afraid to throw out what you’ve been using and start over.
As with any Marketing plan, if it isn’t working, scrap it and try something else. It isn’t money you’re losing by doing it… it’s time but don’t let it stop you.
Templates aren’t as effective … stop using them.
Okay they work a little but the numbers say that templates, the majority of the time, do not convert as well as plain Jane ads. Stop wasting your time finding some really gorgeous flowered border and concentrate instead on beefing up your content.
Make sure your pictures are small in file size.
Don’t upload pictures to Craigslist that are large in size. I’m not referring to screen size I mean how much space that picture takes up. You’ll want to make sure these pictures are less than 512 KB. What effect does this have on an ad you ask? If a prospect clicks on your ad that contains 3 or 4 large pictures, it could take your ad some time to load. People don’t like to wait so make sure you’ve trimmed them down. Here’s a cool tool to help you resize them or a great video tutorial on how to resize them yourself.
It’s easy to get burnt out but hang in there.
Craigslist will tell you not to repeat the same content from one ad to the next. That’s certainly true. Creating 10-15 AWESOME ads is enough to not bore Craigslist into ghosting you. Remember that prospects don’t care that you posted that same ad last week, they never saw it. It’s only YOU that gets bored so keep posting what is working.
What tips do you have for creating better ads? Care to share?
Happy renting everyone.