For contractors who are looking to generate leads online, one of my first recommendations is to advertise on sites where people are already looking for your service. You don’t need to have a website or any marketing materials in order to advertise on these sites, so they are a great place to start. There are many different sites where you can advertise for free, but one of the most popular and most-visited sites is Craigslist.
What is Craigslist?
If you’re not familiar with Craigslist, it is a site that has online classifieds for just about anything. There are classifieds for job opportunities, people looking for love, various items for sale, and yes, even services from local businesses.
It is a wildly popular site, and has been for a very long time. However, depending on where you live, Craigslist may or may not be an excellent place to advertise for leads. In some areas, Craigslist is extremely popular and works quite well. In other areas, there may be a different website with online classifieds that is more popular.
Craigslist is very popular in the USA, but in many other countries there are other sites that are more widely used. Even in the USA, I’m aware of some places where other sites are more popular than Craigslist. For example, when I lived in Utah, KSL Classifieds was much more commonly used there.
Regardless of where you live, Craigslist could still be helpful in generating leads, whether it is super popular in your area or not. Since posting an ad on craigslist is very simple, it’s definitely worth at least trying to advertise there for potential leads.
Create A Craigslist Account
The first thing you’ll want to do in order to advertise on Craigslist is to create a free account, if you don’t already have one. In order to do so, go to craigslist.org and choose the city closest to the area you’d like to target. For me, since I discussed roofing in Las Vegas in my article on Keyword Research, I’m going to stick with Las Vegas as my city of choice.
Once you’ve arrived at your city-specific Craigslist page, then click on the “My Account” link in the upper left-hand corner.
This will take you to the Craigslist sign-in page. Since you don’t have an account, you’ll want to click on the option to “Sign up for an account”.
Once you do so, you’ll be prompted to enter your email. Craigslist will then send you an email. This email will be sent immediately, so if you don’t see it in your inbox, be sure to check your spam filter and trash to see if it went there.
In your email you’ll be prompted to click on a link in order to verify your account. This link will take you to a screen where you’ll be asked to create a password for your account. Once you have submitted your password, your account has been created!
Now, if you try to go to your account settings page, you’ll be prompted to read and accept the Craigslist user agreement, and then you should be able to use your account to now post an advertisement for your business.
Posting An Advertisement on Craigslist
In order to create an advertisement, you’ll need to return to the main craigslist city page where you started before creating your account. There, you’ll need to click on “post to classifieds” in the upper right hand corner.
Craigslist will ask what type of posting/advertisement you’re wanting to add and you can select from the list. For contractors and local businesses, you’ll want to select “service offered” from the many options.
From there, you’ll need to choose a category under which your listing will be placed. You may want to search through some of the current listings under these categories to determine where you think your business may fit best. However, most contractors would fit under one of the following categories:
- Farm & Garden Services (landscaping, tree removal, etc)
- Household Services (Handyman, Pool Maintenance, Carpet Cleaning, etc)
- Skilled Trade Services (Many contractors could fit here)
- Small Biz Ads (Another category where many contractors could fit)
Once the category is selected, Craigslist will present you with a screen to put together the content for your advertisement. This is where the real magic happens! By far the most important part of the process and where many contractors make big mistakes.
Writing The Ideal Craiglist Advertisment
The content of your Craiglist posting is definitely the most important thing to get right. Just sitting down, writing down some quick facts, and spitting it out on Craigslist isn’t going to get you the results you want. The good news? Most contractors don’t know what they’re doing and most of their advertisements are poorly put together and don’t look very professional.
It’s difficult to write general recommendations that are going to work for every contractor, since a lot will depend on your industry, competition, area, etc. The best thing to do is to test multiple different versions of a posting until you can see which postings get the best response.
However, regardless of the variables, here are the most important steps I’m going to teach you to make your Craigslist posting really rock:
- Write an awesome title
- Write great content
- Include great photos
Yep, that’s it! Doesn’t sound too hard now does it?
Now let’s dive into each section and discuss the details about what cane make your Craigslist advertisement great:
Step 1: Write An Awesome Title
What makes an awesome title? Well, let’s start by taking a look at some titles I came across and spot the ones that AREN’T that great.
You can see a lot of my comments above about what I thought about these different titles, and I’m not too impressed. Seriously though, if you go to Craigslist and look for contractor services, most of the posts will look somewhat similar.
I personally don’t like it when people use ALL CAPS and that is a turn off for me, but something like that would be worth testing to see whether you get a better response with ALL CAPS or not. I’d recommend avoiding them, but you’re free to test it out.
You also don’t need to worry about mentioning your brand name in your title. The entire purpose of the title is to get people to click on your advertisement. Once they’ve clicked on your advertisement, then you can sell them on your company and how great you are.
A great title is going to:
- Use correct grammar, spelling, capitalization, & punctuation
- Tell what services you offer
- Tell us something that sets you apart(or make a special offer)
Using my criteria, the best title above is the one that states “Economy Roofing & Sealcoating Top Rated We Beat Any Estimate”. That’s not bad, although it could be improved. The main issue I have with that is they don’t separate the different elements in their title.
An improvement would be something like “Economy Roofing & Sealcoating – Our Top Rated Service Beats Any Estimate”.
Your offer or what sets you apart may not be price, and that’s totally fine. You don’t need to compete on price. However, you do need to communicate in your title what makes you unique or what you have to offer.
Step 2: Write Great Content
Once a potential client has landed on your advertisement, you’ve got to write excellent content that gets them to call you. How do you do that? Well, before we go any further, let’s look at some bad examples.
Can you guess what the problem is with this post? Yeah, no content. I know absolutely nothing about this company. Why would I call them?
This one starts out stating his experience, which is great! However, there are spelling errors, and he admits that he is just starting his business and maybe I’ll be his first client? YIKES!
The principles to writing good content are very similar to the principles of writing a good title.
- Use correct grammar, spelling, capitalization, & punctuation
- Tell what services you offer and about your experience
- Tell us what sets you apart and/or make a special offer
The main difference is in how much you’re going to say about your business. You’re going to want to give them as much information as you can, but be easy to read.
A great formula to follow is a very brief introductory paragraph highlighting your experience and what is great about your company. Then, follow with a bullet point list of different services offered or all the services that are included in each engagement. Follow that up at the bottom with all the pertinent contact information and any compelling offers for contact.
The last thing you’ll want to add to your post is a list of keywords that people might be searching for if looking for your service. If you haven’t done any keyword research yet, you’ll want to check out the article I wrote about how to do keyword research.
It’s great to include these words throughout your posting, but some words just won’t fit in naturally. Rather than trying to stuff them in there, I just put a paragraph at the very end, where I write: Keywords: roofing contractors, roofing companies, etc.
This will ensure that if people are searching for any of those words, they’ll find your post
Step 3: Include Great Photos
Most people don’t bother to even click on an ad without photos. Although you aren’t selling a tangible item, you’ll still want to upload photos to make your listing stand out.
The important thing here is that your photos are the highest quality you can get. You’re a business, and people are most likely to reach out to the businesses that look the most professional. Posting photos with random people, or where it isn’t obvious what the photo is of just aren’t going to help.
Ideally, you’ll post photos of actual work that you’ve accomplished, and the photos will make your work look amazing. If you don’t have a good camera, or just don’t trust yourself to take good photos, then hire someone to do it for you.
You’ll always want good photos, no matter where you decide to market yourself, and great photos will lead to great leads.
Submitting Your Craigslist Posting
After you’ve filled in all of the information and submitted it to Craigslist, they may send you an email to confirm the posting. You’ll want to be sure and click on that email for the posting to go live.
Also, once you’ve submitted the content, it will take you directly to a screen where you have the option of publishing the draft. The process won’t automatically request that you add photos, so you’ll need to click on “edit photos” in order to add your photos for the posting.
Now that your posting has been submitted, you can wait and see if you get a response. Craigslist doesn’t allow you to enter the same message in the same category within 48 hours. However, you may try posting in other categories that also fit, or write a few different postings and test them out to see what gets the best response.
It may take a bit of practice, and trial and error, but Craigslist truly is a great way to generate leads. I’ve had so many experiences from Craigslist, which have included: gaining paying clients, making great friends, finding jobs, finding my wedding photographer, among many more.
Just because craigslist is a free way to generate leads, doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. Rather, if done properly, Craigslist can be a great resource and generate some great, high-quality leads for your business.