Monday, July 7, 2008

Shopping and Advertising Small Businesses on Craigslist

A very smart, very professional, very successful woman I know recently told me that when she went to hire a lawn care service this spring, she went to Craigslist to find one. She contacted several advertisers, spoke with a few, and hired the guy(s) who made her feel most at ease.

Craigslist, as you may or may not know, is *THE* place to find whatever you need—be it a job, a girlfriend, a new house, or a babysitter. It’s also *THE* free place to advertise your services or products or anything else you have that other people might want.

Recent headlines in the newspaper remind us that it’s also *THE* place to find stolen goods being sold for cheap, prostitutes posing as bored co-eds, and a whole assortment of other arrangements that you may not even have known existed.

Some of the advertisements on Craigslist and discussions in the forums are shocking and graphic, so it should come as no surprise that some of the people who regularly use Craigslist to find or advertise services may not be…shall we say, top-tier individuals?

I advertise my copywriting services on Craigslist and it’s a choice I made with the understanding that there would be some risks involved (i.e., spammers, scammers, lower budget clients, portraying my business image as low-cost and therefore less professional).

As a new business, I simply wanted to see what I could get for free. Does it work? Yes.

I have found some fantastic clients through Craigslist and I’m confident that I can control my business image and communicate the quality of my work by the type of ads I write. That said, I’ve also received some unwelcome and/or strange e-mails, and had the occasional not-so-fantastic client—including the one who taught me the lesson that I really need to be paid up front for projects.

If you’re considering advertising on Craigslist, keep in mind the disadvantages and seek to maximize the advantages as fully as you can.

And if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur looking for services on Craigslist, be smart! Remember that you get what you pay for. Don’t take advertisers’ claims at face value. Ask for references and investigate potential service providers a little more than you might feel is necessary.

Last week, I saw a guy marketing to small businesses on Craigslist who said he had extensive experience in search engine optimization, web development and web design. In his ad, he listed 12 websites as examples of his work. I clicked on them. One of them had expired and wasn’t even active. Another was a local business specializing in custom paint and body work. Since the guy claimed to know SEO, I went to Google and searched for “Portland custom paint body work.” The website didn’t come up anywhere on the top three pages! And when the business’s name and URL includes the word “custom” and the tagline of the business is “custom paint and body work,” there’s no reason that site shouldn’t rank top page from a local search. Is this a guy I’d want to recommend to my clients? No way.

What are your Craigslist business experiences? Met a great designer or hired a fantastic employee from Craigslist? Do you use CL to get new business? Post your CL stories in comments.


Ron Sparks said...

Well when I switched to fulltime as a freelance web designer, I looked for work on cragislist. I found that both big and small agencies post jobs, and a lot of them. So I found it to be a great place to find work. So when my word of mouth efforts have slowed down it a great place to look around and there is new stuff every day or two which is great.

Tho, posting my services when I know things are going to slow down seems like a great idea, never really thought of it before but it makes a lot of sense, free marketing to the masses!

Evan Carmichael said...

Thanks for the suggestions! We launched a Selling to Small Business Blog to give companies strategies to sell to the hard to reach small business community and I was pleased to see your post! If you are interested in being a guest blogger on our blog to discuss selling to small businesses, just email me!

Keep up the great work!


peter said...

Advertising on Craigslist is worthwhile for just about any business offering products or services. Whether these products are offered through ecommerce websites or physical stores, the business owners can see financial gains through advertising on Craigslist. Firstly unlike other advertising opportunities there is very little risk involved in posting on Craigslist.

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