3:31 PM

How To Leverage Craigslist

Posted by Anthony

In January of 2007 I gave myself a challenge. I decided that I was going to take everything I had been learning about detailing for the past ten years and really put it to the test. So I sold my car in January and committed to detailing enough that year that I would be able to buy another car before the end of the year. I put $8000 from the sale of my car in the bank and started working. Well, I had to wait for it to stop snowing first, but as soon as spring arrived I started working my butt off.

I figured I would need more than just my regulars and and their few referrals, so I decided it was time to branch out and start using some other techniques. So I dusted off a couple things I had tried in the past and really put them to work. The most effective technique I used is what I'm posting about now.

Most of you are probably familiar with the internet's awesome yard sale known as Craigslist. There really isn't anything to compare it to other than the classifieds in your local paper. You can advertise jobs, services, stuff, and just about anything else you can think of. The best thing about Craigslist is that you can create your ads in html and really make them stand out. Take a look at your local Craigslist site and see what othe detailers are advertising. Chances are that they look like this:

That is what the average detailing service post on my local Craigslist looks like anyway, and clearly they look like that in Atlanta too. My guess is it doesn't look much different wherever you go.

So while that guy may or may not get many hits, that type of post shows some very important facts:

1. He isn’t professional enough to have a website he can post.
2. He is not professional enough to have proof of his skill in the form of before /after pictures.
3. He doesn’t have to give a full list of his services, but you definitely want to post more than he did.
4. If you are going to post such scant details, then at least don’t capitalize every other word. It makes you look like a teenager. I’m surprised he didn’t use texting lingo in the posting too.
5. The word ‘We’ is mentioned, but I get the impression that there is no ‘We’ in his operation. Be honest and never imply that you are more than you are.
6. There isn’t even a name for his business listed. How legitimate can you be if you haven’t even got a name yet?

The list could go on for everything that is wrong with that particular posting. I'm not going to say that I do everything right or that I am a marketing genius or anything, but I definitely can suggest some ways to do it a little bit better than that.

Here is what one of my craigslist ads would look like.

That says quite a bit about the business. Look at the things we have corrected on the short list of errors the other ad has.

1. There is a website URL posted for you to get more information.
2. Behold the before/after pictures.
3. More details about the services are listed and even more in the URL.
4. I'm pretty sure my posting is fairly grammatically correct.
5. I'm not implying there are any other employees other than myself that you will be dealing with.
6. Name? Check!

That isn't all that this ad does. It is designed much better than just plain text. Because Craigslist allows you to use HTML you can do quite a bit. I used a very simple template that required little effort to modify for my purpose. All of the images are hosted on Photobucket for free. You can check out the album if you want to grab the graphics and use the same templates if you want.

In addition to being a better looking ad, there is another thing that designing your Craigslist postings like this can do for you. Do you see the navigation at the top? That Oxidation - Swirls - Engines - Interiors - Contact Us aren't just graphics. They are true navigation buttons. What do they navigate to you might ask? OTHER CRAIGSLIST ADS. Lemme 'splain.

Craigslist is ridiculously search engine optimized. When I have my ads running and you go to google to search for Salt Lake City Detailers, you find my ads. So there is definite benefit to having as much search engine food in Craigslist as possible. So what I do is post on other area Craigslists different pages of my "Craigslist Site". In Salt Lake I’ll post one page and in the Ogden one I’ll post another page. In Provo I’ll post another one. I’ll use as many of the regional Craigslist pages and beyond until I’ve got everything up there. The reason for this is because if I posted all five pages in the Salt Lake Craigslist then they’d get deleted as being duplicates and all my work is ruined. It doesn’t really matter where they are posted since you are going to link them all together anyway.

Once you have your five ads posted, you’ll need to go back to each one and update the navigation buttons with the corresponding Craigslist ad. Without an HTML editor like Dreamweaver I suppose that could be kind of a pain, but it really isn’t too tricky. It is absolutely worth the effort. What you are left with is a network of Craigslist ads which are essentially your own little website. Click Here to see what it looks like all linked together. I haven’t posted this on Craigslist for two very important reasons.

1. Because it is not useful to link to things that will expire when you want the thread to be a resource for a long time to come.
2. Because it is winter right now and the last thing I want is a hundred phone calls of people wanting me to come out and detail their car in 20 degree weather.

I do want you to see how it all looks though, so definitely check it out. I haven’t protected the right click or anything, so feel free to take the source code and use it as your own. The images in the Photobucket album should help you out and I would recommend you build something similar. Separate the images into corresponding page named folders for easy sorting and go from there. Even if you don’t have a website, this can be your first one.

Craigslist isn’t the only site that you can do this on either. There are other places that you can go to. Here are some other tools that will come in handy as you search for other ways to leverage free websites to grow your client base:

Craigslist Ad Maker, Craigslist Ad Creator, Craigslist Ad Generator
Custom Classified Ads | Listing Doctor | Custom Craigslist
Slozzle is a FREE Craiglist Ad Maker!
Post Classified Ads | Targeted Online Ads
postlets | home
vFlyer - Redirect

I hope this guide was useful. Beware the power of using the information in this article. If you post an ad like this, you had better be prepared to receive the volume. Some of my largest clients came from my Craigslist ads.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you the end of the story. So in 2007 I sold my car in January and committed to detail my heart out until I could buy a new one with my detailing profits. I bought a motorcycle in February to use to go back and forth to work and my wife and I shared the Pilot for everything else. I put $8000 in the bank from the sale of my car and in September I paid $15,000 cash for the car I drive now. Other than the $8000 from the car I sold, the other $7000 was generated through detailing. That may not be a lot, but I also have a family and a full time job as well as another business that I run to keep on top of, so I'd say $7000 profit after taxes and expenses is pretty darn good for realistically six months of detailing season in Utah. The detailing season wasn’t even over yet and I generated additional revenue in October during my Fall Detailing Blitz. That was also due to a brief (only two weeks prior) of advertising for that on Craigslist and with an email blast to the customers I detailed for earlier that year.

As a result of the new clients earned in 2007 I still haven’t had to post anything on Craigslist to keep the business going. Granted in 2009 I slowed down a ton because of another business I started, but I didn’t have to advertise at all in 2008 or 2009 to keep the cars coming in. It all comes from some well made Craigslist ads that were head and shoulders above the competition. Even the ones who throw in pictures of their work will not look as impressive as your site will with a little proper design work. Good luck! Post your results!


One resource I forgot to mention is where you can find templates. I like freetemplatesonline.com for that. There are a a million different templates that are easy to modify. The key to this strategy is the text in your ad. If you don't have words for Google to see, then you won't get the search hits. Just uploading pictures won't do you any good at all. It might make you stand out from others who just put text up, but someone who uploads a big image of their services is just like someone who just uploads text. It is a good idea, but poorly executed. Find a good template that you can edit and you'll get much better results.