Real estate investors would benefit from using multiple techniques to get motivated sellers. We have talked about this in the past, particularly in regards to employing a systematic and diverse marketing strategy as opposed to one that rests on a single marketing channel to find leads.
Sooner or later, the topic of Craigslist ads will pop up when you discuss diversifying your REI marketing. Opinions vary – some consider it to be an effective marketing tool, while others think of it as a waste of time. One thing is for sure, though: motivated sellers search Craigslist ads when they are in a pickle. But how do you get them to click on your ad? And if you want to tap into this resource for getting new REI leads, are you willing to do the work necessary to obtain them?
Join us as we examine the value of Craigslist ads within the marketing plan of real estate investors.
Let’s start by pointing out the good and the not-so-good of using Craigslist as a real estate entrepreneur.
Ads on Craigslist are free. Costs are always a concern when REIs put together their marketing plan. Well, placing an ad on Craigslist won’t cost you a dime, except maybe the time you’ll spend to create, manage, and track the campaign.
Craigslist is easy to use. The process of posting ads on the platform is very simple – the learning curve is practically non-existent for anyone who is computer literate. No flashy buttons and no fancy lingo.
It’s a purpose-driven platform. Users go to Craigslist to solve an issue, so the business there is straight-to-the-point. This will help you save on time. Not to mention that you’ll be relieved from the need to filter distractions which are typical for REI campaigns on social media.
There are less constraints on the ads. You can try things that aren’t allowed on other channels. Techniques (and content) that would activate a spam alert in your email campaign might fly under the radar on Craigslist. And the burden of ad costs is lifted so you can test new methods, something you can’t do on social networks because it will drain your budget.
Your ad viewers aren’t filtered. Meaning, some callers may simply waste your time. This is less likely to happen when the leads are qualified, as they would be on a social network like Facebook or LinkedIn.
You need to use your own CRM system to process the leads. Craigslist will offer you a dashboard when you open an account, but this will only allow you a handful of basic functions (eg. active/inactive ads, drafts, and searches). If you are used to tracking engagement through an elaborate marketing platform – you won’t get that here. You either process leads manually or you divert them to your website.
Craigslist ad categories are a minefield. People post and search ads under many different categories, and you might not be sure where to post. Which one do you choose: Real estate broker, Real estate services, or Housing wanted?
Trust has to be earned right away. It’s hard for motivated sellers to trust you based on a Craigslist ad. Your website or your social media account gives your business a lot of credibility, but here, no one can guarantee that you are who you present yourself as. So, you’ll need to find ways to build trust fast.
Posting an ad on Craigslist involves a whole process, so let’s give you some tips for each stage.
If you’re not on Craigslist already, it is very easy to open an account, although some real estate entrepreneurs report that you might have difficulty selecting the appropriate category for your ad. One option is to go to the Craigslist section for your real estate market (ZIP area) and choose “post to classifieds” then “housing wanted” and “real estate wanted”. You can try to file your ad under an alternative category, but that’s recommended once you get the hang of the platform.
It’s natural to look for advice from someone who’s been in the REI industry for years. In fact, Craigslist ad templates for real estate are available for free online. They go along the following lines:
Are You Having A Hard Time Selling Your House?
We buy houses in cash regardless of size and condition. We are the best real estate buyers in (your real estate market) and we can buy your house within a week!
Call (number) to talk to (agent)
Visit our website (website)
It’s your typical Craigslist ad for motivated sellers. You can check how successful it is on your own. Do note though, that if you have the template, it means that everybody else has it. So if you want to create an ad that inspires leads to call you, then you might need to try a bit harder.
One of the first things that viewers notice is the headline of the ad. So you have to use a title that attracts people’s attention. If you handled any of your real estate investing marketing campaigns before, then you are already ahead of other unprofessional ads that can be found on Craigslist. Choosing a good title is similar to optimizing an email preview text so that your message stands out in the recipient’s inbox when you do email marketing. It’s very much like the way you carefully compose the part of a letter or a postcard that can be seen through the window envelope in a direct marketing campaign.
There are some differences, too. You can be more creative to instill a sense of urgency without being punished for spamming. Craigslist does have user guidelines, but the rules aren’t as strict as those with email marketing servers, for instance. So use emojis, symbols, excessive punctuation – throw the whole kitchen sink at it. The dollar sign ($) is said to generate a lot of leads.
Most Craigslist ads are to-the-point, and this applies to real estate ads as well. You might think of your ad as the digital equivalent of offering your business card to someone on the street. This means that you give your pitch as fast as possible and you follow that with “contact us via phone, text, or email”. While the logic behind this approach is legitimate, when you test it in the real world, you’ll soon find out that there are better ways to include a call to action to a Craigslist ad for motivated sellers.
The more times you repeat the call to action, the better the results of your Craigslist campaign will be. It’s not your follow-up procedure, and it’s not your social media hook, so feel free to add the contact details at least three times. And, of course, make sure you give the same call to action multiple times as opposed to overwhelming the ad viewer with different calls to action to a point where they don’t know what’s expected of them.
A lot of the data on Craigslist is conveyed visually. The platform allows you to use only 8 pictures per post, so make the most of it. Treat Craigslist as you would any of your other REI marketing channels and upload high quality photos, because the ad viewers may base their decision to call you (or not) on the impression they get from these photos.
What’s more, take into account the fact that different ad viewers would like to see different kinds of photos in the ad. House flippers would probably want to see the damage and distress of a property. Buyers would want to see the valuable aspects of a property (location, amenities, state of the property). And motivated sellers would definitely not like to see staged photos. This becomes tricky if you do more than one type of REI deal. So you can prepare different visual portfolios of your REI business and present them accordingly.
Also, if you are selling a house, use everything that Craigslist offers you to show the property – adding a map to the ad is one of those little details.
Craigslist favors new ads (on a first come, first served basis), so if you don’t take regular action, your ad will soon sink into oblivion. This is probably the most important aspect of getting motivated seller leads from Craigslist ads, so REIs have developed many techniques to increase the exposure of their old ads. The most simple way to do this is to repost and renew your ads. But given the Craigslist rules on reposting ads, you might need to use multiple email addresses to keep your message in front of people.
You can create a schedule and base your ad reposting on it, however, you’ll have to manage it manually. Using spreadsheets is one way to do it. Beware not to overdo it, though, because Craiglist can ghost (or hide from view) your ads if you seem to be spamming others.
Speaking of scheduling, the common wisdom on timing Craigslist ad posts is to publish your ad when people are taking a break from work ([12:00] – [13:00] or [17:00] – [19:00]). Also, some REIs report success with ads posted on Mondays (right after the weekend), but there is no data to support any of this.
You’ll want to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn’t offer tools for tracking the performance of your ad – not in the way real estate investors are accustomed to with campaigns on other marketing platforms. For the time being, this is to be done manually.
One of the easiest elements to test are the headlines. You can use literally the same ad content, but post it using different titles and see which one gets a response. This is one of the greatest advantages of Craigslist campaigns being free – they’re the ultimate test ground.
The only reason you are posting a Craigslist ad is to get motivated sellers to contact you, right? Well, it’s common sense, but with everything else that is going on in the REI schedule, it’s easy to forget that you’re running a free marketing campaign. So, once someone does contact you, ensure you process them properly in your funnel. This applies to anyone, regardless of whether you hire a call center, get someone in the office to pick up the phone, or are a one-person show yourself – respond to the calls.
And even if the conversation is underwhelming to say the least, make sure you follow up after the call, because skipping this step is where a lot of deals are lost.
If you’ve done other campaigns as a real estate investor, you already know that each network has its rules. We have prepared a short list of potential avenues to explore to get ahead from the competition on Craigslist.
While the results of Craigslist ad campaigns have traditionally brought mixed results to real estate investors, there really aren’t any big arguments against trying it. We all know that every bit of help in getting motivated sellers is appreciated, especially when the only thing an REI invests in the process is their time and very little money. You can even use Craigslist to test out a new approach.
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