Craigslist, Backpage, Oodle, Recycler, Kijiji, Marketplace – they can be very useful for effectively marketing your services with free advertising. They’re effective marketing for professionals in any industry, when used properly. Even social bookmarking sites have their place in internet marketing. Not to be forgotten are local bulletin boards, which can be found in many stores and places of business in your local area. However, where free advertising can be found, scammers and spammers abound, so there is a need for caution. How can you make the most of your advertisements and catch the eye of serious potential clients while minimizing the possibility of attracting undesirable responses?
A simple Google search for ‘free advertising’, ‘free ads’, ‘free classifieds’, or ‘Craigslist alternatives’ will bring up a wealth of links leading to every free advertising service that has any realistic worth on the web, as well as a few others that are mostly unknown or are just recently making themselves known. I won’t go into the details of each, as some focus only on the UK, Canada, the United States, or other specific countries.
The list of free services is exhaustive, but if you have time on your hands, it would be well worth it checking each one out and posting an ad with it. If you want to be effective in your usage of these services, however, some guidelines are in order, as well as some cautionary warnings. The guidelines below apply to nearly all services, with the exception of certain service-specific features.
1. General Format and Wording
Keep your title short, sweet, and succinct. If you can’t decide what to use as a title, try the multiple choice field test. Write down your top choices, and run them past a few general computer users, whether they be friends, family, or associates, and see which ad they would probably click first.
Most ad cruisers don’t want to read an essay on your services, so keep it short and to the point. In this case, ‘less is more’, as they’re not likely to stick around to read the story of your business life. Discernment is necessary here, and there’s a balance between listing every possible scenario you provide service for, and simply calling your service ‘computer repair’, if that’s your category of service.
If you’ve used Craigslist at all, you’ve probably heard horror stories about shady Craigslist ads and the individuals behind them. Is your business known for integrity and a good work ethic? Are there any other good qualities that make your business stand out from the others?
It’s general good sense in advertising to include such quality descriptions in your ad, especially if you’re trying to set yourself apart from the untrustworthy competition. Whether or not those words have any weight with viewers, as words are only words, is a matter of debate, but it can’t hurt to mention it.
2. General Etiquette
Respect general internet etiquette. Resist the impulse to put any portion of your ad in all capital letters so that it might ‘stand out more’. It’s the equivalent of a street salesman leaning into your car window, shouting into your face. As you can imagine, that technique ‘stands out’, but not in the way you would like.
It seems to be very popular among younger generations now to use odd and obscure symbols in addition to or simply to represent letters of the alphabet in names and formatted text. Avoid using this practice in your ad, as it will confuse most viewers, especially those searching for help with their computer, and they won’t even bother trying to read it.
3. Photos and Images
If you want someone to view your ad, post a photo or image relating to what you’re offering. It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and judging from its effect, nowhere is this more true than in advertising. Blank ads with no images are less likely to generate interest.
Do you have a snappy business logo? Perhaps a storefront that makes the competition green with envy? Are you offering specific computer systems in a special offer? Is there any specific icon that you have which is a perfect manifestation of what services you offer? Those could be good images for use in your ad posting, but remember to resize them to display properly in your advertisement.
4. Follow Posting Guidelines and Rules
Nothing is more likely to cut into your advertising like rebelling against posting policy with any advertising service. It’s important to keep this in mind especially on Craigslist, where it seems there are individuals ever on the watch for shady ads and shady posting practices. If you want to keep posting with that service, treat such inquiries with respect and sincere apologies if necessary. Remember, your reputation and the reputation of your business is at stake here, and while it may seem witty at the time, rash statements in forum posts may come back to bite you later.
Your ad may drop below the top of the page often with these services, as other ads come along. Set a reminder in your digital planner, calendar, or organizer to post your ad again with that service, ensuring that your ad is always available for viewing. Post as often as allowed by the service, but remember to follow the posting allowance for each service. Crossing the line may seem like a great way to get more exposure, but it’s also a good way to get your account with that service terminated, so it’s not really worth it in the long run.
In summary, free advertising is a great way to market your business or services, especially considering the audience available. Newspapers and local radio station ads have a limited range, and can be a bit more expensive for starting businesses, while services such as Craigslist target a much wider audience at minimal cost in time and resources. Used properly, it’s an extremely effective marketing tool.
Do you have a favorite free advertising service you would recommend to fellow technicians? Feel free to drop a comment below, and let us know your experience with those services.