Craigslist as a Marketing Tool

I have to say, that our relationship with Craigslist used to be pretty good.  Now, it’s gone as stale as that loaf of bread my kids forgot to tie up after making a sandwich.  What happened?

When we started Freedom Cleaning in January of 2006, we were looking for ways to market on the cheap.  A discussion forum for people who owned cleaning businesses suggested using Craigslist.  I had never heard of it before, but was intrigued because it was, well, free.  We could go on the site for our area and post ads offering our cleaning services.  Did I mention it was free?  As far as we were concerned this was the greatest marketing tool ever invented for small business.  Free advertising.  And it wasn’t like Craigslist was a site that nobody was visiting.  It was getting lots of good press.  People were using Craigslist for everything from getting rid of old clothes and appliances, to hiring cleaning services.

In our first year of business nearly 80 percent of our leads came from this amazing source.  And then something happened.  Something dark and sinister.  As with all good things that are free, people (and I use the term lightly) began to use it for criminal purposes.  The bad press started rolling in.  In September of 2007, a Minneapolis woman pleaded guilty to running an underage prostitution ring via ads on Craigslist.  One month later, another Minneapolis woman was found dead in the trunk of her car after she had responded to what she thought was a job as a nanny.  In reality, she had been lured to a home in the south metro and was killed.  There were seven more high-profile incidents in 2008 and, of course the April 2009 case in Boston of Phillip Markoff.  Markoff was arrested and charged with the murder of a woman whose services were listed on Craigslist in Boston and Rhode Island.

Some day I will go into the type of morally deranged idiots who prey on others who are trusting.  Some day.  Maybe.  Whether it was these cases or something else, we began to notice a drop off of leads and calls.  A significant drop off.  Christmastime of 2008 was our last big push on Craigslist.  We posted every day, sometimes twice a day.  Not a single phone call and no significant uptick in site traffic from Craigslist.

A recent discussion on LinkedIn asked cleaning service owners if they used this service to market their business.  There were several that said yes.  Apparently it is still a practical tool in some parts of the country.  Perhaps we’ll give it another shot.

Do you use Craigslist to market your business or know someone who does?  Do you buy services or goods on Craigslist?  I am just curious, because I really liked the service.  Did I mention it was free??


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