If you have been marketing your local service business (e.g., contractor, painter, electrician, plumber, etc.) on platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Yelp, you might notice that it’s quite difficult to cut through the clutter and capture your prospects’ attention.
On the other hand, sites such as Craigslist and Nextdoor can be quite effective for reaching a local audience that’s actively looking for service providers.
The “marketplace” set up of Craigslist and the “neighborhood” environment of Nextdoor both offer a unique user experience of which you can take advantage by tailoring your ads to speak to the target market.
In this article, you’ll learn why you should consider using these two platforms and how to set up your ads to get the highest ROI.
Marketing Your Local Service Business on Craigslist
Craigslist is simple to use and free to post, making it a great platform for new businesses to get started.
Not to mention, the number of people using classified ads websites has been steadily increasing. In 2018, there are approximately 16.27 million Internet households with users who visited Craigslist within a one-month period.
You can target your ads based on each specific location to reach the right prospects with the right offers.
Here’s how you can maximize the effectiveness of your Craigslist ads:
Define Your Market
The first step is to define which regions you want to target. For example, if you service Orange County, CA, but you also work in nearby cities like Los Angeles or San Diego – you should be posting on Craigslist for all those cities.
You should create an individual marketing message for each city and set up a posting schedule so you can increase your exposure and reach as many prospects as possible in all the areas that you serve.
Follow the Rules
- Don’t post identical content – vary your ad copy and images every time you post.
- Don’t post back-to-back ads – the ideal interval depends on your market. In more active markets, you may wait an hour or two. In less active ones, you may post only once or twice a day.
- Don’t post the same ad within 48 hours and make sure to delete your old ad when you post a new one.
- Don’t use “spammy” words – Craigslist’s algorithm flags words that are frequently used by spammers (e.g., “free,” “credit card,” or “weight loss.”) Also, avoid using all caps.
- Don’t get too “fancy” – in an attempt to make their ads look “nice,” some advertisers use too many HTML tags or photos, which could trigger the site’s algorithm to flag the ad.
- Submit the ads manually and by yourself. Craigslist’s terms of service forbid advertisers to pay a third party to post ads or use any automatic posting mechanisms.
Create Effective Ads
Craigslist ads are easy to create as they’re mostly text ads. You can use a few HTML tags (e.g., bold, italic,) but that’s optional.
A direct approach that includes important keywords often works best since Craigslist search results are simply displayed first by date posted, then by keyword. In fact, the most effective ads tend to be simple text ads that get to the point.
Besides strong copy, incorporate a few images to help increase your ads’ effectiveness. For example, a couple of photos of your projects or your team can give prospects a better sense of your company and increase trust.
Last but not least, don’t forget to include a call-to-action. You can add a link to a landing page on your website (e.g., one about the specific service you’re advertising) or a phone number prospects can call.
Post At the Right Time
As mentioned before, ads on Craigslist are displayed first by the time posted and then by keywords.
Post a unique ad every day at a time that your target market would most likely be searching for your specific type of service. (E.g., commercial cleaners might consider posting between 7 to 10 am, so the ad is near the top in the morning, when people get into the office and find the current cleaning crew didn’t do a great job.)
Track Your Results
Since you’re posting an ad with unique content almost every day, you have a great opportunity to test different copy and see what works best for your market.
Unlike many other platforms, Craigslist doesn’t provide any demographic or tracking data so you’ll have to design a tracking mechanism that works for you.
When you post each ad, create a unique phone number, extension, email address, unique URL, or discount code you can use to identify the traffic source. There are also some Craigslist tracking services you can use for this purpose.
Marketing Your Local Service Business on Nextdoor
For many marketers focusing on the local aspects of online advertising, Nextdoor is definitely an up-and-coming website that’s not to be ignored.
The platform gets the “neighborhood” special sauce just right – over 75% of neighborhoods in the US are already on the platform and the user base is rapidly growing.
The “hyperlocal” and social aspect of the website creates a sense of instant trust among users. In addition, one in four of the conversations on this platform revolves around local business recommendations.
As more and more people are using Nextdoor to look for reputable service providers, it offers a great way for you to gain exposure to new prospects.
Here’s how you can effectively market your local service business on Nextdoor:
List Your Business and Complete Your Personal Profile
Claim your business page so users can easily find your business when they’re looking for recommendations. Fill out all the information, upload a high-quality photo or logo image, and select the relevant business categories. Then, follow the simple instructions to verify your business.
Next, add this business affiliation to your personal profile. Make sure to complete your personal profile with as much information as possible and use a recognizable profile photo to build trust.
Participate In Discussions
Using your personal profile, participate in conversations on the platform. Be helpful and friendly, just like you would interact with your neighbors in real life!
When you join discussions, people will notice the information on your profile and it can help spark conversations. Also, take this opportunity to network with other local business owners so you can refer clients to each other.
You can also respond to requests for recommendations. It’s acceptable to promote your business to neighbors who are seeking recommendations as long as you’re upfront about the affiliation.
The best way to increase your reach is to gather recommendations for your business page. Simply click on the “get recommendations” button and you’ll get a pre-written email, facebook post, and tweet that you can use to ask for recommendations.
As you accumulate more recommendations, more people will see your business page and your reach will increase.
Post a Classified Ad or Event
You can post a classified ad about your service or an event hosted or sponsored by your business in the respective sections.
Include relevant details, a call-to-action (e.g., call a number or visit a URL) and add some photos to your post. Just like posting on Craigslist, you can use a unique URL, phone number, extension, or email address to track the effectiveness of each post.
Never make unsolicited posts about your business on the newsfeed and always disclose the business affiliation when posting a recommendation, an ad, or an event.
Honesty and transparency are key when posting on Nextdoor. Interact with your neighbors in a genuine manner and you’ll be rewarded with more leads and recommendations.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For New Advertising Opportunities
Nextdoor is still new to the online advertising game and currently only offers a pilot advertising program for medium and large businesses.
Most of the advertisers are in the home improvement industry (e.g., Nest, Lowe’s) and the platform seems to be quite effective for promoting this type of products and services.
Many marketers are expecting Nextdoor to roll out a more robust advertising platform for small businesses soon.
Currently, businesses that want to advertise on the website are required to fill out a contact form. If you’re interested, it probably doesn’t hurt to fill out the form so when the opportunity becomes available, you’ll get notified.
Both Craigslist and Nextdoor are great platforms for reaching a local audience that is actively looking for service providers or recommendations.
However, these platforms are quite different in nature so you’ll have to adjust your approach and messaging to suit the “environment.”
While copy that’s direct, “to the point,” and rich with keywords tends to do well on Craigslist, Nextdoor users look for service providers that others recommend so cultivating trust and interacting with your prospects is critical to building traction.
No matter which platform you use, including a call-to-action that directs prospects to your website, is key to generating leads.