Craigslist is a powerful marketing tool with approximately 50 billion page views per month. That is a lot of eyeballs! The best news about this exciting platform is that it is, for the most part, free to use. Personal trainers and gym owners who are excited to spread the word about their products and services can post ads for free through this site.

Get To Know The Craigslist Platform

You may have browsed Craigslist before, or even purchased something from it. But how well do you know the platform? Get to know Craigslist intimately so that you can use it to your full advantage.

Start by going to the home page, Notice that the craigslist platform is international. That could be great if you offer online personal training resources, such as courses or Skype training sessions.

Find the state that you live in, and click on it. From there, zero in on your region. Then start to search for items that are relevant to your field of work. Act as though you are a client, searching for a service similar to your own. Browse around for group exercise classes and personal trainers.

The posts that you see will likely be your competition. Discover the number of organizations or individuals who are offering a service similar to yours. Be aware of what makes you want to click on a post to learn more, as you browse through the offerings.

You could even text message a number or send an email to a seller to see how that service-provider responds. What did you like about their response? Was it timely? Off-putting in any way? Take notes about what you find.

Understand The Craigslist Business Model

Since posting an advertisement that offers your fitness-based services is free, you might be wondering, “How does Craigslist make money?”. The answer is that select Craigslist ad types carry a fee. For example, real-estate brokerage firms in NYC are automatically charged $10 for each post.

Here is a complete list of categories of ads which are not free to post:

  • Job postings
  • Real estate brokerage facilitated rental opportunities in NYC and surrounding area
  • “By-dealer” categories (various, including furniture, and cars/trucks)
  • Therapeutic services

By charging for some types of ads, Craigslist can collect income. When you understand this business model, you know more about how to advertise on craigslist. If you want to advertise for free, you will need to differentiate your services from those of a physical therapist.

Create Your Unique Strategy

You are now ready to create your first post. Before typing up your offering, you need to first build a foundation. Think about what you hope to get from the advertisement. Is it new clients? Do you want to create awareness about your new location, or a new program you are offering at your gym?

Decide on a clear and specific goal that you wish to pursue. Keep this purpose in mind as you think about your target audience and your stand-out features. Your goal can also guide you towards making wise and strategic marketer moves.

Identify Your Target Audience

Let’s say, for example, that the goal of your craigslist posting is to build awareness in your local community about your new gym. You offer a boot camp program that meets every morning at 6 am, and you believe that if people started to participate and become excited about it, word of mouth would lead to more future sales. Profit isn’t your motive — awareness is.

In this example of bringing awareness to a boot camp program, you might identify a target audience of busy, professional young adults, who want to squeeze in a high-intensity workout before heading to their 9 to 5.

When you define your goal, it is much easier to come up with a target audience. If you didn’t set a specific purpose and thought that you just wanted to “advertise the gym,” you might fail to come up with a useful target audience.

Think About What Makes You And Your Service Stand Out

What makes your services stand out?  Do you specialize in helping beginners who have never worked out in their lives get off of the couch and get moving? Is your focus on elite athletes, or on weight loss?

Find the aspect of your business that sets you apart, and then consolidate it into one short phrase, or even a single word. You might be a “joyful” personal trainer or a “motivating” trainer. You may own a “high intensity” gym, or a gym with a “friendly, outgoing community atmosphere.”

Make this differentiator sound enticing. However, don’t exaggerate your capabilities.Your potential customers, even if they get sucked in initially, will see through the facade quickly. Be honest about what you have to offer to attract the right clients.

Make Ninja Marketer Moves

Beginning marketers think about one-time sales. Expert marketers think regarding relationships. If you are serious about growing your business, you already know how critical loyal customers are. It may take some time to develop those loyal-to-the-core client relationships.

Craigslist is likely just going to be a starting point, where you recruit “cold” customers, who have never heard of you, and turn them into “warm” or “hot” customers who enjoy your services and hopefully recommend you to others.

View Craigslist as a great way to bring people to your business, and not necessarily as paying customers. You might want to start out by hosting an evening talk at the local library about nutrition. You could start up a free running group that meets once a week. Hidden within those free offers is a super-stealthy ninja marketing move: you are turning cold relationships into warm or hot ones.

In our example of the gym with the boot camp program,  a wise step would be to create a Craigslist ad that offers a week of free boot camp classes at your gym. Create your ad so that the client needs to go to your gym’s website to claim the offer.

How To Advertise On Craigslist Like A Pro

Once you research the competition and create a smart strategy, you are ready to sit down at the computer and start composing your ad. Visit the Craigslist home page, and click on “US” or your specific country. Next, scroll down until you find your state, and then click on your region.

You will then find yourself on a region-specific classifieds page, for example “Portland Craigslist”, or “SanDiego Craigslist”. You must create ads that are region specific, so if your strategy includes targeting several regions, you’ll have to create several ads.

Choose A Type And Category

Once you are on a page that is region-specific, click on the button in the upper left-hand corner of the page which says “post to classifieds.” You will be prompted to choose a “type” of posting. Most likely, you will be listing a “service,” “event/class” or “community” type of post. A great way to dial in your posting categories is to look at your competitors and check out the categories which they chose.

You will then be prompted to choose the “category” of your post. Look through the offerings and chose the most relevant one. In our example of the week of free boot camp classes, the ad would be a “community” type of ad, and the category would be “group.”

Create Ad Copy

The next step is to create the actual wording of your ad. Your title must be attention-grabbing to your specific target audience. Take out your notes and remind yourself what made you look into individual ads as you were doing your research. Also refresh yourself as to what key phrases make your business stand out, and who your target audience is.

Combine all three aspects into an attention-grabbing ad. In our example, a potential headline would be “Want to up-level your fitness before the work day starts? Try our boot camp class for FREE”.

Your headline gets the client to click on your ad, and once they are in you have to keep their attention. Use short blocks of text. Your wording should be professional but not overly stuffy. Use human sounding language. Bullet lists are great. Make your offer very clear. List all of the relevant details. You should also include a link so that an excited potential client can find out more about your service instantly.

Craigslist is a robust platform for many active users. Take advantage of this resource to the fullest by crafting an ad that works. Create a clear goal for your ad, and then think up a strategy. Identify your target audience, and then use your ad copy to speak directly to them.

Have fun with it! Since Craigslist is free, it is a great place to find out what does and doesn’t work. You’ll know when a post works because you will be receiving messages and calls from interested clients! Hopefully this post has shown you exactly how to advertise on Craigslist to grow your business.

Image Source: Ann Cloudman/flickr

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