"The single most effective marketing I’m doing to generate business in today’s market is using direct response marketing on craigslist.”
— Chris Cassidy
To understand exactly how Rainmakers maximize their marketing using craigslist, RealEstateRainmaker.com turned to top agent Chris Cassidy with RE/MAX Encore in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Chris uses free ads on craigslist to drive traffic to his two websites – one branded website at www.ChrisCassidyRealEstate.com and one unbranded website at www.GetFreeRealEstateReports.com . Here is Chris’ highly effective – and very profitable – craigslist marketing strategy.
Lead-Capture Website is Foundation of Campaign
Chris said, “The key to my craigslist campaign is to have a good lead capture website. My InfinityAgent sites have built-in drip campaigns and lead tracking, and a really robust back office. They automatically populate my leads into Top Producer 8i, and I am working much harder now at lead follow-up (and continually overcoming call reluctance).”
Chris uses a library of 25-30 forwarding domains to land on various pages in these two sites. Different landing pages appeal to different prospects – and feature different calls to action and USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) or offers. By using different domains – some pointed to the same page, some to different pages – Chris tests and tracks his success. Here are some forwarding URL examples:
- www.GuaranteedHomeSaleOnline.com (goes to branded site; guaranteed sale)
- www.Save10KGuaranteed.com (Chris’ branded buyer USP)
- www.Free-MLS-Access.com (unbranded; IDX signup)
- www.FreeMassachusettsHomeSearch.com (goes to the same page as domain above, useful to use for tracking ad copy and results)
- www.CMA-For-Free.com (unbranded; over-the-net home evaluation offer)
- www.MassachusettsHomePrices.com (same page as above)
- www.MassachusettsHomeSalesInfo.com (yet another that goes to same page)
- www.MABuyerAgency.com (unbranded site; goes to the buyer reports page)
- www.MassBuyerAgency.com (same landing page as above)
How to Use Craigslist to Drive Traffic
To drive traffic to these lead-capture landing pages, Chris uses two sections in craigslist: “real estate for sale” and “real estate services.” “I do the standard ‘over the net home evaluation’ ads for sellers, and a bunch of variations on the ‘free MLS search’ ads for buyers,” Chris said.
· Housing > Real Estate For Sale: Every property ad on craigslist links back to the property on Chris’ website (“CLICK HERE For More Information”) – where prospects can request free reports and other offers. He also embeds calls-to-action in every ad that link to landing pages to capture the leads. One headline that is especially effective is "I’ll save you AT LEAST $10,000 on ANY home you buy." Here’s a property ad example:
· Services > Real Estate: In this section Chris rotates a collection of service ads. Chris uses established accounts that allow him to repost the ads with a couple clicks from his account page without re-writing them from scratch. “ I am constantly tweaking things. Right now I have two different craigslist accounts, one each for my branded and unbranded ads (and corresponding branded and unbranded follow-up emails). With service ads, you are limited to three ads per day per email account. I am debating creating two more accounts for each (branded and unbranded), so that I could post ads morning, afternoon, and evening, in rotation.” Here are service ad examples (one is graphic, two are text only):
How to Avoid craigslist Clutter
As all craigslist visitors know, craigslist ads are posted chronologically, newest on top. Thus old ads soon “drop off” the first page as more ads arrive. We asked Chris what text or offer works best – or is the biggest bust – to beat the craigslist clutter? Headline keywords? Location? Text vs HTML (graphics)? “I find any ad offering property searches pulls decent click-throughs,” Chris said. “I recently started changing all the headlines to provide variations of “Homes For Sale, From $3,500 Down” ($3,500 being based on a 3.5% FHA down payment and a $100K sale price, which is the very bottom end in my area). I am still testing text ads vs graphic ads, so I can’t answer which pulls better. I only started the graphic ads a couple of weeks ago, and I am in the process of adding more.”
Tracking is Critical to Know What Works
How does Chris track multiple variations of an ad if he only has 2-3 domains? “I have a very precise and robust capability to do tracking with my sites. I can add a tracking code to each domain. If I direct leads to www.FreeMassachusettsHomeSearch.com , I track the simple direct domain in one ad. In another ad I add a tracking code into the link that is hidden from the person seeing the link (although hovering the mouse over it would show it in the bottom of the browser).” Using this tracking system Chris can run unlimited ads linked to the same domain, yet track results for each one individually…and learn what works for different style ads, different ad copy. Also he can place the same ad in multiple locations, for example on BackPage (substituting “BackPage” for “craigslist” in the tracking code). Chris offered this example, where he uses a coded link from two different ads (“text” and “graphic” service ads, see above) to the same landing page:
- Coded link example of text ad: www.FreeMassachusettsHomeSearch.com?loca=craigslist&phra=FreeMassachusettsHomeSearch_Text
- Coded link example of graphic ad: www.FreeMassachusettsHomeSearch.com?loca=craigslist&phra=FreeMassachusettsHomeSearch_Graphic
$35,000 Question: How successful is this craigslist campaign?
“To give an example, I have a $420K listing right now that I got because of an ‘over-the-net home evaluation’ ad. When that sells, the couple will be buying a $1 million home with me. The two deals combined will be worth somewhere between $30,000-$35,000 in commissions for me. I also have a $245K listing right now that I got because I sold their brother-in-law’s townhouse two years ago — after he found me on craigslist through a similar ad. I made $5,000 on that sale. Eventually I got another referral from that client that led to a second listing. And this is all from FREE advertising/marketing — and it doesn’t count dozens of buyer leads that have been generated as well .”
Thanks for sharing, Chris! We welcome your comments and experiences using craigslist. Join the conversation with your comment.
Back Story: 14 Years in Both the Penthouse and the Outhouse
“I have been a full-time agent since 1995, and with RE/MAX since 1997. I have attended several “marketing guru” conferences and coaching and grad programs. I really embraced the direct response concepts, but to be 100% honest, I got to a point where I spent WAY too much money. I got sloppy. I practically ignored the ‘prospecting’ and ‘sales’ part of the business by not following up at all with the vast majority of the leads I generated. I can only imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars I left on the table. As a result I came very close to being out of business when the market turned in 2006-2007.
“Bottom line, when things get tough, you need to get back to basics. I have both of the Real Estate Rainmaker books (and more importantly, I have read them, and refer to them often). I also picked up Dirk Zeller’s book The Champion Real Estate Agent when it came out a couple of years ago, and I refer to it several times a week, to this day.
“I am happy to tell you that – after re-focusing and working to create a more balanced business for myself – that it is bearing fruit. After bottoming out just a couple of years ago at the $1-$2 million mark (and that’s sales volume, not GCI), I am on track right now to do at least $5-$6 million in volume in 2009, and Lord willing, perhaps much more than that, given the number of buyers I am working with right now as well as my listing inventory.
“Thank you again for your interest in what I am doing. And thank you for the two books you wrote. They have impacted my business tremendously as well.”
Christopher J Cassidy
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