Why Craigslist is a sweet resource for some small businesses

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the haying crew I started. In it, I mentioned that I’d have to cover the topic of Craigslist in another post. Tada!

In my brainstorm (I’ll cover brainstorming in another post) on why Craigslist is so great, I came up with four key things that makes it the best in the world at what it does:

Zeroed-in searches: CL is an international farmer’s market with millions of items cycling in and out, day after day. The fact that you can narrow your search to a niche so close to home that there’s only a few results is a huge cause for it’s success. And for a business, it means that, as long as you can keep your ad showing up when people need it, you’re in the running. And if you’re one of only a few, the sale is made.

A little aside here: I recently needed some tongue and groove cedar for a project. A quick search turned up two options near me: One was located fifty miles south, and one was a hundred miles north. The northern option was almost half the price of our good southern friends. Not to mention, his ad was simple and coherent. I was on my way. By being the best in my world at selling tongue and groove cedar, he got my business. Come to find out, he’s been making a living selling lumber on CL from the beginning of time. In his business, it works.

It’s so simple it’s almost stupid: It’s almost like they’re trying to dumb you down (but in reality, it’s genius). If you compare CL to any other platform (eBay, Car Trader, etc), it looks like the village idiot of websites. Basic font, two colors, generic layout. Nothing special about this site. But the reality is, they’re catering to almost everyone with internet access. In the simplicity, the CEO can sell his Bowflex and sweet Miss Helga can buy overstock yarn. Their graphics aren’t much to write home about, but that’s not what they do. And by not putting emphasis on a flashy look, they’ve grown outrageously by catering to the masses.

It’s free (usually): This feature is a favorite of everyone in their market (and it’s a really good feature for small businesses). If someone is posting overstock yarn, they would prefer not to pay for the ad (although they would consider it because of the value CL provides). There’s a few things they do charge for: you can check them out here.

It connects people: As I’ve mentioned in other articles, people like to connect. We enjoy having a face-to-face conversation, we like a firm handshake as we strike a deal, sometimes just as much as we like a good deal itself. It’s this connection where the seller fills a need for the buyer, where a house-hunter finds a their favorite Realtor, and where folks get an extra set of tickets to their favorite show. It’s about service to others (and bargains).

Look at your own service: What do you have to offer? Who is it for? Is this online channel where your market is likely to be?

It might not help much if you do tax abatement for carbonated drink manufacturers, but it might be the ticket if you run a hay crew or sell tongue and groove cedar.

Have you got burnt or blessed by a Craigslist deal? Tell us your tale below!


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