Craigslist is the largest classified advertising website on the planet. In the past, if you wanted to promote a small business, the best place to go would often be the newspaper’s classifieds or services section. Today, this is more or less completely replaced by Craigslist.

Craigslist is free for the vast majority of users. There are certain sections in the Services category that charge a $5 or $10 fee in certain high traffic cities. By and large, however, the majority of users won’t have to pay a dime to use Craigslist.

So how can you use Craigslist for local marketing?

The Services Section

The services section of Craigslist is the best place to market most small businesses.

Start by looking through the section you’re interested in advertising in. How many other people are competing there? What kind of prices are they asking for? Open as many of your competitors’ ads in new tabs as possible.

Scroll through your competitors’ ads and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Which competitor would you personally choose? Why?

Did one stand out in some way? Were they offering something that others weren’t? Did they seem more credible?

Try to duplicate the things that make one company seem better than the other. For example, if you’re a graphic designer and notice that the ads that have a lot of samples in their portfolio seem to be the most compelling, then you should probably do the same.

Before you post in the Services section, make sure you read Craigslist’s terms and conditions carefully. It’s easy to inadvertently break the rules and get flagged, or in the worst case scenario get banned altogether.

Marketing Other Types of Businesses

What if you have a business that isn’t a service? For example, what if you’re marketing a restaurant?

One of the best options is to use the “Groups,” “Events” and “Classes” sections.

In order to do this, you need to actually host an event at your restaurant. That’s pretty simple – you can just put together a wine taster, or an appetizer taster.

Then go on Craigslist and market that event. Of course, you should also market the event over different avenues, mailing lists and in your restaurant itself.

Get creative. You can’t just post a flyer for your business or a menu for your restaurant on Craigslist. You need to find a way to fit it into Craigslist’s infrastructure.

One Last Method

Finally, you can look for people who’ve checked “Yes, contact me about other commercial interests.” The vast majority of people won’t check this box. Those who did, however, you can email directly with your proposition.

That’s how you can use Craigslist to promote your local business. Look for a section that specializes in what you offer. If it doesn’t exist, then create a way for you to offer something that matches the Craigslist structure.

Happy Marketing!