Posts Tagged 'Craigslist'

SURVIVING CRAIGSLIST’S APARTMENT AD CHANGES

By now you’ve heard about the Craigslist changes and how the site no longer allows HTML code in the description box (leaving you with an error message “IMG, FONT, DIV, TABLE tags are no longer supported”). This significantly affects property management marketing and the way communities can post housing ads on its site, and the new policy sent the apartment marketing industry into a scramble.

What matters now? The best, first image you upload to grab attention in the thumbnail and gallery views. But here’s the crazy thing — perform a quick search in your area and you’ll notice about 50% of housing ads have no image, not even the very important first photo. Their only hope for a click is a few keywords in a short headline. We telephoned a sampling of communities and asked why they’re missing images and found they don’t know how a housing ad displays on Craigslist.org, most likely from using a third-party listing service to create ads.

Beyond Wine & Cheese Marketing quickly launched a solution for members and their apartment advertising by creating dozens of Craigslist Image formats featuring leasing themes — they’re eye catching and work within the revised requirements. Our new Craigslist Images are JPEG files sized to fit perfectly as the featured image to grab attention of prospective renters.

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Above: Our new Craigslist ad to promote pet-friendly communities

Craigslist also changed their policy on links – clickable external links are not allowed. You can and should still post the URL of your website in your text and encourage users to copy and paste it into a browser to explore more info on your site. But here’s the thing: Can you add two links? Many communities have a link to an HTML ad and then further challenge a prospect to click a second time to reach their leasing website. Will they do it? It remains to be seen.

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Above: Our new Craigslist ad to promote communities with locations near major employers, transportation corridors and landmarks

 LESSONS LEARNED:

1)   Your marketing strategy should not solely depend on Craigslist. As we’ve seen, the site can and does change its policies – and you have no control over that, so you will always be scrambling to conform to their rules. Craigslist is great because it’s free and has a huge viewership, but you are pitted in the same place side by side with your competitors, which is great if you have what it takes to outshine them. Not so great if you don’t. If you want to learn about other ways to handle your apartment marketing, call or email us and we’d love to share what we know about:

  1. Using your own website
  2. Keeping up with the masses on Facebook, social media, blog
  3. Sending blast emails
  4. Partnering with local businesses
  5. Targeting companies near your community with a large number of employees

2)   PHOTOS are more important than ever in your Craigslist posts (and otherwise). If your property photos are not great, you need to WOW readers with an image that draws them in, which is why Beyond Wine & Cheese offers professionally designed eye-catching ads (saved as a JPEG) for members to upload as their “first” image to be featured.

  1. A property’s photos are huge in snagging potential renters, so if you do not have high quality images of your community, you should spend the effort to make this happen.
  2. Not many readers will get through a big chunk of plain text about a property, but if you capture them with outstanding photos first, then they’re more likely to dig deeper into your paragraph of words to find out more. Photos really help to illustrate the personality of a community. Text “tells” – photos “show.”

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Above: Our new Craigslist ad to appeal to renters about moving

Have questions, want to learn more, or need a CUSTOM Craigslist ad featuring your brand colors and photos?

Beyond Wine & Cheese Marketing

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MAKE SOME NOISE

White noise: uniform, steady, drone

Make some noise: To attract attention. To do something noticeable.

We follow the Multi-housing News blog where senior editor Jessica Fiur recently commented on the dangers of apartment marketing becoming the kind of white noise that renters overlook and tune out when community managers post repetitive content in their ads. We couldn’t agree more. Are you using the same text in your ads? The same property photos? The same designs? You need to mix it up since repetitive content blends into the background like white noise, but fresh content knows how to make some noise.

Recently on Craigslist, we saw the word “beautiful” used 8 times in several apartment ad subject lines to try and capture renters’ attention. The ones that stood out among the “beautiful” white noise used less common descriptors: delightful, adorable, unique.

Beautiful 3 Bedroom Townhome with Attached Nursery $1999/3br

Beautiful Apartment Close to shopping $885/2br

Beautiful views, 1 bedroom apartment in heart of Tacoma

Beautiful 2 Bedroom 2.5 bath in Puyallup

Beautiful 1 Bedroom October move-in W/D $954/1br

Again, to stand out among the stale ads on Craigslist, MIX IT UP.  If your apartment community has 12 worthy amenities, create 4 different ads focusing on 3 different amenities at a time to post on Craigslist, interchanging them throughout the weeks to gauge each one’s success.

Speaking of using campaigns to showcase your amenities:

a.  Beyond Wine & Cheese’s library of ready-to-go apartment marketing campaigns make it easy for you to grab several different ads and quickly customize with your information.

b.  We have themes about washer & dryers, covered parking, swimming pools, storage and a variety of amenities. Examples are illustrated below.

c.  Our software allows you to quickly and easily paste a professionally designed ad that you’ve customized with your details on Craigslist and measure its “hits” and “clicks.”

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And our last suggestion to stand out (in a good way) on Craigslist – proofread for typos so that when you look back at your apartment marketing, you don’t have any regrets like a poorly spelled tattoo. Live a life of no regrets!

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Dear Marketing D-Bags:

I’m not the type who does well making decisions, particularly when I have too many options.  For example, when I was buying a car, I knew off the bat that I liked Civics, but then my mom suggested I lease a car so I looked at the CR-V.  Then a close family friend suggested I go to a local VW dealer, and I started to look at the Tiguan.  Then I realized I would rather just buy up front instead of lease, so I started looking at used cars that the dealers had in stock, and just as I was starting to feel guilty for not buying American and was on the verge of having a nervy-b from looking at too many cars, I gave up and got a Civic.

Now, this ended up working out because what I really wanted was a Civic, and I just let too many other suggestions cloud my judgment during the buying process.  (I can only imagine what’s going to happen one day if I get married and am planning my wedding.)  But let’s say you’re looking for an apartment in a new city and aren’t set on a particular building because, well, you don’t live there and don’t know the city.  So when you hop on Craigslist and start browsing through postings, you really do want a wide array of options.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s when you don’t have enough choices that browsing Craigslist can get quite annoying.  Has anyone else experienced something like this?

SEPTEMBER 13

SEPTEMBER 15

SEPTEMBER 17

SEPTEMBER 20

There are more, but I think you get the idea…and I’m already bored with this.

Now, I should give the poster a little credit (they didn’t cut and paste, but changed up the “infoprmation” – see September 20 – a little every time), but really cutting and pasting would have been the smart thing to do to save some of their time.  It’s not like the message changed so drastically that the most recent posting on September 27 suddenly compelled me to go rent the apartment.  Where are the pictures??  Where are the amenity lists??  And those aren’t the only questions raised:

  1. Is it the same unit they keep advertising?
  2. If it’s not the same unit, why are there so many units available in this building?
  3. Why does this person consider Craigslist to be a server for him/her to pump as full of spam as a pantry from a 1960’a nuclear bomb shelter?
  4. Who made the decision that re-posting ads every other day was somehow a benefit to their renters?
  5. How much money is the company wasting paying interns to re-post these ads ever other day just so annoyed Craigslist searchers can take time out of their day to flag them for removal, when those ads would stay up for seven days if you just left them alone?
  6. What would it take to make this person go away so I can look for a new house without having to wade through all of your worthless ads???

Sorry, got a little sidetracked there…

Maybe instead of posting this Craigslist ad AGAIN tomorrow, the culprit can take the afternoon and read through all of my previous blog posts (or just go ahead and call Beyond Wine and Cheese) for some tips and inspiration.  The apartment marketing message may remain the same, but it is always presented in a unique package!

Are your Craigslist postings starting to sound like a broken record…broken record…broken record…broken record…broken record?  Share with us at blog@beyondwineandcheese.com!

PS:  Thanks for inspiring this blog post, Kevin!

Baby It’s Cold… Inside?

I suddenly find myself again facing that awful task of searching for a new apartment.  And this time, I’m looking for something special.  Last year my concern was finding something affordable, close to school, and on central bus lines; however, I now have real job and a car, so my priorities have changed.  I don’t want to end up in some cookie-cutter apartment with no character.  When friends visit, I want their jaws to drop with jealousy because they couldn’t find an apartment nearly as unique as mine.  But at the same time, the rent does need to be reasonable (sadly my starting salary is not $100,000 a year).

So where am I going to find this amazing apartment?  Why, craigslist of course!  I mean, these days, what can’t you find on craigslist?  And luckily for me the apartment selection on craigslist is expanding.  Say I was looking for a cozy studio apartment that made me feel at one with nature:

Say whaaat?

This can’t be for real…

Yeeeeaaah!  Welcome home!

Cost: $200/month (Affordable: check.)

Neighborhood Security: Campus Police (Safe Area: check!)

Water: Must be melted by occupant (Utilities Included: check!!!)

The only downside here is that the landlord won’t be held responsible for loss of walls/roof/entire structure of the building.  But then, it’s not like I’ll be signing a 12 month lease, so bring it on!

Is your apartment community providing unique, if not long lasting, qualities?  Share with us at blog@beyondwineandcheese.com!

Why Get a Broker When You Have Craigslist?

I will be the first to admit that emails can sit in my inbox for months before receiving a reply (if they are lucky enough to ever get one).  I don’t know what it is I find so daunting about writing back, but most of the time I just make excuses to myself about why I can’t get around to replying until I legitimately forget.  Now, you’d think this would make me more understanding of instances when others do not reply to my emails; however, I am bound to get super frustrated, especially when I don’t receive responses to work-related emails.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  In fact, I always laugh a little when I see wall posts on Facebook from people whining about someone not responding to a text.  At least I don’t get that worked up about lack of communication.  But what about when it’s something really important?  Like you found the perfect place to rent on Craigslist and haven’t gotten a response to the message you sent the owner.  What to do now?

Clearly this person did not want to just move on and try to find another place:

To be perfectly honest with you, when I saw this headline I was really hoping for some drama.  Maybe a warning about how dangerous the neighborhood is, or exposing the person who posted the house as a liar.  I’ve never seen a Craigslist war before, so it could have been pretty exciting.  Sadly, that was not the case:

While I have to admit that this person was resourceful in using another Craigslist post to reach out to the owner of the house they want to rent, something tells me they are a lot more likely to be contacted by Craigslist creepers than the person they are actually hoping to speak to.  I mean really, posting your phone number?  And you’re not fooling anyone by leaving out the area code.  The Internet makes it veeeeery easy to find this kind of information…

PS: Is it really that hard to write in complete sentences?  You’re already making the effort to post this, why not just go all the way?

Do you feel like you’re placing a personal ad on Craigslist instead of renting an apartment?  Share with us at blog@beyondwineandcheese.com!

These Boots Were Made For Walkin’ (In A Different Neighborhood)

I have spent the last four years of my life walking.  Well, walking and riding the bus (public transportation baby!).  That’s what happens when you spend all your money (and your parent’s money) on tuition instead of buying a car.  So it was like a small miracle when I finally graduated, got a job, and was able to buy a car.  Now I drive everywhere: to the gym, to visit friends, to Safeway a block away from my apartment.  Maybe my carbon footprint has grown a size or two, but hey, I’m living the American dream.

But regardless of whether I have a car or not, walkability is still important – especially when you live in a big city.  When looking at apartments, renters want to know how easily they can get their errands done on foot.  Hence, the Walk Score was created.  Not sure what Walk Score is?  The website describes it as “the walkability of an address based on the distance from your house to nearby amenities…not how pretty the area is for walking.”  Well, I’m glad they cleared that one up for me…

So to increase the attractiveness of an apartment community to would-be renters, managers are starting to post the Walk Scores for their communities in Craigslist ads.  But do they really tell you the whole story?  Let’s find out…

First we have this beautiful studio apartment:

Nice!  I don’t even have anything sarcastic to say about this!  And the walk score?

Well, well, look who’s bragging.  I feel like we’re talking about a dog now instead of an apartment.  “Oh yes, my little Fifi here is VERY walkable.  I doubt your mutt Fido has her walking abilities.”  Snobs.  I bet Fifi is a poodle.  But I digress.  There must be a catch here somewhere…

The price?  No.  The size?  No, keep reading to the right.  The Central District?  Yeeeeeah.  That would be the one.  If you live in Seattle, you understand this might not be the area you WANT to be walking around in.  So when you leave your “Very Walkable” apartment to go to the grocery store or park, you might want to pack your brass knuckles, some mace, and a blow horn.  This just reinforces the point that the Walk Score doesn’t take into account how pretty the area is for walking…or how safe.  Before you sign a lease based on an apartment community’s Walk Score, walk the area for yourself!

This message had been brought to you by the voice of my mother that lives in my head.  I never feel safe walking anywhere alone; therefore, neither should you.

Is your apartment’s Walk Score leaving out a few important factors?  Let us know at blog@beyondwineandcheese.com!

You Can Get It Free, But Does It Suck?

Whoever said, “The best things in life are free,” was a big fat liar.  OK, maybe if you’re talking about friends and family and the first day of sun after a long, overcast Seattle winter, it’s true.  But from a business perspective, it’s a load of bull.  The truth?  You get what you pay for.

Take customer service for example.  I am the type of person who likes to be treated well when I go shopping, so I’m willing to pay that extra $70 on a pair of shoes at Nordstrom because their salespeople are so nice, instead of going to TJMaxx for the bargain that comes with no service.  And as someone who works at home, I welcome that 15 minutes of small talk with a stranger during which we find out that we both know people who have studied abroad in Florence.

Now, I know there are also quite a few people who would rather creep through racks of clothes and go unnoticed by salespeople – shopping might be the only time you have to yourself all week.  But what if we’re talking about the business that you run and are trying to promote?  Wouldn’t you want vendors who provide you great service?  Even if it’s just showing up with a box of delicious cupcakes in exchange for a few minutes of your time?  Well, if the cost of their service is FREE, don’t pour yourself a glass of milk anytime soon…

One great example of this in the apartment industry is Craigslist ads.  Anyone can post an ad on Craigslist (which is a whole other topic for another time), so big apartment communities with luxury units need to do something to really stand out from the crowd.  This might include…

Posting a poorly designed ad that doesn’t even mention the name of your community?  And that links not to your website’s homepage, but:

That’s right, the homepage for GoGoPin so you can get a free account!  I gotta give it to GoGoPin – that is one smart way to advertise your own service while “providing a service” for another company.  Is it things like this that give the business world a bad reputation?  Nah…this is just innovation and creative thinking (although not so much on the part of the apartment community who attempted to advertise this way).

I’m sure the community realized the problems with this ad though, both the content and the link to GoGoPin’s website, because it looks like they decided to try posting another ad using photobucket this time:

It’s still graphically challenged, but at least they got the proper information in this one.  Let’s try clicking on the ad and see where we end up this time…

SURPRISE!  It’s photobucket’s homepage!  Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?  Man, they tricked us real good that time.  But ultimately, I think the joke is on this apartment manager in Fremont, eh?

So apartment communities, I know the economy is tough, but shopping at TJMaxx instead of Nordstrom isn’t going to get your units leased at the end of the day.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and those of us who can return just about anything and get our shoes repaired at Nordstrom are going to win.

Is your apartment community providing free advertising for a free advertising company?  Share with us at blog@beyondwineandcheese.com!


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