With the changes that they made late in 2013, Craigslist made life much harder on apartment marketers. By disabling HTML templates on apartment postings, Craigslist forced every user to post with the exact same design template--body text, extremely limited text formatting, and photos embedded via the Craigslist photo tool.
The Role of Differentiation in Marketing
If your marketing can make the product you're selling appear to be distinctive and unique compared to other similar products, then you have people buying from you because of what you offer. If you fail to do that, then you're selling to people who need what you're selling and are buying your version of it for some other reason--typically because it's the cheapest. As John Jantsch has said, "be different or be forever doomed to compete on price."
In the old Craigslist, this differentiation was easy. You simply needed a high-quality HTML template that gave users all the information they wanted and showed it in the best possible light. But with the HTML templates taken away, it is now much harder to stand out and, thus, we've shifted more toward competing on price when marketing on Craigslist.
That said, there is still one area where it is possible to stand out on Craigslist: apartment photography. If your photography is high-quality and professional, then you start to regain some of that differentiation and look a cut above your competition. But that raises a basic but important issue: How do you get the kind of apartment photography that stands out and makes your community look special?
Advertise Apartments on Craigslist with Photography
There are three key ideas to keep in mind with your apartment photography on Craigslist.
- Emphasize photos of the specific floorplan
- Take the time to make sure the photos are high-quality.
- Optimize the images for online display and load time.
We'll walk through each of these in a bit more detail below.
Emphasize Photos of the Floorplan
When you post on Craigslist, you should be posting ads for specific floorplans rather than generic posts for the community. There are a couple reasons to do it this way:
- The product your customer cares about is not the community as a whole, but the specific floorplan. The community is important, but the thing they are most interested in is the floorplan.
The key here, as it always is with online marketing, is to think about the end user. The person you want to see this ad is a person looking for an apartment. But they aren't just looking for "an apartment." They have specific needs. They want an apartment at a certain price point or with a certain number of bedrooms. So you want to create ads on Craigslist that help prospects answer all the questions they have about your apartment:
- Can I afford this?
- Is it the right size?
- How many bedrooms are there?
- What is the pet policy?
If you answer those questions in your ad, then you are helping prospects to either decide to call you because you have what they want or to disqualify themselves up front before they waste your staff's time. And the best way to answer those questions is to build posts around floorplans.
Take the time to get high-quality images.
One obvious temptation of marketing in the digital era is to take the DIY approach of online marketing to new extremes and do all of your content in-house, including photos and video. That said, digital marketing has changed disribution methods for marketing materials. It hasn't changed the level of quality required to succed. Indeed, if anything it has elevated the quality level required to succeed as it has increased the amount of low-quality content that exists and is easily accessible.
What this means is that you will almost certainly want to hire out for your photography. If you have a good photographer on staff you can obviously experiment with that, but our experience has been that non-professionals simply can't replicate the work of professionals.
Optimize the images for the web.
Craigslist, can, of course figure out how to display most images that are uploaded via their image tool. But to insure that the images are sized correctly and load promptly it is helpful to review the image characteristics yourself and set them up correctly. Craigslist images ought to be 600 pixels wide by 450 high and, like all images used online, the resolution ought to be 72 pixels or DPI (dots-per-inch). If your images are vertically oriented or sized incorrectly, they will show up incorrectly on the ad. The other potential concern is that images that are too large may take a longer time to load, causing your less patient prospects to simply leave the ad before the photo has time to finish loading.
Craigslist still has a massive amount of users and can still drive a fair amount of traffic to a leasing office. That said, Craigslist has made it a bit harder to compete by elimiating HTML templates. But there's no reason that communities cannot continue to stand out and attract high-quality leads that pay higher rent rates.