5 Call-To-Action Lessons From Craigslist Scalpers

Kipp Bodnar
Kipp Bodnar



ticketWe've all done it. We forget to buy tickets for an important game or concert when they first go on sale. Because of this mistake, we then spend hours on Craigslist looking for tickets, ending up clicking on all types of sketchy ads.

Why? Because some Craigslist scalpers are great call-to-action (CTA) writers. While looking at spreadsheets and attending workshops are important educational opportunities, I would argue that a few minutes of looking at ticket scalpers' ads on Craigslist can also provide ammunition to bolster your lead generation activities.

Don't believe me? I took just 5 minutes on Craigslist, and here is what I learned. 


1. Context Matters -- When we use Craigslist to look for tickets or anything else for that matter, most of the time we have a clear idea of what we are looking for. For example, if you are looking for Boston Red Sox tickets and you see a random ad for "Boston Tickets," you're likely not going to click on it. The same is true if you are a B2B company that is working to generate leads to sell medical supplies. CTAs work best when they are in the right context. To make your CTAs work better, it is important that you segment your content. For example, if you are putting CTAs with blog posts, make sure that the CTA relates to the content of the post as closely as possible. 

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2. You Have to Get Noticed, Even When People Are Looking
-- When people are on a web page, many visual elements can distract them. On Craigslist, people visit the site with the intention to buy, but they don't go through and click all the ads. One of the things I love about looking at Craigslist ads is that every seller is working with the same text ad, yet some can make ads grab your attention by using tactics like all CAPS. Design matters.  It isn't good enough that somebody has decided to come to your site; it is your job to create a CTA that has the visual appeal to convert them into a lead.

3. Pricing Too Soon Can Be a Deal Breaker
-- How many of you have avoided a Craigslist advertisement simply based of the price listed in the headline? Be honest; we all have done it. The lesson to learn here is to avoid mentioning pricing in your CTA whenever possible. Focus on creating non-monetary value for the prospect to help ensure they will convert without being influenced prematurely by price.

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4. Building Trust Only Takes a Split Second -- When looking for tickets, one of the most comforting phrases you can see is "face value." It makes you think that the person is a fan and not a scalper after your hard-earned cash. What is the "face value" of your CTAs? What is a word or phrase that you can put in your CTAs today that can help build trust with prospective customers? Find the answer. It is normally some type of phrase that creates a middle ground between you and the customer.

5. Urgency Sells -- Timing is a key factor that drives people to action. Does your CTA have a timing element? Think back to our friends, the Craigslist scalpers. How do they use timing? They use phrases like "won't last long." When creating CTAs, remember to include some type of element of urgency. Some examples: "offer ends tomorrow" or "only for the first 100 visitors." Sure, these phrases need to work with the overall theme of the CTA, but urgency can mean the difference in hitting your leads goal this month or not.

You can learn from anyone at anytime. People who sell tickets through one-line text ads everyday get very good at writing them. Take a few minutes and see what you can learn from Craigslist scalpers that could apply to your business.

What other non-traditional sources do you look to for marketing inspiration?

Photo Credit: David Gallagar


Topics: Lead Generation

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