7 Ways To Grow Your Business In The New Era Of Classified Ads

SOCIAL MEDIA | CONTENT MARKETING

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by Desmund Ullrich

July 13, 2020  11 min read

Pop Culture Geek | Content Strategist | Marketing Manager

[Revised from Classified Ads Are Dead, In 2020 Do Better - March 17, 2020]

You might be entering this post and thinking, “classified ads have been dead for a long time”. While you may be thinking this, classified ads are not dead in the sense that you may believe. They are very much alive and well— they have just evolved beyond your recognition. Classified ads serve one of the most important functions in your business. They help you make user connections.

This concept is confusing for most small business owners who believe user connections are made by posting on social media, email marketing, and blogging. While these things seem to be necessary, their importance has been overblown by the few entrepreneurs that have had major success in executing these actions. However, business and marketing is never a one size fits all.

To put it into perspective in his book, The Content Trap, Bharat Anan explains that the predominant factor in the decline of newspaper sales over the last 50 years wasn’t the failure to move news articles into the fortress of the internet, but the failure to move classifieds. In a big picture overview, classifieds accounted for the highest levels of readership and revenue for our world’s largest periodicals. 

While newsies fought to get news online, their effort wasn’t as valiant when it came to the classifieds. Long story short, the news companies lost their readers by allowing job seekers to go to Indeed or Monster.com, apartment seekers to go to Zillow or Apartments.com, car seekers to go to Auto Trader, and garage sale bargain hunters to go to Craigslist and LetGo.

If any of those companies can offer monetary evidence, they would show that classifieds are very much alive and have branched out in unimaginable ways. Also, consider the fact that we now have Match.com or Tindr as an alternative to the personals section, and sponsored blogs and social media posts have replaced the need for a full-page, half, or quarter-page ad spread. As overwhelming as it all seems, the market has been niched down so much that it saves you effort in finding your tribe, all you have to do is connect with their existing community.

So if you’re a small business owner that’s after making a bit of money, it’s time to try to break into the new era of classified ads and the marketing efforts that have replaced them. If you are ready to scale your business in order to play in the big leagues but you’re not quite sure how— don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. In the following post, I’m going to share several ways to jump into advertising your small business on both a physical and digital plane because with the introduction of the internet, the world is now the classifieds section.
 
Let’s dive right in;

1. Provide value with viral trends.

Piggybacking off of The Content Trap once again, feedback loops in classifieds exemplified one of the most important ideas in digital business - network effects. Classifieds often mimicked the culture of the era with mentions of trends, tone, and jargon. These elements are still alive today and while the new episode of Fraser may not be the buzz, there are plenty of viral trends to play off of in order to make a lasting connection.

If you’re reading this now it’s presumed that you’re a small business owner that’s already advertising online either through your own store or social media. If not, get on it straight away or you’ll be dead in the water. If you notice a viral trend make sure to capitalize on it instantly (before the trend dies out) as the momentum from the attention sharing will help increase your chances of getting a lead!

How do you capitalize on it? Blend your own brand with the content of the viral trend like the Advocate did with their report on the Cupid Shuffle and our current state of affairs.

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2. Synergize for better exposure.

Network effects are also effective when you connect with your audience through a shared platform, this is why classified ads were so plentiful with offers from almost any industry from a used car to modeling/acting auditions. Nowadays, you can still find a shared platform when you synergize your marketing efforts.

Simply put, in marketing, synergy refers to a joined interaction or cooperation between two or more organizations in order to produce a combined result greater than the one that they would have produced through individual efforts. 

In order to take advantage of this tactic, you must partner with local businesses, socialites, blogs, sports teams, etc. Remember in the end nobody wins unless everybody wins — choose your goal and your partner wisely. It’s better to create scalable relationships with those around you than to compete against them for attention.

For example, when Conor McGregor was an upcoming fighter in cage contenders nobody would offer him an advertising placement then this small town sports website called Joe.ie offered him a contract and he carried them all the way to the UFC. Now JOE.ie is huge! You never know who will be the next Conor McGregor.

3. SEO is your new full-page classified ad.

Get familiar with SEO, it stands for search engine optimization. Having a site or social media presence that’s not properly optimized may make it hard for you to get discovered — unless you are willing to throw heafty budgets into advertising. Consider the first page of Google to be the same as your full-page classfied ad.

 If you are new to the concept of SEO, fear not, you don’t need to know many technical components to seek out solutions for your business — it's easy to DIY or hire a professional. With SEO your typical focus is to rank on search and, according to Google, being listed at the top of a results page increases your chances of selling your product or service by up to 70%.

However, this all depends on how the elements of your site serve your goal and your tribe. For instance, imagine you have a business called Joe Blog Foods that sells Pink Lady Apples loved by all the locals. Well, when your customers go looking for Pink Lady Apples they’ll search for Pink Lady Apples, not Joe Blog Foods, so what you need to do is figure out how you can rank for Pink Lady Apples in order to get that buyer intent.

If virtually free advertising is not enough of a motivation, remember that Google also considers SEO ranking and page transparency during its ad auction process.

4. Showcase your brand online through sponsored posts.

A well-placed, sponsored blog post could encompass the effort that you put into all the tips from above. A sponsored post looks like any other post on a blogger’s website. However, there is one key component, it highlights your business, service, or product in a hopefully honest editorial.

Given the fact that you are requesting the company or creator to write the post, there should always be a disclaimer that addresses the fact that the post is sponsored. This requirement is even covered under FTC guidelines.

When seeking a blog to partner with, be sure to choose one that fits closely with your audience and tribe. For example, if your product is a revolutionary athletic sock, a sponsored post on Hypebeast or Eastbay may serve you well. Always keep in mind that smaller blogs will typically have lower costs but may not have enough traffic to support sales.

5. Give back to those that give to you!

With the age of the internet, the rise of social media, and the rebirth of the classified ad, everyone seems like they are only online to market and flaunt. While some people go too far, as charity show-offs, generosity can reflect on the ethics of your business. 

Everyone assumes businesses are these greedy machines that are only out for profit. We know this is not entirely true and you need to prove that to the doubters. Educate those who are unaware of the values of your business by donating to charity, without bragging. As a brick and mortar store be sure to partner with local charities in order to give back to your patrons. If you are an online store, it serves you best to donate to a charity that reaches and impacts your buyers’ persona. 

For example, a Paint & Wine Instructor who provides classes for couples may serve patrons best by donating to an organization like the Open Path Collective that provides affordable therapy for couples and families.

In most charity cases, organizations provide listings and/or acknowledgments to their supporters —this is especially true if your donation supports an event through a sponsorship. So, your selfless charity may inadvertently improve your brand image or may even bring you sales through brand recognition.

Aside from recognition and increased marketing, charity work can improve your morale or the morale of your employees, provide opportunities to offset your operational costs through tax deductions, and help your local community.

owner of pump clothing store

6. Utilize the power of influencers.

If your online presence is lacking a following one way to scale would be to partner with an influencer and piggyback off their following. This is one of the most effective ways to build your brand, tell your story, and drive sales.

For years, marketers and agencies have leverage influencers to promote products, services, and events. While you may be great at your business, influencers are AMAZING at connecting to their audiences.

In the heyday of classified ads, brand messaging came from the company and the popularity of that company often influenced their trustworthiness. Now, a brand’s message can come from many sources who have already established trust and authenticity.

Similar to other marketing efforts, be sure to partner with an influencer that aligns with your product, your audience, and can promote out of their love and experience with what you are asking them to share. Never utilize budget and social media following as your only basis in selecting an influencer partner.

7. Stay fresh online.

Just like in the classifieds, your relevance and category are important to your marketing success. Be that as it may, search engines, online directories, and social media have a tough time establishing your category or relevance if you are not actively posting and following up.

In particular, if you are a hardware store listed on Yelp that is not continuing to update your listing or not responding to potential customers and reviews, the website’s algorithm and admins cannot determine if your business is active or if your services are relevant to those searching for “hardware store”. This same theorem can be applied to anything from Indeed listings to Facebook ads.

Show people you’re active by consistently posting fresh content on your site and your social media by keeping your social media and website up to date.

 
As you can see, though the classified ads seem to get smaller and smaller, there are ways to leverage the spirit of the classifieds on- and offline. If you are ready to apply the steps above and save, also be sure you check out my article Building your Personal Brand in 6 Steps to learn how to leverage your personal following to build your business.

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