Allison Guido, general manager of Almar Building & Remodeling, in Hanover, Mass., was looking for a new way to target potential clients — without breaking the bank. “Craigslist is the Yellow Book of its day,” she says. But unlike Yellow Book or Yellow Pages or a plethora of other advertising vehicles, posting on  is free, at least for Almar’s location outside Boston.

Almar has been using Craigslist for more than five years. “We get over half our leads from the Internet,” Guido says. “And of those, one-third or more are from Craigslist.” Since posting is free, the only cost for Almar is Guido’s time in posting and re-posting ads.

However, Guido is quick to point out that while free in Boston, posting ads on Craigslist isn’t free in other areas, where it can cost up to $75 per listing.

After the ad is written, Guido puts the entire posting — including photos and Almar’s logo — into Microsoft FrontPage, which formats the content in HTML at the push of a button. Typically she creates different ads for the firm’s various offerings, such as one that highlights decks posted in the Household Services category; one in Real Estate Services promoting Almar’s design/build and remodeling expertise; as well as a posting in "Skilled Trade Services" for potential kitchen and bath clients.

Once the inbox begins to fill and the phones begin to ring, Guido’s husband and co-owner, Craig, contacts prospects to make sure they have potential by using a standard lead sheet. “[With these leads] Craig talks about budget more than he normally would and gets more information up front, like how long they’ve been thinking about the project and if they have remodeled before,” Guido says. “A lot of times they qualify themselves as we go through our lead sheet and find out what exactly it is they’re looking for.”

Not for Everyone

But not everyone who has used Craigs­list has met with success. “I’ve attempted to attract new business via Craigslist over the years without good results,” says Craig Broadstone, owner of Omaha Remodeling Associates, in Omaha, Neb. “The few calls the ads did generate found the consumers price-shopping. I use Craigslist for many things, but no longer to attract remodeling clients.”

40 million classified ads are posted on Craigs­list every month Source:

In Portland, Ore., Craigslist is seen as a hub for illegal contractors, according to Duane Oglesby, owner of Oglesby Construction Co., who adds that since Oregon has very strict license, bonding, and insurance laws for contractors, the state does sting operations on Craigslist several times a year to nab unlicensed contractors. “I don’t want to be associated with that type of business image when there are so many other places to market,” he says. “If it’s free, there usually isn’t much value anyway.”

Despite these tales, Guido wholeheartedly recommends using Craigslist, but only if you can post for free. “It’s been a valuable tool for us as we’ve transitioned from traditional marketing into more Internet media marketing,” she says.

Mark A. Newman, senior editor, REMODELING.

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the June 2012 issue of REMODELING.

More REMODELING articles about lead generation:

Lead-Gen Lesson — Arming clients with a method for generating referrals

Building Your Own Lead-Generating System — Great service and a good capture process are a strong start

Make Me a Match — Sorting through the claims and counterclaims of Internet lead companies