Craigslist As A Lead Source

This morning I spotted a posting on the free online classified advertisement site Craigslist for MAS90 MAS200 EXPERTS!!!

You can click the image on the left and read the whole advertisement. The bigger question for most consultants is whether these types of free advertising sites work to attract prospects?

Yes! This advertising works. It will attract responses. You may even be busier than you ever imagined – so long as you don’t mind working for three kinds of people (and they all share a common distaste for paying for consulting fees).

Here are the three primary types of prospect you’ll be sure to attract with a free advertisement that primarily offers low cost services.

The Three Types Who Respond To Craigslist

Advertising on Craigslist is not a whole lot different than posting a web page and offering services to Internet visitors who randomly land on your site (the important word here is randomly because when the lead is from a random visitor it’s 98% worthless).

Random visitors who stumble across your site (and those of your competitors) are nearly always after a bit of free advice.

Providing free advice may make you feel good as a consultant – but it’s not a sustainable business model.

Here’s the three types of random leads who, in my experience, contact you in response to advertisements for low cost MAS90 consulting:

The unemployed, soon to be unemployed, newly hired and totally untrained, overseas workers looking to learn about MAS90,  and curious competitors: Identify most of these  early by the anonymous email address they use to contact you.

Some of the contacts will be from competitors wondering if advertising low cost rates for MAS90 really works.

Many contacts will be from the newly unemployed looking to learn about MAS90 for their next job.

Advertising cheap services attracts those looking for free services (cheapskates correctly assume they’ll be able to ask several free questions before you charge them).

My experience is that once cheapskates get free information they stop responding to your inquiries.

Yet, like Lucy pulling the football from poor Charlie Brown,  many consultants never  learn that these leads aren’t worth pursuing – even after the ball’s been yanked  dozens of times.

Companies who’ve had 5 different MAS90 consultants over the last 2 years – and have nothing good to say about any of them: These types of prospects are the easiest to identify yet consultants engage in all sorts of self-talk to convince themselves that the lead is better than it is.

Prospects who badmouth their former consulting firm – will soon bad mouth you.

The conversation with these prospects start off the same way as the type above.

“Consulting”with these types of prospects is about them getting free information and telling you (over and over)  the story about how the last five consultants sucked.

Your dealings with this company will be like one big free initial one hour meeting — except that meeting will go for 6 hours.

Anyone who has used 5 consultants over the last 2 years and is looking for the sixth on Craigslist will undoubtedly also be searching for the seventh soon.

Computer consultants trolling for subcontractors: Though not as prominent as they once were – there are still a decent number of computer consultants who know nothing about MAS 90 accounting software but are willing to hold themselves out as experts to their clients.

Usually I’ve found that these consultants are network technicians managing an internal IT system (hardware, networks, etc) who’ve been asked informally whether they know anything about accounting systems.

Some of these consultants, not wanting to turn down a dollar, may mis-specify an upgrade or new deal purchase.

Then they troll for a low-cost MAS 90 consultant that they can hire for $50/hour (paid in 1/10 of an hour increments) who will also give them a free initial 3 hour consultation (which the originating consultant will bill back to their client).

In these situations the IT consultants will want to re-bill (aka mark up) the rate of the MAS 90 consultant under their own consulting firm.

If you’re ever in a situation where a computer consultant comes to you stating that they know what software the client needs and they’re just looking to make the purchase (for the right price) – run for the hills.

99.9% of these “we know what we need and here’s a list of software we’ll purchase today if the price is right” deals tend to be mis-specified.

And when the deal goes bad guess who will be left to refund the money?

Is There Money To Be Made In Discounted Online Consulting Services?

In my experience very few companies who are searching online for discounted consulting services will turn into paying loyal customers.

Consultants in general fool themselves into thinking that the Internet visitor who stumbled over their web site and is asking for a quote or free tip has selected their firm uniquely.

In reality most of today’s Internet visitors responding to a random advertisement (with no other relationship to your firm) are also simultaneously engaging (or attempting to engage) with half a dozen other consultants to see which company will offer them the cheapest service.

It’s a race to the bottom that you don’t want to be in – unless you just don’t want to be in business in 3 years.

Images: Flickr

5 Replies to “Craigslist As A Lead Source”

  1. Wayne,

    I ran into one of these on Craigs List a few weeks ago. The person who ran the ad used a Re-Seller that I used to work for & she made the mistake of using him as a recommendation, BUT the wording didn’t sound like him so I sent him the ad & he confirmed that not only DIDN’T he write the recommendation but this person had cut and pasted the letter head onto a plain letter sized piece of printing paper.

    If you’re tempted to use someone who advertises on Craig’s List PERFORM YOUR DUE DILIGENCE. Remember this:

    Caveat Emptor: Let the Buyer Beware!

    1. I don’t think advertising discounted services is an effective marketing strategy.

      In the past I’ve seen that the most disloyal (and most demanding) customers are those who are rate shopping.

      From time to time we have people find us on the Internet who only need one specific task completed. The ones who agree to pay — usually are not long term customers. I’ve grown to accept that unless you have some type of credibility going into the relation ship (the customer knows you from a prior employer, receives your newsletter) that the relationship is typically short term.

  2. Thanks for the advice Wayne.
    Everyone needs to know that getting a good consultant will cost real money. Once you find them, though, keep them around.

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