I think craigslist is very specific to your location. I'm currently in Central NJ. That in and of it self, gives several things to consider; 1) my area is very densely populated 2) I'm right between the Philly Metro area, Southern NJ, North NJ, and of course my main market Central NJ. >> All that just means that there are a large amount of people my ads are getting to because people check neighboring regions when they are so close.
Secondly, you've got to consider who your marketing is trying to capture. What is your target market? What is your segment? Does your business plan have a well designed marketing plan, detailing your marketing mix?
Third: Application to Craigslist- on a national level the average person to make a craigslist purchase is a 50+ male homeowner with a gross household median income of over 100k. Personally- I find that younger 35-55 y/o women are more of a driving force from craigslist; or that they are the ones I endup meeting for bids.
I set my bid 15 minutes later that I actually plan them. That way if I get lost, hit traffic, or something comes up I usually can still get their early. (Earlyness makes a good impression). When I show up I always compliment them on something (usually home, but we know thats not always possible) Then I always ask again what it is I can help them with. (Wording is important I think- people want to be involved, maybe not with labor but with big ideas at least). I agree with them tactfully that their issue needs fixing, sliding into "its something we can do mode"; then I upsell- making sure to get them to agree to weed block "summer Saturdays are not fun spent pulling weeds. It's my job and I don't like it, so I'm sure you don't want to spend your time doing it", suggest plants** this is something you need to make sure you've scoped their property out, and you know the types of plants they have already if they're not into invasive plants (barberries), or they don't have any ground cover), or they're not into different/unique plants (nikko, etc), don't try to sell them. I also try to ask about dead plants or trees in the stage, because it creates more work. I also pass along a 5% savings at the nursery I shop (I go to the place that's closest to my house, which happens to have the best prices around). I figure with a tough economy 5% is enough to sometimes encourage people to buy (Also people in my area know the name of the nursery I use and know their quality)(I also make sure to spend time, usually 2x a the bid, selling the quality of the nursery (which works because its got great stuff)) Combining quality and savings helps sell plants. Plus I'm still making about 22% of the cost of the plants ( I get a 35% discount off).
I lay all my numbers out clearly to the homeowner. I've got 2-3 guys usually and I bill out at $500. My mulch prices are Root: $19.50 and Dyed Black: $24 (both plus tax)- the nursery I use has pretty decent stuff, I still sometimes get random debris, but I've seen a lot worse mulch suppliers. I sell my mulch at Root at 26.50 and Dyed @ $30. Then I add my cost for delivery ( I call it a fuel cost) If gas is less than $2.25 I go with $50, if gas is more thant 2.25 $I go to $75.
I sell preen, spraying roundup, fabric pins, and weed block at $100-120. I almost always have alot leftover (fabric). I take the time explaining the costs (The 60 for blocker (retail 45), the 35 for plain preen (retail 30) pins 20, (retail 12), and roundup at 20 retails (12).
When bidding mulch always make sure you bid enough- bid a little extra if you have to that way its paid for, you look professional, and you don't run short. I always bid an extra yard, then deduct it if I don't need it, or whatever.
Be prompt to give them a good quote, don't try to lowball yourself, email them that night with your quickbooks version of the quote, and thank them for their time, and thats the bid
I've said all that to say that combining a good sales call with ads that can get traffic are important.
Back to the original questions:
In my area Top posting is a huge problem: In may I didn't put new ads up on craiglist, and got no leads.
In march I ran 3 different ad campaigns daily (rotating them so they would post using 3 different accounts- I averaged about 15 leads a day per email acct / ad.
Now its June, I'm running 3 ads a day from one email, one in the am about (8:15 am)(when people are getting to work, so I won't get topposted before they get bored at their desks), one about 1:30, so the stay at home moms can catch my ads during nap time, or after the gym; and so people can catch it in the afternoon when they're also bored at their desks, and getting home from work. Then I post one at 6:15 so when people get on line after dinner they see it. I am thankful for a blackberry so I can just copy and paste my html. I have about 7 ads, I'd like to have 25 ads That I could just run different ad campaigns all the time, but in time- right now is the time to make money outside, not being a computer nerd- come February maybe.
So in conclusion, if your in an area that doesn't get alot of craigslist traffic (good measure if you don't see about 50+ things posted in the free section a day) then try running an ad a day or two, but if your in a busy area and top posting is an issue, then do as the romans. Also considering advertising in neighboring areas if you don't mind a drive.