Hacking Craigslist For Viral Growth

ROI Overload Sales & Marketing Newsletter

A painful realization is currently rearing its ugly face as the world slowly starts to open back up.

Vaccinations are well under way and I can only hope that travel and “in person” work, travel, and conferences are just around the corner.

Big problem.

I would say less than… 50% of my dress pants fit from pre-covid. 😟

Not good… maybe I’ll start including some fitness tips in this newsletter as well.

Joking. I won’t include that content here... but i’ll definitely be researching them myself. 🏃

Anyways, here’s what’s coming up.

☕ Sales: NEXT WEEK

📈 Marketing: How Airbnb Grew On Craigslist

Not only did they completely revolutionize and redefine travel as we know it, Airbnb was one of the first ever true “Unicorns”, achieving a billion dollar plus evaluation.

They definitely haven’t slowed down over the years, surpassing over 1b in quarterly revenue, with an evaluation of over 35b, they are nothing short of impressive.

It's not a surprise that startups are emulating and unpacking their business model to try to replicate their success.

Let’s break down some of the main components that helped them achieve their massive success.

Humble Beginnings

Airbnb started out in 2008 when founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia realized there was a business idea in renting our air mattresses to travellers in their living room, when hotel space for a large conference in San Francisco was sold out.

The idea then evolved into a website.

Other people used the website to do the same thing.

Boom. Airbnb.

Do Things That Don’t Scale

Instead of investing in paid ads, or social media, they started manually reaching out to people who would be the perfect client for their website/platform.

Every time someone posted on Craigslist that they were offering their home up for a bed and breakfast or for short term lodging.

They emailed them — asking them if they wanted to list their platform.

This was manual and this was tedious but this worked.

It was a low-cost, and it worked.

To quote Paul Graham, “Do things that don’t scale”.

The Results?

After initial success, they coded up an automated tool that reached out to new Craigslist postings automatically.

They refined the copy, made the on-boarding and sign up simpler and more user-friendly.

This led to viral growth, and was the start of the incredible story of a category, redefining company.

Scaling & Growth

Airbnb is a masterclass in startup strategy, marketing strategy and sales strategy.

They failed multiple times before they achieved any measure of success and the early stage lessons, that they used to achieve their initial momentum, as well as many scaling and growth strategies they used on their way to Unicorn status we’re equally impressive (and far too numerous to properly cover in a newsletter).

When researching this case study, I stumbled across a 230+ page case study that goes into post Craigslist, Airbnb growth strategies and insights, so if you want to read more about some impressive, innovative things that Airbnb did to scale, check out these links.

Lessons Learnt

There’s a few lessons we can learn from Airbnb’s Craigslist strategy.

Growth doesn’t have to be sexy.

  • Airbnb realized that startup growth can be using very traditional, boring and simple methods to achieve initial growth. The Craigslist strategy was essentially an outbound sales strategy for a SaaS project. I know enough developers that just want to set up an inbound machine and never type an email or chat with a customer, and just drive traffic and optimize conversions. Do boring things, that work. You don’t need paid ads, fancy funnels, graphic design. You need to write a few sentences and focus on getting customers wherever they’re at.

Meet customers where they’re at.

  • Airbnb didn’t focus on targeting, retargeting, and spreading a wide net, they just met their customers where they were at. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Silicon Valley thinking they wanted to spend their time on a platform as “unsexy” as Craigslist. But they realized that their customers were there — so they just spent time meeting the customers on the platform/medium that they preferred.

Be unconventional.

  • Keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate a customer acquisition process. Just because your strategy isn’t in line with the strategy used by a CMO chatting about the latest high tech demand generation schemes on a popular marketing podcast, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Being unconventional is a good thing.

Do things that don’t scale.

  • To build out a process that will let you scale your business, it’s not going to be scalable day 1. It won’t be automated, it won’t be available en masse. It will be slow, and painful. A common trap that founders or marketers fall into, is that they assume that if they build it, customers will come. This is the most dangerous mindset trap to fall into. Almost all successful business, or strategies work because someone made it work. Figured out how to optimize it, manually. This took a painstakingly long time to figure it out, and only then, once they proved that it was successful, figured out ways to scale it and automated it. Recruit users & land customers manually, and then scale that process, only once you’ve figured out that it works.

💻 SaaS Of The Week: Growth Tweets

Twitter is great, but it’s noisy.

If you’re in the sales or marketing space, it’s time-consuming to weed through hundreds of tweets to find good, relevant content that you can learn from, respond to or re-tweet.

Growth Tweets attempts to solve this (and it does a pretty good job).

Granted, it’s not a true SaaS, as it’s a content curation site, but it is extremely useful for any individuals in sales or marketing that need to curate content for their social channels, or easily engage and interact with popular, relevant tweets on sales & marketing & growth to increase engagement without spending hours, scrolling and researching.

🎧 Things You Should Listen To: Bonnie Marcus, Author of ‘Not Done Yet’

A few weeks ago I spoke to Bonnie Marcus. This podcast was particularly exciting for me because it brought up an issue that, unfortunately in 2021 — still has not been properly rectified.

Inequality of women, as well as older women, in the workplace.

Bonnie has made a career focused on helping women navigate various work, career and pay gap issues.

She’s written two books on the topic and currently focuses on helping older women re-adjust and compete in an ever evolving, changing professional world.

She has great ideas and is definitely someone you should listen to, learn from and take those ideas back into your own company or organization.

Here’s what we got into…

  • Pivoting from corporate to entrepreneur

  • Gender bias in the workplace

  • Women in tech

  • What is bias training, and how can you implement it?

  • Career advice for older women in the workforce

  • Teaching through career stories

  • Should you stay or should you leave (a toxic organization)

📚 Things You Should Read: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

The hard thing about hard things deals with the trials that Ben Horowitz encountered during his career as founder CEO to VC at Andreessen Horowitz. The book gives practical advice on how to grow a company, find the right executives, and deal with the hard decisions along the way.

The book contains many real world examples that are easy to relate to and even easier to identify with.  

Ben provides answers and approaches for some of the tough scenarios that every leader faces. He does a fantastic job of using relevant examples from his personal experience along with some fantastic pointers/assessments from true leaders in business.

Grab the book on Amazon (aff link) here.

🧠 Scott’s Thoughts: Dreams Do Not Come With An Expiry Date

Your dreams do not come with an expiry date.

If you have proper intentions and a concrete vision, you’ll always end up winning.

I've never met someone who's been doing something for 10 years continuously who's looked back and considered themselves unsuccessful.

The secret to success is in perseverance and continuity.

10 years is 3650 days.

That's it.

That's all it would take to be relatively successful at ANYTHING you choose to do.

If you're successful before then.

Mazel tov.

Start today.

Build today.


It's that simple.

Just start.

Have an awesome week, y’all.

— Scott ✌️

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