How a Pro Marketer Would Sell a Used Workout Machine on Craigslist

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It doesn’t matter whether you are writing offers for a Fortune 500 company or Craigslist. To get results, you use the same basic techniques.

Let’s take a look at some Craigslist ads to see what works. Then try the same techniques on your own sales pages and see if they don’t make a difference.

Start with a compelling title

Every offer should start with a strong headline. Nothing cute or clever.  The goal here is to invite a click.  So, while simple is often better you must also manage to convince someone to take action.

Here are some poor excuses for headlines on Craigslist,


Don’t rely on gimmicks. Simply state your offer, including brand names and other details that make people want to click.

Like this one:

title good

This headline communicates a lot in just 12 words.

It tells you the brand and product. It also lists the price — after making a short sales pitch and telling you he’ll negotiate.

If you’re in the market for a workout machine, this title invites a click.

Use clear images

A descriptive title and clear images can often do the bulk of your selling. So always include pictures with your ads.

Here’s how the weight machine ad does it:

cover image

It includes eight images that give a complete picture of the product.

Always remember, when you take pictures, think like your buyer. You aren’t just showing off your product. You’re giving additional information and answering questions. So include as many details as you can.

For instance, if you describe a piece of furniture as shabby chic, show how shabby.

image - shabby chic

If it has unique features, show them off.

image - unique features

Display the product from many different angles.

image - features

This helps buyers understand exactly what they’re getting. And the better they understand it, the more comfortable they are buying.

Add persuasive sales copy

The body of your ad fills information gaps that could prevent buyers from responding. It introduces your product, details features and benefits, and tells people what to do next.

While it’s tempting to give your contact information and call it done, the body of your ad is the part that drives action. It’s worth the time to write a few descriptive paragraphs.

You can complete this section in three simple steps.

1. Introduce your product

Start by telling people what your product is and why it’s so great. The weight machine ad (whose headline we looked at above) hits a home run on this. It reads:

“$240 = 90% OFF Retail (what I paid) !
————– FreeMotion Home Dual Cable Crossover ————————
The ULTIMATE Home GYM ! This is same as in top gyms and clubs, except a little less weight to keep it under 1/2 a Ton, and more transportable.
Barely used. Very clean and like new.
This HEAVY DUTY, Small Footprint BEAST does it ALL! Resistance exercise for Virtually every muscle.
When I went to 24 Hour Fitness I spent most of my time on this machine, but the handles were always worn out. So I got my own!”

Notice that it leads with the strongest benefit: a 90% savings off the retail price. It follows with the full name of the product: FreeMotion Home Dual Cable Crossover.

That leaves no doubt about what the ad is for.

But in case the brand name doesn’t impress, the seller provides a good description of the machine:

  • “Ultimate home gym”
  • “The same as in top gyms and clubs”
  • “Resistance exercise for virtually every muscle”

Tip: The opening of your ad must capture attention and get people interested. Always lead with your strongest benefit. Then once you have their interest, you can give your selling points.

2. Talk it up: features and benefits

Once readers are interested in your product, you want them to understand exactly what they’re getting.

Here’s how the weight machine ad does it:

“Handles, cables and pullies, etc. are all like new. Always inside & air conditioned. Lubricated when moved, even though had not been used enough to warrant.
Includes original manual, poster showing exercises, and heavy rubber mat. (I can send picture of exercise poster if you are not familiar with this machine.)”

While this does list features, it fails to mention benefits.

Since the ad starts out so strong, it doesn’t suffer too much for leaving them out. But imagine how much more effective it would be with a few benefits mixed in.

Tip: Always try to list a feature and its benefit in the same sentence. For instance, if I were to rewrite this section of the ad, I’d say something like:

  • All moving parts are like new, including handles, cables and pulleys — so you can enjoy premium performance for years to come.
  • Always inside and air conditioned — looks like it just came off the showroom floor.
  • Lubricated when moved — just set it up and it’s ready to use.
  • Includes original manual, exercise posters, and heavy rubber mat — get the full gym experience in the privacy of your own home.

Notice how the bullets make it easy to grasp all the features at a glance, and that each feature adds another benefit.

By joining features and benefits in a single statement, you create a one-two punch that’s hard to resist.

3. Close strong: urgency and a call to action

Wife says I can’t keep it, and new tenant moves in March 1 (I am the landlord).
So, some LUCKY lad or lassie, who recognizes this and uses one like it at the gym will get it for less that the cost to move it.
Will go to Lucky bidder who can pick it up on Sunday, Feb.24, or Saturdays (the 16th and 23rd) before. (I can tell you who to call to help move it.)
Otherwise I have to take it to Houston and sell it out of a mini-storage unit. Wife said NO to putting it in the garage. :(“

While I don’t recommend selling out your spouse to make the sale, it is important to give an incentive to act.

If you can create a sense of urgency, you may push buyers to respond now rather than waiting until they think about it, which usually means they’ll forget about it.

This seller does it by stating he has to get rid of the weight machine before a new tenant moves in.

But that’s where he stops, leaving off the most important element of any ad: the call to action.

At this point, you need to tell people what you want them to do and provide a simple way to respond.

Notice that this seller provides no phone number. Big mistake!

If you go to the trouble of crafting an ad, at least let people know how to get in touch with you.

Tip: There’s no trick to creating a call to action. In fact, the more direct, the better. Tell people how to respond, then give your contact information.  It’s that easy.

Bottom line: Be clear about what you’re selling and why it’s so great

Ultimately, selling is about communication. Whether you’re selling an old workout machine on Craigslist or home entertainment systems for Best Buy, it’s fundamentally the same.

At its most basic, you must tell people:

  • what your product is
  • how it will benefit them
  • how they can get it

The weight-machine ad is a fairly good example of how you can do it — if you add a call to action.

Communicate clearly and concisely, being respectful of your potential buyers, and you’re sure to craft an ad that sells.

Do you have anything to add? What ad-writing tricks do you have up your sleeve? Share in the comments below.

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