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How a change in copy easily sold my R2,000 product on Gumtree, after months of no interest

Adding some oomph to my ad made all the difference.
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I’m not a fan of Gumtree for long-term marketing. It frustrates me that companies prefer it to a website where they can post their products and services to. (The same goes for free Facebook page marketing.)

(If you’re a company owner involved in this sort of foolish short-term approach, why not get a website? You’ll find the product superb.)

What’s the benefit of posting products and services to your own website? Much longer shelf-life, for one. And you’re building your own content empire, not someone else’s.

Gumtree is good for one thing

Although I hate when companies crave after Gumtree, when it comes to selling a used item, Gumtree works well.

That’s why I advertised a swimming pool pump and accessories we no longer needed on Gumtree.

But the first ad was a disaster. Let’s see why…

The first ad – bleak & boring

Because I was too busy to write good copy for my pool pump I created an ad that looked like it was struck by a famine of biblical proportions.

The headline looked like it was fed on a diet of skim milk while the body had the build of a 3,000 year old skeleton catching a tan in the Sahara desert.

And although I’m ashamed of this disaster I’m posting it here to teach others a lesson. (You fix your eyes on this abomination at your own risk.)

The headline

Sun Command Pool Pump.

The content

0.6 kW 2820 RPM pool pump with 2 bag sand filter and multiport valve (MPV). Valued at R5500.

The price


You might be asking, “what’s wrong with that ad? It tells you exactly what it is!”

You’re right. It contain facts. And facts are GREAT.

But people don’t buy on facts only. They buy with their heart.

So what was the response to my fact-filled Gumtree ad?


For months I didn’t get as much as a peep of interest in the ad.

But then I decided to dolly it up a bit…

The second ad – bullseye

Using my copywriting skillz (yo) I crafted the following ad.

The headline

Keep Your Swimming Pool Crispy Clean With This Sun Command Pool Pump

The content

You amble out into your yard to take in some clean air.

Your gaze falls on the dark cesspool that looks like the entrance to an evil alternate universe. You expect Skeletor or Darth Vader to come rising out of it at any moment.

Your pool pump’s given up the ghost, leaving your pool a mess.

And summer’s around the corner! You need your pool crisp and clean for those long summer days. (The cleaner the pool, the less you have to drive your kids around.)

And when you get home from work and want to take a quick dip, can you really do that in this swamp? What if there are alligators or anacondas waiting to snatch you up? (And don’t think it strange when Fluffy suddenly disappears…)

Make sure your swimming pool stays crisp and clean with this Sun Command pool pump and enjoy days of carefree relaxing in the pool.

0.6 kW 2820 RPM pool pump
2 bag sand filter
multiport valve (MPV).

When you buy this new, expect to pay at least R5500.

I’ll give it to you at the bargain price of R2500.

But hurry, because summer is here before you know it and there might be someone else who’d love nothing more than to have their pool sparkling clean.

The price


This was a winner. Let’s see why…

The differences

What made the difference?

A few things, but the headline was the most obvious…

Benefit, not feature

The headline of the second ad was much longer and touted a BENEFIT, not just a product name or description.


If your material contains facts and features only, you’re not telling buyers how you’ll make their lives easier or better.

You must tout benefits, not just features.

Much longer

The ad was much longer than the previous one. It told a story, albeit a wacky one.

Don’t tell yourself, “people don’t read anymore.” And don’t believe others who tell you that.

People read.

If the content is well structured, easy to digest and speaks to their want/s, they’ll read it.

A caution on humour

Keep humour to a minimum. People don’t want your funny for their money.

This is a principle I learnt from one of the best copywriters in the world, Drayton Bird, for whom I wrote a few pieces before he chucked me out of his writing club.

If you can throw in some humour and it’s not at the cost of persuasive copy, by all means do it. But it’s usually safer to exclude it.

Irresistible offer

The ad shared the original (new) price of the product and what I was selling it for.

The man who bought it offered me R2,000 and I gladly accepted. I was not in the mood to quibble, but I’m sure I could have gotten even more than my original asking price.

The bottom line?

It was an irresistible offer. He could have my pump and accessories, which still worked perfectly fine, or pay more than double for a new system.

The result

The new ad brought in two enquiries almost overnight!

The second enquirer brought cash and got the pump.

As mentioned earlier, he paid R500 less than asking price, but I was happy to settle.

What was missing?

If I really had time I’d have worked in a limited time offer.

In Gumtree’s case it’s not possible to add a timer to your ads (which I can do for my clients who need highly targeted online marketing campaigns).

But I could have told readers that, if they responded before a certain time, I’d give them a discount.

It wasn’t necessary in the end, but a limited time offer is worth gold for selling.

Another thing…


I know customer personas are all the rage in marketing these days, but who’s going to research and create a customer persona for a used pool pump? Not me!

But if time and money grew on a tree in my garden I would have, since it would have helped craft the perfect message.


Copy is a powerful tool.

Don’t be fooled by people telling you you must be on Instagram or some other social media platform built on images because people buy only on what they see.

A written story forms part of the sales process, sometimes doing a better job than any picture. In fact, one of the best ways to sell is to draw people into your copy with an image and sell them with words.

If you’re a business owner looking for an online presence, you must ensure your copy is compelling. That’s why you need my incredible marketing website package. It comes loaded with GREAT copy and a host of other bells and whistles that’ll help your website be a tool, not just a tract.

Get hold of me to arrange a consultation.

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