Facebook is an ever-evolving platform, the speed in which things change is both a blessing and a curse for most business owners.
I am sure if you have spent any time in the ads manager or have been receiving reports from those that do, you are aware of just how quickly results can change.
One week you are generating leads or sales on tap, making plans to expand and the next... well, you’re pulling your hair out, losing money and wondering what on earth went wrong.
In a platform with almost immediately available metrics, if you do not have your finger on the pulse of change, you can fall behind before you even realise.
This is especially true now more and more businesses place themselves in the precarious position of generating a larger portion of their income through the platform.
We have been running Facebook ads since the early part of this decade, made a lot of money with our own businesses, but also a huge amount of mistakes and developed our skills in the trenches.
We now carefully manage £1,000,000s in spend, and it is safe to say we have ridden the rollercoaster, experienced the emphatic highs and the crushing lows, but developed a deep understanding of what really works on the platform and what doesn’t.
We recently scaled one of our clients from £30k/month to £300k/month exclusively through Facebook platform in the past year.
And this article is intended as a guide to the some of main strategic lessons we learnt from this account and in the entire time mastering Facebook ads.
Use it to spark inspiration for new tests in your own marketing, to scale your own spend, to develop a more detailed strategy and to help improve your results.
The Buying Decision Is A Journey
Every purchase of your product is a decision a human has had to make, a moment in time where a person has subconsciously weighed up many different factors to decide whether or not they have enough trust in your brand, are confident enough your product will help them achieve their desired outcome and whether they perceive the product as worth the risk of parting with their hard earned cash.
Every purchase has a commitment level and the higher the price point, the higher the commitment level. Too many marketers forget this.
Us business owners and marketers too often view our products with rose tinted glasses, we generally know how our products can improve our customers lives and just assume that they will as well when landing on our sales page.
Your job should be to take your potential customers on a journey
A journey that can speak to their individual reasons for wanting your product, educating them on your products benefits, overcoming the potential obstacles they may face when making a purchase and building the level of trust, authority and relationship you have with them.
Through a huge amount of trial and error and many millions spent in our time, the process we have utilised most effectively to predictably move people from not knowing anything about you or your brand to making a purchase is a strategy we call the ecosystem method.
You can learn about how to implement the ecosystem method in your business here.
We generally start the breaking down the different content we have and the different levels of commitment people need to take to consume that content.
Then by utilising ‘signalling content’ at Level 1 (which we cover more in the audience section of this article), and we place content focusing on a particular topic in front of a broad audience. Anyone who views a certain percentage of that video has ‘signalled’ to us that they are interested in that particular topic.
Once we have identified someone is interested and they are at a level 1 commitment, we will try to move them up the commitment level…
If it is a low priced product, we may move them straight into the sales page… if it is a higher priced product we may move them into a piece of high quality opt in content that is focused on the topic the prospect has signalled they are interested in.
This massively increases the relevance of your ad campaigns, thereby enhancing your click through rates, your conversion rates and your brand perception.
People who then opt in to that piece of content have signalled to us that they are at a commitment level of 3 and we can try and move them into the sale, this is where we can get even more segmented and make the messaging even more personalised in our sales ads AND sales page based on the content the user has consumed.
This is a complete reversal of the usual method we see people trying to utilise, which is to get as many people into a sales page as possible and use all manner of brand-harming scarcity and shock tactics to force the sale, users don’t feel in control of the buying decision in this state.
The ecosystem method gives the feeling of control back to the user, we are subtly placing what they want to see in front of them at the time they need to see it, gently guiding them into a sale rather than forcefully pushing them which makes the buying decision much more powerful.
There is a huge amount more to the ecosystem method that I cannot cover here, but we filmed a completely free, no opt-in training that will show you exactly how you can start to implement the ecosystem method in your business.
The Right Creative Is Not Enough
I often find it amazing when auditing campaigns for other businesses how little effort goes into cold audience testing.
You can come up with all the fanciest creatives and pour thousands of pounds and hours into creating compelling ad copy, stunning videos and incredible images…
But if they are being seen by the wrong type of people then they will fall flat on their face and not produce the results you desire.
Having the right creative is not enough, especially in this digital age where every platform is so saturated and relevancy is one of the key factors in high performing campaigns.You need to be able to effectively match what copy and image variants work well to each different audience and scale the ones that do.
You need creatives that will appeal to an audience's very specific set of individual needs, wants, desires and obstacles.
It is very easy to do that with segmentation on your retargeting audiences but cold traffic will make up the core volume of traffic into your offers and is a big factor most people miss out on.
Every new creative we produce is tested to a minimum of 5 different cold audiences and rolled out to even more applicable audiences once it has been proven to convert. And the best performing audiences have creatives produced specifically to appeal to them.
You will find that the difference in performance between the exact same ad driven to different audiences can be huge and make the difference between you losing money on your advertising and achieving your biggest months.
Your aim should be to find the creatives that best appeal to each of your best performing audiences.
Not only is this an effective way of producing some incredible performing ad sets but it is also an incredibly effective way of scaling your account.
Get Your Tracking Right
It sounds super basic, but you would be surprised how many accounts we audit that don’t have the correct tracking set up for their digital campaigns.
The least you need in place is simple conversion tracking but in my opinion it is essential to have the ability to see the user movement through every page and critical action en route to a purchase.
We recommend undertaking a complete tracking audit of your digital presence, looking at what tracking events or custom conversions we can place on each of those critical pages so we can get a good understanding of where the drop off points are and where the holes are in our funnel.
An example of this in a typical lead gen funnel with an up-sell to a sales page in the opt in content.
This gives you a broad spectrum of information as to what ads are driving people to where and where the drop off may be with certain audiences from particular ads.
We have a full free training about setting up tracking properly for your business coming soon.
Your Audience Is A Currency
My favourite saying!
In this direct response world of immediate acquisition and tracking, too many businesses get caught up in pushing for sales or leads constantly and neglect what is, in my opinion, the biggest part of a digital marketing strategy...
If you are constantly trying to draw sales and leads from your audience without giving anything back, all you are going to do is annoy them and turn them off your brand..
And if there is one thing you need to protect at all costs, it’s your brand. That’s what is going to provide longevity in your business.
Audience cultivation is actually the easiest part of the whole digital marketing process in my opinion, but it is often the most misunderstood.
It can literally start off as simple as taking your best content, the stuff that appeals to your audience the most, and sending it out to your different audience tests at $1 a day.
Every time you create a new piece of content you can send it out to your audience tests… before you know it you’ll have a content net that’s engaging thousands of people a day and introducing them to your brand. But more importantly, allowing you to retarget them with more content encouraging them to take a higher commitment with you..
This is part of what we call the ecosystem method, a unique retargeting approach that helps us achieve incredible results with our clients.
Utilising all the different mediums of content at your disposal will help you reach a much broader range of people. Short video, long form video, blogs, free no-opt in webinars, the list goes on.
The more varied you can be in your content approach the better you can build your own digital marketing ecosystem.
Long Copy Works… And Works Well
There is a misconception I see and hear constantly that long copy doesn’t work for social media campaigns, we even get told it from our Facebook rep.
Now that is generally one of the first hypotheses we test whenever we are driving traffic to a new offer or working with a new client in a new industry… and you know what,
I cannot remember any instances where short copy has significantly outperformed medium or long copy in terms of leads or purchases.
I personally believe the reason people don’t think long copy works is because they are not adept at writing copy that can attract attention, display the outcome of their offer and trigger enough emotion in their audience in one bit of ad copy.
It is super easy to achieve a large volume of clicks with short copy but the trade off with that is you have a lower quality click coming through to your landing page and you will suffer with a lower conversion rate.
The art of creating an ad and landing page that converts well together essentially comes down to trying to achieve a high click through rate (CTR) and a high conversion rate.
Short copy relies on the sales page doing the vast majority of the selling of the prospect, averagely written long or medium copy struggles to generate a good CTR AND suffers a low conversion rate because it will still be relying on the sales page to do the vast majority of the selling…
Well, written medium and long copy however can either be written to generate a high CTR and a high conversion rate, or to specifically achieve a lower CTR with a much higher quality click that leads to a super high conversion rate because the prospect is already bought in to the offer.
We have some campaigns running for this client are costing us $5 per click (which in normal circumstances is awful) but are some of our best performing campaigns generating sales for $35 which is 50% the cost of our ad based campaigns.
Don’t shy away from long copy, learn to write it, increase your testing on copy variations and make it as relevant as you can to the life situation your audience is in.
Campaign Bid Optimisation (CBO) campaigns can help you scale
CBO campaigns are becoming mandatory soon anyway and this has caused a lot of controversy, however we have found them extremely useful for scaling our campaigns.
When we first started testing CBO campaigns it was always with our best performing ad sets (mixing our best performing creatives and audiences) to see if we could generate comparable results to what we were seeing with traditional campaigns… The results were quite amazing.
When testing a CBO campaign that only included our best performing ad sets, we saw the cost per purchase drop massively insert stats and found the campaigns a much more stable base to scale upon.
The process we followed is very simple as was the criteria for which ad sets we moved into the CBO campaign test, if an ad set has achieved above a certain amount of purchases and below a certain cost per purchase, we would transfer it.
A lot of people believe that using CBO campaigns gives you much less control and you can’t manage the spend of your ad sets at all, THIS IS NOT TRUE. You can set minimum and maximum spend limits on each ad set.
In the best performing CBO tests, we have to do very little optimisation of each individual ad set and very little trimming of spend.
However we have found we need to do much more optimisation in CBO campaigns that we utilise for initial testing or with unproven ad sets, we find a lot of tests with promising data not spending much and we also find a lot of tests that are not doing fantastically getting the majority of the spend. Whilst it is easy to optimise just like we do with traditional campaigns (instead by adding minimum and maximum spend limits),
We find the best way by far to utilise CBO campaigns is with the following procedure:
- Test new ad sets and audiences within traditional a traditional non-CBO campaign
- When those tests achieve a specific criteria, move them into a CBO campaign that contains only your best performing ad sets.
- Optimise when needed and scale!
And until CBO becomes mandatory, that is likely the primary way we will utilise CBO campaigns.
Pricing tests are one of the most important tests you can make and can have the biggest impact on your business.
We increased the price of the lowest product in this clients business by 20%, initially it looked like the result was a failure.
We saw a decrease in the amount of purchases of the lower tier product that outweighed the increase in average order value… However the knock on effect on the rest of the other products resulted in an increased order value of a massive 45%.
See, although the increased revenue of the lower tier price option fell, it framed the better, higher price point products as being a much better deal.
We saw an increase in purchases to the middle tier product of 29.9%.
And an increase in purchases to the higher tier product of 43%.
This is all from the same traffic and similar ad spend, no changes in the campaign strategy or the ads themselves… Just from changing a price.
If you have not implemented a recent pricing test in your business, how much do you think you could be leaving on the table?
Don’t Be Afraid To Go Big
The Facebook algorithm is powerful, let it do some work for you!
As with the long copy myth, there is a general consensus that the more specific you can make your audience, the better the results will be.
Logically this makes sense… it will increase the relevancy of your ads which I have already said is a factor in improving your campaigns and you will condense more of your ad spend into your ‘perfect buyers’.
But what logically makes sense, rarely works out in a practical sense as we see here.
1 key metric that is rarely taken into account when trying to get as specific as possible with your audience targeting is your campaigns CPM.
Your CPM is how much facebook charge you for 1,000 impressions
It is the over-arching metric in your campaigns, it all comes back to CPM at the end of the day… what I mean by that is;
- If your CPM is very high your cost per click will be high
- If your CPM is very high your cost per purchase will be high
Your cost per click is just an equation of your CPM and your CTR… if your CPM is very high and your CTR is even good, you will still be left with a high CPC.
Why is this important?
Because we generally find that the more specific you go with your audience, the larger the increase in CPM.
And that’s not good unless you can overcome the CPM by increasing the relevancy so much that you increase the CTR to an extent that you outweigh the heightened CPM.
I know that sounds complicated… but there’s an art to audience testing.
- You don’t want to rely on an audience that is so large that the CTR and conversion rate is almost non existent due to a lack of relevancy.
- You don’t want to rely an audience that is so specific and the CPM so high that it renders it almost impossible to get a good result no matter how impressive your creative is.
A good example of testing which audience size works best for you is by creating an interest based audience that is targeted towards different country groupings.
- Group 1 - Your main 4 countries
- Group 2 - Your top 40 countries in terms of purchase
- Group 3 - Worldwide
As you can see we have a more specific grouping in group 1, a medium size in group 2 and a large size in group 3. With this business we generally see Group 2 working best.
You can obviously go a lot deeper than that, and we do, but I fear if I write any more in this section we would be here all day.
The main point being, sometimes it is better to target a larger group and let the Facebook algorithm decide who to show the ad to, you will be rewarded with a lower CPM and better results.
Polished Creatives Rarely Work
We see this play out again and again on social media in every industry we work in. We have worked with businesses who have spent north of £100k on one amazing video creative only to see it flop and be completely outperformed by videos like a shaky, blurred, 9 second clip a customer filmed themselves.
Polished and edited video creatives just don’t normally fit that well into a social media landscape
Your audience know what an ad looks like and generally do their best to avoid them… How many times have you seen what looks like an ad on your news feed and flicked straight past it.
The truth is, people are on social media to be nosy. They are not browsing social media to see ads, they want to know what their ex is up to nowadays, what Janet from over the road is doing or what their friend from work's holiday is like.
Your ads are intruding on them. The more they look like a natural post, the more they fit into the newsfeed the better they generally perform in terms of conversion. (Branding is a completely different matter)
The more they look like a natural post, the more they fit into the newsfeed the better they generally perform in terms of conversion. (Branding is a completely different matter)
What is more important than a professionally edited video, is the story you tell, the emotions you elicit, the obstacles you help your audience overcome, the reliability of your video and the outcome you can display your offer helping your audience achieve.
Obviously your content has got to be legible, if you’re producing mainly educational content you need to have good audio quality etc. But don’t get hung up on making your videos look like a TV commercial or your images looking like a print ad… it will likely end up costing you more than just the production fees.
Sharing Post IDs Turbocharges Your Ads
Social proof is everything, the more social proof you have on your campaigns, the more authoritative you are perceived to be.
If you are testing the same creatives to different audiences, different countries or in different campaigns, you are essentially using different ads even though they look the same.
That means they each have their own post engagement (comments, likes and shares). If you use the post ID of the original ad you created for each individual ad set it will allow you to share the post engagement across each ad set.
This means that instead of having lots of different ads that look the same with a small amount of engagement… You have ONE ad with a large amount of engagement, giving your ad a lot more social proof which our tests indicate not only increase the amount of clicks and purchases you will receive but will also reduce your CPM making it cheaper to advertise and synergistically bringing down the cost per purchase.
This will also reduce the risk of making mistakes within the ad as all you need to do to create the ad is insert the post ID.
We have used this process regularly with every single client to great effect although it is worth noting you cannot utilise this method if you are using asset customisation in your ads.
Plug Your Holes!
If you have your tracking set up correctly at each step you expect prospects to take, you will easily be able to identify any areas in which they are dropping off.
A prime example would be a typical Ecommerce site where you will have users:
- View your website
- View a particular group of products
- View an individual product
- Add the product to their cart
- Start the checkout process
- Make a purchase
You can see those in ads manager by editing your columns to show the pixels you have set up on each step, below is a screenshot of a campaign driving people to a sales page, followed by a checkout page and then completing a purchase.
At each one of those 6 steps, user drop-off will naturally occur. Not everyone who adds a product to their cart will start the checkout process and not everyone who starts the checkout process will buy.
These are prime people to target with your social media campaigns. The further they get down those steps, the higher their likelihood to buy. If someone has added a product to their cart but they have not bought, the first question we need to ask ourselves is WHY.
What is the reason they’ve got so close to buying your product or your service but stopped at the last minute?
If you can identify that reason and overcome it, you will win that sale. This is where checkout retargeting campaigns and similar sequential retargeting campaigns come into their own.
- Did the user start the checkout process and just get sidetracked before they could buy?
- Did they need a little more information to finalise the purchase, were they not sure if the product was right for them?
- Did they need to have a little more trust in your brand before buying?
- Was the cost of the product or the cost of shipping putting them off?
Each of these obstacles can have different creatives, messaging and offers designed to overcome them and encourage the user into a sale.
Our general method is to create audiences that target people from day 1-7 after hitting the checkout and not buying and test which angle performs best. Then create another audience to target people from days 7-14 to either provide more social proof, establish more trust, deliver more value or attempt to down-sell.
Ask yourself how profitable it would be if you could move your sales page conversion rate up by a 1 or 2%?
If you have 10,000 people viewing your sales page per month it will result in an extra 100 - 200 sales, that's how powerful checkout retargeting can be.
This same process can be applied to any step a user takes throughout your digital ecosystem.
If someone has hit an opt-in form and not submitted their email, if someone has viewed a particular group of products but not added any to their cart or any other system process where users drop off.
The amount of accounts we have audited that have sending £100,000s worth of traffic into a sales funnel without having any form of retargeting to plug their holes is scary.
If you are not addressing these drop off points, you are leaving many easy sales on the table.
Relevancy, timing and consistency is critical in the new age of digital marketing.
The more personalised you can make your offers and your messaging, the higher your campaigns will perform.
In all honesty, this is just scratching the surface of the lessons we have learnt spending £1,000,000s on the Facebook ad platform and diving deep into the metrics of many campaigns across many different industries and many different strategies every day.
As I said at the beginning, the intention of this article is not to give you an in-depth tutorial on how to develop a facebook marketing strategy and set up all your campaigns, that would require a full course…
But rather to provide inspiration for you to create your own tests, to structure your marketing plan more efficiently and ensure you have the main foundations in place to increase your results and scale your marketing spend to grow your business and profit levels.
I understand how complicated the Facebook ad platform can be, how stressful it can be when nothing you or your team attempts seems to work and how frustrating it can be seeing your results declining and feeling powerless to do anything about it.
If you are still unsure of what to try next, how to improve your results or where to turn after reading this article then you may be interested in under-going a complete marketing audit.
This is where our in-house experts dive deep into your current marketing campaigns and business strategy to identify exactly where you are leaving sales on the table, any areas that you can improve your campaigns and develop a complete marketing ecosystem strategy for your business.