Facebook ads work great…
…for product companies with low-priced, transactional products.
That’s the stereotype. Otherwise, they “don’t work,” according to Hacker News experts.
But they do. And they can. With almost any product or service.
Here’s why, and how you can (and should) use Facebook ads to generate leads and solidify client relationships.
Why Facebook Ads are Tailor-Made for High-Ticket Services
We could start with statistics.
Instead, let’s start with sales.
Like, in person or on the phone.
Your ability to ‘close’ that person depends on a number of factors. Not all of them are in your own hands.
Question #1. Do they value a need for what you’re selling?
If not, don’t even bother. You’d be wasting your time. You can’t convince someone they need something that they don’t think they need. A solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, isn’t a solution.
Question #2. Are they the right ‘fit’?
Services are intangible (for the most part). So you’re selling the invisible. There’s gray area. Subjectivity.
People need to really buy into you. Otherwise, they’re off to alternatives.
RFPs and job boards remove this subjectivity. At the expense of your bottom line. Because you’re herded in, like a cattle call, and analyzed based on a few things that usually narrow down to: price.
RFPs and job boards put you at another disadvantage. You’re left fighting over scraps at the ‘bottom of the funnel’. These people have already determined the scope (improperly). And set the timeline (which is impossible to hit). And now your implicit positioning works against you as all control is lost. Incongruency here means you’ve already lost the sale before you take the first phone call.
Instead, what should it look like?
“Our goal when endeavoring to position ourselves against our competition is to reduce or outright eliminate them. When we drastically reduce the real alternatives to hiring our firm, we shift the power balance away from the client and toward us,”
explains Blair Enns in his brilliant Win Without Pitching manifesto.
SPIN Selling taught us in 1988 that the bigger the sale, the more nurturing required. Salespeople needed to focus more on developing perceived value, as opposed to closing ASAP.
But in order to that effectively, you often need to (A) reach buyer’s earlier on the decision-making process and then (B) educate that prospect so they know why you’re better / faster / more effective than the alternatives.
How, exactly, should you do that?
Let me tell you a story.
Hack #1. Storytelling
These stats never meant much to me. Naivety and ignorance probably.
Until I saw this “Dangers of Free WiFi” infographic from ExpressVPN. That piqued my interest. Never even thought about airport or hotel connections. So I dug deeper into Man in the middle attacks. Now, I’m writing this in a hotel lobby with a – you guessed it – VPN connected.
That’s how it works. That’s how we discover things online. Especially on Facebook.
I didn’t go searching for a VPN. I never knew I needed one in the first place. I didn’t value it, therefore I didn’t look for it.
Instead, it found me. Serendipity.
All thanks to a random infographic. Content.
This same exact process even applies to B2B companies. Albeit, not exactly as quickly.
~Fifteen years ago I read Permission Marketing. Was still in college. “This dude is smart,” I thought.
~Ten years ago I read Inbound Marketing. (Different title, same premise.) “These HubSpot people are smart,” I thought.
~Three+ years ago I became a HubSpot customer, forking over ~$10k/year. ~Two+ years ago. Then a HubSpot Partner. Getting others to fork over ~$10k/year.
An overnight customer evangelist. Ten to fifteen years in the making. All starting with content. But more specifically, value and education around a specific pain point.
Inbound marketing software wasn’t on my radar ten years ago. (Nor was it in my budget.) Instead, building a career in marketing and using technology to get customers, was.
So there, you begin.
An interesting story. An anecdote. A clever hook that draws people in. Kinda like this:
One of the most well-known headlines, well, ever. Written by famed copywriter John Caples 1927. Who was responsible for Tested Advertising Methods.
Everyone remembers that ad. That headline. But not everyone remembers what the ad was about. (Considering only our grandparents were around to read it originally.)
It told a story. That eventually ended with a call to action. To ask people for the information. So they could receive a free product. (A 1920s lead magnet.)
The first step was (and is) attention. Can’t do anything else without it.
Hack #2. Content Mapping
Vegas. Seedy nightclub. Mid-nineties.
One gambler seeks advice from another. How to make the most money in the least amount of time. Pokers the game.
“They’re called ‘marks’. The people who aren’t as good as you. They’re who you want.”
“But how do you find them?”
“Here. I’ll show you.”
The veteran gambler does something under the table. Right before ‘racking a shotgun’. It echoes loudly.
A few turn around, noticing the familiar noise.
“Those are the ones you don’t want to play with,” remarked the vet. “Everyone else is your mark.”
This unforgettable scene comes courtesy of Perry Marshall in his brilliant 80/20 Sales & Marketing. He calls it ‘racking the shotgun’ (for obvious reasons). The point is to use marketing efforts to elicit a response. They should get a few people to respond. And that should help you figure out the ones to focus on (and which to ignore).
Different types of content appeal to different people. Different topics and different key terms also do, too. Content mapping is the process of matching the right stuff to the right people.
eBooks, for example, work at the top of the funnel. Because they’re problem-specific, often with words like “mistakes” or “optimize” etc.
The trick is in knowing how to find those people.
Hack #3. Interest Intersection & Exclusions
All content mapped offers should target custom audiences like past leads or recent website visits.
But how do you target those people?
You know storytelling brings them in. Content mapping nurtures them. But how do you find them in the first place?
Ideally, you want an audience size of at least 500,000 to one million. Too small and campaigns can’t optimize. Too large and you’re going to waste money on irrelevant visitors.
The problem is that plugging in “Software” as an interest is too generic. Millions and millions might follow a single media publication, so they’re out, too.
Instead, you want a delicate balancing act of interests (whether that’s media-based entities, influencers, other companies, job titles, etc.) with the right demographics (so under 30, no budget, while over 50 and they don’t ‘get it’).
BUT. Disqualifying people is almost more important than qualifying for service companies.
So exclusions not only help you throttle back audience size to hit that magic range. But more importantly, it allows you to eliminate people, professions, industries, or sophistication levels that aren’t going to be a good fit.
You want to sell marketing and advertising services. Your customers need enough knowledge in order to know what you do and why it’s important. But they can’t be so knowledgeable that they’re already doing it for themselves.
✅ Targeting other service providers or management consultants is a good start.
✅ Adding in a layer of those people who read Inc. or Fast Company is even better because you can guess that they’re relatively tech savvy.
❌ But then excluding ad agencies and marketing agencies is a safe bet because they already do what you’re trying to sell.
Also, software developers. ‘Cause they’re skeptical of all things marketing and notoriously cheap as hell. 😉
Hack #4. Micro-Conversions
One-and-done is done.
Complex sales are often long and drawn out. Which means you need to slice up your nurturing (and expectations) accordingly into micro-conversions that slowly but surely move people closer to purchasing.
Think eBook downloads, case study pageviews, the number of visits over the past thirty days, and more. These mini-commitments or soft goals move people through your funnel, even if it’s not showing up as a new Goal in Google Analytics.
Take, for example, videos.
They’re universally loved. Stats never saw a video that they didn’t like.
Landing page conversions skyrocket. Viewers purchase more. Executives take action.
Which makes video views the perfect micro-conversion. Picture perfect, really. Because based on almost every stat ever, video views lead to more purchases.
The trouble, of course, is tracking, measuring, and proving how these soft ‘middle of the funnel’ actions lead directly to the conversion event days or weeks later.
That is, difficult if you’re not using the right tool.
HubSpot’s lead scoring can help you track not only ‘explicit’ or hard conversions, but also all of those softer, ‘implicit’ micro ones like pageviews, specific page visits (e.g. Plans & Pricing), and more.
Then each contact receives a score that lets you see who’s ready to become a new prospect because of the number of micro-conversions they’ve already accumulated. Like video views (with a little help from Wistia).
An aggregate number of people who viewed a video inside Google Analytics is next to useless. On the other hand, Kissmetrics Funnel Report will help you create funnels to track individual visits. And compare how a micro-conversion in the middle of the funnel may or may NOT have contributed to a conversion at the end of the day.
Hack #5. Ad Placements
Desktop News Feed ads are the best. Bar none.
Problem is, they’re also the most expensive.
You can stretch ad dollars without sacrificing results by using the right ad placements at the right time. Here’s a quick look.
Step #1. Want Cheap Visits? Start with Mobile.
Less demand + more supply = lower costs.
Two additional benefits.
The first is consumer behavior. Our CEO Massimo said, “Users will discover your product on their phones… then buy it the next day on their desktop.”
The second is that Facebook recently unveiled custom audiences based on Facebook engagement. Which means you can begin building custom audiences with storytelling to target specific groups of people (using interest inclusions and exclusions), all without those people ever having to actually leave Facebook.
Facebook’s AMP-like Instant Articles is your first option.
Canvas ads are a close second.
And one-to-two cent video views is an incredibly close third (allowing you to rack up a ~1000 video views for only $10-20).
Step #2. Retargeting Custom Audiences? Use the Right Sidebar.
Right-hand sidebar ads are small. Almost too small.
The image isn’t big enough to convey something complicated or detailed. There’s barely enough room for a few headline words. And there’s definitely not enough space for a description to add context.
Taking a Desktop News Feed ad and forcing it into the right sidebar only creates problems. Because stuff is illegible. Gets truncated. Or indecipherable.
There is one exception, though.
Using right sidebar ads for retargeting efforts to people who already notice who you are and what you offer can deliver less expensive results.
Two good examples from the same exact session:
Up top, you’ve got Frank Kern. Easily recognizable (assuming you’ve been to his website, sat through his webinars, etc. etc.). However, the headline and descriptions are truncated. While the book text is also borderline too small.
On the bottom, a text right sidebar ad from Autopilot. This ad is clearly made for this position, with a perfect headline and description length. Although the image uses text, it’s big enough with contrast (of color on a white background) to be legible at a small size.
Step #3. Ready to Generate Sales? Go with the Desktop News Feed
Last but not least, rely on the longer-than-usual text and larger-than-usual image to persuade, cajole, and generate conversion actions.
Or use Carousel ads to do that times two, three, or four different value props.
Hack #6. Built-In Follow Up
Complex sales take longer. Dozens of ‘touches’ prior to purchasing and all that. (Have you heard this already?)
You’re stringing people along from micro-conversion to micro-conversion. Slowly moving them through the middle of the funnel until they’re ready, on their own accord, to sit down and talk shop.
Incentives can help you move this along. Like the carrot out in front that gets people to continue moving in the direction of your choice.
Product companies have it easy here. Slap on a 10% off or BOGO deal and call it a day. Pandemonium ensues.
Service companies don’t have it so easy. Discounting and price breaks only devalue your offering and threaten to erode credibility (not to mention already razor-thin profit margins) in the long-term. (Remember that whole positioning bit?)
Instead, service companies have to go with exclusive content or some priority access to keep people moving. Here’s a super ugly graph I made years ago to depict the difference:
Perfect example: Webinars.
They give prospects the chance to get free, insightful strategies that can help them immediately. And they give service companies the ability to scale lead gen + nurturing.
We’ve already got an in-depth article on the subject. So let’s be brief.
Your webinar ad, like this one from GMAT Club, is just the beginning:
Because from here, your goal is to follow up and follow up and continue following up to make sure people actually do, in fact, attend the damn thing. Possibly by asking for and using their mobile number for a friendly SMS when you’re about to begin.
And then following up with attendees afterward with a carefully crafted set of messages designed to introduce the next offer (or micro-conversion) on your list.
But we shouldn’t (or don’t have to) stop there. These new segments of people (Registrations vs. Attendees for example) can be their own custom audiences as well (assuming you’ve got enough volume).
In HubSpot parlance, someone who’s downloaded an eBook could be a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), while those that have attended a webinar and filled out a few basic forms are now a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).
Sequential retargeting + custom audiences mean you can design several new offers that might appeal uniquely to both groups. MQLs get the webinar invite, while SQLs get a tripwire.
And then your ad creative can run through different benefits of each offer or introduce new value props to test, refine, tweak as you go.
Now you’re automating follow-up – systematically – to nurture leads through the abyss in multiple different channels (which mimics their own behavior).
Hack #7. Make it Easy to Buy
Wanna see something kinda funny? You deserve it for reading this far.
This was one of the earlier versions of the HubSpot Pricing page:
Kinda fugly. Right?!
I mean, the info is all there. Lots of it. Adding detailed plans & pricing help make the product offering concrete and tangible for buyers.
But the layout is an overwhelming mess.
MarketingExperiments ran a test on CTA design and found that by rearranging how the information is displayed resulted in a 64% conversion lift.
Apparently, HubSpot eventually got the memo. Here’s what it looks like now:
Simple, clean, and clear. Much easier to understand.
Of course, this is still a product company. Let’s look at how services companies are doing it.
PR2020 uses a point-based system to tier their offering. Once again, something invisible and intangible (like marketing services performed) have now been given context. Still pretty difficult to read (similar to the early HubSpot variation), but they’re moving in the same productized-service direction.
Online lead gen is tough. It takes some extra effort. And the ‘Free Consultation’ page inspires or instructs no one.
Your offer is the one thing separating 2% conversions with those topping 10%, according to $3 billion+ in annual ad spend analyzed by WordStream.
You plug in some basic historical data, like the number of visits and how you’re currently closing those leads. And they provide the outcome that you can expect. So instead of wasting time with hourly rates, the number of blog posts created or keywords tracked (inputs), you’re focusing the client on the BIG RESULT (outputs).
That’s especially important in technical industries when most of your prospects have little-to-no understanding of what’s going on day-to-day. They know the jargon, but not the actual implementation.
Leading indicators matter, sure. But that’s not why people buy services at the end of the day. They’re doing it because they see a better future in store. One whose long-term value far outweighs the short-term costs.
The Sage, Sean Ellis, once remarked:
“Comparing Hubspot’s b-to-b growth to the GrowthHackers.com studies for more b-to-c products like Snapchat or Evernote, it looks like b-to-b marketing is a lot more hard work. Seems like b-to-c is more product driven.”
Of course, they’re talking about tech products. But the kernel of wisdom applies to plumbing services, management training, and even law.
It’s f-ing hard work. Because you’re trying to sell thin air. Without even meeting people face-to-face at first.
Incredibly, Facebook advertising can help. Even in the most technical of fields (what – your customers don’t login to Facebook during their lunch break?).
Implement these 7 B2B facebook advertising hacks to mimic the buying process, increase demand at the top of your funnel, engagement throughout the middle, and the verifiable number of closed leads (if done correctly).
And see for yourself.