Let’s be honest with each other for a second… Digital marketing efforts, outside of the ‘digital marketing’ and tech space, largely suck. Go see for yourself. Pull up any B2B website. Or how about a local service provider. Or a product company. Hell — even huge, household eCommerce names are mostly terrible.
Websites are clunky at best. Emails are terrible. And the less said about content or social, the better. Most are simply coasting by on brand recognition and big ad budgets to make up for you, well, skillz.
Inside our lovely echo chamber of marketing technology, though, things are different. MUCH different.
The bar is insanely high. You guys reading this, and the marketers at some of the top companies profiled below, are the ones pushing the boundaries and creating the rules on-the-fly.
SumoMe, HubSpot, and Marketo are just a few of the ones leading the pack. So let’s study them and apply their techniques outside of our industry to not only dominate, but decimate the awful competition.
Waaaaaaaay back in 2014, Noah Kagan published a post on his personal blog entitled What I Learned Spending $2 Million on Facebook Ads.
So this seems like a decent place to start.
And SumoMe (despite the clunky/fugly UI) has shot up in the past four years to hit over a million subscribers and help 500,844 websites. That’s A LOT in a short amount of time.
Gee… I wonder how they did it? Apparently, that Noah fella & gang ain’t too bad at advertising!
1. Free Tools
Let’s start strong with a picture-perfect ad.
First, you’ve got a perfect image that’s *almost* wordless; showing off exactly what their toolset does. Next, you’ve got the mention of “FREE” several times to reinforce the awesome cost vs. benefit in people’s minds. Third, there’s the social proof that shows how many other websites they power (so you know you’re in good company).
Right next to that is the installation time (37 seconds) so you realize there’s little-to-no barrier to entry. And last but not least, the correct CTA button. See? Told ya they were good.
2. Welcome Mat
Here, SumoMe is focusing in on a single toolset (out of their many) to highlight. Y’all know Welcome Mats. Most have mixed feelings on them.
But. This ad tells me that Uber and Shopify use them. And who doesn’t love them?! That excellent inclusion of social proof now absolves us of any guilt. Or conscious.
3. Product Suite
Instead of focusing in on a single feature/product like the last ad, here they’re showcasing the entire suite. That’s great if you recognize one but weren’t quite aware the others existed. That variety can also mean they might still have something for you (even if you previously weren’t convinced).
This wordless ad is the Apple effect at play: showing product images against a stark background to visually stand out against a crowded backdrop of distractions on Facebook.
4. Product Suite Redux
Whoa. Wait. Doesn’t this look familiar? Like… like… the same exact ad we just looked at?
You bet. But that’s no mistake. Instead, it’s a clever technique to reverse ad fatigue (peep #6). Over time, ad performance can fatigue and fall off. But not if you subtly switch things up. Case in point: switching out the background colors.
Simple and effective.
5. UI Illustration
The primary value prop is front-and-center (“Grow Your Site for Free”). But, how?
Another nearly-wordless ad shows you how, with special callouts that are highlighted on the side and corners of your screen. The left-hand sidebar also previews how their toolset works so you can immediately understand what’s happening.
Good product ads — like this one — are 67% more important to consumers than detailed information, descriptions, and customer ratings.
6. List Growth
This ad’s from the early days (as evidenced by the low 10,000+ websites part). The copy’s a little long. The part below the headline is truncated.
But “Introducing” and “Newest” in the headline are among the most influential words you can use. And once again, the image immediately showcases the product value with that huge list growth jump from July to September.
7. HubSpot Targeting
The great aspect of this ad isn’t the recognizable Noah chillin’ on a beach while working in front of crystal, clear blue waters (although that’s pretty good). No, the key part here is the leading copy that says, “So you set up a Hubspot site” (-1 for the incorrect capitalization tho). In other words: audience targeting.
Reaching new people without relying on custom audiences is tough. But name-dropping the people you’re targeting (based on their interests) is an excellent way to shortcut that.
8. Goofy Noah
The best for last. Noah at his finest. If this doesn’t get your attention while mindlessly browsing Facebook… I’m not sure what will. Bonus points for the quasi-emoji six pack.
HubSpot was hatched by two MIT business school students in 2004. Almost a decade ago in 2006, they had three customers. They raised $131 million (no biggie) and today are a public giant with tens of thousands of customers. Along the way, they’ve coined, branded, and owned their own term (“Inbound Marketing”) that has grown into it’s own burgeoning industry.
Now HubSpot ain’t cheap. Most companies are forking over ~$10,000/year. Which means they’re not closing deals with Facebook ads. But using them to grow brand awareness and generate initial leads at the top/middle of the funnel.
Let’s see how their Facebook ad strategy has evolved.
HubSpot, similar to SumoMe, technically has a bunch of different product features that span many marketing disciplines. But in the early going, when you’re trying to reach new audiences, it’s all about testing different value props and offers.
So you’re not wasting time A/B testing button-copy. But instead comparing how individual offers with different topics pan out. Inevitably, some topics (like SEO) will convert better when paired with specific audiences (like marketing technology professionals).
10. Free Trial
Here’s, HubSpot is following up on the new brand awareness they just built with a remarketing or retargeting-style ad that’s tailor-made for the custom audience they just built.
The “15,000+ customers” mark boosts credibility, while the “free 30-day trial” is a risk reversal that removes the burden of proof from the customer and puts it squarely on their own shoulders.
11. Stressful Sales
They’re right. Sales IS stressful. Which makes this value prop and wordless image perfect. This image is just blurry enough to make it feel real and authentic (which is the #1 factor in powerful images).
The messy desk, combined with the poor guy’s worried look, presents a persuasive ‘microexpression’ that helps you empathize within 1/15-1/25 of a second. The headline (and “spreadsheet” reference below) drive home the value prop on an excellent ad effort.
12. Explosive Sales
For example, looking at this image tells you everything without ever reading the supporting headline or text: that some technology will help you break through the ‘barrier’ that’s holding you back. That’s it. All you need to know to click.
13. Less Complicated CRM
Ignore the trendy, startup-hipster, bearded dude in chunky glasses for a second. Look around him. At the open desk. The open-office in the background. The sharp, clean lines of the space and his surroundings. Back in #11 a few seconds ago we saw how visual ‘clutter’ amplified the stressful feeling. Here is the opposite.
The organized environment around the person reassures you that things are under control. In its place.
Exactly what the messaging and text are trying to convey as well. That using their “less complicated”, “No Busy Work, No Data Entry, No Hassle” CRM is peaceful and almost zen-like. Just like the environment you’re looking at.
Sales = urgency.
Without it, no one takes action. Inertia is too much for most people to take. If someone isn’t ‘need aware’ and they don’t realize a problem in their life, they’ll never, ever, ever, ever buy. Why would they? No need to.
So how do you create urgency?
People don’t need to understand the technicalities behind it. They just need to understand that “no mobile friendly” means no traffic. Advertising a free tool creates and builds that awareness. Which in turn creates urgency to buy the solution they’re offered.
Marketo officially turned the big 1-0 at the beginning of last year. That’s like 21 for companies: finally old enough to drink and drive. (Just hopefully not at the same time.) During that time, they’ve worked with tens of thousands of enterprise customers and has been a consistent top performer on the Inc. 500.
Similar to HubSpot, Facebook ads might never convert a Marketo customer. But they do attract them and get the process started with content or tool-based offers to generate initial interest.
Here’s a quick rundown of their go-to techniques.
15. Account-Based Marketing
Account-based marketing has been gaining steam lately in B2B marketing and sales. But here was Marketo ahead of their time, talking about it over three years ago! This eBook download is a classic ‘middle of the funnel’ move in your Facebook sales funnel. It’s a classic lead magnet that successfully delivers instant gratification.
And it’s a perfect example of Marketo’s Facebook strategy-to-come. (Click here to read a comprehensive guide on building your own eBook lead magnet.)
16. Social Calendar
Lead magnets come in many shapes and sizes, as this editorial calendar template highlights. Done-for-you tools like this can be simple Excel sheets. Many times, you can take inspiration from your own internal ‘by-products‘.
For example, have you come up with a unique solution or internal workaround to speed up daily processes? Of course… so package it, make it look beautiful, and offer it as a free lead magnet. If you’re struggling with it, others are too.
17. Social Calendar Redux
Same offer, different ad. While not technically an A/B test (that only changes a single variable), this split test instead uses different images and copy to compare overall performance.
It’s also a clever technique if ad frequency and CTR decline is a concern. You’re able to get the same basic question across, but switch up the visual appearance ever-so-slightly to offer a fresh spin to break through banner blindness and appease the Facebook ad Gods.
18. Social Cheat Sheets
People today are overwhelmed. We’re bombarded by messages and faced with an onslaught of options. Marketers especially. ‘Marketing technology’ didn’t even exist a few years ago. And now there’s over 3,500+ choices. So let’s go back to the PAS formula from copywriting 101. If the problem is too many choices and people are quite literally agitated with decision fatigue, the solution is to make their life simple.
In other words, do the thinking for them. Create a lead magnet that spells out, step-by-step, exactly what they should do to hit their ultimate objective. That’s where cheat sheets, like this social marketing one, hit the mark.
Another similar example would be an easy-to-follow checklist, like this next ad.
19. Marketing Checklist
Look at how happy she is! Her life just became easy-peasy thanks to this simple checklist to follow.
Admittedly, the opening line (“Do you have all the marketing automation capabilities you really need?) is pretty weak. “Marketing automation capabilities” don’t matter. You know what does? More customers. More revenue. Costs saved on additional staff.
And while this ad doesn’t feature a Facebook button CTA, it does have a button-like feature in the image itself.
20. Hero Image
This image is the very definition of the phrase: hero image.
Someone standing at the summit, staring off into the distance they “conquered” (as the accompanying headline mentions). As the ‘light of salvation’ shines down acceptingly. Hero images transport the viewer. You can’t see the person’s face here because that person is you. It’s what you’re going to feel like when you rise up and slay the great obstacle holding you back.
There’s a reason you see hero images like these everywhere. In one test recounted by CrazyEgg, they can cut bounce rates by 27% and increase form completions by 36% when testing on landing pages.
If you can’t actually show the product in use. Then showing what people will look like when they attain the end result can be the next best thing.
21. Quarterly Goal
This final ad brings us full circle. It’s the perfect culmination of Marketo’s go-to Facebook marketing strategy. The hero image. The ‘zen’ value prop. The ‘byproduct’ PowerPoint template as a lead magnet.
The final piece of the puzzle is the conversion event. The chances of someone filling out a form for this PowerPoint template on their mobile isn’t likely. Thankfully, mobile lead ads can deliver similar Cost Per Conversions to landing pages on desktop. Then you can deliver the content via marketing automation so they can revisit later.
There’s a reason these ads start to feature many of the same elements. It’s because they’re good. Not flashy, breathtaking, or revolutionary. Just solid ad creative with an easy-to-digest value prop, transformative image, and clear CTA.
We marketers often take these things for granted. Look around in other industries and you can quickly notice the gap between those that get it and those that don’t.
While you might not be marketing to marketers like SumoMe, HubSpot, and Marketo are, you can still adopt many of the same principles behind their Facebook marketing strategies to dominate your own space.