AdWords has intent.
People search for something specific, click, and buy (soon thereafter).
That’s why ‘Search’ drives the most conversions inside your analytics package. And it’s why Google’s ad business accounts for the vast majority of their revenue.
But AdWords is largely alone in the ‘intent’-centric category.
Nowhere else does that happen. Online or off.
But the best converting Facebook campaigns all do have one thing in common: highly targeted custom audiences.
Here’s why, and how to start building your own to generate more leads and sales.
Why Facebook’s Custom Audiences Payoff
Transporting the same AdWords logic to Facebook is a recipe for disaster. They’re diametrically opposed. Consumers looking for something specific on one. While completely avoid finding anything specific on the other.
Facebook does have something that AdWords doesn’t: custom audiences. The ability to create highly refined lists of people, each with different levels of awareness and… intent.
It’s impossible to find AdWords-level intent out of the box on other advertising channels. But custom audiences give savvy Facebook advertiser’s the ability to get as close as possible to it.
It’s like retargeting on steroids. You’re able to slice and dice different audience segments (automatically), tailoring the right message to the right person at the right time (almost programmatic-like) to generate chart-busting (and budget-saving) conversions.
Case in point:
No magic or hacks required. Just (1) common sense when you use the right messaging for the right person and (2) back that up with Facebook’s Relevance Score.
The same score that shows a strong correlation between high relevance, lower Cost Per Click, and higher Click-Through rate.
One ad with poor audience (i.e. ‘cold’) targeting scored 2.9 and had 278 clicks at a $0.142 CPC. Whereas the exact same ad (and the exact same ad budget) using custom audiences (i.e. ‘warm’) scored 8, which raised total clicks to 1,103 and dropped CPC to only $0.03.
Case closed. Time to setup some custom audiences.
But where to start?
Go back to a few sentences. The ‘cold’ vs. ‘warm’ bit. Cold traffic would be brand new with little to no brand or need awareness. Warm would have higher levels of both, brand and need awareness. Cold traffic is looking for topics and information. While warm is looking for solutions.
So: You need (a) different ads and offers for (b) different groups of people, that are organized into (c) different customer audiences. The ‘PPC temperature’ metaphor is a perfect way to think about it:
So that’s how we’ll break it down here. First starting with the Top of the funnel offers for cold traffic, before progressing into the Middle where people are evaluating their options and then finally closing it out in the Bottom.
Step #1. Top of the Funnel Custom Audiences
Unfortunately, you ain’t got any custom audiences at the top of the funnel.
You have a little more work to do first.
Gotta roll up ‘dem sleeves and get to work. Your audiences at this point will come from careful research into who influences your potential customers and then refining with interests intersections and exclusions.
But as we just discussed, you ain’t got a prayer in converting any of those people.
So your job here is to lay the groundwork to create custom audiences for the Middle and Bottom of your funnel.
The old standby was to generate website visits with helpful/interesting/useful/funny/shocking content. You put together your best BuzzFeed impression listicle…
… setup the Facebook pixel properly (without headaches) using AdEspresso’s Pixel Caffeine WordPress plugin (which is actually one of the few free WordPress plugins you’ll actually want to use that won’t crash your site)…
… and then click that little green button to create a custom audience for website visits.
Only one problem.
Custom audiences can fall short if you have a low traffic site.
There’s a Catch-22 because you need a big enough audience to generate future clicks and conversions, yet a small one that’s refined enough to keep relevant messages relevant.
So there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that Facebook now lets you now create custom audiences off of your own Facebook page engagement too.
Picture your friendly, local appliance repairman’s shop. They do good work. They charge good money and make a decent living. But their website is atrocious. So their traffic volume is appropriately low. But social sites are their savior. Yelp and Facebook are where the money’s at.
So this fictional-yet-real use case means they can create custom audiences off of people who like and comment on their updates, click on page CTAs, or even saved one of their posts.
But the bad news?
Facebook’s organic reach is dropping like a rock (up to 52% over the last year according to SocialFlow via MarketingLand).
Why is it dropping? Here’s the reasoning:
“The reason is simple: Individuals and Pages are pushing a lot of posts into people’s news feeds, so Facebook’s news-feed algorithm has needed to get proportionally more stringent about picking out the posts that someone would most like to see and that would most likely keep them coming back to check Facebook regularly.”
Which makes sense when you think about it. But it doesn’t really solve your problem. What’s the antidote?
According to the same article:
“What’s more clear is how publishers are able to adapt to, if not avoid, the decline in organic reach. When it comes to the content they post to Facebook, video appears to be something of a lifesaver.”
Thankfully then, Facebook now also gives you the ability to create custom audiences based on Facebook video views as well.
(Not ready for video? Facebook’s Canvas ad type is the perfect interactive platform to reach new users on mobile.)
Step #2. Middle of the Funnel Custom Audiences
Doing the hard work in Step #1 should give you ever-expanding custom audiences of newly brand-aware people through website visits and Facebook page engagement.
The next step is to ‘escalate’ your relationship by getting them to take action.
Specifically, that comes in the form of opting-in to become a lead and giving you more of their personal information.
Ya’ll know the drill here. Step forward, lead magnets of all shapes and sizes.
Option one includes eBooks and whitepapers that solve a specific problem aligned with the post someone just read or video they just viewed.
Option two includes an in-depth ‘free course,’ delivered as a drip campaign over X number of days that also ties into the topic or pain point someone’s expressed interest in.
While option three includes actionable items like checklists that help detail a 1-2-3 process for people to implement. Ideally, these provide instant gratification by solving a pain point ASAP, while also giving them an intro into how your full products or services can eventually make their life significantly easier/better/less stressful/more enjoyable.
Every download or opt-in should now create a brand new custom audience. Depending on the number of offers, you can either split these by (1) primary topic/problem that ties into a service or (2) new custom audiences for each lead magnet.
For example, someone submits their information which goes directly into MailChimp, Infusionsoft, HubSpot, or wherever.
Facebook supports MailChimp natively. So you’ll be able to create a custom audience that dynamically updates when new people are added. The others, unfortunately, you’d have to Export and Upload on a regular basis to update.
Expensive products or services with ‘consultative’ sales cycles can also have multiple different offers and audiences within the middle of the funnel.
The reason is because someone who downloads an eBook may not be ready to splash down $20k+ on services. That’s quite a leap from “here’s my email address” to “yes, let’s do that long-term, ironclad commitment.”
So instead of sending them straight into a proposal, you might want to continue ‘warming’ them up with another interactive offer that asks for more commitment. Like webinars.
Webinars are such a big topic that they require a post of their own. Oh, that’s right, there already is one. But the point is, just like in any good marketing automation sequence, you’ll want to update their custom audience status as well.
For example, if someone registers for a webinar then you’d want them on a new custom audience. If they attend, possibly another. That way you’re not going to show them inappropriate ads for another eBook (been there, done that), but your ‘next level’ offer that brings them one step closer to purchasing.
‘Fallback’ options also help you catch those who might slip through the cracks. Let’s say someone signs up for your webinar but doesn’t actually attend. This might be similar to someone who opens up a Lead Ad form but doesn’t convert.
You don’t want to show them the ‘sales’-related offer just yet because they didn’t actually follow through. Custom audiences can again be created for each of those ‘IF/THEN’ scenarios so that they will see a message that reminds them to join the webinar before it’s too late or lowers their suspicion to eventually follow through on opting into that Lead Ad.
You can already see how custom audiences can get tricky fast because there’s so many variations and scenarios at play. Marketing automation tools have ‘suppressions’ and other tricks to help keep things straight to #fail-proof automated campaigns.
Facebook’s alternative comes in the form of custom combinations when you first create the audience. So you might want to add people to a custom audience if they take one step or visit one page. But you’ll also want to exclude them from the same audience if they hit another (like a ‘Thank You’ page that comes after submission or purchase).
Step #3. Bottom of the Funnel
Phew. You’ve made it this far.
You’ve got content campaigns and videos creating your first-level custom audiences at the Top of the Funnel.
Those people are being targeted with new lead gen offers like eBooks or checklists to gauge interest. Then once they convert, they might need further lead nurturing through a webinar or other drip email campaigns before they’re ready to purchase.
Custom audiences are what move people seamlessly from one step to the next.
And they provide a built-in audience that’s now ‘sales-ready’ because they’ve gone through all of the lead nurturing steps so far.
Dynamic Product Ads are the first line of defense for e-commerce companies that automatically target ads to people who’ve just viewed specific pages on their site.
But again, you can take this much further.
Custom event combinations allow to you create additional rules for custom audiences to include (or exclude) people with a refined set of criteria (like the number or dollar amount inside a shopping cart when someone abandons).
So you might not care if there’s only a $5 item in someone’s cart when they abandon. Chances are, they were just browsing around and weren’t that serious anyway. However, if they added items totaling a hundred bucks, it might be worth segmenting out into a new custom audience and following up with them specifically.
Expensive products or services might need a different approach, though.
As discussed, you’ll never get a several-thousand-dollar purchase from a single Facebook ad. Instead, you might want to try a tripwire, or a too-good to be true offer for a low, stomachable price.
For example, your ‘webinar attendees’ custom audience should be full of people who just attended within the last ~30 days and is primed to purchase. They just need a low-priced offer to push them over the edge.
Wait. What’s that? You’re still skeptical?
Well, guess what. This tactic ain’t some spammy thing that info-touting ‘internet marketing gurus’ dreamed up.
Tripwires have been around. Used successfully for years. Decades even.
Look at how similar this ad from ~50 years ago resembles the Digital Marketer one we just saw.
Once someone finally pulls out their credit card and purchases – even if it’s for a measly buck or two – you’ve got a verifiable customer who’s exponentially more likely to purchase from you again in the future.
So guess who gets added to yet another custom audience of new tripwire customers. And who will be receiving a highly targeted Facebook ad the next time they’re on the site for your higher ticket item?
AdWords is one of the best converting channels (of all time) because each searcher has such high intent.
Facebook doesn’t have that. No one else does.
But Facebook does have custom audiences, which give you the ability to eventually whittle down large audiences into highly targeted lists of people that do, in fact, have high intent.
Yet the important part isn’t the specific, tactical audience. But how each aligns.
So that your prospects aren’t asked to skip steps; presented with inappropriate untargeted offers that exceed the commitment they’re ready for.
But instead provides a seamless, logical transition from one into the next.