Conversions are low. ROI abysmal. Facebook ads “aren’t working.” And that’s because Facebook ads “don’t work.” Nothing’s converting.
It’s tempting to think that conversions are the problem. People already have ‘ad fatigue’ or the image isn’t good enough.
Those things might be true. But more often than not, the problem is your Reach (not Frequency).
You aren’t going after a big enough audience. And you haven’t done enough to successfully establish your brand.
‘Branding’ should be an investment in future sales. But too often, SMB’s treat it like a complete waste of money. That’s a bad idea. A self-sabotaging strategy.
Here’s why, along with what you can do to increase Facebook ad results with branding campaigns.
Why Branding is an Investment in Future Sales
Facebook ad maven, Jon Loomer, recently unveiled his 15 current ad campaigns. Here’s a pretty chart with what that looks like:
It’s organized into funnel stage. That means ‘top of the funnel’ (TOFU), awareness-based campaigns at the top, lead nurturing ‘middle of the funnel’ (MOFU) campaigns throughout the middle, and revenue-generating ‘bottom of the funnel’ (BOFU) ones at, well, the bottom.
Now compare the daily budgets.
Throughout the middle and the bottom, you see lots of this:
- MOFU – Keys to Success Webinar: $10
- BOFU – PHC Basic / Elite: $10
- BOFU – One-on-One: $10/day.
Ok. Not too bad. Doesn’t break the bank or anything. How about the top, TOFU ones?
- Latest Blog Post: $50/day
- Blog Post Carousel: $50/day
- Latest Blog Post: $50/day
- Entrepreneur Lookalike: $50/day
An average of $1,500 / month is being spent on each TOFU campaign. Whereas an average of only $300 is being spent on lead or conversion-related campaigns in the middle or bottom of his funnel.
I’m no mathematician, but an online calculator tells me that’s 400% more!
Even those top of the funnel, ‘branding’ campaigns have zero purchase intent. Nada. Zilch. So no one’s gonna buy anything immediately to make up for that $1,500/month being spent on each.
Why would someone seemingly so smart, do such an insane thing on the surface?
Because he understands the vital role ‘branding’ plays in conversions.
Why You’re (Probably) Under-Investing in Branding
Ever worked with a small client vs. a big one?
Ever worked in-house for a small company and then even a moderately-sized one?
A few differences undoubtedly popped up.
First, running a successful marketing campaign for a large company is insanely easier. Like, it’s not even close. No source to cite to back that up. If you’ve done it, you’ve seen it.
One reason is branding. They’re a known quantity in the marketplace. They’ve been around. For years or decades even. That means they get the benefit of the doubt, and their ‘snowball’ of momentum has had enough time to build up.
The larger they are, the more they usually spend on branding initiatives, too. The stuff that would make us digital, technical marketers squirm with anxiety. Literally, eye-popping dollar amounts being thrown around on stuff that is virtually impossible to measure or track.
And yet… somehow, miraculously, it works.
Turns out, people like what they know.
A big, fancy survey from Nielsen discovered that 59% of people buy products and services from companies they know, like, trust. (God I hate that phrase.)
Next, SurveyMonkey and Search Engine Land teamed up to analyze what influence branding played while searching for products online.
Once again, the results were surprisingly completely expected: “70% of US consumers look for a ‘known retailer’ when deciding what search result to click.”
That’s the number one criteria! Before price. Before shipping and returns. Before even product quality.
And this branding, halo effect extends to third-party merchants. When 44% of ALL product searches are conducted there, you best be selling on Amazon.
Big companies do two things that small companies (who fail more often), don’t:
- They rely religiously on systems.
- They spend inordinate amounts of money on branding activities (as opposed to directly revenue generating activities).
You already know this intuitively. That’s why the websites for most big companies, outside of a few select verticals, is terrible. Because it doesn’t have to be good. They can still rake in more cash than you can dream of.
Two studies from MarketingExperiments proves this.
First, they did a conversion test that used a branded landing page vs. a non-branded one. You already know which one won.
Next, they did a bunch of new-fangled conversion growth hacks. You always gotta growth hack some growth hacks for growth hackers, amIright?
Except… those changes (like above the fold vs. below) didn’t make a dent:
“There was no significant difference between any of the treatments. The Boston Globe audience is highly motivated, and putting a button above or below the fold didn’t matter as much as the newspaper’s respected journalism.”
The good news is that Facebook’s advertising platform already rewards this line of thinking.
Invest more heavily in building out a highly tailored, engaged audience, and your Cost per Conversion at the bottom of the funnel will precipitously drop.
Here’s how to get started.
A Simple Cheat Sheet to Start Ongoing Branding Campaigns Today
When you think of branding, Instagram comes to mind.
It’s awesome. But it’s… different. And I’m a lame suburban dad in my early thirties, so I’m automatically disqualified to talk about it. Start here instead.
Video is another excellent brand booster. One of the best. You can (and should) pursue it. You can build audiences for pennies, literally.
But here’s the problem with video.
A minute ago we referenced an excellent MarketingExperiments.com video. Wanna know why it was so good? Because fourteen freaking people worked on it. (Don’t even add up the salaries in your head for that.)
Instead, let’s look for the low hanging fruit here. Like — what campaign can you implement today, in the next hour or two, to get the branding ball rollin’?
When in doubt, go back to copying smarter people like Jon.
Step #1. Objective
The primary objective at the top of the funnel is to get a broad audience to consume your content.
Chances are, your existing workflow is already similar to Jon’s. You’ve got at least a post going live each week. Maybe a little more or less.
Jon uses ongoing content promotion campaigns at the top of the funnel for these posts. So the content will change every week (or so). But the overall approach, audience targeting, etc. doesn’t really change.
That’s super easy. You can do that today. So here’s where to go next.
Step #2. Targeting
Facebook targeting at the top of the funnel is imprecise. It’s part art, part science.
Ideally, you’re shooting for an audience that can be as small as a few hundred thousand (if the budget’s lower) or on up to a million.
The trick is to start with your customer research, before layering in different criteria, like demographics and other interests in order to whittle down to an appropriate audience.
So after the basics (like location, age, gender, etc.), you can add interests intersection and exclusions. For example, you can identify what media properties your customers follow, what line of work they’re in, and then exclude any potential conflicts until you arrive at an acceptable audience size.
In AdEspresso, you can include or exclude interests and custom audiences from your campaign easily to define your ideal customer and the stage of the funnel that they sit for each campaign.
That’s just the first step of course. Because even first-time visitors will need to be retargeted again and again and again until your name sticks.
And that’s where custom audiences come in.
Beyond the basic all website visitors, Jon will target multiple audience segments by the blog post they’re reading. So people that read his Facebook ad content will receive Facebook ad content ads (meta).
For example, his new entrepreneur-focused content will have entrepreneur somewhere in the URL:
This might also depend on your URL or WordPress permalink structure. For example, KlientBoost puts blog posts under each respective category. So the category name will show up in your URL now too.
Custom audiences like this can be created directly inside WordPress with Pixel Caffeine. So you can quickly create one if a specific word shows up repeatedly in certain blog posts:
OR, you can even add filters to include/exclude people. For example, you can quickly select the post type category that someone viewed.
(Note to AdEspresso: That’s not how we spell “Behavior” in the States. #Murica!) 🙄 😛 😉 🙂 😀 😆
If you still need a bigger reach, you can create lookalikes based off of these custom audiences.
All it takes is the simple click of a button inside AdEspresso…
… wait a couple minutes and you’ll have a new massive audience ready to go.
AdEspresso will even help you test these multiple audiences against each other, too. (I know, they’re too kind.)
As discussed, the top of the funnel is tricky. It’s not exact. So you’re gonna need to throw some pasta at the wall to see what sticks (for our Italian readers).
This multiple audience testing tool allows you to do that within one ‘branding’ content campaign.
Step #3. Creative
Ad creative for a piece of content is fairly straightforward.
The headline should be short and punchy. It’s usually a derivation of the blog post title. And the image needs to walk a fine line between being relevant but also interesting to grab eyeballs.
I’ve always liked this example:
In addition to the ‘latest blog post’ format, Jon will use a carousel to show off his top 10-20 blog posts to re-engage people who haven’t visited his site within 30 days.
Step #4. Placement
You’re almost done. Nearly there.
The only thing left is where that ad’s gonna show up.
You could default to the Desktop News Feed. But then you’re gonna probably overpay, too. Here’s two other formats to start with first.
“Users will discover your product on their phones… then buy it the next day on their desktop,” according to some smart dude.
So let’s roll with that. Because the ‘contra-competitive’ approach means we can lower the per engagement cost as well.
In addition to mobile, the right column is an excellent (affordable) alternative when retargeting previous website visitors, too.
Just be careful with your ad creative.
It’s tempting to simply use the featured blog post image for your ad creative. But many times the result is less than ideal. For example, here’s how it looks on that tiny, right-side format.
The content is too small. It’s not ‘branded’ enough when zoomed out like this. And the image has too many things going on in the background. It’s tough to make them all out.
Here’s how that lesson looks in a real-life example:
Both are coaching related.
But one’s branded and one’s not. Because of that, one sticks out and one doesn’t. That means one will get clicked. And the other won’t.
Branding is soft. Intangible and impossible to measure.
However, it’s also an elusive X factor that plays the single biggest impact on whether you’re able to convert (or not).
That means three things:
- #1. You need to be constantly building your brand, by
- #2. Reaching more, new people, while
- #3. Re-engaging those who just discovered you.
All of that stuff shows up on the wrong side of a P&L. In the short-term, the top line won’t change while the bottom line only gets worse (as expenses mount up).
But in the long run, building a successful brand is the only way up.
It’s the only viable solution to cost-effectively scaling sales. And transforming your small company into a big one.