Facebook ads are tough to get right.
There’s so many options – so many variables and moving pieces – that it’s easy to get lost in the minutia.
Campaign results are sagging and you’re not sure where to look first.
If that sounds familiar, here are 5 common sense questions to ask yourself to figure out what’s going wrong (and why).
13 Reasons Why You Should Start with the Fundamentals
Maybe I’m just getting old.
Outdated and out of touch.
But with every new growth hack and tactic that pops up, I find myself retreating further back into the Stone Ages of marketing fundamentals.
They’re not flashy. Nobody on Inbound.org will have an epiphany or scream and shout. And yet, the basics, or the underlying principles, will more-often-than-not get the job done.
Toiling away for hours on new images to revamp struggling Facebook campaigns? That might help… but probably not in the long run.
In that sense, it’s no different than weight loss.
The formula behind losing weight is actually pretty simple and straightforward. No Lap Bands or Shape-Ups required. And yet we humans have a curious ability to make simple things complex.
Take the stereotypical fat dude sitting on his ass in the gym doing bicep curls. What’s wrong with this picture?
Well, it turns out, quite a lot:
- If you’re overweight, you better not be sitting down in the gym.
- If you’re overweight, there’s no way in hell you should be wasting time doing bicep curls.
- Bicep curls are isolation exercises, meaning they isolate the bicep muscle (from the rest of your arm or upper-body).
- That means only the bicep is receiving any kind of stimulation.
- Your bicep is one of the smallest muscles in your entire body.
- So technically you’re ‘burning calories’. But not really.
- A better use of time would be multi-joint movements.
- Like a row that also involves the larger muscle groups of your back.
- More muscles working = more ‘calories burned’ in the long run.
- The biggest muscle groups in your body, however, are in your butt and legs.
- Which means a more effective use of your time (to get the biggest bang for your buck) would be to lunge or squat or deadlift or stair-step or walk or bike.
- Sitting is the new smoking, so you should never, ever be passively sitting in a gym.
- OR, you could also use that time to get out of the gym and go prep some meals this week so you’re not forced to order lunch out again come Monday morning.
- Because restaurant portion sizes contribute to obesity.
- And eating less is way more important than exercising to lose weight.
Basically, ANYTHING besides sitting down doing bicep curls in a gym will help you lose weight faster.
So sure – your image might suck. It might even be hurting your campaigns a little bit.
But chances are, you’re getting other things (like the basics and fundamentals) wrong and they pose a much bigger risk to sabotaging ROI (way more than your sucky ad at least).
Let’s take a look at five areas to holistically walk through first.
Question #1. What does your campaign hierarchy look like?
Only a bunch of idiots would irrationally conclude something “doesn’t work” when they’re doing it wrong.
So let’s begin at the beginning.
AdWords has lulled people into a false sense of hope. Peeps search, click, buy. Simple as that.
Except it’s not. It’s the exception.
People typing in “red Nike men’s running shoes” are already interested in purchasing. They’ve jumped the first few steps of your ‘marketing funnel’ and are already at the bottom, ready to take action.
Nowhere else does this happen.
Instead, a more typical approach is a long and winding road between different channels, devices, and messages.
Your first job then, is to re-create this microcosm inside Facebook ad campaigns.
The goal is to have multiple campaigns, with different objectives, targeting audiences with different levels of intent.
That means we need to look at campaigns holistically; finding the bottlenecks and assessing how steps coming right before or after are contributing.
The good news, is that Facebook even helps you with this now right out of the gate:
Depending on your selection to the above, your objectives and ads should be completely different.
✅ Low sales? Start with conversion campaigns. First confirm that all the basics are covered.
Desktop placement should be obvious, as filling out a long form or going through a complicated checkout process can be torture on mobile. Create a ‘tripwire’ to scale down complex or expensive stuff.
Simple and straightforward should do the trick, so next check your trust-building efforts.
✅ Consideration-building campaigns? You should be actively re-engaging people who’re familiar with your brand.
That means bringing back past website visitors. Using Dynamic Product Ads for people who’ve viewed product pages. Get people to download eBooks and whitepapers and checklists and attend webinars. Connecting marketing automation with all this stuff.
Nail these middle-of-the-funnel tactics and then go big to ‘widen’ the top.
✅ Need to increase awareness? Prioritize reach by optimizing for website visits and clicks.
Promote content to appeal to the widest possible group. Take advantage of lower rates on mobile. Try carousel ads to test different messaging. Experiment with new stuff like Canvas or Branded Content.
If you have all of these campaigns live-and-functioning, but still struggling, proceed to audience targeting next.
Question #2. Who, specifically, are you targeting?
How does AdEspresso get conversions for as little as $0.03?
Is their ad creative earth shattering? Does it employ some voodoo, psychological tricks?
Or is Massimo really that sexy?
(Yeah, probably that last one.)
The number of conversions you get and the amount you pay for them, largely comes down to audience targeting.
✅ Your Middle and Bottom of the funnel campaigns should exclusively target custom audiences. Easy, peasy. Don’t waste your hard-earned green on peeps that don’t deserve it (yet).
Sales-related messages should go to the people who already attended your webinars, filled out lead forms, and read all your eBooks.
All of those things, those offers and opt-ins and downloadable goodies, should target your most recent website visitors over the past 30-60 days.
Doing this will ensure that your ads are super relevant, which in dollars and cents means more profitable conversions for less capital outlay.
But it also means, you need LOTS AND LOTS of peeps to be hitting your site. Here’s how you find them.
✅ Find & refine new audiences based on interest. I literally just wrote about this. Days ago. So here’s a brief recap.
Once you’ve nailed down personas and their motivations, look for related brands they might be interested in (whether that’s alternative providers to what you’ve got, blogs and other media sources of information).
Next, start layering in additional interests and exclusions to further refine the ideal audience between 500,000 – 1,000,000. You should get creative here, pulling in specific interest examples that might differentiate between a person’s topic knowledge, etc.
Please note that if you’re catering to multiple segments or targeting different personas, that means you gotta have multiple top of the funnel campaigns like this, each with their own unique blend of interests and exclusions like this. One ain’t gonna cut it.
If you’ve done that, the next step is ‘message match’.
Question #3. Does your ‘message match’ your audience?
Why do AdWords visitors convert well?
When people type in “red Nike men’s running shoes”, they unsurprisingly see a page featuring “red Nike men’s running shoes”.
✅ In other words, good message match.
What people see on an ad…
… should match on the landing page.
Sounds easy enough. But one day, Oli from Unbounce found that 98% of people still got this wrong. (Which isn’t that hard to do when you have so many different campaigns running now at the same time.)
This matters for two reasons:
- People (logically) will convert better when their expectations match reality. When they click on an ad they’re expecting to see something specific, and when they see that thing, they feel better.
- Facebook’s Relevance score metric is designed to filter out the most relevant stuff for people. So more relevant typically means better costs.
✅ Once your messages match and relevance is strong, you should test different offers (not different variables).
The problem with A/B tests is that most fail. To make matters worse, you probably shouldn’t even bother without seeing at least 1000 monthly conversions. And a single test should have 250 conversions before you can believe the sample size.
In contrast, the companies with the highest conversions – the unicorns pulling in 10%+ – aren’t testing variables, but offers.
Both are top of the funnel topics that should appeal to a broad range of people. Both can apply to the same segment or personas well, like startup founders.
But how do you know which one converts best?
You don’t. You gotta roll the dice and see.
There’s no Magic 8 ball in marketing. Just ‘cause something worked for someone in a blog post doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you, either.
Your messages match, and you’ve got multiple offers that target specific audiences in different campaigns with their own unique objectives.
Not let’s talk creative.
Question #4. Does your ad creative suck?
An average ad with awesome targeting will outperform an awesome ad with average targeting.
But how do you define an ‘awesome ad’?
That’s tough. Especially as different things will appeal to different types of people.
So let’s start with the reverse.
Wanna see what a bad ad looks like? Feast your eyes on this:
I have no idea what’s going on either.
✅ But it does highlight some of the most common problems plaguing ad creative. Namely:
- Hyperbolic all caps
- Truncated ad text
- No image illustration
- Poor call to action
Ok. Makes sense. Now for the good:
✅ The anatomy of a good ad includes:
- Direct, specific value prop
- Concise and easy to digest
- ‘Hero image’ that reinforces the value prop (‘easy and fun’)
- Actionable CTA
- Extra credit: the model’s eyes in the image are directed at CTA
See? Nothing fancy or over the top. They don’t give out ADDY’s for Facebook ads (at least, not yet). Just a solid ad.
Check out this other, completely unbiased, example.
Different part of the funnel, but the same overall components:
- Strong value prop
- Copy that uses ‘power words’ (like “secret formula”)
- Image makes the offer concrete
- CTA’s in the image and on Facebook match
So… which performs better? The stock photo with the person, or the eBook illustration
Sure, there are conversion studies to reference. You should.
But at the end of the day, you again will have no idea what works best. Create a few, split-test ‘em if you want, and keep going.
If everything still A-OK so far, and you’re executing properly on:
- Multiple campaigns with different objectives
- Targeting different, specific audiences
- With messages that align and are testing offer-appeal
- With different ads that cover the ‘basics’
Then it’s time to geek out.
Question #5. How long have you run these ads, to these people, for this objective?
If you’ve gotten this far without a solution yet, chances are your campaigns HAVE performed. Previously. At least a little bit.
But something’s happened.
CPC’s have risen. CPA’s skyrocketed.
There are a few possible reasons. Common places to start include:
✅ Ad fatigue.
Ad creative should be refreshed every few weeks. Per, Facebook themselves.
If you suspect ad fatigue is leading to conversion decay, stop reading now and check out Karolas’ excellent tips to fix it.
While you can (and should) go to greater lengths to test different designs…
… even simple tips like switching out background colors can help.
Otherwise, here’s the next thing to look for.
✅ Frequency problems.
High-frequency problems saturate a market; overwhelming people with your messages to a point where they start tuning you out.
Pumping the frequency brakes (from, say 8 to 3 or lower) can help make sure that your ads don’t become white noise.
However… here’s the thing to watch out for. Take this super exaggerated example:
If a frequency of 8 is ‘very high’, a frequency of 38 will lead people to chase you with pitchforks.
But your problem here isn’t frequency. It’s Reach.
The audience size is too small, which means you’re most likely suffering from foundational issues we exposed above.
So fussing around with frequency or other advanced techniques like dayparting at this point is (a) a complete waste of time and (b) not going to get you significant results anytime soon.
Kinda like sitting on your butt in the gym doing bicep curls when you’re trying to lose weight.
Running successful, revenue-generating Facebook ad campaigns can get complex.
There’s a ton of moving pieces that you somehow need to choreograph. Which gets even more difficult when wrangling multiple people or agencies and trying to get them all NSYNC.
When looking for a place to start, keep it simple stupid.
Double check to make sure all of your foundational issues are 100% correct first.
Then go mess with the advanced stuff.