Professional athletes don’t go 100%, 100% of the time. Because it’s impossible. They’ll get injured, burned out. And fail to perform when it matters most: the finish line.
Instead, most athletes ‘periodize’ their training. That means ‘foundational’ work is done in the offseason in order to prepare them for the rigors of in-season competition.
Marketers live in a different world. Entirely different schedules and lifestyles. But that doesn’t mean they can’t adopt a similar approach.
Here’s why you should act like a professional athlete, along with 15 things to work on NOW in order to dominate the competition over the Holidays this year.
What ‘Periodization’ Is (And How it Works)
Most professional athletes follow a ‘periodized’ training schedule throughout the year. ‘Periodization’ basically refers to prioritizing different objectives and training methods at different times. The goal is to help the athlete ‘peak’ at the right moment.
For example, most professional sports are off during the summer. So this offseason is spent resting, recuperating, and preparing for the rigors of the next few months.
Periodization can (and should) also be applied to marketing campaigns.
Think about it: How busy is an eCommerce team between Thanksgiving and New Years? Pretty damn busy. You try and experiment with brand new campaigns during this time and the risk of failure is too high. There’s simply too much on the line to “try something new” or “get those ad campaigns in shape.”
So… when, exactly, should you find the time to do it? Months in advance. In summer. During your metaphorical ‘offseason.’
An Online Advertiser’s Competitive Schedule
The summer’s usually slow for marketers. It’s the one time our strategy overlaps with offline advertising like TV. No new shows are on. People are outside. Families are on vacation.
Similarly, there’s little-to-no ‘big’ events or holidays in between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
There are exceptions of course. Over $1+ billion in ad spend happens during the Olympics. The World Cup and Euros are also big in certain parts of the world. But otherwise, it’s mostly slow.
Things pick up around Labor Day. The first, big ‘back to school’ event. Then it slowly builds in the fall towards Halloween. One of the first big holidays that puts consumers back in the shopping mood.
And this is when it starts to ‘get real’ for advertisers. The countdown is on. The pressure builds. You’ve now got less than thirty days to Black Friday.
You’d never redesign your website or switch hosting providers at this time. So the window for campaign experimentation has closed, too. All of the little, tiny details start to matter now. Your competition for eyeballs is also heating up. That means ad costs are rising, too.
So you better be prepared. You better know what’s going to work — for even try it. Because after Black Friday it’s non-stop. Cyber Monday is already hot on its heels.
Then Christmas, New Years, Presidents Day, the Super Bowl, and Valentine’s Day. You’re gonna be buried the next few months.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook ad costs peak during this time. Big brand spending sets the pace, while all the little guys (and gals) gotta somehow try to keep up.
You think all of this sounds crazy, right? Overkill. No one’s thinking like this. Well. Think again. The best in the business are already sequentially timing their campaigns during this time.
For example, Shop Direct saw a 20X return by:
- First using videos to get attention (and build out those top of the funnel audiences)
- Then the next campaign targeted the earlier video viewers to drive them to the website
- Before finally hitting it hard on Black Friday with sale and promotion ads for products those people were previously viewing on their website.
That’s what you’re up against. The stakes are high. So if you have any hope — or prayer — of competing with these savvy marketers with big teams and even bigger budgets, you gotta get strategic. And plan way out in advance.
How to Properly Prepare for this Season’s Competition
Advertising schedules can (and should) follow the same periodized approach. Where you prioritize different objectives and activities based on what ‘season’ you’re in.
Here’s how that might look for Facebook advertisers.
It’s time to figure out when and where the actual planning is gonna take place. You know, the ideation and brainstorming. The new marketing ideas you’ve been dying to try but haven’t (yet) had a chance to get to.
Avoid minuscule decisions now (like that latest A/B testing growth hack) and think bigger. Analyze your entire sales funnel. Lay out all of your campaigns to determine what’s working, what’s not, and why. Where are the bottlenecks or gaps?
Because in a few months time, A/B testing isn’t going to kill your campaigns. Ad fatigue won’t, either. You can rebound on those. It might take an hour to quickly adjust an image and re-upload it.
But too small of an audience will. A lack of nurturing will. And it’s too late to suddenly create a few new videos or start ramping up blog posts if you haven’t planned in advance.
Because your ad image quality doesn’t dictate ROI. Your ad targeting does.
✅ Tip #2. Start experimenting with new ad features.
Video is one of the best ways to quickly build a (cheap) audience of new people. So get on it! Never used Dynamic Product Ads? Test them now.
✅ Tip #3. Start creating and testing new offers.
After all, these are the things that ultimately dictate conversions. So maybe that even includes ‘product splintering’ and other techniques like ‘tripwires’ that might come in handy down the road to get people to spend their first $1 with you.
✅ Tip #4. Read every case study you can find.
Thrive Themes nets $9 for every $1 spent. That’s… pretty damn good. How are they doing it? What kind of sequential campaigns are they running? Now’s the time to find out.
✅ Tip #5. Nerd-out with new tools and workflows.
Here’s where it gets serious. Costs are starting to rise. The competition’s starting to get back in the game. So you better button up those campaigns to make sure they’re ready to hit the ground running in a few weeks.
All of the heavy liftings should be done by this point. You shouldn’t have to worry about coming up with messages. Or even making sure each and every URL is tagged properly. These fundamental campaign elements should be done by now.
Instead, your objective here is to start laying the groundwork. Start organizing campaigns so that one takes off as soon as the first wraps up. Make sure the little transitions in between will be oiled up when things get serious.
✅ Tip #6. Fill out your infrastructure.
Facebook ad success relies heavily on what’s happening away from Facebook. In other words, your product pages. Your automation campaigns to follow-up and nurture. Think about the customer’s experience in between seeing your Facebook ads to connect the dots.
✅ Tip #7. Coordinate your content campaigns.
Because the best in the business are already working on these months in advance. And they’re the leading driver of most top-of-the-funnel campaigns that will build an audience who’s ready to buy when it’s time.
✅ Tip #8. Align your messaging for each campaign.
Spinning up new Facebook ads doesn’t take time. You know what does? Getting your overworked designers and developers to help get some landing pages up. So you better deliver the exact copy you want, to match your ads, well in advance.
✅ Tip #9. Start planning beyond discounts.
Pumped about that new 30% off discount you’re going to run this year? Too bad every single one of your competitors is offering the same exact thing (or more). Jump starting holidays sales is gonna require a helluva lot more than a BOGO.
✅ Tip #10. Go beyond “Hey $FNAME” personalization.
Personalization is one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) trends in marketing. ‘Cept… slapping on “Hey $FNAME” to your campaign ain’t personalization. In fact, ‘de-personalizing’ it might even make it more personalized. In other words, think less about their name or company and more about the well-timed offer they’re receiving.
Winter: In Season
You don’t have the time or luxury to ‘try something new’ at this point. Instead, you gotta optimize what’s working. The groundwork should be laid. So now it’s time to get tactical, technique-focused, and geeky.
Results and Cost Per Sale matter most here.
✅ Tip #11. Settle on your ad creative ‘template’.
You may not know what works ahead of time. And that’s OK. But each ad creative should follow a ‘template’ of sorts based on its placement. Get that template right, so that you can quickly iterate in the days (and weeks) to come.
✅ Tip #12. Setup automated optimization rules.
Speed is the name of the game now (also, an excellent movie). Optimization rules help you automate key events (like increasing, pausing, or decreasing bids) based on certain events. So you can put campaigns on autopilot while you’re busy multitasking on other ones.
In AdEspresso, optimization rules are even better! You can create rules to manage your frequency, increase or decrease adset budgets, change bids based on CTR and even trigger to pause or start other campaigns.
Just apply your rules to campaigns and check your timeline to see the rules working! You can create multiple rules in a group, and apply a rule group to your campaign as well so you have a rule to manage every metric you need.
✅ Tip #13. A/B test your A/B tests.
Time to get meta. Basic math says that most A/B tests fail. So chasing them during ‘off’ months doesn’t make a whole lot of sense (especially when there’s other more pressing matters at hand). But now, ‘in season’, tiny increases can equal huge payoffs.
✅ Tip #14. Stay ahead of ad fatigue.
Successful Facebook ads will slowly lose effectiveness over time. Know this. Expect this. You can take the same basic creative and make minor tweaks to keep things fresh (and performing well).
✅ Tip #15. Fine-tune your ad scheduling.
Ad scheduling and dayparting can help you squeeze out more conversions for a slightly bit less. So test, refine, and make iterative improvements to how and when people convert most.
Summers are slow for advertisers. (Unless a big, worldwide event happens that year.)
Instead of pushing hard when people aren’t shopping, we should use this time more effectively. We should be preparing.
We should be creating a solid foundation in order to prepare for the next few months when people tend to shop in droves. These are also the times when ad costs rise and the competition is more brutal. So it’s tougher to perform and deliver.
But if you can prepare accordingly and well out in advance, you can give yourself a fighting chance during those tough months. And simply focus on executing instead.