The "Secret" to great Facebook Ads is not some "super advanced media buying hack" cooked up in some fully cocked affiliate marketing Youtube video where some guy is teaching you to do affiliate marketing, while affiliate marketing another affiliate marketers "learn to do affiliate marketing" course.
There is a time and place for advanced media buying hacks and 9 times out of 10 you have probably missed the basics and do not have the proper framework in place to fully utilise their benefits and build that structure for rapid growth & scale.
My analogy for trying to jump into the deep end is this: Red bull's Box Cart Race.
Most of the time you are going to look like an absolute nutter, entertaining the rest of us digital marketers with the rate at which you speed down an incredibly precarious path, falling to pieces along the way and ending up in an epic crash, where you've run out of ad spend.
In this article I'm going to take you through the basics of what I think you need to have in place, so you can run effective advertising on Facebook, and in turn grow your sustainable brand during the infamous year of 2020.
It's going to be a long article, as there is a lot to cover, but rest assured by the end of this you should have the understanding you need to know to effectively run some campaigns and get a positive return on investment.
- Competitor Research
- Creative Content
- Landing Pages
- Pixel Tracking & Integrations
- Testing, Measurement & Optimisation
Strategy. This is an absolute must for any activity in the digital marketing landscape.
The whole reason why digital marketing is so powerful is because you are able to set goals, set specific actions and targeting to reach those goals and then measure how every penny invested takes you closer or further away from those goals.
Strategy is the process of brainstorming, researching, planning and documenting your efforts. In this case, we are specifically talking about Facebook Ads.
I think strategy is very important for most things you do in life. Especially when money is involved.
A good strategy will grant you the ability to stay on track in a very fast paced environment, in terms of what to do and when.
A good strategy will be able to inform you how and when you should reassess your situation. Most importantly, a good strategy will allow you to define your activities and measure them as a success or failure (and you must be comfortable with both).
A good strategy is like a clear and easy to read map, with your destination clearly marked. It has the ideal route highlighted, but also has secondary routes planned, just in case.
If you do not have your map (your strategy) there is of course the possibility that you may stumble across your destination (goals) by chance, gut feeling, intuition or luck - whatever you wish to call it.
However, if you were setting out on a journey, would you not rather have a map with a clear route on how to reach your destination and what to do if something goes wrong?
Let me tell you what a good strategy is. a plan that plans both to fail and succeed.
Let me tell what a good strategy is not, a plan that only defines one outcome and does not take into account any room or scope for change, i.e. is not dynamic.
There are many ways to create a strategy for Facebook Ads. I believe it begins with but does not end with the following subjects.
The trick is to include as much relevant information without going over the top and cramming in every conceivable detail necessary.
The way I like to think of it is like a tour guide, this guy (or gal) is going to be showing you some important things and explaining a little along the way - if your tour guide starts blabbing on about what his niece did on Sunday afternoon, it's a waste of time and takes you away from doing what you set out to do.
Essentially, you need to include information that is going to justify actions, allow for dynamic adjustments and forge the path to success.
Goals will give you the ability of understanding which direction you should be moving in. Much like a light at the end of a dark tunnel.
A clear and concise definition of something that will bring your brand closer to whatever success looks like for you.
A great methodology for goal setting is "SMART Goals".
SMART stands for (there are a few subtle variations as with everything in digital marketing due to the sheer volume of people talking about it, it's about understanding the concept behind it and expressing it in a way that makes sense to you, your brand and your customers):
I won't go into incredible detail on creating SMART Goals, as I think the concept is quite straight forward. I will explain my understanding of each part of the acronym and give some examples.
Specific - Earlier in this post I mentioned one of the reasons why digital marketing has grown into the beast it is today.
Being able to measure how every single penny is either taking you closer or further away from your business goals (what is going to help your business succeed).
The more specific you are when creating your goal, the easier it will be to understand how that penny was spent, and whether or not you should spend two pennies next time, or none.
Measurable - You simply must be able to define how you are going to measure (KPIs people, KPIs...) the progress and completion of this goal.
If you can't define how a goal will be measured, how will you know if you have succeeded.
Attainable - Now, I am all for being ambitious. I've been in workplaces where employees are too scared to take a risk because, well, they are scared to have anything perform badly.
I am incompatible with this mindset. BUT that does not mean you can be delusional during your goal setting. Make sure that the goals you are setting are achievable, or this whole process will be a waste of time.
Of course there is a fine line between ambition and unrealistic, in fact, there are most likely a bunch of academics debating this in multiple places across the world.
What I am saying is, if you are going to try and take down Coca Cola, be sure to do your research and understand how
Relevant - Similar to attainable, your goal setting must be something that will not only be realistic and actually achievable, but it should push you in the direction of business growth and your main goals as a business.
Ask yourself what needs to happen in order for my business to succeed (whatever success looks like for you, it's different for many businesses and does not just have to be making £££, this can be called a vision) and if your smart goal takes you closer to your vision then it's relevant.
Timely - This part is simple, it's part accountability and part productivity.
Set a deadline and/or time-frame for this goal to be completed in.
An example of a good smart goal is this:
Increase my monthly purchases by 20% over the next two months by testing out variations in targeting and cut-downs of our new product explainer video. We have recently tested a product explainer video across multiple placements in Facebook and it's given us a 15% increase in comparison to older videos we have used. So we know this is achievable with some effort.
Key Performance Indicators are very important.
They will identify the metrics (there are so many in the digital landscape) that mean the most to the success of your brand and Facebook Advertising efforts.
Understanding the metrics that move the needle will give you further direction into which objectives to use in Facebook Ads and how to create visuals & write copy for your ads.
We'll dive into creatives later on in the article.
KPIs are essentially metrics that indicate whether or not you are succeeding in achieving your goals or not.
It depends entirely on what defines success for your business. For example if you are an e-commerce brand that sells amazing trainers that are made from recycled material, the thing that drives your business and keeps it alive is the sale of your trainers.
Who buys trainers? That's right, customers. So your whole focus of Facebook Ads is ultimately going to boil down to getting customers to purchase your trainers.
That means your KPIs are going to be focused around customers making their first purchase and any repeat purchases after that.
In this case, your KPIs probably look like this:
- Number of Purchases
- Cost per Purchase
- Cost per Repeat Purchase
Here's an example of how KPIs can differ. Let's say you have a mobile app and you are revolutionising food waste around the globe.
Your whole focus is ultimately going to boil down to getting users to download/install your app, sign up/register and then try out the paid service (you may have some free trials and referral mechanics in place but for the sake of the example let's keep it simple).
In this case, your KPIs might look like this:
- Number of Downloads/Install
- Number of Purchasing Customers
- Conversion rate: Download -> Purchasing Customer
- Cost per Purchasing Customer
KPIs give a strong indication as to how successful your efforts are when using Facebook Ads (or anything in the digital landscape).
As you can see, in the example of the app, we are able to tell exactly how many downloads we are getting, how many convert into paying customers and how much it costs.
All defining factors when it comes to measuring success.
Audience & Buyer Personas
Having a defined audience is incredibly important to anything in digital marketing.
Statement: I sell trainers, therefore everybody in the world who has worn, currently wears or will wear trainers is my audience.
Let's take a step back for a second.
You have a business. Competition is and always has been fierce, for the most part.
But nowadays competition is not only fierce, but your market is jam packed full of competitors.
I'm not a fan of the term "saturated" and the connotations that come with it. But I certainly agree that there is a shit load of competition.
The digital boom has made starting a business easier than ever. In turn, it's made keeping one alive harder than ever.
There are a variety of reasons that have led to this, access to information being the main culprit.
This is where having a well defined audience comes into play.
It will allow you to speak to people through the noise, because you will be able to solve problems that your defined audience have.
Understanding your buyer personas will give you the ability to understand your customers behaviour, consumption and interaction with the digital space.
Giving you the ability to connect with them at the right time with the right information.
An incredibly powerful and often overlooked tool that can do wonders for your return on investment on Facebook Ads.
What's an audience, what's a buyer persona & what's the bloody difference?
I think it's important to all be on the same page with these two terms, as many people get confused and muddled between the two.
An audience is a broad definition of psychographics and demographics that you think represent your customers.
If we use our food waste app as an example, an audience could look like this:
18-45, Female & Male, middle to high income, higher education and above, and based in a major city.
Interested in environmentally friendly/ethical/sustainable publications & causes, interested in technology for a better future like electric cars, uses a smartphone, purchases online
A buyer persona is a detailed description of how one of those people in that audience interacts with the digital space.
Your buyer persona would be much more detailed and granular, diving into the details of motivators, lifestyle choices & habits that dictate how and why the persona would use the digital space.
The difference is that one is focused on a top level view, while the latter is focused on very granular details focusing on an individual.
So, how do you define your audience?
This is a combination of competitor research, market research, product testing, surveys and focus groups.
All of the above are great ways to understand who your audience is. The most important things to do are:
A. Listening to how the current market is responding to the products that are already out there, be that your products or your competitors products.
B. Understanding the pain points that those customers are having, and being able to tailor your products, services, communications or brand in line with that.
So, how do you Define your buyer personas?
Start by fleshing out your idea of how your persona goes about their day.
I would suggest, you don't need to define what type of apples they are eating, unless, you are selling apples of course.
However try to place an emphasis on the how, why and when they interact with the digital landscape in relation to your product or service.
Having a good understanding of how your competitors are using Facebook is going to allow you to make some learnings for free. Yes, for free.
Firstly, since we're on the subject of Facebook Ads, you are going to want to go to the Facebook Ad library.
A tool they have released that allows you to see exactly what adverts a brand is running on Facebook.
This can give you unprecedented insight into how certain formats and placements of adverts are working as well as creative direction and copywriting ideas.
The second thing you want to do is see what type of organic content is doing well on your competitors pages.
Try to pay attention to the engagements and comments.
This can give you some great insight to how the market is at the moment, what consumers expect from brands (see where you can do it better) and what type of content you can use for your own pages.
Doing the above will give you a good level of understanding on how your competitors are using Facebook to promote their brand.
However there are extra tools you can use (usually paid) that will really give you some incredible insights, and break down this process for you.
So if you have the budget, it's definitely something to consider.
Your competitor research should be an on-going part of your strategy, and something that you practice regularly.
Understanding how the market, consumers and competitors are developing over time with all of the advances of digital is incredibly interesting!
You will know you have done a good job when you understand what your competitors are doing in terms of Facebook Ads and how you can improve on this within your own strategy.
A good creative strategy will allow you to get a great return on investment out of your Facebook Ads.
It will enable you to create visuals that capture attention, tell stories and engage customers.
It will enable you to write copy that gets your customers to take action.
A good creative content strategy is understanding what it is that gets your users engaged when consuming on social.
On a very simple level this is, for example, showing videos of cats being cute, to people who like cats. The connection is easy to make.
But that's not going to cut it, you need to be much more detailed.
There are a variety of things that go into a creative strategy, I'll list some of them out here:
- Colour choice
- Call To Actions
- Product Placement
- Creative Format
- Current Social & Industry Trends
If you can detail all of these things out, you will have a strong base to start creating the content for your adverts.
2. Landing Pages
Simply, Landing Pages allow you to communicate your product/service and its features.
They are essentially pages where you control everything on there, so they are incredibly powerful tools that allow you to sell and communicate on your terms, without the restrictions that Facebook may have.
In the context of Facebook Ads, it is a page where you send traffic to from your ads. Usually a page that you own on your website.
They are usually formatted to get the traffic to do one thing - convert. Conversions are specific to your brand and goals.
For example, if you are selling shoes, then you want people to buy the shoe that is explained on the landing page.
The same goes for if you are a mobile app, your landing page will prompt people to download your app.
How to make a landing page?
There are a number of things to consider when creating a landing page for your products and services.
The main thing to understand is that there is no "perfect" landing page. A high performing landing page is usually a page that has been changed many times based on analytics and understanding of how people are interacting with your page.
However there are some rules that you can follow that will push you in the right direction:
- Remove all navigation - only have one call to action that your traffic can act upon. You do not want them to get distracted and click onto your about us page, historically this has shown to increase conversions.
- Use attention grabbing headlines - try to be conversion focused and capture attention with the copy you write. This will keep people interested and stay on your page longer, increasing the conversion rate.
- Try using images and videos - it's no secret that visual assets are able to keep your visitors engaged.
- Make sure that you include clear, concise call to actions - make sure it's easy to understand what you want people to do when they are on your page.
- Make sure your call to actions are not hidden at the bottom of the page
- Test, test and more test - As previously mentioned, great landing pages are things that constantly change, it's important to understand that you must keep testing variations of colours, copy, placements, visuals until you can get results that you are happy with. In which case, keep testing and see if you can improve!
The most important thing to understand with Landing Pages is that testing how things work is a huge part of getting your users to convert.
3. Pixel Tracking and Integration
This is one of the most important things in the digital landscape.
This will allow you to understand how every penny is spent.
Which, in turn - gives you the ability to increase your return on investment by spending on ads that are more profitable.
Your Facebook Pixel is a tracking code that allows you to see what users do when on your website.
Since your ads will primarily be driving people to your website, it's important to know what people do when they get there.
Giving further understanding on how each campaign and advert is performing.
If I am running three different adverts and they are all sending people to the landing page for the trainers that I am selling.
I will be able to see how many purchases come from each advert, therefore allowing me to understand which advert performs best.
This leads me to knowing when and what I can allocate the rest of my budget towards, in order to get the best possible return on investment.
4. Testing, Measurement & Optimisation
Chances are you are not going to get everything correct on the first try. In fact, even if you do get this correct, you can always seek to improve your results.
This means you must have a process in place that allows you to try new ideas, understand if they are performing well and then make changes where necessary.
Setting up your pixel tracking is crucial for this step to work, if the information that you are measuring is incorrect or does not exist, then this step is going to be very painful.
Chances are, if you are running Facebook Ads, there is going to be a large amount of numbers, metrics, tests...the list goes on but I think you get the point.
Having a solid reporting structure in place is going to allow you to have a snapshot of how things are performing historically and currently.
It can also help you predict future performance.
This is important for everyone, even if you do not have stake-holders or a team that needs access to this information.
The ability to be able to very quickly understand how things are performing, and share that with either your team, boss, directors or yourself is going to quickly become invaluable and save a large amount of sifting through data and unsure answers in the long run.
You need to get an automated reporting system up and running so this does not become a very tedious mess in the long run.
And that's it!
Having a good understanding of all of these things will provide you with the framework that you need to run successful Facebook Ads in 2020 and beyond.
There are many other things that come after this, and many features that, once you have the framework in place, you can implement to supercharge the results for your Facebook Ads.
But I truly believe it starts with understanding everything I have written about above. Once you have this understanding you will be able to run successful campaigns that speak to the solutions you provide to the correct audience, at the right time in the right place.
And that's what it's about, understanding your audience, and how they consume on Facebook, then understanding the tools that are available to you that allow you to place your product or service in front of that audience at the right time.