4 Lessons Learned from Running 1,573 Facebook Ad Campaigns in 4 Years

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For the past three years, I’ve written an article (see them below, under this post) about seven lessons I learned that year from running Facebook ads.

Every “lesson” related to a particular campaign I had run or a tactic that I had discovered that year.

This year, I want to try something different.

Why?

Because this year, more than anything, I learned that being “good at Facebook ads” or being a great media buyer, in general, comes down to one thing… being a darn good marketer.

An ad is usually the first touch point for the customer, but it’s the last step when creating a marketing campaign.

You could create the most magnificent Facebook campaign of all time, but if no one wants what you’re selling… it will fail.

Paid traffic is the last step and if the rest of the Customer Journey is failing, your ads will fail too.

(RELATED: Your Digital Marketing Strategy Template (AKA The Customer Value Journey))

This works the same the other way around… if you have an amazing Customer Journey, but your ads suck, your product or service will never get the attention (or customers) you deserve.

So, how do you become a darn good marketer while tactically practicing media buying?

These are four lessons I wish I’d known when I first started.

1. Understand that Scaling Paid Traffic Campaigns Involves More than Just Increasing Your Budget

When most people think about scaling a paid traffic campaign, they imagine increasing the budget and, in return, proportionally receiving the same results.

For example, imagine you were spending $100 a day on a campaign and generating 50 leads for $2 a lead. Most people would expect to increase the budget to $200 a day and in return receive 100 leads for $2 a lead.

Unfortunately, most of the time, that’s not how media buying works. Especially on Facebook.

By increasing the budget, you are asking the platform to show your ad to more people.

Platforms like Facebook and Google have algorithms that factor in…

Your budget
Your targeting
Your desired end result

…and much more.

All to help you get the best results possible (and to create the best experience for the end user).

(RELATED: The Ad Grid: How to Build Traffic Campaigns that Convert Higher and Scale Faster)

Just because you feed the machine more money does not mean that they can guarantee more of the same results.

Especially if you’re targeting a smaller audience.

There may not be many more “qualified” people left for Facebook to show the ad to. People who are most likely to take the action you desire.

Remember that we are advertising to humans, not robots, and that your target audience can be easily and quickly saturated.

Just because you’re willing to invest more money does not mean that there are more people in the audience you’re targeting that are wanting to take your desired action based off of the messaging and selling system you’re using.

Facebook and Google are not money machines that you can predictably put a dollar into get a dollar back at ANY scale of budget.

I call increasing your ad budget vertical scaling.

It’s usually the only type of “scaling” that media buyers use… but I feel it’s the least predictable.

Of course, I still increase the budget of campaigns that are working, but I also scale media by horizontal scaling, which involves showing your ad(s) to more people in your market in different ways. Such as:

Testing new ad copy variations or “hooks
Introducing new offers and selling systems
Scaling out to other people in your target market via new targeting

If you think of your target market like a pond of fish…

A pond of fish

…and you’re only using one hook, one selling system, and one way of targeting, then you’re only resonating with a small, small part of your market… like this:

A pond of fish circling a small section of the pond in the lefthand corner

You can scale “horizontally” and achieve greater volume of results by…

Testing New Hooks For Your Ad Copy: Maybe the ad that’s working for you addresses a pain point your market is experiencing. Try new copy variations that speak to feelings, status, or tell a story. These variations will attract different TYPES of people in your market.
Creating New Funnels And Entry Point Offers: At DigitalMarketer, we have different Lead Magnets, from the Facebook Ad Templates to Blog Post Templates. These different offers allow me to scale my customer acquisition efforts because they cover different topics that will resonate with certain parts of our audience. They’re also different “styles” of funnels. For example, a Lead Magnet PDF download versus a video course — these appeal to different types of people based off of how they like to learn. New funnels give you more ammunition for traffic, so you can “gobble up” as much of the market as possible.
Finding New Targeting Options: Whenever I find an audience that’s working, I always try to find more audiences that are most like that one for scale. This could include creating lookalike audiences on Facebook or finding more interests similar to the ones that are working. Scaling horizontally means showing your ad to new people who you aren’t already targeting.

Just to recap, there’s nothing wrong with vertical scaling and increasing your budget to get more results.

But this shouldn’t be the only scaling you do. Focus on horizontal scaling to really see a huge growth in your business next year.

2. Change the Way You Describe and Research Your Target Market

When asked, most marketers or business owners would describe their audience as….

Women who live in Manhattan
Teens between 16-18
Young professionals making $40,000-$49,999 annually

…and so on.

As humans, we are taught to describe people by generic demographic information… age, gender, income, etc.

As marketers, we have access to WAY too much data to be that generic in 2018.

Instead, describe your avatar based on their INTERESTS and INTENT.

For example…

Interested in canning peaches
Read Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Needs a new car
Wants straight teeth
Attended SXSW
Is the Director of Marketing at a tech company
Fan of David Bowie

Really get into the mind of your avatar. What do they read? What do they buy? Who is this person… way beyond any generic demographic information?

This will allow you to be very specific in your targeting…

To target people who are AVID in your market via what they’re interested in on Facebook.

To target people who are searching Google about a specific problem they’re experiencing that you happen to solve.

It’s also important to think of triggering events that may lead someone to the purchase of your product, especially if you’re selling more of a commodity. Triggering events are things like:

Job change
Birth of child
Marriage
Divorce
Major system/utility failure (AC in Summer or CRM for business)
Holidays
Graduation
Aging

Triggering events create windows of opportunity where your prospect is far more likely to act. Triggering events can help you decide on your targeting within an ad platform.

Let’s say, for example, we were selling suits…

A man modeling a navy blue suit

What are triggering events that could lead someone to buy a suit?

Graduation
Entering the workforce
Young professionals who need a new wardrobe
20-30 somethings who are in “wedding” seasons
Promotion to a new job that requires more business travel

The most important part of targeting your audience on a platform is to really understand them as a person.

Research your market…

Go to events they attend
Read online forums where they’re having conversations
Read Amazon reviews of products in your market

Get into the mind of your consumer and you will never have trouble with targeting again.

3. Put More Thought into Your Creatives

I believe that now, and especially as we go into 2018, the look and feel of the images or videos you use in your advertising are more important than ever.

Your ad creative should act in two ways…

As a visual representation of your hook, whatever message you’re wanting to portray to the end user
A trust-building mechanism with your brand

Consumers expect things on the internet to look high end in 2018.

Invest in graphics and videos that look as good as you know your brand and product are. But, also make sure you’re putting thought into your creatives and that you aren’t using irrelevant images like cats or women to catch someone’s attention.

The goal of your ad is more than to catch someone’s attention. It’s to catch the right person’s attention, portray a message to them, and then, if it’s relevant to the end user, they will take action.

Here are great examples of ads who’s creative really reflect the message:

Facebook ad example

Facebook ad from Target

Facebook ad from Puls

Facebook ad from SaneBox

What message are you trying to get across in your ad? How can you create a visual representation of that message?

It’s more important than ever!

(RELATED: [DOWNLOAD] Use This 6-Point Facebook Ad Design Checklist Before Launching Your Next Campaign (…and draw inspiration from 20 critiqued ads!))

4. Realize that Nothing Ever Really Changes but the Medium

The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past four years is that nothing really ever changes about marketing except the medium.

Quit chasing shiny objects!

Study and practice to become a darn good marketer. You will transcend the passing of time.

I love this quote from Roy H. Williams on this subject…

“Five minutes in an old book quickly reveals that most of what is being sold today as new insights into human behavior is merely the rediscovery of knowledge we have had for centuries.”

We are standing on the shoulders of giants who have been marketing to humans for hundreds of years… we just have new technology and mediums to deliver our marketing through.

On the same hand, you must keep up with the new mediums.

What will be the “next big traffic source?”

Wherever the most people are aggregated. If a platform has a ton of users and has a way to collect data on said users, it becomes a gold mine for marketers.

That’s why Facebook messenger marketing is the future of advertising.

(RELATED: Facebook Messenger Ads: How to Use Them in Your Business)

With over 2+ billion active monthly users and a ton of data from the Facebook platform, Messenger will become an even more important traffic and acquisition source for brands.

But, never forget, we are always selling to humans.

Craft an appealing offer, articulate the benefits (in different ways, to appeal to different types of humans), put those messages in front of the right people, and you will win in 2018!

(NOTE: Want the Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library? Copy and paste these 7 proven Facebook ad campaigns to create low-cost, high-converting ads on demand. Get them here.)

Download the Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library

Don’t stop there!
Read Our 7 Lessons Learned from Running 440 Facebook Ad Campaigns in 2016
1. Link Ad to Lead Magnet #1

As you can see from last year’s list of best-performing campaigns (specifically #8 & #9 below), campaigns to Lead Magnets work really, really well for us.

They’re the bread and butter of our business. They’re the way we build our email list. They’re the way we acquire customers.

Website conversion campaigns that optimize for lead generation accounted for 50% of our media spend in 2016.

We’ve found that in one year’s time, we really only need two great Lead Magnet campaigns to grow the business at a rapid rate.

In May of this year, we spent a ton of time creating brand new campaigns for our Facebook Ad Template Lead Magnet using the Ad Grid strategy.

After running a ton of tests, this was the winner.

DigitalMarketer Facebook ad for our Facebook Ad Template

This ad works for many reasons. As we teach in the Ad Grid, the image really portrays the marketing message.

Not only does the image stand out in the newsfeed, it’s also RELEVANT. We’re really playing off of the word “library” and the design elements help the prospect conceptualize the meaning of the ad quickly.

The copy makes the resource feel like something you can’t pass up. Anyone interested in traffic loves swipe files and seeing what’s worked for others (that’s why you’re reading this post), so that’s why we lead with the line about compiling our highest performing ads.

By saying that these ads have generated 400,000 leads and millions in revenue, we’re really layering on the proof and authority.

The call-to-action (CTA) is subtle yet enticing. Instead of telling prospects to “click here,” we’re using language that helps them visualize themselves actually using the resource by encouraging them to “scroll through” the library and “get inspiration for your very own ads.”

This campaign alone produced 83,285 leads at $3.26 a piece. 

2. Link ad to Lead Magnet #2

As I said above, website conversion campaigns that optimize for lead generation accounted for 50% of our media spend in 2016.

Our second best lead generation campaign promoted our Customer Avatar Worksheet using the Ad Grid strategy.

After running a ton of tests, this was the winner.

DigitalMarketer Facebook ad for the Customer Avatar Worksheet

This ad resembles the iconic Brady Bunch image. Anytime you can replicate something that’s worked in pop culture (without violating copyright) absolutely do so. No need to start from scratch.

(We also tried a version of the Guess Who? game but it didn’t convert as well):

DigitalMarketer Facebook ad inspired by Guess Who? game

The Brady Bunch-like campaign worked for a multitude of reasons. First off, the ad image is very eye catching and again portrays the marketing message. We used different people in the image to play on the word “customer.”

The first line of copy is educational–which is working better and better now that Facebook’s relevance score is so important to the platform. This line of copy also highlights the importance of defining your customer avatar, which makes downloading this Lead Magnet feel even more essential.

Like the last ad, the CTA is subtle (not using “click here”) yet powerful for the user. They imagine themselves actually using the worksheet to gain clarity on who they’re marketing to.

This campaign alone produced 33,062 leads in the last three months. 

3. Lead Ad for Sales Team

In 2016, we had a lot of success with lead ads.

In 2015 (right after lead ads were released), I wrote a blog post about lead ads and how they weren’t performing as well as website conversion campaigns. "Scarcity is always your friend as a marketer."

I did note that lead ads would be effective if used in certain situations.

The issue with lead ads is that once a user submits their information, they’re not forced to visit your site. So, if you’re running a traditional acquisition funnel, you would have trouble generating those immediate sales needed to offset traffic costs.

But, if you’re in a situation where you JUST need someone’s contact information – lead ads are awesome.

In 2016, we built our very first sales team here at DigitalMarketer. This meant that we needed to alter our traffic strategy a bit.

Instead of needing to make all of our sales online, a chunk of our sales started happening via 1v1 conversations on the phone, email, Facebook Messenger, etc.

Lead ads allowed us to generate high-quality leads for our sales team.

This particular campaign is called “The Modern Marketing Growth Plan.” Prospects see this ad in their newsfeed:

“The Modern Marketing Growth Plan” Facebook ad

Upon clicking, the form appears (pre-populated!):

Form for the “The Modern Marketing Growth Plan”

As soon as someone submits their information, the sales team is notified and this person is contacted. If they’re qualified (have a big enough team) the prospect is asked to schedule a time for a consultative call to help structure their marketing team.

If they aren’t qualified, they are sent to a web page to download the plan and then have the opportunity to purchase HQ online.

Lead ads have been very effective for driving leads to our sales team. If you have a need to acquire contact information with no expectation of purchase on the following page, definitely give these a shot.

4. Link Ad to 6-Week Class

One of our best campaigns of 2016 involved getting people to sign up for our free, 6-week class called Double Your Sales.

We ran traffic to this offer in 2015 with a lot of success. But, in 2016, we made a simple tweak to the copy that decreased our lead cost by 30%.

Here’s the ad we ran in 2015:

"Double Your Sales" Facebook ad from 2015

And here’s the ad we ran in 2016:

"Double Your Sales" Facebook ad from 2016

The ads are almost identical with only a few tweaks to the copy.

Can you see what is different?

The second ad (the high performer) spoke directly to the prospect. It CHALLENGED them to double their business in six weeks… it even asked them if they were UP for it!

The first ad was all about US! It’s okay to use “we” or “I” in ads, especially when establishing credibility, but if you can find a way to make your ads about the prospect, and especially if you can find a way to challenge or get them excited, you will see higher conversion rates.

If you want to learn how we structured this campaign, read this post.

We were able to decrease lead cost in this campaign by 30% in 2016 vs. 2015. 

5. Retargeting (Scarcity) Ads for an Event

So, this was a pretty fun campaign to create and execute.

The purpose of this campaign was to retarget people who had visited the Traffic & Conversion Summit website but who hadn’t purchased a ticket.

There are a few price points for the event and the price increases as time passes.

About three weeks before the price was increased from $995 to $1495 we started running this ad:

Traffic & Conversion Facebook ad three weeks before price increase

A week before the price increased we switched to this ad and ramped up the budget:

Traffic & Conversion Facebook ad one week before price increase

This worked really, really, really well!!

I believe there are a few reasons for this.

First off, scarcity is always your friend as a marketer. Psychologically, people will buy things because they realize in the future they may no longer be available.

With a live event, you have real scarcity. There are only so many seats to sell and the price will increase by $500 on a certain date. If you don’t buy before that date, you will pay more later. Plain and simple.

"Anytime you can replicate something that's worked in pop culture (without violating copyright) absolutely do so."I also believe this worked because it plays off of “fear” that everyone with an iPhone already has. Especially if you have an emotional attachment to technology, the red battery icon on your phone can literally initiate fearful emotions.

Now, I’m not saying we were trying to ruin anyone’s day – but, again aligning your hook/image with something that people are familiar with in a culture works well. They already know what the image means. You don’t have to explain it.

If you want to learn more about using paid traffic to sell tickets to events, read this post.

This campaign had a 240% ROI. 

6. Facebook Messenger Campaign

Facebook released Messenger ads in 2016. In short, we’re really excited about this.

“Messenger” is now a destination for Facebook ads. So, instead of sending traffic to your website, you can tell Facebook that you actually want your ad to open in a Facebook message.

This allows you to have 1v1 conversations with prospects and customers.

Then, once someone has messaged your page, Facebook and other tools (like ManyChat.com) allow you to send broadcast messages to the list of people who have messaged your page.

We are seeing open rates as high as 90% for those broadcasts. It’s nuts.

The goal of our first Facebook messenger campaign was to generate conversations for our sales team (with the hope that the conversations would lead to sales).

We targeted our email subscribers and asked if they had questions about our product and how we could help them:

Facebook Messenger ad with the auto populated message

Two members of our sales team were there to field questions and help people decide which DigitalMarketer product would be best for their business.

Examples of conversations between leads and members of our sales team

We were able to generate 300 conversations for only $800. We saw a 500% ROI on our first messenger campaign.

This worked well because the questions posed in the ad were relevant to the audience.

Since these people are on our email list, they know who we are. They probably even know what we sell. Asking if they had questions about how we could double their business or if they had questions about our products just makes sense.

If we ran this same ad to cold traffic it may not have done so well.

Why? "Use it to pull levers that will make the biggest difference in your business."

If you’ve never heard of DigitalMarketer you wouldn’t know what products we sell, or it’s possible that you don’t own or have the immediate need of doubling a business.

The key to Messenger moving forward is to use it to pull levers that will make the biggest difference in your business, especially if you don’t have a lot of human capital to actually man the chat.

Retarget people who visited an order for but didn’t buy. Retarget your best people to see if you can move them further down your Customer Journey. Use this opportunity to try and overcome any barriers to the sale.

This is a HUGE win for 2016, and we’re currently running a ton of Messenger tests that we will share with you guys later.

7. Blog Post to Cold Traffic

Last, but not least, I wanted to share our best Facebook campaign to cold traffic. The purpose of this campaign was to get people who had never heard of us before to consume our content.

This allows us to build credibility, pixel visitors (so that we can retarget them later), and to give value first.

This post was one of the top six most visited on our blog for 2016…

Boosting a post for "Digital Marketing Skills to Put on a Resume" blog post from DigitalMarketer

We ran this campaign to digital marketing professionals. People who work or want to work for others in the field of marketing.

One reason this ad worked so well is because of the copy. The opening line really grabs this audience’s attention with, “want the secret to future-proofing your career?”

What professional doesn’t!?

The copy leads the reader to realize how important marketing skills are to the career of your dreams.

(NOTE: Want the Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library? Copy and paste these 7 proven Facebook ad campaigns to create low-cost, high-converting ads on demand. Get them here.)

Download the Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library

But don’t stop there!
Check Out the 7 Lessons We Learned in 2015…
1. Newsfeed Ad to a Lead Magnet #1

Ah, The Ultimate Social Media Swipe File… our highest performing Lead Magnet of all time. It also happens to be the first Lead Magnet we ever ran to cold media here at DigitalMarketer.

You’ll notice that The Ultimate Social Media Swipe File made it onto this list last year (#9 below) which is a testament to having a good offer. Once you create a solid Lead Magnet, it can benefit you for (literally) many years to come.

The Ultimate Social Media Swipe File campaign from 2014 finally tired out.

This was the 2014 version of this ad…

Ultimate Social Media Swipe File Facebook ad from 2014

But, we knew this offer still had life.

In July of 2015, we created completely new ad campaigns for the offer.

Here is the highest performing ad from those campaigns…

Ultimate Social Media Swipe File Facebook ad from 2015

You’ll notice we refreshed the copy and images.

We wanted to scale this offer to an even broader market than before, so we went with the newspaper theme because someone outside of “online marketing” would still understand a “headline” in reference to a newspaper.

We tested these images with color variations and the black and white outperformed all the rest.

The copy works for a few reasons…

We lead with a CTA to “copy and paste.” Using the words copy and paste also express the ease of using these headlines.
“72” creates specificity and shows the abundance of headlines they’ll receive.
“Get more clicks” speaks to the end result of using the headlines.
“Facebook, Twitter, and your own blog” helps to explain the application of the headlines so that the end user doesn’t have to even wonder WHERE they would use these headlines.

In 2014, The Ultimate Social Swipe Campaign produced 33,000+ leads for the business. At that time, it was our highest performing advertising campaign to date.

In 2015, our new ad campaigns for this offer (went live July 21st, 2015) has generated 72,033 leads in 2015 alone. (That’s more than double last year)!

2. Newsfeed Ad to Lead Magnet #2

60-Second Blog Plan Facebook ad

The second ad on our list for 2015 is for our 60 Second Blog Plan Lead Magnet.

This Lead Magnet appeals to bloggers and content marketers.

Notice the ENGAGEMENT on this ad! When you have high positive engagement on an ad (likes, shares, comments) it helps increase your Facebook relevance score. When your relevance score is high, you pay less and your ad is more likely to be shown to your target audience.

Why was this ad successful?

We really, really thought about our target market here.

The ad image looks like the WordPress admin panel, which would immediately appeal to most content marketers. This is what we used to catch their eye. We also tied the “60-second” aspect of the offer into the image with the clock.

A major pain point for content marketers is having the TIME to create all of the content needed. We really played on that “hook” with this ad.

In terms of the copy, this worked because we used language like…

“YOU can create a Blog Content Plan.”
“60 seconds or less by filling in these 5 simple blanks” was used to highlight the speed and simplicity.
“YES, IT’S REALLY THAT SIMPLE” was added to help overcome any objections and add some brand voice to the piece.

This ad campaign produced 68,830 leads for DigitalMarketer in 2015.

3. Retargeting with a Video Ad

Retargeting video ad for Traffic & Conversion Summit

Facebook added video ads to their platform in 2015… and what a blessing they’ve been.

There’s so much more that can be said in a video ad than in an image, and if used correctly video ads can not only work to cold traffic but also for retargeting.

The beauty of Facebook videos ads is that you can now create website custom audiences of people who watch the video and retarget them with other ad campaigns (perfect for cold traffic).

You can also use video ads to retarget people who have visited your site or visited certain pages on your site.

That’s exactly what we did with the ad above.

We hold an annual event called Traffic & Conversion Summit. The above ad was used to retarget people who had visited the sales page to buy tickets but didn’t actually buy.

Ryan Deiss (our Co-Founder and CEO) shot a quick video that said something like this…

“Hey there (arms waving), before you go, if you’re watching me right now it’s because you’ve heard of Traffic & Conversion Summit — XX discount is about to end, if this video is here then the offer is still active, BUT — you have to get it now!”

There was incredible ad scent here because the sales page for the event features a video of Ryan.

So, we thought that seeing a retargeting ad with Ryan speaking to them again would definitely make them stop in their newsfeed.

We were right. <br />Read more about this at <a href=digitalmarketer.com.

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