Over the past 3 years, our agency has had the privilege of working on over 95 campaigns across a wide variety of industries. A wide range of industries, product price points, budgets, and campaign objectives has given us collective insights into Facebook campaigns that few others in this world possess.
The growth of our business led to over $72 million in ad spend in 2019. Between the accounts that we’ve worked on and others that we had the chance to audit in hopes of working on them, we’ve found that the vast majority of ad accounts approach things similarly, often making the same common mistakes that are all too easy to make.
When it comes to Facebook, the little things make all the difference at scale. There’s no magic bullet (although a very well-written ad and offer comes pretty close), but it’s the sum of many incremental improvements that lead to the best results you can possibly achieve on a campaign.
Here are 12 essential lessons we’ve learned on our journey. Chances are, at least a few of these will be lessons you can directly benefit from by taking action today. In most accounts we’ve taken over or audited, we’ve found over half of these applied before we stepped in.
Take full advantage of this and reap the benefits immediately. And as always, we’re here to help and would love the chance to work together.
1. You are probably launching far too few new ads.
The greatest way to improve a struggling campaign is to work in new ads.
The greatest way to improve a thriving campaign is to work in new ads.
Regardless of your campaign’s health, iterating and testing more new ads is likely to push you forward, increasing the chances that you’ve found a new winning ad capable of bringing your campaign to the next level.
Even if your new ads aren’t necessarily better, here are three more reasons you’ll benefit greatly from launching more ads:
a) Your existing creative, no matter how good, will eventually see diminishing returns and a decrease in performance. Ask yourself how many TV ads you see today that also ran 5 years ago. Every ad, even the best ad, runs its course.
b) New ads typically enjoy the benefit of lower CPMs early on. That’s right, Facebook’s algorithm rewards advertisers for launching new ads. The reasoning behind this should be pretty simple — a user who sees the same content over and over might eventually become annoyed. New ads keep it fresh for the end user, and they’re more likely to engage with something they’ve never seen before.
c) They’ll help you learn. You may get a better idea about individual elements (specific benefits, features, CTAs, etc.) within ads contributing to your campaign’s success, which you can then iterate on. And even failed ads are invaluable. They’ll tell you what to avoid in the future.
2. Most companies underinvest in landing page optimization.
Simply put, An improved landing page is one of the easiest ways to boost performance.
In our experience, most accounts we’ve taken on have used the same landing page for months, or even years. More often than not, we see that companies that have run very few landing page tests, and many have run none at all.
Improving the conversion rate on your website is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your campaign’s performance. Not only will this lower your cost per acquisition, but coming down on CPA will make it possible to scale your ad spend.
It gets even better. Like we said just before, a better conversion rate can also reduce your CPM. All of this feeds into a cycle that benefits your campaign in a big way.
Landing page optimization should be an ongoing practice. There is always room for improvement on your landing pages. And the more you’re spending, the higher the stakes.
As part of our service offering, our team typically helps our clients roll out new landing pages on a regular basis. You’d be amazed by the difference incremental conversion rate improvements can make.
3. Timing is essential.
Whether it’s the season, day of the week, or even time of day — all of these can play a major role depending upon your offering.
Seasonality should go without saying. If you’re selling sunglasses, peak seasons are spring and summer. If it’s scarves, you’re looking at heavy spends in fall and winter.
Some products perform better on weekends than they do weekdays. We typically find that the more someone has to think through a purchase decision — usually because of a higher price tag or a great level of research/education needed before buying — the more likely it is that weekends will outperform weekdays.
On the same note, these products will typically perform better during early morning and late night hours on weekdays — when people have more time to learn and complete a purchase.
A word of caution, however. On many campaigns, we find that campaign spend spikes disproportionately during the post-work hours, usually about 5-9pm. Since weekday social media traffic is higher this time of day, we find that many campaigns take a hit during these hours for two reasons:
a) This is when people are more likely to casually scroll their feeds and catch up on the day’s posts. It also means they may be less engaged with your ad and landing page.
b) Many potential buyers may be distracted by other things going on in their lives this time of day. They may have kids keeping them busy, dinner to worry about, and other things that prevent them from giving your ad its proper due.
Since social media traffic is higher during this time of day, we see that many campaigns will spend up to one-third of their entire day’s spend during this 4-hour window. This makes this a dangerous window for many advertisers and one that you should surely analyze to see its impact on your own performance.
If this is an issue your campaign faces, what’s the best way for you to get around this? We’ve tried multiple approaches, and while there’s no easy way, here are the two that could potentially work:
a) Pause your campaigns during these hours using automated rules. Of course, you’ll miss out on spend and may not hit your daily budget goals as a result. To get around this, simply raise your daily budgets by enough to offset the loss in spend you’ll see during these hours.
b) Use automated rules to implement lower conversion bids during these hours. We typically see that CTR remains consistent, but it’s conversion rate that takes a hit. This makes good sense since people are presumably busy during these hours and while it doesn’t take extra time to show interest by clicking an ad, it does take extra time to read landing pages, think through purchase decisions, and enter payment info to check out. You can’t rely on Facebook to understand and predict a lower conversion rate during these periods. Once you know your numbers though, you can set your own bid rules to force Facebook to bid for a lower CPA target. You’ll likely see lower CPMs/CPCs as a result, which should help to offset the lower conversion rate and maintain performance. Then automated rules to adjust your bids back to their normal levels once this window has ended.
Amidst all of this, it’s also important to understand that 5pm-7pm on a Wednesday is not the same as 5-7pm on a weekend. Only set these parameters on the days where it makes sense to do so, based on campaign performance.
4. There’s nothing like a sale to boost performance.
Never underestimate the power of a sale. Do you like buying things on sale? Say no more, you are certainly not alone.
A sale inherently works some of the most effective conversion tactics into an ad. These can be so effective that the ad itself can feature less information than usual about your product and still outperform your evergreen ads by a wide margin.
Sales immediately work the following elements into your ad:
a) Scarcity. It simply isn’t every day that something goes on sale. Most sales only happen a few times per year. People intuitively understand this. All else equal, sales on holidays outperform the same sales we’ve run during non-holiday periods. Can you guess why? It’s purely due to scarcity — the holiday itself suggests that there’s reason to believe these sales are rare. We all know that holidays themselves are scarce.
b) Urgency. We all know that sales end. The expiry of a sale puts more urgency into the mind of a buyer, and they’re less likely to put off the purchase knowing their chance to score a discount will soon go away.
c) Value. Without communicating the value of the product itself, the simple proposition that your item is priced less than usual implies that amount of value all by itself.
d) Loss aversion bias. People would rather avoid losing something than gaining the equivalent amount. While this might not seem like direct loss aversion, the idea that you’ll effectively lose the extra $20 (or whatever amount of the discount) by having to buy this item at full price in the future certainly rings notes of loss aversion.
Let me let you in on a little secret. We’ve seen companies run ‘sales’ that offered their products at virtually the same prices as usual, only they repackaged the savings and positioned it as more of a sales offer. That alone has often been enough to work down cost per acquisition to the point where they can scale their spend 2-3x or more and still hit their usual CPA targets.
Think of good reasons to run sales. If there are no holidays, it could be your company’s anniversary, a friends and family sale, or something else. Get creative. A sale can reinvigorate your campaign and bring in plenty of those potential customers who’ve been watching from the sidelines but procrastinating.
5. Even when you aren’t running a sale, the presence of an offer will always boost performance.
One of the key ingredients to a successful ad is an offer. We try to work some kind of offer into nearly every ad that we run.
We all like to believe we’re getting a good deal, and there’s a reason so many companies extend an offer in their advertising, especially to first-time customers. It works.
Here are a few ideas for offers that we’ve seen move the needle:
a) A flat-out discount. It’s well known that loss aversion is one of the most powerful driving forces behind our decisions. If someone knows that they’ll need to pay more in the future without the use of a promo code or the special link in an ad, those feelings of future loss will linger – even if they were unlikely to buy the product. Offering a discount in the ad speaks directly to this powerful tactic and allows you to offer the same benefits that a sale would, without having an actual sitewide sale. For extra effect, offering this for a limited time will add a measure of urgency and supercharge the performance gains you’ll see from this.
b) Free trials. Offering free use of a product, which is especially easy if it’s digital, allows the buyer to take some risk off the table. We all want to know that we’ll be satisfied customers of anything we use. What better way to let someone figure this out for themselves than to offer a free trial of your product? If it lives up to its claims, you can expect to see a very high post-trial retention rate, and a substantially lower acquisition cost.
c) Buy one get one offers. People are drawn to the idea of free. Typically, the cost of offering a free second product will be more friendly to your margins than discounting your actual product by 50%. And there are many studies out there, like this Medium post, that show how a BOGO will often beat out a 50% discount. If your business expenses allow for it and it makes sense for someone to have a second version of whatever they’re buying, we’re big fans of buy one get one. Try it out and see for yourself.
d) Bonus gifts. Who doesn’t love the idea of a gift? Why do you think the birthday and holiday shopping industries are so big? Throwing in a free gift as part of your promotion is a great way to drive urgency and help the customer feel like they’re getting a great deal. It can often be much cheaper to you than a straight up buy one get one offer too.
e) Satisfaction guarantees offering free returns. If you’ve seen any kind of mattress ad over the last few years, you’ve surely seen an offer like this in these ads. Just look at Casper’s homepage, and right at the top you’ll see their 100-night risk-free trial called out. This is a close relative of the free trial offer mentioned above, but something like this will be much more friendly to your margins and cash flow – especially if you have a physical product. The key difference is that you’ll be collecting the cash up front, and industry studies estimate return rates at around 8% (varies by industry). Your front-end conversion rate will be lower than it is offering a free trial though, so act accordingly based on your own situation and the format that makes the most sense to your business.
6. Don’t be afraid to call out price in your ads.
Many advertisers are of the belief that the goal of the ad is to get the click, where the landing page does the rest. On that logic, it may not make sense to call out price in your ads. After all, what if the price turns off the prospect before they’ve had a chance to discover ing tthe wonders of your offering, which the landing page more effectively communicates than an ad could?
It’s a sound line of thinking, but there’s a fine line to tread here. If your price point isn’t a liability, there are often benefits to calling out price in your actual ad. Here are a few reasons it often makes sense to do so:
a) For all those who may be turned off by your price point, there may be more people who wrongly assume that your price point is higher than it is – that they can’t afford it, and it doesn’t make sense for them to click on your ad or buy your product. We’ve found this to be the case on many campaigns.
b) Calling out price in your ads can pre-qualify your clicks, which not only primes them ahead of the journey (preventing sticker shock or buyers’ remorse when they finally see the price on your product or cart page), but can weed out those who might have clicked but wouldn’t have bought at this price point.
c) Why should that matter? Your conversion rate is a key ingredient in Facebook’s quality rankings. Those quality rankings can directly impact your CPM. Put another way, the higher your conversion rate, the lower a CPM you may enjoy. If for no other reason, this alone can make it well worth including the price in your ad.
d) It makes even more sense to call out the price in your ad if you’re able to show savings. For example, calling out your $49 price point anchored against a “regular price” of $75, (assuming you’re offering a discount), or offering a bundle package with higher total value than the price point, is a great way to show that you’re offering value.
There are certain situations where it may not make sense to call out price upfront. This generally applies to offerings at a very high price point (typically priced higher than the competition), where you’re relying on your landing page or a post lead-gen sale to do the heavy lift and convince a buyer that you’re worth the price.
7. A fresh set of eyes on a campaign always works wonders.
Like it or not, we are all creatures of habit. When it comes to campaign tactics and analysis, these habits can often hold us back from pushing our campaigns forward in the same way that a fresh set of eyes might.
One of the biggest strengths of our agency is the proficiency of our team. We regularly commission other team members not involved in the day-to-day on a campaign to take a look at our campaigns to see whether they’re able to see things that the daily operators on these campaigns don’t.
Sometimes, the simplest of observations can be the most meaningful ones. This may apply to ad mix, offer ideas, your landing page, targeting, product positioning, budget allocation, or anything else that fuels the success of a campaign.
To prevent the tunnel vision that often stagnates a campaign, it’s always great to get another competent set of eyes on your campaign. Note that competence is key here though, as anyone who doesn’t do this for a living is more likely to come in with ideas that don’t necessarily serve your campaign in the best way.
Our team offers free Facebook/Instagram ad account audits to advertisers who meet our criteria for an eventual partnership. You’d be amazed by the things we immediately find that can often make huge differences on the daily performance of a campaign.
8. Getting creative with targeting pays off in a big way.
What do I mean by this? I don’t mean randomly choosing disconnected interests that may perchance pay off.
What I do mean is going one level deeper than the obvious interests. For example, let’s say you’re an online sportsbook looking to attract NBA bettors. Who do you target here?
Most advertisers would agree that first and foremost, it might make sense to target the NBA and basketball as interests.
Here’s why it doesn’t make sense to do this:
a) Interests like these are the most likely to be bid on by other advertisers. If you’re thinking something is obvious, so is everyone else selling products or services in that industry.
The more advertisers bidding on an interest, the more competitive it is. After all, you’re competing for a limited number of ad impressions that each user can get on a daily basis.
This not only means higher CPMs due to increased competition on that interest in Facebook’s auction, but it also means you may be less likely to reach the most likely buyers within that audience too. Both of these things can have profound effects on the performance of an ad set.
b) The broadest interests are also the least likely to have the strongest correlation with that interest. In the case of NBA or basketball, all it takes is for someone to have liked or commented on even a single post containing NBA or basketball-related content over the many years they’ve been active on Facebook.
This could mean a simple NBA highlight a friend once shared (i.e. an impressive shot or slam dunk), or even a video a relative shared with their kid playing basketball on their driveway. Neither of these would necessarily make you a basketball fan.
In order to find the more heavily-correlated interests, it always makes sense to dig one or two levels deeper. Find those niche interests where only more serious fans were more likely to engage with that subject. Examples of this may include:
- NBA players, but also the less obvious ones. Rather than LeBron James (still mainstream enough to capture casual and non-fans), go for names like Jaylen Brown, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young. If you haven’t heard of these players, that’s a sign that you aren’t one of those NBA fans you’d want to be targeting 🙂
- NBA coaches. Same logic as the player example applies, and this is even more niche.
- NBA journalists. Go after the beat writers and TV personalities. Again, anyone with an interest in these people is more likely to be a true fan.
All of these interests are also far less likely to have advertiser competition, meaning you may see more favorable CPMs and ad placements within the auction.
This same mentality can apply to just about any industry. If you’re selling financial services, don’t just target ‘investing’. If it’s a fitness product, don’t target ‘fitness’ like everyone else does. Target the niche interests to win out.
9. You get exactly what you ask for when it comes to campaign objectives.
This is an extremely costly, and all-too-common mistake we catch when we audit accounts. So many advertisers, for some reason, choose objectives that don’t align with their actual campaign objective.
I can’t underemphasize the cost of this. We’ve tried every possible way to game Facebook’s objectives and rarely, if ever, have we won by doing this.
If you’re trying to sell product, go for conversions. Don’t optimize for checkouts, adds to cart, or link clicks. And don’t even think about optimizing for engagement, video views, or CPM. In every single one of these instances, you may see lower CPMs and CPCs, but just watch what happens to your conversion rate and CPA.
Facebook gives you exactly what you ask for. With years of data behind every individual, Facebook has highly meaningful stats on every single person’s likelihood to buy, add to cart (but not buy), watch videos, click links, and every other objective it offers.
Align your objective with your actual goal. This change alone can make a bigger difference in performance than you’d ever imagine possible.
10. Videos are great but don’t underestimate the potential of static images in your ads.
Far too many advertisers simply rely on videos in their ads. We’re huge fans of video ads and would never recommend ditching them altogether. They’re often the best form of creative in a campaign, but by no means is this always the case.
Here are 3 reasons that you should absolutely include static in your creative mix:
The CPMs on static ads are typically a lot less than they are on video. In most cases, we see static CPMs about 30-50% less than video CPMs. While it may be true that a video can share more information than a static ad can, there are certain situations where that may not be necessary. Here are 3 examples that come to mind:
- Sale ads. When it comes to a sale, it’s the discount that interests people the most. We almost always see static ads outperform videos in sale situations.
- Retargeting ads. At this point, the prospect likely knows most of the information you revealed in the videos you’re using. The purpose of the retargeting ad is mainly to nudge them politely to bring them back to your website. That being the goal, why not do it at a lower CPM with static ads?
- Straightforward offerings like clothing or household supplies. If there’s little education needed about what it is that you’re offering and a picture can tell all, there’s no sense in paying a higher CPM to communicate the same message via video. We generally find that straightforward ecommerce offerings perform best with static ads.
Faster production time
A great video is worth all the effort that goes into it, but you’re likely to produce 10 or more static ads in the same amount of time. More ads give you an easier opportunity to find something that outperforms the rest of your campaign.
Easier ability to split test single variables
This is a really big one, especially for companies looking to fine-tune their messaging. Getting your messaging down is one of the key ingredients to effectively scaling a campaign and growing a brand.
Statics allow you to split test simple variables against each other, helping you learn very quickly how to best explain your product or service to potential first-time buyers. This is especially important on a platform like Facebook/Instagram, where you have 1-2 seconds to explain yourself to a potential buyer before they move on and continue scrolling their feed.
See why we’ve been named one of 50 Facebook Premium Agency Partners based on ad spend, despite our small team of only 15. Contact us today for a free consultation to see if you can benefit from our help.