Around a year ago, we began working with a savvy ecommerce website that mails your kids a monthly package full of neat facts, stickers and trinkets from a faraway country. Their goal is to inspire a love for the world, one month at a time, and boy, does my 5 year old dig it!

Globe

We began the engagement on Google search, targeting phrases such as “great gift for 5 yr old boy,” but our ads barely stood out in a noisy field of competitors. The value proposition is compelling and unique, but it was a hard sell on Google search. We struggled to spend $5,000 a month – things were not looking great.

Then we fired up Facebook Ads. Simple targeting, no lookalike audiences, just a single interest: Disney. It worked! We hit our CPA target (cost per subscription) right away. To iterate on our success, we built out more targeting groups, overlaid our core purchasers’ demographics, and tested variations of unpublished page posts. Things were looking very good; we were starting to spend some real money.

What happened next surprised the heck out of us. We overlaid a lookalike audience built from a list of email purchasers. Now we went from hitting our targets to absolutely CRUSHING them. Not only were we bringing in conversions, we could spend 6 figures per month at our CPA target. Our client turned around and raised a bunch of money—everything just got a lot more real.

Facebook Spend Graph

The individual factors that contributed to our success are what make Facebook Ads a compelling channel for advertisers:

-Targeting core purchasers (in this case, moms)
-Using likes and interests to capture a certain “spirit” (world travel, education)
-Leveraging social proof within the ad unit itself (comments, shares and likes from moms to moms, sisters to sisters, grandmas to grandmas)

If you’ve struggled to make things work on AdWords, try asking yourself these three questions:

1. Who is my core audience of purchasers, subscribers, etc.?
2. What drives my customers to buy? What makes them tick?
3. How can I write the best ad possible to evoke emotion?

Once you’ve addressed this short list of questions, take it to Facebook Ads. Work with a campaign manager; load up custom audiences; build some lookalikes; narrow the audience with demographic filters that mirror your core purchasers; get some awesome photography; write a killer message in 500 characters or less; and bid high to gather as much data as possible up front.

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Lastly, the ad unit in this example is Facebook’s unpublished page post. Each post resides at a URL where your team can monitor the conversation. I say team because it really does take a team to scrub, reply, and answer people’s questions. If you don’t stay on top of it, you might let a few haters slip through, poisoning the entire effort–yes, this can happen! Not only will most comments be full of praise for your product, but they also might help craft your FAQ page and even fine-tune your landing pages. Learn what folks want and don’t want by what they say in the comments!

AdWords is not for everyone. Facebook Ads are not for everyone. Occasionally, when one doesn’t work, try the other—you could be completely surprised.

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Joey Muller is a certified Google AdWords Professional and Facebook advertising expert at Sum Digital, a digital marketing agency in San Francisco. Joey has generated millions of dollars in revenue for ecommerce, gaming, healthcare, and IT companies. Joey received his BA in Cognitive Psychology from Dartmouth College. See Joey’s LinkedIn profile and follow him on Twitter @jmthefourth.