Building Awareness

With a Paid Traffic Engine

Hi.

Tryin’ to build some buzz around your biz? 

You’ve noticed there are lots of paths up that mountain, right?

The path of paid traffic is an especially exciting one, yet, it is also home to quiet, costly mistakes. We want to share the 30,000 foot view, and help you avoid those pitfalls.

But before we get to any grand revelations…

The Context:

In early 2022, over the span of 2-weeks, Wabbit sent a long-form email series to a segment of our audience who previously expressed an interest in learning more about how they could best use paid traffic to generate awareness.

We wrote 11 emails for the series, each discussing critical concepts in paid traffic acquisition — each providing an assignment for the reader at the end.

The reception was incredible.

Two standout stats from the campaign:

Open Rate 82%
Click-Through Rate 64%

Digest what you learn here, and see what happens when you begin to implement the ideas you learn. When you have questions, come back to this page, join the conversation happening in the comments section, and ask us.

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Before we get started, I’d like us to get on the same page about the difference between paid and organic traffic — and why you ought to care about either in the first place.

When I use the term organic traffic, I’m referring to content which doesn’t need to pay for attention because it is so valuable that people will spread it on their own, without any direct incentive.

When you hear terms like SEO and SERP you are hearing terms related to organic traffic. All organic traffic generally comes as the result of your inbound marketing and SEO efforts

Paid traffic, on the other hand, is any traffic which originates from a platform (or other environment) where money is exchanged for awareness / action.

This could be a large platform (ie. Google or Facebook), or ad-space purchased on mass-media sites, blogs, forums, or other web-based assets.

We could also include print media as a paid traffic source — but, for the sake of keeping the conceptual waters clear, we will leave the discussion of tracking print media results for another time. Suffice it to say, unique yet memorable links are the general practice for tracking non-digital ads.

At Wabbit, systems theory governs a great deal of how we interpret the world around us. Over the years, we’ve come to believe that the most useful way to look at any business, is to view it as an interconnected, interdependent system. 

With that view in mind, it is a simple mental jump to make the connection that a steady flow of traffic must be the engine which keeps the business (system) running.

We can think of this engine as a sub-system whose sole purpose for existence is: reliably, consistently, and predictably generating awareness, interest, or desire for a business (or other endeavor, etc.).

For the purposes of this series, we use the term “engine” because, well… it fits, and…

It avoids the potential negative connotations of the term “traffic system.”

In the marketing world, the word “system” is often used to imply something “foolproof” that can be followed, step-by-step, task by task, with 100% guaranteed results.

That is not this.

In the real world, guaranteed results must be earned in the crucible of trial and error, if they can be had at all.

The wise know that no result worth having is free.

Which leads me to a question we hear a lot:

“Why pay for traffic when I can get it for free?”

It is profoundly important to acknowledge that “organic” does not mean free. We pay for all traffic with either time, money, or both.

No matter what path we take, there is a cost. That’s why the exchange of money is such a critical distinction in our definition of paid traffic.

Because time is also a currency we spend.

And there are a number of advantages to paying for traffic with more money than time:

  • The major platforms are available 24/7 and immediately accessible
  • You can get incredibly specific with your targeting (like, mind-blowingly specific)
  • Data can be segmented and studied for insights that would be difficult to obtain in practically any other method
  • You can instantly increase or decrease amount of traffic and the amount of money spent.
  • User behavior can trigger other actions automatically, creating an infinitely more personalized experience for your prospects.

Yet, the truth remains… even with all these benefits, paid traffic remains a very expensive, very mysterious “black box” for many businesses (regardless of size) and, an unfortunate number of marketing professionals.

The end result is a rampant and mind-boggling amount of money in wasted ad spend.

If you’re like us, you want evidence of our claims, in the form of data. Well, we aren’t going to provide that data. Sorry. There is too much of it. 

I know… funny, not funny. 

Instead of firing mind bullets at me, consider this:

If you go to your favorite search engine and search for “what’s a good CTR?,” you’re very likely to learn that it generally hovers between roughly 0.5-5% (depending on the channel we are talking about). This number is the average across most business, regardless of size.

Hopefully hiding the source like that will generate more motivation to confirm what I’m saying.

So… if a given CTR averages less than 10%… that means at least 90% returned… nothing, right?

Isn’t that a lot of waste?

Why aren’t these businesses seeing better results?

We believe the confusion stems first from the fact that broadly useful training is rare. The results of paid advertising are often unpredictable, and have to be honed over time to generate ideal results. Too often, we find marketers focusing on tactics and growth hacks, rather than principles.

Of course, a solid tactical understanding is a good thing to have. It does matter, we wouldn’t suggest otherwise.

The problem is, tactics can change virtually overnight.

We saw it early in 2021 when Apple announced it would no longer allow email open rates to be tracked in its ecosystem. The businesses and marketers that hold a purely tactical understanding freaked out at this news. They are likely still scrambling to figure out what to do.

Apple’s open rate decision is a perfect example of each platform having its own best practices… and challenges.

Currently, we can see the same thing happening with Facebook (now Meta).

As we go through these next ten sections, we will share an agency’s view of what it takes to build an engine that can reliably generate traffic, as well as ten powerful ideas we’ve learned over the combined four decades we’ve spent helping entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses.

If you have questions along the way, send us an email, or ask in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

What is Success?

Ever since Bilbo Baggins said “not all who wander are lost,” my personal experience has consisted of watching people use that quote to justify wildly irresponsible decisions and behaviors.

Sure, in a number of ways, I completely agree with the Hobbit — we ought to explore! We can learn wonders while wandering, and there is absolutely no need for a destination!

And there’s even a place for this wanderlust in business, just not when we are trying to generate awareness and interest for our company. For that, we need specificity — we need a destination to move toward. Something to measure against.

That’s why, when we spend money to gain traffic, we want to be crystal clear about what we consider success to be.

  • Does it mean a 5% click-through rate?
  • Does it mean $1,000 in sales?
  • What results do we want to see?

To me, it is a rare and silly person that happily wastes their budget without getting results — and yet we see countless businesses setting their precious cash on fire by launching their ad campaigns long before they’ve bothered to ask themselves the right questions.

All because nobody told them a better way.

That is why we’re here.

It can be so confusing to identify what the right questions are. Especially in the age of the internet.

There is a vast and overwhelming cacophony of advice, shouted by a seemingly infinite number of “gurus,” and it should be a good thing that we have access to all of it — but, instead of making things easier, we’re often left confused, wondering what, exactly, we ought to do.

In what order?

Isn’t there some step-by-step guide?

As you know, building a business is hard, nobody has to tell you that. And no amount of push-button marketing “secrets” will change that fact.

Worse still, we have our perpetual “busy-ness” with no consistent progress to show for it. 

If time is our only real currency, it is safe to say we are not getting a great return.

We Wabbits believe the heart of the issue is: how the destination — success — is defined. 

After all, how can we reach a given goal when we aren’t quite sure what it is?

Two stories illustrate our approach the problem…

Well, ok… the first isn’t really a story, it is an old quote with ambiguous origins:

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Some say it comes from an American General during the Vietnam war, other sources suggest origins in ancient China. 

I’ll be honest, I have no idea where it comes from. I’ve tried to track it down, with no luck.

My guess is: somewhere with elephants.

You’re welcome.

Origins (and bad jokes) aside, the meaning of the quote is mindset. Eating an elephant by oneself seems like an impossible task. And there’s no creature on this planet who could do it in a single bite. So, we have to shift our thinking from short term, to a longer view.

The reliable way to accomplish massive goals is to do so a little bit at a time. We ought not expect immediate success — rather, we see what lies in front of us as a process (which will take time) so we prepare ourselves for the long journey ahead.

There aren’t many journey’s longer than that of Britain’s 8-man rowing team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. No British rowing team had won an Olympic gold medal since 1912 — but, this team changed everything.

So how did they go from a relatively average rowing team, to gold-medal-winning Olympians?

Ben Hunt-Davies, a member of the team that year, tells the story of their accomplishment in his book “Will it Make the Boat Go Faster.”

As he tells it, the team developed a one-question response to every decision they made, no matter how crucial, or seemingly insignificant the decision might be. This single question enabled them to assess every situation, decision, and obstacle — while avoiding the predictable pitfalls that so many of us face.

Every team member asked themselves this one question before making a decision or taking an opportunity: Will it make the boat go faster?

Q: Should I eat a bunch of candy?

Will it make the boat go faster?

Probably not.

Q: Should I wear Viking horns while we row?

Will it make the boat go faster?

No, it adds wind resistance, take the helmet off.

Sure, this question can call for some extreme decisions, but Olympians are extreme people. 

They do whatever it takes.

If you want to see the race, here you go:

Listen to that crowd. Do you hear what this moment meant to them?

With a little modification, we can use that team’s concept to enhance every aspect of our business.

We start by redefining two terms: boat, and faster.

Our boat is not the specific offer, funnel, or campaign — it is our business, craft, or profession.

Faster refers to how we are doing relative to our business’s goal. For Wabbit, the goal is: 

Produce Happy Customers

Everything we do is measured relative to that goal.

Let’s look at two examples…

  1. The complex example: We have a sales funnel which generates 50 customers per day, with a 20% refund rate (within 30 days), which means we are producing 40 customers per day.

    If we could lower our refund rate to 10%, this would make my “boat” go faster because I’m now creating 45 happy customers instead of the original 40.

  2. The simple example: Imagine the same sales funnel generates 45 happy customers per day and we increase the output to 60 happy customers per day, our “boat” would again be going faster.

Yet, each of those examples assumes we already have clarity and precision about what “boat” and “faster” mean for us, in our context.

Without that, situations become cloudy and vague.

What happens if we scale to tens of thousands of customers, but they’re not quite “happy” anymore?

What does that do to our position in the big, infinite game we’re all playing?

If we don’t find (and maintain) our clarity and precision, we risk losing sight of the profound power of Ben Hunt-Davies’ question.

We cannot go faster without understanding what faster means for us, in our unique context.

Remember when I said I’d give you an assignment at the end of each of these sections?

We do this because active participation is more effective than passive consumption.

Here is your first assignment…

Take out some paper and a pen. You’re going to define the shape of your business. Be as clear and specific as possible. To get you started, use the following questions as writing prompts:

  • What do you get paid for? What do you sell?
    • Is it physical or digital? Product or a service? 
    • What do your customers buy from you? 
    • Don’t get too hung up on front end vs. back end, just get the broad-strokes written down so they’re visible. Free up some memory.
  • How do customers find you? Where do they find you? Is it online? Offline?
    • This could be word-of-mouth, affiliates, referrals, blogs, organic traffic, paid traffic, and all sorts of other online content.
  • What are the measurable steps that take place between their awareness and a purchase?
    • What do your prospects see and hear? 
    • What do they do that puts your business on their mind, in their thoughts, on their radar? 
    • How does the relationship begin? 
    • How do they deepen their engagement? 
    • What causes their eventual purchase?

It is important that you take the time to answer these questions thoroughly, thoughtfully, and with precision. Everything we discuss over the next nine sections will build on this humble, mind-blowingly powerful exercise.

It is an incredible oversimplification but, one could say that all businesses operate due to a positive relationship between traffic and conversion. 

In the next section, I’m going to show you a basic, powerful framework you can use to increase your potential on any traffic platform.

Take your time, complete the assignment, and then, let’s keep going…

Traffic Talk: Part 1

Some time ago, my mentor exposed me to a saying which I’ve become quite fond of:

Framework before work.

It means: once you have precise focus on the few things that matter most — when it comes to achieving your goal — then, you can create a Framework to help structure, and therefore streamline, the work necessary to achieve the goal.

For our purposes, a framework is like idea scaffolding — a tested structure we can use to shorten and simplify our build process. 

(By the way, the actual definition of Framework is: a structure underlying a system, concept, or text.)

We use them in the same way we use mental models and first principles.

In practice, the framework becomes a mechanism for focusing on the few things that matter most when trying to produce important results within any given topic. 

Ideally, good frameworks provide just enough guidance to be broadly useful, without adding restriction that inhibit one’s creativity.

In my experience, taking the time to identify (or create) and validate our frameworks and mental models can be incredibly beneficial.

If you come from the programming world, you understand a framework as foundation you can build software on. It is a packaged set of tested tools which reduce your errors and save your time.

Like the foundation you will build your castle on.

In this series, we lay our foundation through two frameworks for paid traffic. I’ll share one now, and the other in a later section. 

Take a look at the graphic below:

Traffic-Pyramid

Way back, when my mentor first shared this diagram with me, he told me:

“David, over the years, we’ve come to recognize that all online traffic — paid or organic — fits into one of three (and only three) categories. We’ve yet to find an exception to this.”

Those three categories are the tiers in the pyramid above. Here’s the overview:

Top-Tier

People searching for you, specifically.

This generally means paid / organic search (primarily Google, Bing, & YouTube.)

At this tier we see lower overall volume, with ultra-high quality.

Middle-Tier

People searching for what you have to offer. 

This tier offers higher volume and varying quality, depending on search terms, and the precision and skill of their use.

To reach people here, the use of paid, and organic  search is key — and Search is (usually) a highly competitive environment.

Bottom-Tier

People who, if they knew you or what you have to offer exits, might be interested. 

In this bottom tier we see Facebook ads, Google Display Network, YouTube, LinkedIn, affiliate emails, etc.

The bottom-tier offers us enormous potential for our volume of traffic but, low overall quality.

So, what does this mean?

As with everything here, the answer to that question lies in the nuance.

It is profoundly important to recognize the motivation of each tier. That’s where the magic is.

The top / middle tiers are all about active intent.

When someone searches (using Google or any other search engine), we say they have active intent — meaning, they’re looking for something  specific. (usually to solve a problem, find an answer, or learn a known solution). Generally, this takes two forms:

  1. They search for us specifically
  2. They search for what we have to offer

First, searching for us can mean they look us up by our name, by the name of a product we’ve created, or by the name of our business.

As you might have guessed, Organic search drives most of this traffic — however, paid search also plays a role if your competitors bid on your branded keyword phrases.

Yes, people do that.

Yes, I know it sucks.

As they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

This type of traffic (specific-searches) is generally the lowest volume and highest quality. Yet, as long as your website is well-built, you will show up when someone searches for you — making this the easiest type of traffic to acquire.

After all, Google wouldn’t exist at the level it does today if people couldn’t find you when they searched for you.

Second, there are people searching for what you have to offer. The key distinction here is that the searches aren’t specific to you (or your product or service) instead, you provide a solution that matches the intent of their search.

This second category of traffic is generally high quality and often high volume — a combination which can make markets very competitive — but, this shouldn’t discourage you. Competition is not necessarily a sign of a crowded market, in fact, in most cases, competition is good!

When there’s competition that usually means there’s an active market, and money to be made.

Finally, in the bottom tier, the prospect might like what we have to offer (and buy it) when they see it, but they are not out looking for it directly.

This third category of traffic does not have active intent — they’re not looking. Instead, because of some combination of traits, they might have passive potential interest.

Meaning they might like it (and buy it) when they see it, but they’re not out looking for us, or anything we offer. It is a passive process for them.

For example, I’ve been a customer of Karst Stone Paper for years, but I would’ve never thought to search for their product. I didn’t even know humans could make paper from rocks!

Yet, one day, I stumbled on the story of the company (awareness), learned about the environmental impact of their mission (interest), and eventually decided to try their product (action). I’ve been a customer ever since.

The important thing to note is that I wasn’t out looking for them, I had passive potential interest.

There was no guarantee I’d buy, or even care.

We have to recognize something important: yes, this bottom-tier category of traffic is the largest audience by far… it is also the lowest quality.

That fact will matter later.

Here’s the assignment for this section: identify how you currently obtain traffic from each tier.

For example:

  • Tier 1: Organic search & SEO
  • Tier 2: Paid Ads & SEM
  • Tier 3: Facebook & YouTube

For bonus points — using Google Analytics or a similar tool — identify the relative volume and quality of traffic. Ask yourself the following:

  • What percentage of your overall traffic comes from each type of traffic?
  • What is the cost to acquire this traffic?
  • How much revenue does it generate? (If you don’t have revenue data yet, you can pick another meaningful metric, like lead volume.)

In the next section we are going to talk about why casting a wide net is a losing game (and a much better way to think about paid traffic).

Proceed when you’ve finished the assignment.

Wide-Net Weariness

It used to be easy to throw money at the traffic issue and get inexpensive and useful results. In the marketing and advertising world, we call this Media Buying… and I’m about to say something absolutely heretical about it.

If you know that term, and use it on a regular basis, you’re likely going to shake your head at me when I say this next part, but it is important…

I want us to agree to stop using the term altogether when it comes to online marketing. Yes, it does still have relevance in some circles (print advertising, television, radio, billboards, etc.) but, in the digital space, the environment is much different than it used to be.

Long ago, a business could create an offer, build a sales funnel, and then make a trip to the “traffic store” (ie. paid advertising on Google or Facebook) with a little cash, and see decent results without making a big dent in the overall marketing budget.

In those days, traffic volume was the way — clicks were cheap, so a single-digit conversion rate wasn’t a big deal because, even a 1% conversion rate still worked out economically. Who cares about wasting 99% of the ad budget when profits keep rolling in, right?

I hope you’re shaking your head “no” about that one, but, we still have to accept the truth of how internet advertising worked in those early days. Back then, the whole digital marketing system could be a mind-bogglingly chaotic mess of broken parts and still generate profit. Honestly, it was a little amazing to watch.

Similarly, back then, we didn’t need to worry about people on our list getting tired of the tactic because, we could easily buy more cheap attention.

Sadly, paid traffic doesn’t work that way anymore.

Yes, of course, the traffic store is still open for business, but the “good ‘ol days” of cheap traffic are gone, and they aren’t coming back.

Now, the clicks that used to cost a matter of cents, cost multiple dollars instead. It is safe to say that 1% conversion rates simply are not good enough in this more expensive environment.

HubSpot, one of the leaders in inbound marketing software, releases a report about the state of marketing each year. It is full of a ton of useful data but, for our purposes, I want to focus on one small section of their stats for 2021: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.

Here is what they report as the average cost-per-click (CPC) of keywords for a few select industries:

  • Legal industry: Average keyword cost of $6.46. Most expensive keyword is $1090.
  • Medical industry: Average keyword cost of $2.62. Most expensive keyword is $90.
  • Marketing industry: Average keyword cost of $3.33. Most expensive keyword $165.
  • Software industry: Average keyword cost of $3.80. Most expensive keyword is $95.
  • Real Estate industry: Average keyword cost of $2.37. Most expensive keyword is $95.
  • Home Improvement industry: Average keyword cost of $6.40. Most expensive keyword is $320.

Can you imagine trying to run a PPC campaign in the Legal industry!? Granted, lawyers can make a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean they want to burn it all up buying ads with a single-digit conversion rate.

Yes, out of 100 clicks, landing a single client might more than make up for the cost of the 99 who don’t convert — but, that isn’t exactly the point.

Instead, we need to ask ourselves why we should be satisfied with such a low return on our investment. Why are we still accepting that this is how the game must be played?

Wasting so much of our marketing budget like this has to be a problem, right?

We Wabbits say it is — but, in order to keep ourselves honest, we still have to acknowledge something…

Yes, there are many successful businesses that continue to use the old media buying model (offer first, bolt on traffic later). Chances are, it isn’t going anywhere, any time soon.

But, the fact remains: we’ve seen clients spend enormous sums of money using this model, and yes, it works for some businesses (usually the businesses who already have deep pockets).

The idea that we could treat ads like some sort of success vending machine is a shiny lure in the deep dark — and it is a dangerously wasteful mindset, especially for early-stage entrepreneurs.

Yes, advertising in this way may still work for a while, but the revolution is happening now. 

The businesses still holding to this tactic may show success on the outside, but if you spend enough time inside these businesses you’ll hear fear, concern, and sometimes… absolute panic.

Fortunately, there is a compelling alternative…

We know the low-cost traffic model is less viable than it has ever been. The competition for keywords, and the business models of the major ad platforms have made it so clicks are nowhere near as cheap as they once were.

We could keep playing the same game with diminishing returns, or…

Instead of creating an offer, building a funnel, and going to the traffic store (ads), we could think about where we will get traffic from before creating the offer and funnel, and then planning our ads accordingly.

Above all else, this means we ought to first spend the time and effort to match our landing page with the needs of the people who will see it.

Put plainly, we don’t make a “5-ways to save on insurance” landing page when the search term is “what to do when you’ve been in a car accident.”

Second, we need to refrain from making our ads aggressive, or over-the-top in their claims. Google and Facebook know they can survive without empowering the businesses who choose these messaging tactics, and they are actively enforcing guidelines that discourage their use.

This fact is why we recommend doing the harder thing now — by incorporating both the source, and the intent of your prospects, as integral parts of your offers and funnels. It makes everything easier later, and will produce much better results in the short-term.

The assignment for this section is to pick one offer you’re currently running, or planning to run (or a client’s offer if you’re a freelancer), and make three lists:

  1. All of the reasons someone might benefit from your offer. Get very specific and force yourself to reason out the “why” behind the benefit. The The 5 Whys technique can be profoundly useful here. When you’re done with this list, mark the top 5-7 reasons with an asterisk.

  2. Make a list of all the reasons why someone might not want to engage with your offer (not your product/service — the offer itself). As with the first list, keep asking yourself why for each reason. This list will prove more challenging than the first list, but it makes a massive difference.

  3. The last is the most challenging of all, but the Wabbits believe in you — we know you can handle it. So… make a list of all the ways in which someone could sabotage / undermine the value your product/service provides. For someone providing marketing services to clients, this might look like:
    • “Clients second-guessing decisions because of something they read/heard online”
    • “Focusing on methods instead of results”
    • “Micro–managing the process”
    • “Relying on opinions instead of data for decision–making”

Don’t shy away from this task. If you’re feeling resistance, it often means you’ve identified the exact spot that needs your attention and discipline most.

Soon, you’re going to use the work you’ve done on these lists to write an ad. I don’t make a lot of guarantees, but I can certainly make one here…

The more effort you put into fundamental groundwork like this, the better your ad will be — so, take it seriously or your ad will suffer.

In the next section, we are going to talk about a little gremlin that is likely undermining your efforts, and how to protect yourself against it.

Proceed when you’re ready.

Do Less, Better

If you’ve been around us Wabbits for a while, you’ve no doubt heard us talk about the Pareto Principle at some point in our relationship — if not, here’s a quick breakdown:

The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes (the “vital few”).

Said another way, 80% of a company’s success will come from 20% of its overall efforts.

Other names for this principle are the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity.

Others have modified this principle into the “90/10 rule”, or “5/95 thinking” but, they all essentially mean the same thing — except they often don’t give credit to Pareto for their inspiration.

We believe that if you really want to achieve something, it is critical to focus on the essentials, and strip away the excess.

It doesn’t matter what we call this idea, the point remains — In any endeavor, there are a critical few factors that really matter, and those vital few factors are responsible for an overwhelming share of the results.

When it comes to paid traffic, we’ve covered a few of these vital elements already. For example, it is critical that you understand the difference between Active Intent and Passive Potential Interest.

Another of these critical factors in paid traffic is focusing on the quality of your leads instead the quantity of them.

One of the common mistakes of paid traffic is the so-called “throw a bunch of ideas at the wall and see what sticks” method. For paid search, it usually looks like launching a few not so great ads, targeting 50-100 keyword phrases, and a budget which is always too low for the results expected.

And what happens?

The budget is usually spent within hours, just to support the number of keywords targeted — which means there’s no opportunity for the business in question to see a strong signal within the noise of the hundreds of keywords they’ve chosen.

The low-quality keywords are mixed in with the high-quality ones but, that isn’t obvious in the reporting — because all the keywords are served equally making it so none of them have the opportunity to get real traction.

On top of that, the ad copy isn’t specific to any particular set of keywords so… conversion is low, cash is wasted and — inevitably — weeks/months later the conclusion becomes “paid search didn’t work for my business.”

Truly, it isn’t the fault of paid search, it is an example which clearly shows that the way someone does paid search can be (and often is) the cause of the negative results they end up seeing.

This isn’t exclusive to search either, we can see the “see what sticks” mentality on Facebook too!

Someone will identify an audience, throw together a few ads (usually with curiosity and a big promise), and then wonder why results are terrible. Cue the cries that “Facebook doesn’t work for my business.”

Instead, we could identify one, and only one, very specific keyword phrase that is perfect for our business, like “buy blue bubble machines online with free shipping”

Then, we write one, and only one, really great ad that speaks to the persona who might want to “buy blue bubble machines online with free shipping”

While we write this one ad, we imagine — as vividly as we can — our ideal prospect sitting in front of us. And with this image in mind we ask ourselves:

  • What keeps that person up at night?
  • What problem does that person have that we are uniquely qualified to solve?
  • What does that person want (that we know how to help them achieve) most?

When writing like this, we want to write from the heart — and, make it clear that we understand the problem(s) and desire(s) deeply, and that we have a solution.

If the solution isn’t right for everyone, we’re honest about that. If there are hurdles (like opt-ins or webinars) we mention that too, just like we would for a good friend. Because we want to treat all of our prospects like we would treat a good friend.

We could then spend our entire daily budget on that one search term and study the results every 24 hours. 

If we can’t make the phrase/ad work, then yes, paid search did not work for our business. When we can’t make a perfect search phrase work with a well written ad, there are likely bigger problems to solve.

Some of the best ads we’ve ever seen — when it comes to generating customers — were written by people who never had training in copywriting or advertising. Yet, the ads worked because the copy was full of empathy, knowledge, and understanding — it was authentic, and spoke to the right people in the right way. These ads demonstrated authority and credibility without cramming sales copy down the audience’s throat.

You are going to learn how to write ads like that (ads that can transform your business) in the next section. Because, contrary to what some might tell you, nobody cares about the sizzle of a steak if it tastes like coal.

Rather than focusing on scaling, let’s agree to put that out of our minds for the moment. Instead, we are going to focus on doing one thing exceptionally well before moving on to anything else. You are going to learn about front-loading your advertising process via deep understanding, so that when it is time to scale, you can do so intelligently.

Your assignment for this section is to make sure you have completed all the other assignments up to this point. You’re going to need those ingredients for what comes next. It is tempting to avoid it, but the groundwork we’ve given you exists for a good reason.

Be careful not to sabotage yourself by skipping it.

Proceed when you’re ready.

Work That Pays Dividends

There’s no way to avoid what is coming, the assignment you’re about to do is a big one — but, don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through it.

You’re going to write a long-form (600-1,000 word) Facebook ad.

But… why long-form? And, why Facebook?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

First, this is an opportunity to completely transform how you think about paid traffic. The length of this ad will force you to make some key clarifications that other ad formats would let you get by without considering, to your own detriment. These clarifications are:

  • A deep dive into the value you can offer
  • Who will benefit most from that value
  • And, perhaps most importantly, who won’t.

(You probably recognize those from the assignment in “Wide-Net Weariness.”)

Second, long-form ads have enough content that they can be a valuable part of the overall offer funnel. This is useful to keep in mind because it will help bring cohesion to the language and messaging you use in the rest of your offer. This kind of congruence in your marketing only adds to its effectiveness.

Third, a long-form ad acts as a filter for your prospects. The length of the copy will pre-qualify prospects and dramatically increase the quality of the leads coming through your eventual traffic engine. Higher quality leads means: less refunds, better conversion rates, and (potentially) a higher lifetime value across the board.

The unsung hero of this process — the really big benefit — is the ability to repurpose content into new forms. For example, this series you’re reading right now comes from coursework we drafted over a year ago for Wabbit EDU.

We could easily turn it into a video series for YouTube, or a multi-section blog post designed to draw people deeper into the Wabbit world, before presenting the visitor with an opt-in.

Writing great copy is a lot of work, most of which happens before the ad is drafted. 

It would be silly to go through all this effort for something we can only use once. So, while we won’t focus on how to repurpose content here, let it be a comfort that this work you’re about to do has value far beyond the ad itself.

Before you begin writing, it is good to know that Facebook has a few (we suspect AI driven) policies to steer very clear of:

  1. No claims (or promises) within time-frames. Like, you can “lose 10 lbs in 10 days” or “grow yourself a 6-figure business in 6 weeks.”
  2. No digits — no numerals.
  3. Avoid using “you” and “your” in the ad copy. Facebook doesn’t like direct address.

Each of the rules outlined are intended to help avoid algorithmic disapproval. Full stop.

I’m usually all for bending rules to their limit but, in this situation, don’t do it.

Your tone in the copy matters too. Because Facebook is a social platform, you need to make sure the ad copy feels social first, meaning that you want to write as if speaking to a friend — which I’d lay money is dramatically different than the way you speak when trying to sell to a prospect in an ad. That difference can be problematic in general when marketing, but it is especially troublesome on social networks. So, keep in mind, this point about tone is a general advertising principle and not directly related to a Facebook algorithm.

You wouldn’t walk into a wedding with a megaphone and shout about saving money on your phone bill, right?

Know your audience and respect the conventions of the environment where you are trying to reach them.

There’s one last thing I want us to be clear about… 

What I’m about to share with you are guidelines, not a template to follow religiously. 

The point is to grease the tracks and get you thinking. None of this is set in stone. We are giving you a map, not a paint-by-number prescription. You will need to walk the path in your own way, and in your own unique voice.

Alright, gather the three lists you made in Wide-Net Weariness, you will need them for reference.

Start with the list of 5-7 benefits your product or service provides, and choose the one that you think is most important to your prospects. Then, do the following:

  1. Ask what gain it provides and/or what problem it solves
  2. Frame the answer as a question directed at the prospect

Don’t rush this process, think about this for as long as it takes — whether that means an hour or a week for you. 

Here are a couple examples to get your wheels turning:

If I’m writing an ad with the intention of speaking to you, I might say something like:

“Are there secrets professional marketers know that the average small business owners don’t?”

Why? Because there is an unfortunately common perception that we marketers must know some secret growth hack that regular mortals don’t.

Or, if I’m targeting new parents with a program that helps them build a college fund for their child, I may identify a classic fear and say something like:

“Ever woke up in the middle of the night wondering how to give a new baby the best possible future?”

We use questions because they are opportunities to connect — on a deep level — with the concerns of our ideal prospect. The goal is to ask them the question they’ve been asking themselves over and over again as they lay awake at night.

The first two lines of your ad are the attention grabbers, also called a hook — and testing different hooks can help you dramatically increase ad performance. Rather than overwhelm you with the myriad tactics for writing hooks, we suggest opening with a strong, insightful question — because questions are fantastic hooks. We want to grab attention quickly and powerfully — and that is what a hook does.

Note: Work diligently on this, but don’t worry about getting it exactly right the first time. Modern digital advertising makes it fantastically easy to test variations — and this “split-testing” is a classic approach to honing one’s messaging.

Once you have your prospect’s attention it is time to start talking with them, but, instead of “writing an ad,” I want you to try something different…

Imagine you are sitting on a plane next to someone whom you’ve just discovered is your ideal prospect. They’ve seen you writing the question you formulated in step one, and they mention they’ve been asking it of themselves for years. What do you say?

You probably wouldn’t bludgeon them with your credentials or experience or accolades — instead, you would probably start by mentioning how you’ve been thinking about it for a long time too. You might mention the context for why you’ve thought about it so much.

To build off of the new parents example, maybe (if it is true) we end up saying something like:

“I’ve thought a lot about this too. I work in finance, and my spouse and I just had our first baby. As I was researching the common advice, I found myself getting more and more agitated with the borderline useless information out there. I think I have some ideas worth sharing.”

There’s no need to name drop, or to list all the stuff we’ve accomplished, or awards we’ve won. In fact, listing off testimonials would be completely out of place in this hypothetical conversation.

Similarly, you don’t need to be too humble either — there is no need to minimize your expertise. As they say, it isn’t bragging if you can do it.

Once we’ve established credibility and authority, the first priority is relaying a few things that are critically important about the question. Again, without getting into the weeds, we want to:

  1. Share the 3-5 most important things for the prospect to know.
  2. Explain the most important reasons this might not be a good fit for the prospect.

Remember, you’re talking to a friend — meaning, it has to be genuine. Don’t set up objections just to further the sale. Steer clear of over-the-top statements like:

“If you’re not interested in making a fortune effortlessly while sipping frozen mojitos out of coconuts on a black sand beach, and you already have enough Lamborghini’s made of solid gold, then this isn’t for you.”

Don’t do that, it’s gross.

Finally, give them clear instructions on what they need to do next, and be very clear about anything they will need to do after they take that action.

For example: If, after clicking, the prospect will need to go sign up for a webinar, and attend it at a specific date and time… say so in the ad copy. Don’t wait until the landing page to reveal that fact. Mentioning it now will cause friction for those that don’t want to take those steps, which will inevitably make the data cleaner because only really interested prospects will proceed.

Alright, I’ve given you a lot of information to take in. Here’s the summary of the process:

  1. Ask a compelling question with deep personal meaning to the prospect
  2. With the utmost brevity and humility, explain your experience (and expertise) relative to the question
  3. Using clear, common language (no buzzwords or industry jargon), share your top 3-5 insights about the question. Be careful to stay out of the weeds, and remember that the prospect doesn’t know what you know so, be clear, and ensure you don’t go over their heads as you explain these insights
  4. Be honest about any factors that would disqualify someone from benefiting from whatever you’re offering
  5. Tell them what to do next and what will be involved. Don’t justify or minimize anything — if they need to watch an hour-long webinar to understand your offer, be upfront about it

One final thing before we close out this section…

While there aren’t any real secrets to writing great ads, there is one tactic I’m personally very fond of — and I use it for nearly everything I write.

Grab your three lists, and something you can use to record audio.

Note: Most phones already have apps installed that can do this. If not, head to whatever app store you use and find a free one.

Rather than stare blankly at your screen, take your lists, and the outline I’ve given you, and record yourself having the conversation with your imaginary prospect. It may feel awkward at first, but once you relax into it you may find the process useful for getting ideas out.

Better yet, if you can, record yourself having the conversation with a real prospect.

Once you have the raw material, you can transcribe it, make some light edits, and arrange that raw material into a first draft.

In our experience, most of the top-performing ads use some version of the map we’ve outlined here.

Now, it’s time to get to work! 

Take your time. I’ll see you in the next section.

Discerning Data

Let’s start with the obvious fact: every major ad platform has its own reporting tools. When we throw additional third-party tools into the mix, like the ubiquitous Google Analytics, the complexity only increases.

All this to say — there is a ton of data available to us, and this can be extremely overwhelming — making it easy to end up focusing on the wrong things.

Too often, rather that focusing on the essential business management metrics, people end up focusing on their account management metrics instead, like: cost per click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR), cost per thousand impressions (CPM), etc.

We want to be crystal clear about something… account management metrics only matter within the context of business management metrics.

Stick with me here, it’ll be a challenging road but, at the end of it, you’ll understand why internalizing this distinction is critical for success in paid traffic.

There are only three metrics you need to know to manage an online business intelligently. If you understand these three metrics, you understand the economics of your business. They are:

  1. CPA
  2. AOV
  3. LTV

We will go through each one individually, and then I’ll give them some context to weave it all together. 

Ready?

CPA is Cost Per Acquisition — meaning, this is what it costs you to acquire a paying customer. Any expense related to gaining that customer belongs in this metric.

AOV stands for Average Order Value — this means the average amount spent by the customer when they place their first order with you. If they buy multiple items in that first sale, great… all of that qualifies. If they buy in multiple, separate transactions, then the first sale is the only one that belongs in this metric.

LTV is Lifetime Value — it represents the average of all purchases made by a customer over the lifetime of their relationship with your company.

Let’s clear up one point about LTV before we proceed…

Lifetimes are generally pretty long. I don’t expect you to wait 50 years to calculate this number. Maybe you opt to cap your measurement at 3 years. That’s fine. What we are looking for is the average over a reasonably long period of time — and you will have to determine for yourself how long that period ought to be.

Let’s look at some examples to help solidify the meaning and relevance of each of these data-points:

Example 1: We launch a paid ad which leads directly to a sales page with a low cost product or service (the offer). The base offer costs $50, and we have a $25 order bump, and a $100 upsell embedded in the cart flow.

To keep things simple, let’s say the ads are only costs incurred for this campaign. Whatever number our expense is — that’s the CPA. For this example, we’re going to say it costs $1 per each person who clicks the ad and lands on the sales page. If we have a conversion rate of 1% that means that for every $100 we spend on ads, we generate 1 paying customer.

This means it costs us $100 to acquire that customer. So, our CPA is $100, but we don’t know if this is a good or bad number until we look at the rest of our data.

Continuing with this example, out of 100 customers let’s say half of our buyers choose to purchase the bump offer, and 25% of them choose to purchase the upsell. Here’s what that math looks like:

  • 100 customers buy the offer: 100 X $50 = $5,000
  • 50 customers buy the bump: 50 X $25 = $1,250
  • 25 customers buy the upsell: 25 X $100 = $2,500

To calculate our AOV, we take the totals, add them together, and divide by the number of customers (100).

$8,750 / 100 = $87.50

I know, so far it isn’t looking too good for our example. By these numbers we have a net loss of $12.50 per customer acquired — but we aren’t quite done yet. In order to complete the picture we still need to calculate the LTV.

Assume we have 3 back-end offers that we sell over time (via a series of email campaigns) at a price of $300 each. On average, 25% of our customers buy one of those offers within the first year. Our LTV math will look like this:

  • 25 people buy one back-end offer: 25 X $300 = $7,500
  • Divided by the number of total customers (100): $7,500 / 100 = $75

Now that we have these numbers in hand, we can calculate the economic health of our business.

We spent $100 to acquire a customer who spends $87.50 immediately (AOV).

We now know that a customer, on average, will spend an additional $75 within the first year.

Yes, we lose $12.50 to acquire the customer, but that “loss” isn’t so bad when we consider that they will spend $75 in that first year — meaning, we end up with $62.50 in profit, on average, per customer.

Let’s extrapolate a bit and say we acquire 1,000 customers in a year…

  • We spend $100,000 to acquire the customers
  • We recoup $87,500 immediately with the first sale
  • We generate an additional $75,000 in the first year.

We spent $100,000 to make $162,500 over the course of the year, which is fairly close to doubling our investment. Granted, these numbers are simplified to illustrate the point, but I bet you understand…

That initial $12.50 “loss” per customer doesn’t mean a whole lot in the face of our projected long-term profits.

Note: You ought to know, getting one’s CPA and AOV to break even is like creating the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. If (somehow) you can make it happen, you’ll perpetually generate customers for free — which is why most marketers consider it to be the holy grail of direct response marketing. It is much more common for businesses to acquire customers at a small “loss” (as illustrated in our first example) because, they know the lifetime value of their customers.

Hopefully this helps illustrate how knowing this information can allow you to make these kinds of decisions wisely. We aren’t done yet though!

Let’s look at one more example, because, paid traffic works even if it doesn’t lead immediately to a sale. In our next example, we will look at front-end lead generation instead of the goal of an immediate sale.

Example 2 — Assume we have a Wabbit EDU styled presell flow which leads to an opt-in. Once a visitor opts-in, they receive a story-driven email sequence over the course of 7 days (one email each day). At the end of the sequence, they are presented with a $300 offer.

Regardless of whether they purchase or not, they will still receive our weekly email newsletter — which, over the course of a year, will present them with three additional offers priced at $500 each.

For the sake of simple math, let’s say we spend $5 per lead. Our conversion rate for the first offer is 5%, and an additional 5% buy at least one of our other offers within the first year. Finally, our total ad spend to acquire these leads is an even $1,000.

If our cost per lead is $5, then spending $1,000 will acquire 200 leads.

Our conversion rate is 5%, which means that of those 200 leads, 10 of them bought our $300 offer within the week — generating $3,000 in sales.

Let’s say that throughout the rest of the year, another 5% purchase one of our $500 offers — generating another $5,000 in sales.

First, to calculate our CPA, we take our total ad spend divided by the number of acquired customers. In the case of this example, we spent $1,000 to generate 200 leads, and 10 of them made a purchase.

$1,000 divided by 10 customers equals $100 per customer acquired, so our CPA is $100.

Calculating our AOV is simple because there are no upsells or other offers, just the one at $300. This means our AOV is $300.

The same is true for our LTV. On average, 5% of our leads will buy one of our $500 offers over the course of a year, so our LTV is $500.

Let’s summarize our math for example 2:

We spent $1,000 so, we represent that as a negative number.
We gain 200 leads with a conversion rate of 5% for our initial $300 offer.
We have a conversion rate of 5% for our $500 offer over the course of one year.

Here’s the equation:

-$1,000 + (10 X $300) + (10 X $500) = $7,000

This means we’ve spent $1,000 to generate $8,000 — leaving a gross profit of $7,000. 

I’d happily own this business all day long. That’s a 700% return on investment!

If you’re saying to yourself “yeah, but my business model doesn’t fit these examples,” that’s perfectly fine. Understanding these concepts, and the framework we use to calculate the economic health of our business, are what matters most.

  • How much do you spend to generate awareness for your business?
  • How many customers do you generate with these efforts?
  • How much does each customer spend initially?
  • How much does a customer spend, on average, over the course of a year (or however much time is appropriate for your business)?

Once you have those numbers it becomes relatively easy to understand the financial health of your business from the perspective of customer acquisition, and to do so with reasonable accuracy.

If you have your own data to plug into these calculations, your assignment for this section is to gather that data, and do the calculations for your own business.

These three numbers are guidelines that can help you find direction. Unless you have a large amount of data for a large number of customers over a long period of time, do your best to refrain from over-focusing on decimal point precision. In many cases, it is unnecessary to be so precise.

Ultimately, the goal of any business is to provide so much value that the AOV and LTV becomes high enough to make the CPA effectively irrelevant.

This section can be challenging. Take your time.

If you have questions, ask in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Traffic Talk: Part 2

Early in this series we talked about the Traffic Pyramid. That pyramid showed the intent of the prospect. In this section, we are going to flip that diagram upside-down and discuss the intent of our marketing efforts.

Once you understand the framework I’m about to show you, it will pay dividends forever.

Sales Funnel

Calling this diagram an inverted pyramid would be accurate, but it wouldn’t convey the right message. There is a flow to this diagram — a journey — that can help us visualize how customers interact with our business. Which is why what you see here is commonly referred to as a sales funnel.

From top to bottom, the stages are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Conversion

Let’s walk through them in order…

The first stage, at the top, is Awareness — which is our initial point of contact with a prospect. This is where we transition from unknown to known (though not well-known yet) for the prospect.

Awareness asks: How do we attract people?

This question is focused on attention/traffic/user growth, as well as segmentation of those elements. Meaning that the top of the funnel is a bit a like a magnet crossed with Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat.

It is important to understand that awareness, in our context, is not necessarily the point of first contact. It could be a series of small touch-points over a long period of time which, when taken together, make your business (and your offer) much more visible to the prospect.

Engagement is an interesting term. Conventional wisdom says engagement is the moment someone becomes a lead (they fill out a form,  opt-in for emails, or sign up for your newsletter, etc.).

I think by now you know how we feel about conventional.

At Wabbit, we define engagement as the steps (sometimes baby-steps) a prospect takes to move deeper into our world — which often means closer to us, and our way of thinking.

We affectionately call this stage of the funnel the “messy middle,” and it is the engine that works to convert a visitor into a lead.

Engagement can take a wide range of shapes from simply commenting on something, to opt-ins for gated content, downloading a lead magnet, attending a webinar, and so on…

Conversion is all about making a sale. It is the stage where common things like sales pages, bundles, up-sells, cross-sells, abandoned-cart emails, waitlists, and pre-sales all hang out.

This funnel framework applies to all traffic but, it is important to understand the goals for each section — especially when we are paying for traffic.

At the top of the funnel (Awareness), we want to share content that demonstrates empathetic authority — meaning, you understand the prospect’s pains deeply, and you can clearly demonstrate your experience and trustworthiness on the matter.

The value is the content itself, regardless of the form it takes.

Text and video both work well in the Awareness stage. For what it’s worth, still images can work too but, they are much more difficult to execute well.

The point of the Awareness stage is to make useful, valuable content that can be consumed and shared.

When using video, what matters is consumption. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What percentage of people watch 50% or more? 95%?
  • How frequently is the content shared?
  • What do people say in the comments?
  • What questions do they ask?

If we want to be really clever (and we definitely do), we can use their comments and questions to link to other content, or to develop additional content.

When using text, our recommendation is that you include as much value as possible within the ad itself

Don’t hide the value behind a click-through unless there is a profoundly compelling reason to do so. Demonstrate your understanding of the topic, choose a novel perspective (if possible), and take a stance that appeals to a motivated minority of your audience.

As with video, likes (or other reactions), comments, and shares are all useful data points to analyze for insights.

In either case (video or text), it is important to make something memorable and share-worthy.

One final point about Awareness before we move on:

The internet is full of trolls. Their only purpose in life is to talk shit and try to tear you down. It doesn’t matter what market you’re in, you will come across one of these subhumans eventually. It is the unfortunate reality of anonymity and lack of consequence in the digital age.

Don’t take it personally, it has nothing to do with you. Their behavior is a reflection of their own unhappiness and not inadequacy on your part.

There is a delicate balance between brushing off these antagonistic comments, and paying attention in order to notice any grains of truth. You will have to work this balance out for yourself but, my advice is to look for consistencies among the feedback. There’s an old saying that goes something like:

If you hear it once, it is irrelevant opinion.
If you hear it twice, it may be coincidence.
If you hear it three times, pay attention.

Do what is best for you and your business, and remember to use the “delete” button with remorseless glee when the trolls come.

The middle of the funnel (Engagement) is overwhelmingly about lead generation.

In many cases it is possible to skip the top of the funnel entirely and start a paid traffic campaign here. In fact, the rising costs of online advertising make this a common tactic because it is an effective way to test if something is interesting enough to cause action.

A typical engagement campaign is a big, specific promise — fulfilled by a lead magnet, email series, etc. Webinars are common here too and they often have conversion elements embedded in them as well.

Bottom of funnel (Conversion) campaigns are those which are focused on leading to a sale immediately. Structuring these campaigns effectively is complex, and heavily dependent on your business, and your approach to traffic (paid or otherwise).

We will talk about this more in the next section.

For now, your assignment is to look through the content you have (or a short list of content you could create) and assign that content either to top or middle of the funnel.

Where Do I Start?

One of the main challenges of learning anything via the internet is understanding what needs to be done, and in what order. I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, and although it is only the tip of the iceberg, the work to be done can feel overwhelming.

“Where do I start?” is a common, and perfectly reasonable question.

It is also nearly impossible to answer for you without context. Your situation is unique, and that needs to be respected. There are no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions here. Because of this, we think it is better to share another guiding principle that can help you discover this answer for yourself.

Begin with the end in mind.

When we work backwards from the point of conversion (meaning, from the moment a sale happens), we can quickly uncover where we need to begin.

For example, if we have a website (or other online presence) which is already receiving a fair amount of traffic, we might discover retargeting as a perfect place to begin. After all, even with the ongoing changes to tracking cookies, retargeting is still an effective way to recapture potential value from our existing traffic.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. First, a simple one — then we will add some complexity.

Example 1: Imagine a robust and well-written blog post whose high-quality content leads to an opt-in for a lead magnet. Maybe it says something like:

“Click here for a life-changing guide on blah blah blah.”

Assume this post gets an even 100 visits a day from real people (not bots), and boasts an opt-in rate of 5% for that amazing lead magnet.

If you’re already aware of retargeting, you might see the 95% who didn’t opt-in as the primary opportunity for a retargeting effort complete with an even cooler lead magnet to hook them.

By now, you probably expect me to offer a counterpoint to this common view, and you’d be right.

Rather than focus on the entire 95%, my suggestion would be to add some qualifying filters.

Perhaps one of those filters is how long the visitor spent on the page. Let’s say our filter to qualify for retargeting specifies they must have stayed on the page for more than ten seconds. And then, we can specify even more by adding that they did not complete the opt-in.

This set of qualifying filters will likely reduce our retargeting list significantly (more than half wouldn’t surprise me), which also reduces the cost of our retargeting campaign — all while increasing the overall quality of the audience we are retargeting.

Next, I would suggest that we ask ourselves what problem the person who read the post was trying to solve, and then craft a lead magnet for that specific purpose (but not the same one they already said no to).

There are two important points to note in this example:

  1. People vote with their behavior. The people who didn’t opt-in already voted no on the first lead magnet, so we don’t want to offer them the same thing again.
  2. By filtering in this way we are focusing on a high-quality pool of prospects who have already shown with their behavior that they are more likely to engage than some random person from a new audience pool.

Ok, let’s move on to another, more complex example. It will give you a better sense of what I mean by beginning with the end in mind.

Example 2: Imagine you own a dozen bed-and-breakfast properties, and you have a website where people can book their stay at any of them. You also have a reservation line where people can call and book their stay by talking with a live person.

The typical customer journey for this business looks something like:

  1. They see (and click) an ad that takes them to a special offer page on the site
  2. They click an offer on that page, taking them to an exclusive booking portal
  3. They choose the property they want to stay at, date, room type, and any other preferences
  4. They pay online
  5. After payment, they are taken to a confirmation page, and a confirmation email is sent to the email address they provided

Using user reported statistics from AirBnB as a reference point, we can assume that our dozen Bed and Breakfast properties will see an average conversion rate of somewhere between 1% and 5%. This means that for every 100 leads who click our ad, somewhere between 1-5 of them will book a stay with us. For the sake of simplicity, we will assume this is regardless of if they pay online or book and pay by phone.

The common tactic for boosting sales is to pour more traffic into the top of the funnel — which, on the surface, makes sense and even seems perfectly reasonable. If we send more visitors and maintain our conversion rate (as long as our CPA, AOV, and LTV all support it) we will make money.

But is this the best way?

You know by now… we disagree with it.

What if we work backwards instead?

We know there is some percentage of people who see the option to pay online, but they choose not to. They’ve made it all the way to the checkout page, but they abandon at the last moment. Why? After all, I think we can agree that a person who makes it all the way to the checkout page is substantially more engaged than a person who clicked on the ad, but never started the booking process, right?

I’m glad you agree.

So, that’s where we start. We begin by trying to get inside the mind of those prospects and asking specific questions about what exactly is preventing them from moving forward with their booking. Questions like:

  • Is there something wrong with the checkout page?
  • Is our copywriting clear, or is it muddy and confusing?
  • Is it that they simply aren’t comfortable entering payment information online, and would rather speak to a real person to book their stay?

After asking these questions, maybe we decide to test that last question with a retargeting campaign. The campaign would retarget prospects who have seen the checkout page (and not purchased) and, it would show them a new ad with a friendly-looking booking agent, as well as a toll-free number, displayed prominently. Better still, we could use a unique 800 number for this specific ad so that any time a prospect calls it, we know they came from this specific retargeting campaign.

We continue this approach, methodically moving through the customer’s journey (in reverse), until we find the areas of improvement with the biggest impact.

Working in reverse like this has a number of benefits but, the biggest (in our opinion) is that this method embraces a simple truth: the deeper someone is the customer journey, the more valuable that person is to your business

If we are spending money to gain traffic, we want to make sure we are spending it to reach the highest quality prospects first.

Your assignment for this section is to plot out your buyer’s journey. Map it out from start to finish, and then, identify the very last step taken before someone becomes a customer. That last step is where you’ll want to start your efforts.

(If you are working toward leads rather than sales at this point, you’ll still do the exact same work.)

Ask yourself:

  • What is this person thinking at this point in the process?
  • What are their concerns?
  • What are their potential objections?
  • In what ways could you demonstrate empathy and reinforce your credibility?
  • How could you make their decision to buy easier?

If you really want to go the extra mile, repeat this exercise for a few more steps in your buyer’s journey. Keep working — in reverse — while, respecting that the closer they are to the point of conversion, the more valuable the prospect is to your business. We want to keep this point in mind, and spend our advertising budget accordingly.

As always, take your time. 

The insights gained from working in this way can completely change your strategy for the better.

Proceed to the next section when you’re ready.

Text or Video?

Earlier, in Traffic Talk: Part 2, when we talked about the sales funnel, I mentioned some things to consider when using video versus using text in your ads. We are going to revisit that topic because, we get this question a lot:

Should I use video ads, or text ads?

Unfortunately, the answer is that the choice is heavily contextual — in fact, sometimes the answer is both.

In certain circumstances, video works better — in others, the answer is text. There is no consistent winner from the perspective of performance. So, how do you decide?

For such a complex question, the answer is surprisingly simple…

You should do whichever format you (or your client, if you’re an agency) are best at.

Let’s look at two examples (of real people) to solidify this stance:

First, George R.R. Martin, author of the popular (yet still unfinished, George) book series, A Song of Ice and Fire — AKA, Game of Thrones.

Second, Ryan Reynolds, a popular actor in the U.S.

Our first example, George, is a world-class writer. Though you will see him give interviews and panel discussions, he is an introvert at heart. He spends unimaginable amounts of time honing and perfecting his craft, and continues to churn out stories on a regular basis… even if his fans wish he would just focus on finishing the last two books in his epic series.

Our second example, Ryan, exhibits all the characteristics of the classic extrovert. He’s charming, funny, dresses well, and is comfortable and natural in front of a camera. Like George, Ryan has spent decades refining his craft and has become widely recognized as a result.

So, let’s ask ourselves… who, of those two people, is better suited for the written word, and who would likely do better on camera?

It ought to be clear — George’s ads need to be text, and Ryan’s would be best as video.

Let’s take these examples a step further and imagine that neither of these two people are responsible for their paid advertising — they’ve each hired an agency to handle their advertising. Does that change anything?

We say no.

Each individual should still play to their strengths — because, everything becomes easier, and more likely to succeed if they do.

I know I’m using extreme examples. These masters of their respective crafts likely seem out of reach for us mere mortals… but, they illustrate the point well. We need to identify, and then leverage our strengths in our paid media.

Which means, it is time to determine what your strengths are.

When asked to explain what you do, are you more comfortable writing it out, or talking about it?

If you aren’t sure, there is a simple two-part challenge that can help figure it out:

First, take the next 5-15 minutes and write an email to a friend. In it, explain the offer you are making (or are considering making).

I’ll be here waiting. Go do it.

How did it go?

Did the words flow easily, or, did it feel like a chore?

Now, pick up the phone (or Skype, or zoom, or whatever) and call a friend. There’s no need to take notes, just explain what you’re up to. Tell your friend about the offer you’re making (or are considering making).

You aren’t looking for their approval.

You are looking for self-reflection.

Go ahead. I’m not going anywhere.

Which felt easier to you?
Which was more enjoyable?
Was one more effective than the other?

When writing, did you find yourself wishing you could pick up the phone and explain it quickly?

When on the phone, did you long for the careful and crafted precision of the written word?

It is important to know that there is no right answer here — there is only your answer. Whatever medium you feel more comfortable in… that is the answer for you.

If you’re truly not sure, that’s ok too. Personally, I fall into that camp as well. I enjoy writing (and do an absolute ton of it) but, I also enjoy being in front of people (or a camera). I’ve experienced great results from both throughout my career, and I often combine them by scripting videos, or repurposing content from one medium into another. Maybe you discover the same for yourself, maybe not. Everything is permissible here, and I encourage you to do whichever feels more enjoyable and natural for you.

Before we wrap up this section, I owe you an assignment. Go as deep as you can on it. This work is valuable even outside the context of paid traffic.

Look back on your life and create a mental “highlight reel” of when you felt you were at your best. Don’t limit it to your professional life — think broadly, about the whole of your life, personal and professional. Here are some prompts to get you going:

  • Did you talk your way into your first job, or did your cover letter and resume do all the talking for you?
  • If involved in a romantic relationship, how did you win them over? Did you write love letters, poems, or was it something else?
  • Does the idea of speaking in front of a large group of people excite you, or fill you with dread?
  • Are you the person people go to when they need someone to make a speech, or to liven up the room with a great joke?
  • How do you make sense of what you’re thinking? Is it via journaling? Or, do you talk things out with friends?

Whether you’re a content creator, service provider, or gadget manufacturer, these questions are critical to understanding which medium (text or video) is best for you and your paid advertising efforts.

Don’t be afraid to go deep on this exercise — you’ll find that it has value even outside the context of your work.

Play to the Platform

No matter which advertising platform you choose — whether Google, Facebook, or some other — you need to understand how each platform wants advertisers to engage with its users.

They want you to play by their rules, and speak to their users in a way that is congruent with the experience and expectations of the platform.

To illustrate this, consider that Google exists primarily to match search terms to relevant content. We use it whenever we have questions we don’t know the answer to. To give Google what it wants, we need to make sure our content is answering these questions, appearing in the most appropriate searches, and that the experience is a net positive for the person consuming our content.

This is why Google openly opposes the traditional “squeeze page” model. These types of pages are usually thin on quality information and Google considers that to be a barrier between a user’s question and a useful answer. It doesn’t matter if the answer is the best in the world, 100% accurate, and beautifully designed — if that answer is hidden behind an opt-in, Google is against it.

Why? 

Because it undermines the entire point of what Google was made for: ask a question, get an immediate answer.

Note: When it comes to Google (or any search engine), specificity matters as well — to the point that their platform doesn’t operate a purely cost-based advertising auction. Instead, Google analyzes your content algorithmically and then applies a quality score which affects where your ad ranks and the cost to advertise through their service. Most of the factors they analyze for are about relevance and user experience.

When choosing keyword phrases for search advertising on any platform, we need to ask ourselves: “Is my business (or offer, or service) highly relevant for this search?” If the answer is “not really” or “I’m not sure” then we need to reconsider advertising for that term, at least until we’ve exhausted all search phrases that elicit an immediate “yes” to that question.

Conversely, Facebook wasn’t originally designed with marketing or commerce in mind — it is a social platform. When we advertise on Facebook, our ads appear alongside posts from the friends and family of our audience, as well as any specific interests that user may be following, and ads based on those interests.

The primary purpose of Facebook has changed a number of times in its evolution. Originally, the platform (when it was called Facemash) was designed to rate the attractiveness of one’s classmates. When it gained in popularity, the platform was renamed to “The Facebook” and the purpose shifted from rating people to connecting with people.

As it continued to grow, that purpose slowly shifted again, this time catering to advertisers who wanted more access to this growing audience.

Today, the primary purpose of Facebook is entertainment. The whole point is to keep users in the ecosystem through attention-grabbing content.

Knowing that, we can safely say that effective advertising on Facebook requires us to think in terms of edutainment — meaning, entertainment that also educates. Instead of the traditional “buy now” style of advertising, we want to shift into creating ads that are interesting to our audience.

We avoid overly direct language and big promises. Instead, we present the audience with a perspective they may not have considered yet.

To us Wabbits, the best approaches to Facebook ads are those which change perspectives by demonstrating a new way to think about something the prospect is already thinking about — or providing expert insight, or commentary. This is a favorite because of how much more likely it is that the ad will be shared.

When you can give someone a flash of insight, they are much more likely to spread your message around by sharing it within their network — especially if the act of sharing will make that person seem more intelligent and well informed within their peer group.

Thus, the single most important question to ask yourself when writing ads for a social platform is:

How likely is it that someone will share this ad?

Your final exercise for this series has two parts.

  1. Identify 2-3 questions you’re well-qualified to answer (professionally). Or, a slightly different way to think about it, what are the 2-3 perfect questions you wished prospects would ask you? These questions should be the starting point of an effective paid search campaign. You may have to rephrase them to better match how prospects search — that’s OK. What matters is that you’re thinking in terms of questions and answers because that’s how search works.

  2. Take the Facebook ad you wrote in “Work that Pays Dividends” and look at it through the lens of edutainment and shareable value. Start with these prompts:
    • Is it interesting to read?
    • Is it conversational?
    • Have you clearly articulated a few insights that are not the common, conventional wisdom for people interested in your expertise?
    • Does it intrigue the reader?
    • Is it authentic?
    • Is there an moment in it where the reader is given a flash of insight which shows a new (to them) perspective?

Pick 1-3 of these questions and look at your ad copy from those perspectives.

Lastly, I want to thank you for your time. You’ve taken in a lot of complex information, and it may take a while to digest everything.

From all of us Wabbits, we admire and appreciate you.

We are stronger together.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments