I am speaking to small businesses all the time, and there are a lot of common conversations that occur. One of the most common is about advertising, particularly as it relates to advertising with Facebook and Google.
The conversations take a pretty common route.
The first thing to understand is the huge differences in a potential customers situation as they encounter Facebook ads, and Google AdWords.
The reasons people go to these two platforms are different.
Facebook is social, people are not there to buy stuff, so the path from the social to a transaction usually has a number of steps.
By contrast, a Google search is very specific, “I want information on XX”. Sometimes it will be for the purpose of researching, and sometimes they are committed to making a purchase of a product in your category. They are a “sale ready” audience.
It is for this reason I often recommend people start with AdWords as a means to advertise digitally, learn, and perhaps later use Facebook.
Irrespective of the platform choice, following are the 12 things that make sense to me that you should consider as you start on the digital advertising journey.
- Learn about the platforms, at least in principal, so you understand the stuff told to you by so called experts, and are in a position to ask intelligent questions.
- Start small, figure what works, and expand along the best path, always being prepared to adjust as you learn more. Having a plan, and ensuring the plan is captured in a detailed brief is essential, even if you are doing all the work yourself.
- Tracking and metrics. Before you start, know the source of visitors to your website, and track the changes that occur after the ads are placed. The huge change that has occurred with digital advertising is that we can now answer the question “which half of our advertising is wasted.”
- Define those you want to reach, in as much detail as possible. There are many different, although overlapping audiences you can target: current Facebook fans, and their friends, your current mailing lists held in whatever form they may be, visitors to your website, your competitors customers and friends, (particularly Facebook) and “lookalikes” to any of the above. The choices in the platforms are pretty good, take the time to really understand the choices you are making.
- Build relationships with current customers/fans. We all know that it is easier to get more business from an existing relationship, whatever the form of that relationship, than it is to start from scratch and build a new one to the point where they are prepared to buy from you.
- Create “stickiness” and trust by offering free advice, content, and ideas, and advice, and in responding, do so on a personal level. Webinars, podcasts, lists, blog posts, all serve differing needs in the process and the old adage that you have to give a bit before you can expect anything to come back, still works.
- Understand the customer journey. Facebook particularly, but also Google, require conversion to a sale after the initial contact. To do that you need to provide access the offers, products and relevant information through a landing page process of some sort, leading to a shopping cart, or sign up form. At each point, the potential customer has to make a choice, “do I proceed or not?” and making that choice easy, to the point of automatic requires real understanding of their mindset.
- Landing page optimisation. The differences in performance of differing landing page copy and design is astonishing, so the optimisation of landing pages is a whole process, even an art in itself.
- Create the process before you place the ads. A very common common mistake is to place some ads, they often do not cost much, then when a response arrives, you start wondering what to do with it. Wrong way around. Have the process mapped out, with the follow up content written and the delivery sequences mapped out.
- Analyse and analyse. Obviously having the right metrics to analyse is important, but tracking visitors, conversion rates, and the path a visitor takes to a transaction is enormously valuable in optimising the process. To some extent this is a repeat of step three, but the emphasis here is on the continuous improvement by testing and tweaking of the communication.
- Have a budget, and stick to it. Tracking conversion rates and the cost per conversion at each point in the customers journey as per the point above is vital. The opportunity to measure the conversion costs has never been greater, so make sure you do, and you give yourself time to correct the mistakes you will inevitably make.
- Rinse and repeat, to learn and improve.
You can pay someone too do all this for you, but even if you do, it is reassuring to understand the principals of the process. Most small businesses are careful with the pennies, so making the effort to understand where your money is going, and how to maximise the impact gives the confidence to make the commitment.