This is the first in a series of blog posts where I’m going to be walking through a real life example of building a paid acquisition campaign, from scratch, using my actual business as an example. There is so much written about paid acquisition, and so much mystery and confusion that still surrounds it. I hope this provides a bit of clarity and insight to people who are just getting started with this marketing channel.
Ultimately I think most roads in marketing end up at paid acquisition, so getting started here relatively “from the start” can be a smart move for you, especially if you’re starting a new brand from scratch. Getting traction in things like Content Marketing or Influencer Marketing when you’re brand new is a tough, uphill road.
So to begin with let’s lay out what our goal is and what this series will be all about. First, a bit of background on the business.
Seriously Simple Podcasting started as a Free WordPress plugin, listed on the WordPress.org repository and has about 15,000 installs as of the time of this writing. I acquired the plugin from its creator, Hugh Lashbrooke, in December 2016, and since then our team has created Seriously Simple Hosting, a podcast hosting platform that is directly integrated with the plugin.
The result is great: You can create your podcast feed, new podcast episodes, and upload your podcast media files all from WordPress, but your media files are offloaded onto a standalone platform that’s designed specifically for hosting your podcast. So your WordPress site can run quickly without the burden of all of those media files being pulled from the same server, and your podcast listeners will enjoy quicker downloads and a smoother streaming experience because of our CDN backed delivery network.
We launched Seriously Simple Hosting in May 2017 and since then have grown to about 175 customers as of the time of this writing. The growth of this has been really great, and I couldn’t be happier with my first experience in the world of SaaS. A few growing pains along the way, but I have to say that almost universally our customers have loved the platform and we’re getting great feedback.
Now that the few technical rougher edges have been worked out it’s time to really start exploring a paid acquisition channel that will scale for us long term. This means 1 thing for most people: Facebook.
Facebook ads have changed a lot in the past few years, as I think content in general has become more saturated and it’s tougher to stand out from the crowd. Long gone are the days when you can run ads to a landing page and expect people convert in a cost effective manner. You’ll just pay more to acquire a qualified lead than your customer lifetime value is.
This is often why people say “Yeah Facebook ads just don’t work for my audience”. And that very well may be true, but if you’re just running an ad to a Cold audience (more on the definition there in a bit) then it certainly won’t work out well for you.
Laying The Groundwork
Currently seriouslysimplepodcasting.com gets ~2,000 unique visitors per month. Almost all of that comes from wordpress.org, and a handful of other articles written about the plugin. This is great as it’s Free traffic that is highly relevant. However, past a point this is really hard to scale. Only so many high quality guest posts you can write.
The overall goal for our campaign is simple: get new people to sign up for a trial of our podcast hosting platform. Currently we have a single $15/mo pricing tier, so our paid acquisition campaigns won’t be able to spend a ton of money, but our Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) should be >$300, which is the point that I’d think paid acquisition makes sense. Below that it’s just too tough to make the numbers work.
I mentioned before that the concept of just running cold traffic (people who have never heard of your brand, have visited your site, aren’t on your email list, and generally don’t know who you are) to a landing page is long gone. Now a bit more involved approach needs to be taken. Now we’ve got to be more sophisticated marketers.
Fair warning here. Creating a campaign is kind of like baking a cake. You have to read the entire recipe first before forging off and kicking off an ad campaign. Without all the pieces in place first you could end up with cake batter without an oven to cook it in.
With that here are the steps we’ll take in our paid acquisition campaign:
Write a pillar piece of content:
I’m a huge fan of the concept of the Skyscraper Technique. Made popular by Brian Deal of Backlinko the idea here is simple: take a handful examples of existing content on a topic, and make a new piece of content that’s significantly better, more shareable, and more valuable to your audience. This is also the 10x content that people are talking about these days.
For me this will be an article about how to Launch Your Podcast. Specifically it is: Podcast Launch Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Launch an Incredible Podcast. Makes sense right? This is a topic that should be highly relevant to someone who is just starting a podcast, who is our target market.
Already have a piece of content on your site that is highly relevant to the type of audience that you want to attract? Bravo for you…you just saved yourself a handful of hours researching, writing, editing, and preparing this post.
Install the Facebook Tracking Pixel on every page of your site
This allows Facebook to see who has visited your site. With this information you can send Retargeting advertisements to those visitors at a later point. Think of retargeting as a follow up message for people how have visited your site, or even better, a particular page on your site.
Here’s a great article on how to set up your WordPress site with the Facebook Tracking Pixel. The folks at Digital Marketer have written a TON of great pieces on this and is where I learned almost everything I know about FB ads.
The latter here is what we’ll be doing in the next step of the campaign: we will send a second Facebook ad to just those people who have viewed the Pillar Article that we wrote. Whether they come to it organically (which would be great because they would be ‘free’ traffic) or came to it through the initial ad we placed promoting the article.
Which brings us to…
Promote Pillar Article on Facebook as Sponsored Post
There are two ways to promote posts on Facebook. Each serves a very different purpose, and within the Facebook ads manager you can select which of these you’d like to shoot for. You can either:
- Promote a post: the goal here is to just get people to View your post, and hopefully Like or Share it. But the Liking or Sharing of the post is not the goal…just eyeballs on your post.
- Sponsor a post: the goal here is to get some kind of action taken on the post. Clicking a link to your website is the goal that we want, but as far as I understand it there’s no way to tell Facebook to only show the ad to people who will Click a Link as opposed to Like or Share. I think of this as “I want to show this ad to someone who will take some action”.
Create a Landing Page for some type of opt-in offer
This can be a lot of things. A free course (which we’ll be using), an inexpensive paid product (aka ‘tripwire’, although I hate that term), an e-book, a free but private membership group, etc. Anything that lets your audience show their interest in learning more about you, your brand, and your offering.
The key here is to have something that has some barrier to entry. Their email address, a $7 product, the time investment of a 2 hour free course, etc. This stratifies the people who are REALLY interested in your product from the rest of the crowd.
Ultimately you’ll be able to spend MORE money on this group since you’ll have the confidence that their conversion rate down the road will be higher.
Whatever you choose for your landing page offer here one thing is absolutely necessary: collect their email address. We’ve taken the long (and rather elegant) road to get here, but this is where the magic can start happening.
Once you have someone who’s expressed interest in learning more about you, your brand, and your products by providing you their email address it is literally an invitation for you to market to them anytime you want. Of course we’ll be savvy about how we do this, but make no mistake Email is where the Sale will Happen.
Retargetting Ads on Facebook to Landing Page
Now that we’ve written our Pillar article and drove traffic to it from Facebook we now have a list (a Custom Audience in Facebook ads lingo) that we can serve a second ad to specifically for the opt-in offer on our landing page.
So anyone who has visited our Pillar Article page will, after a couple of days, receive a second FB ad with an invitation to check out some special offer. In our case it is going to be a free 6 part video course on how to start a podcast.
Again, this offer should be highly targeted to the type of customer you’re looking to attract for your core offer, and should be at the right point along the customer journey for those customers.
In our case we will be giving the free video course away via email so the only thing we need to do on this landing page is to set up an email collection form, and we’re all set.
Email Marketing Campaign
The goal to this point has been all about ways to acquire a highly qualified lead’s email address. For me this lead will be someone who is interested in starting a podcast, but has some questions about how to get started, etc.
If you think about a much more one-on-one type of scenario this is exactly the type of person you’d love to bump into at a cocktail party, right? Maybe Pete the Future Podcaster might say:
Pete: Hey Craig I’m looking to start a podcast, do you know anything about how to do that?
Me: Why in fact I do…let me show you something
This is exactly the type of situation you want to place your Facebook ad into. Into a group who is interested in your product or solution, and in a place where they go to learn more about the topic.
A disclaimer here: Facebook ads and Google Adwords are VERY different beasts. In some senses Google Adwords could be a better fit because when someone is (or has) Googled for something you KNOW for a fact that they are Intent on doing something about that topic. With Facebook ads you can do a LOT of things to get a good idea of what people are Interested in, and should respond to, but it’s not exactly the same thing.
The better we replicate this Intent based audience identification the better our ads will perform and the more cost effective our campaign will be. There’s no doubt that Paid Acquisition will work for EVERYONE….but it might cost you $20 to sell a $15 product, in which case it just isn’t smart to continue with that approach.
Next Steps In Building the Campaign
Now that we’ve laid out the steps that we’ll go through in this paid acquisition campaign it’s time to get a few of those pieces in place.
In my next article I’ll do into detail about how I’m putting together these pieces, in particular how I think about Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Interests. This is where the Who of your ads come from, and from my experience where you make or break your paid acquisition campaign.
But for now I have to go finish off my Pillar Article. This will be the very tip of the iceberg in my paid acquisition campaign and the first thing that people will see when they enter the Seriously Simple Podcasting world. I want to make a great impression.
Back To You
So we’ve walked through at a high level what this campaign will look like. Whether you’ve got a Pillar Article already or need to write one start thinking about the types of people that would be interested in that article and where along the Buyers Journey those people lie when you would ideally like them to read your article.
Both of these things will be HUGE in getting your ad, and your content, in front of the right people at the right time.