These 3 simple steps stop Facebook Advertisers losing hundreds of dollars a day on ads that refuse to convert

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Inside the Facebook Ad agency we regularly face a conundrum.  It creates a huge amount of tension between our clients and the copywriting team.

It all starts with the sales process.  The sales team do an awesome job of selling our creative team’s secret sauce.  By the end of their sales call, clients are practically shrieking “YES, YES, YES!”.  They’re desperate to come on board.  They’re 100% committed to our unique creative process.  And they’re almost exploding in anticipation of their epic Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

Until something strange happens…

Not long into the creative process, many clients want to retreat back to their old way of doing things.  What’s frustrating for us, is we know their old way of running Facebook Ads wasn’t working out.  Why else would they come to us for help?

For reasons I’ll explain in a minute, many clients get The Fear. The secret sauce they were so excited about suddenly feels scary and like an enormous waste of money.  Trouble is without making the scary upfront investment, it’s impossible to create what we call a “Unicorn Ad”.

What is a unicorn ad?

For an ad to become a Unicorn, it needs to do the following…

  1. Generate a ton of engagement (likes, comments and shares)
  2. Trigger a way above average number of click-throughs to the landing page 
  3. Lead to massive sales and high Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
  4. Sustain its performance over a significant period of time
  5. Scale up to epic levels of ad spend and revenue

Truth is, very few ads become Unicorns.  The reason they’re called Unicorns is because they’re super hard to find.  It’s this search for Unicorns that gets clients in a panic.

Here’s what’s so crazy.  Clients know they need unicorns.  They know they need to hunt for unicorns.  And they know me and the agency’s creative team are the best people to hunt them down and squeeze every drop of profits out of them before we hunt for the next one.

So why panic, when Unicorn Ads are the only way to make real money from Facebook Ads? The answer – Unicorns come with a catch.  They cost money to find.  Often the initial outlay feels painful, especially if it takes several creative iterations before breaking even. 

Is it any surprise clients get the jitters when they see negative returns on their early ad campaigns?  No.  Luckily, there is some good news.  When you find a Unicorn it won’t take long before you recoup your losses on ads that didn’t resonate.

That’s not all…

Unicorn hunting doesn’t have to feel like flailing aimlessly in the dark until you stumble upon a winner.  At least, not if you follow a systematic process for testing your copy.  It’s the process I use to help isolate winning ad messages, that can be scaled up to millions of dollars in ad spend.   

(I should point out that every once in a while you’ll hit the jackpot on your first try.  Those ads are awesome!  But even though it can happen, you should still be methodical when you launch your first round of ad copy).

So, how do we test our ad copy in order to find a unicorn?

Test Number 1 – The Avatar Test

After working with clients for a while, I’ve come to realise something about most people’s marketing.  TMost business owners have no idea who they’re selling to.  Here’s a phrase that makes me die a little inside every time I hear it – “My product is something that appeals to everyone!”

Trying to sell to everyone creates a huge problem for any business.  In Facebook advertising this problem is amplified many times over. That’s because your avatar guides not just your copy, but also your audience targeting.  Without an avatar you have no clear message and nowhere for that message to land.

Trouble is, most business owners like to guess their avatar.  Or they like to go after an avatar simply because it sounds appealing to them.  The absolute worst avatar error?  Not having one at all.  While this approach can work out OK early in your business, it will seriously limit your growth as you scale up to reach new audiences.

This is my advice.  If you’re going to test for unicorns, test your avatar first.

Now, before you begin testing, you’ll need to do some research.  Why? You want to narrow down your possible avatars to between 3 and 5 prospects, based on actual data.  (This is something I’ll cover in a separate blog, as there’s too much to cover here).

Testing a finite number of research-driven avatars helps cap your losses by reducing your chances of getting your audience and messaging wrong.

Let me explain how avatar testing works, using an example.  Let’s suppose we’re testing ad copy for a hair supplement.  Our research shows there are 3 potential target markets for this product BUT we don’t know which will be the most profitable.  Here are the avatars:

  1. A 40+ man with long-term hereditary male pattern baldness
  2. A 50+ lady with thin, weak hair 
  3. A 20+ man who’s just started losing their hair 

First, we must remember the goal of this test.  It’s to identify the most profitable segment of the market. We do this by seeing which ad triggers the most action and generates the largest ROAS.

I’m sure you’d agree that each avatar will see their problem in their own unique way.  It means we run 3 different versions of copy with messages targeted specifically for each avatar.  In an ideal world, you’d keep the same imagery to make this a true split test.

However, it can be helpful to include a hero image that the target avatar can identify with i.e. a stock image of a smiling 40+ man for the 40+ man avatar.

How do you know when you have a winner? After roughly 2 days of testing (budget-depending) you should start to see one avatar generating more engagement, click-throughs and sales.  For the purposes of Unicorn Hunt round 1, this is your winning avatar.

Onto testing phase 2!

Test Number 2 – The Hook Test

This might surprise you – there are infinite ways to craft a message for a single avatar.  Trouble is, most advertisers get lazy at this point. They identify their avatar’s surface-level problem and think that’s their message.  It can be your message, but it means your ad copy is unlikely to resonate deeply with the audience. 

In the case of our hair loss supplement’s winning avatar the overall problem was, well…hair loss. No surprises there.  But when we dig beneath the surface with even more market research we start to notice something interesting…

Within this market, there are a number of different pain points we could address e.g.

  1. Feeling disrespected at work 
  2. Feeling unattractive to women 
  3. Feeling older than their years 

Again, each pain point must be addressed with a different message.  Ever wondered why most Facebook advertising needs snazzy videos and jazzy music to get your attention?  It’s because the advertiser failed to get specific with their ad copy.  Their copy doesn’t resonate so they need to compensate with fancy ad production.

Let’s face it, most small businesses don’t have the budget for expensive videos. The solution?  Ultra-specific ad copy that hits your audience right at their core. That’s the reason why we need a Hook Test.         

Before I jump into the Hook Testing process, let’s remember the purpose of the Hook Test.  It’s to identify the most profitable emotional hook/angle/message (whatever you want to call it).  As before, the winning message triggers the most engagement, the most click throughs and the most sales.

Here’s how a Hook Test works.

Based on your market research, you need to write a different copy variation to resonate with your avatar’s most common emotional pain points i.e. disrespect at work, feeling unattractive or feeling old.

One important point here is to look at the products’ features and benefits.  It might not make sense just to switch out the hook part of your copy.  You may also need to highlight different features and benefits depending on the problem you’re addressing.

As with Test No.1 – the winning hook is the one that generates the highest ROAS.

Test Number 3 – The Format Test 

Since joining the ad agency, I’ve noticed something funny about some clients.  Despite paying A LOT of money to buy in our expert help for their Facebook Ads, many of them desperately cling onto their old way of doing things.

Lemme give you an example.  One of our clients was utterly convinced the first 3 lines of ad copy should contain a list of her products’ key features.  Can you see what’s wrong with her thinking? 

Most copywriters will give you the same answer. Prospects don’t give a monkey’s uncle about your features until you’ve captured their emotions with a compelling hook.  Nevertheless, sometimes you gotta give the client what they want. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to challenge your own assumptions every once in a while.

What do I mean by that? Well, it’s easy to get cocky and blindly follow “proven” ad copy frameworks.  In my experience, this can lead to missed opportunities to create even better ads.  Or worse yet – audience fatigue from launching the same type of tired ad copy over and over again.

It doesn’t hurt to shake things up and try new things.  Even if you think you’ve got your Facebook Ad copy nailed.  It’s why we regularly split test different copy formats as well as different messaging.  The biggest benefits? 

  • Clients feel listened to
  • You can shift clients’ thinking by proving that different copy formats work as well
  • You might discover a new way of writing that works better than expected

First off, remember your goal for this test.  It’s to identify the structure that resonates best with your audience.  

Most important for this type of ad test is to test ONE VARIABLE at a time.  Keep the same image, and the same messaging.  All we’re testing is how to structure the copy to optimise conversions.

What structural variables can you test:

  1. Long vs short 
  2. Different ‘sound bite’ copy (i.e. the first three lines of ad copy).  This could be a quote, a testimonial, a shocking statistic, a controversial statement, a question
  3. Different lead types (feature lead, offer lead, story lead, problem lead, benefit lead)
  4. Different proof elements (testimonials, social proof, expert endorsements)
  5. Features and benefits (try swapping in different benefits)
  6. Features OR benefits (try including just the features or features PLUS benefits)

There really is no limit to what you can test here. Just be mindful of your budget.  Most importantly, test structural changes that are most likely to have a BIG IMPACT.  Tiny tweaks could make little difference to ROAS so might not be worth testing at all.

Simple!  What are the key lessons I want you to take away from this article?

  • Be systematic in your testing
  • Test your avatar first, then your message, then your structure
  • Test one variable at a time to isolate what’s really making a difference to conversions 
  • Do your research before testing to cut down guesswork and wastage.

If you run any tests on your own ad copy, I’d love to know how you get on.  If you have any questions, make sure you post them in the comments!  Until next week… 

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