Many small business owners start with paid advertising to drive people to their website. The most popular channel for ecommerce brands looking to boost traffic today: Facebook.
Before you can rank in Google and before you have a monster email list to drive people to make purchases from you, this is a good place to start. And even if you don’t have a large amount of money, you can still get a lot from paid advertising.
Just like getting started in ecommerce, the tools to advertise have never been more accessible, cheaper, or easier to use.
What sets a brand apart today isn’t their budget or even the originality of their content, it’s their ability to use the advertising tools at their disposal to connect with an audience and build relationships with that audience. This can be done for next to nothing, and starting small actually makes it easier to interact with your customers.
A Few Common Misconceptions About Paid Advertising
Of all the ecommerce topics, advertising probably comes with the most baggage and misconception. Here are a few advertising myths that refuse to die. Do yourself a favor, and get these ideas out of your head.
Myth: It's expensive to advertise
There’s no denying that money can help amplify your brand, but too many small businesses approach advertising with an all-or-nothing mentality. Don’t do that. It’s ok to start small.
What matters more than your budget is how you spend it. If you're smart about your ad strategy, no amount of money will be too little to make a difference. If you’re not so smart about it, no amount will be enough.
Myth: It's complicated, I don't know how to get started
It’s probably not as complicated as you think. Advertising tools are more user-friendly than ever. And there are more tutorials on YouTube about best practices than you could ever watch in one lifetime. This chapter is all about how to get started. Just keep reading.
Myth: I can't afford to make high-quality ads
First of all, if you have a smartphone that was made in the last five years, you have what you need to be able to take high-quality images and videos. Because at the end of the day, quality is about the experience of watching your video, not about the lighting or effects.
Good copywriting and attention-grabbing headlines require zero technology.
Believe it or not, ads shot on a phone often perform better on social media than highly produced ones – just ask Rachel Lambo from Sade Baron. And it makes sense if you think about it: most social media is consumed on and made with smartphones. What are you more likely to click on? Something that feels like a polished ad or something that looks native to the platform you’re on?
Myth (sort of): Ad traffic doesn't convert on my website
Well, yeah. Conversion rates are low irrespective of channel – that’s just the game. Relationships are the key. And paid advertising is a great way to get started – because building relationships is how you truly scale.
And just because you don’t convert ad traffic the first time someone lands on your site, doesn’t mean you won’t convert them down the line. That’s why it’s so important to have a way to contact them later (most likely through email).
Myth: I need to be on every platform all the time
That sounds like a recipe for burnout. Nobody’s everywhere all the time, especially not your customers. Find the channel that works best for your business. There will always be one that outperforms the others, so spend a disproportionate amount of your time and energy getting really good at that channel.
Agency vs. DIY for your ads
Probably the most expensive advertising myth is that you need to hire an agency. Let’s look at what happened when SpyGuy turned away from their highly successful DIY marketing strategy to hire an agency.
After SpyGuy made their first million selling home surveillance equipment and spy gadgets, they got burned in an all-too-common and costly way when they decided to outsource their Facebook ads to an agency.
They thought an agency would work miracles. The result was a cash-burning dumpster fire.
The agency charged $10,000 per month, plus the cost of ads. On top of that, it turned out that SpyGuy was still responsible for content creation, meaning they had to create all the landing pages, take all the product photos, and write all the copy. In the end, SpyGuy’s agency experiment cost them $63,000 ($33,000 in ad spend and $30,000 in agency fees.) For all of that, they managed to generate (drumroll) $18,000 in sales.
SpyGuy’s remedy was to return to the do-it-yourself marketing that was already working for them. Their founder, Allen Walton, had been taking time away from nurturing the organic relationships to take product photos and make content for an agency that couldn’t deliver the kind of results that his own marketing efforts had.
The Two Pillars of Paid Advertising
The most common platforms for paid advertising are:
- Instagram (managed through Facebook)
Finding the right one depends on where your audience spends their time, what kind of content is right for you and your business, and where you feel the most comfortable building an audience and putting out content.
Creative is everything from social media posts to comment replies, newsletters, and podcast appearances. Don’t let the word scare you, you don’t have to be an artistic genius to crush creative.
Platform and creative work in tandem to bring your marketing message to the public. Creative is what you have to say, platform is how and where you say it.
Evaluate your advertising
Coming up with a digital advertising plan is not an overnight process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start today. Ask yourself the following questions to figure out what’s already working and what needs improvement.
How are visitors finding you?
You can use info about your traffic sources to figure out where best to apply your marketing efforts.
If they’re not finding you yet, don’t stress; that’s what marketing is for. Keep going!
Where do your potential customers hang out online?
You’ll find craft enthusiasts and interior designers on Pinterest, while photographers are on Flickr and Instagram. For the purposes of this exercise, just brainstorm the channels where your potential customers are active. What do they read and watch? Who do they follow? You probably have some customers or at least know some people that fit your target audience, don’t be afraid just to ask them directly.
What are you already doing to drive traffic?
Maybe you have some Google AdWords credits lying around, maybe you blog or have a social media following. Remember: marketing is about communication and building relationships. How are you already doing that?
Organic reach will save you money in the long run.
By the way, it’s not very difficult to get access to credits for advertising. Platforms like Snapchat, Google AdWords, and Facebook often partner with other companies or influencers and give them affiliate links with advertising credits. $100 here or $300 there can make a big difference when it comes to driving new traffic (and customers) to your website. Be on the lookout!
What do you like doing? What are some skills you have that could work for content creation?
Put another way, what’s something you don’t hate doing? If it’s writing, blog. If it’s making videos, vlog. Obviously, you can and should branch out, but starting with what you know allows you to focus on making content rather than on mastering new skills from scratch.
If something’s working, it’s usually a good idea to do more of it. Some ecommerce sites strike out on Facebook and kill it with Google ads or email campaigns. As we saw with SpyGuy, they courted chaos when they turned their back on a strategy that was working in favor of a pricey and unproven solution.
What isn’t working but has potential?
Sometimes one key ingredient is all that’s missing. Little fixes like improving your copywriting or your product photos can turn an unsuccessful campaign around.
What isn’t working and needs to be scrapped?
On the other hand, if something isn’t working, don’t hesitate to pull the plug. Failed marketing plans have high opportunity costs. Spend your time and money doing what works. If this isn’t your first time doing an ad campaign, trust your gut and learn from what worked in the past and what didn’t. If you’re new to advertising, don’t be afraid to seek out help from folks who have.
- Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. In most cases, it costs nothing to build relationships.
- Start small, play to your strengths, do it yourself.
- When in doubt, be yourself. Be real!