She is the founder of Webtopia, a growth agency for mission-driven ecommerce brands. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show, Jessie Healy.
Topics discussed on this episode include
- Are more channels always better?
- How many ad channels should you focus on?
- What are the key ad platforms that you recommend?
- Where does each platform best fit into the buyer journey?
- Is it possible to combine the focus of multiple channels to deliver a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts?
David Bain 00:00
How to combine multiple ad platforms to amplify your success, with Jessie Healy.
The Strategic Marketing Show is brought to you by Insights For Professionals: providing access to the latest industry insights from trusted brands on a customized, tailored experience. Find out more over at insightsforprofessionals.com.
Hey, it’s David. How many ad channels should you focus on, and is it possible to combine the focus of multiple channels to deliver a result that's greater than the sum of its parts? That's what we're going to be covering today with a woman who is on a mission to help eCommerce businesses thrive and scale by getting them the return on ad spend they deserve. She is the founder of Webtopia, a growth agency for mission-driven eCommerce brands. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show, Jessie Healy.
Jessie Healy 01:01
Thanks so much for having me, David.
David Bain 01:03
Great to have you, Jessie. Well, you can find Jessie over at webtopia.co. So, Jessie, are more channels always better?
Jessie Healy 01:12
That's a great question. The advice often given to startups, when they're first starting out, is to focus on one channel, nail it, get it working really well, scale it, and then test other channels. I would say that does tend to be true if you're just getting started but, once you're achieving a certain level of scale and you're wanting to continue to grow - and also “derisk” yourself in what is an increasingly unpredictable and risky landscape and media these days - I think it's really important to be testing more than one channel, and to be combining the power of them to get maximum exposure and a maximum chance of reaching your customers efficiently.
We've seen huge changes to the Facebook ad platform since iOS 14 came out, and we've seen the huge growth of TikTok. I think advertisers that only stick with one platform blindly and go nowhere else are going to really struggle to survive in an increasingly competitive landscape. So, yeah, I would always be an advocate of ultimately getting to a point where you're running multiple paid channels alongside your organic.
David Bain 02:13
Okay, “derisk yourself”. I love that saying there. Can there be too many channels that you can focus on? I would think that maybe a few you can start to master, but when you start going into 7, 8, or 9+ channels, then maybe you can’t actually take full control over what's happening in each one?
Jessie Healy 02:33
I would say it definitely depends on the brand’s size and maturity, and the ability of the team to be able to optimize for the nuances of each platform. Naturally, as you add additional channels, you're going to have a much more complicated job of understanding which channels are working and which channels are moving the needle.
When you're just starting out, if you're only running one channel, then you can tell everything you do on that channel - if it's working, your sales go up, if it's not working, your sales go down - even if the tracking is now not very good, because of the data privacy changes. If you add an additional channel, you still have a pretty good idea of what's working, and you can still see, more or less, where the traffic is coming from, but adding a third paid channel again adds another layer of complexity.
Each channel has its own particular nuances for what kind of creative is required, what kind of setup is required, what sort of landing pages, etc., so don't run before you can walk. Nil what works for you on the Meta ad platform, figure out your formula for creative that works, then try that creative on another platform, but optimize it for that platform. Then get really good at understanding what creative performs on that other platform.
You can't have a one-size-fits-all, so if your team's not set up for generating the kind of creative that TikTok requires, then don't go running into TikTok until you've got your ducks in a row there with the creative side.
David Bain 04:02
Okay, so you've mentioned Meta ads and you've mentioned TikTok so far. We were discussing a little bit about the different types of platforms available, the ways that you can drive traffic, and the fact that different platforms are probably optimized for different stages of the buyer journey.
It's probably a good idea to talk about, say, three or so different ad platforms, and at what stage you think they are optimal in driving traffic to the journey. Maybe starting off with top-of-funnel, what would be an example of a platform that you would tend to use for top-of-funnel?
Jessie Healy 04:39
TikTok and Meta, and Meta includes Facebook and Instagram advertising. TikTok and Meta would be my first go-tos for top-of-funnel; so, introducing your brand or product to a new audience who hadn't heard of you before. Those channels will be great for that.
The great thing about both of those channels is they're great for demand generation. What I mean there is: someone wakes up in the morning - they don't know they need your product; they're not thinking about you or your product category - but, using the power of suggestion, showing them an ad at the right point in the day for them, when they're feeling open to it, they might become interested in your product that they had never heard of. Whereas Google is a demand capture platform: you cannot create demand on Google that doesn't exist.
Certain products will never be able to be advertised on Google on its own; they will always need something, some other channel, to generate the demand. Whereas, there are some products (let's say digital cameras) that you could run just on Google, because there are enough people searching (waking up in the morning and looking for digital cameras) that you could generate demand for your product just through people who are already looking for it.
The TikTok and Facebook paid social channels are great for creating a demand, as well as for showing more digital camera options to someone who's already in a search for a digital camera.
David Bain 06:06
I'd really like to emphasize just a couple of things that you were you were saying there. Something like Facebook is a demand creation platform, i.e. you can create interest in what you do, even though there's not necessarily any existing demand in that. With Google, on the other hand, you have to utilize the demand that already exists on the platform. You're not actually creating the brand there. I think that's a concept that is very important for different marketers to be aware of, and match their ad campaigns against.
You mentioned TikTok there as well. Should every brand be experimenting with TikTok, or is it only certain brands that would work for?
Jessie Healy 06:49
I would say, if you're running paid social ads, in any shape, or form (and, as I said, if you've reached that point where you've kind of maxed out), I would always start with Meta. There are some very small outlying cases where I would start with TikTok, but I would generally start with meta. The algorithm is still stronger at finding buyers. Generally, it's a more robust, predictable platform for cutting your teeth on while you're figuring out what creative works and what your KPIs are, what your benchmarks are, etc.
Once you've done that, I would test TikTok as soon as possible because, in many cases, we're seeing better performance on TikTok in terms of return on ad spend, or cost per sale, than we are on Facebook. The reason for that is partly because the traffic on there is generally still a little bit cheaper. A year or so ago, it was ridiculously a lot cheaper, and this is what happens when a new social channel comes along and wants to ramp up its ad platform and there are not many advertisers on there. The traffic will be very cheap but, generally, the quality of the traffic won't be as high, because the algorithm won't be as mature.
We're at a stage now where the TikTok algorithm is beginning to mature, in terms of the paid ad platform. We all know that the video algorithm is amazing at capturing people's attention, but they've also now turned their attention to the ad algorithm and are figuring out how to optimize the performance of your ads so that they deliver the result that you want.
TikTok, yes, generally tends to be a bit cheaper and a bit more volatile. It's just a bit of a harder platform to manage. You want to cut your teeth first on Facebook and Instagram but absolutely use TikTok - and experiment now while it's still affordable, because the price of the ads will continue to go up. You don't want to be testing when it's expensive. You want to be testing when it's still relatively affordable.
Just one final answer to your question “Should all brands be on there?”, I think maybe that was you alluding to the question of “If I'm targeting 60-year-olds, should I be on there?”. I would say, if you particularly and only target your product towards a very much older audience, then maybe you shouldn't be on there but, if you're targeting 40-year-olds and 30-year-olds, absolutely. They are on TikTok in their droves already. It's not just dancing teenagers.
David Bain 08:59
40 is the next 30, or at least that's what people in their 40s say.
That's obviously top-of-funnel there, and we could go straight to bottom-of-funnel if we're talking about a fairly short sales cycle. But, for certain brands that have a long sales cycle - different B2B brands - it could be a year or so between discovery and actually making the decision to make a purchase. Is there another ad platform that you could recommend for middle-of-funnel which is good for, perhaps, authority building or just reminding the user that you exist as a brand?
Jessie Healy 09:36
I would say that for middle-of-funnel, ideally, I would choose Meta (Facebook and Instagram), TikTok as well can be great for middle-of-funnel, and Pinterest also, depending on your audience. Pinterest works for certain types of brands. B2B, potentially, but it's more towards lifestyle and product brands.
So TikTok, Meta - and then potentially YouTube as well. It depends on what authority you're trying to build and who you're trying to reach, and there are a lot of caveats to that. In terms of targeting a middle-of-funnel audience, if that audience is quite small, it can be quite hard to get the delivery to happen on YouTube or on Pinterest, because people aren't necessarily visiting every single day. The people that you're talking to just might not be a heavy YouTube user.
Whereas Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, people have such a habitual use of it that there's a good chance that, even if your middle-of-funnel audience is quite small, you'll be able to get in front of them fairly regularly with those audiences and just stay top-of-mind and have that omnipresence for them while they make that buying decision.
One thing I would say for middle-of-funnel also: obviously, email is great. Using those top-of-funnel channels to capture the email address, get the person to engage in some way, and then nurture them with email. For B2B, absolutely - my agency, that's what we do. We use channels like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, deliver a lead magnet, people sign up for it, and then they go into a welcome series, and then they go on our list to be nurtured over a long time. They'll also be shown retargeting ads across all the multiple platforms. So, once they're in our world, they'll feel like we're everywhere and all around them. That's what we do for the agency.
David Bain 11:32
Can anyone compete with Google ads for a bottom-of-funnel?
Jessie Healy 11:35
Probably not. This is the challenge we often have with our clients: it’s explaining to them that the amazing ROAS that they get on Google is not something that's scalable, and that they need to keep on spending at the top of the funnel on Facebook and Instagram in order to feed these Google audiences that look so high performing.
What happens with Google is a lot of your performance will come from people searching for your brand. These days, you have to advertise against your brand name. I say, “have to” - you don't absolutely have to, but we highly recommend it. The reason is, because of the way that broad match and algorithmic bidding works, even if your competitors are not bidding on your brand explicitly, Facebook will show your competitors’ ads when people search for your brand name, algorithmically.
If your brand is, say, a water bottle brand and you're not advertising against your own brand name, I can guarantee that all the other water brand ads will show up when someone searches for your brand name. You want to be there among the consideration set when someone's searching for your brand.
Performance Max (which is the big new advertising channel from Google which combines all of the different placements) will have a heavy component of retargeting people who are searching for your brand. But also, that bottom-of-funnel - people who are very far down that decision process - they might have been researching water bottles for several months (not that they probably would, but if they had), and then they're down to that final decision between two water bottle brands. Then they choose you, and then Google takes all the credit and says that that was a 5X return on ad spend. But actually, the only reason they considered you in the first place is because you introduced them at the top of the funnel, and you've been showing them ads for the whole time they've been thinking about it.
David Bain 13:22
Talking about different examples, actually, I noticed a post that you shared on LinkedIn this morning saying, for particular clients, you've achieved a blended ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) 16 times the spend. You also managed the Google and Meta ads and you've really helped them grow with that particular business.
So what, in particular, have you done for them that has delivered the success that you've achieved?
Jessie Healy 13:48
Yeah, so we started working with this brand three years ago. It was still pretty much a side hustle for the founder, she was still actually working part-time as a teacher. She came to me (this was very early on in my agency) to get some help with Google Shopping. Actually, that was the first thing we set up, it was Google Shopping. I suggested that Facebook ads would also work well for her, so we set that up.
Since then, we have scaled and scaled her account. It's been very much a double-pronged approach with both Facebook, Instagram, and Google ads running at the same time. Top of the funnel, we run a range of different types of creative. We’ll have lifestyle creative and we’ll have user-generated videos or content from her customers, which is really important. We have a mix of creative types, so we want to do video and static, and carousels are always being tested.
We use social proof and reviews in the ads - both video and written testimonials. We show indisputable proof that this product is really amazing by showing pictures from customers and pictures of it in different settings.
In terms of the copy, we think about agitating the pain point that the problem solves and give a clear articulation of the transformation that the product brings. We try to do emotion in the ad - really connect with the user on an emotional level - or even sometimes storytelling: telling the story of how the product changed someone's life. Often, we use a first-person style of creative, so telling the story of the product in someone's life. Those are a lot of examples of how we use creative in our strategy.
David Bain 15:19
Just a quick question on that: how do you measure the success of top-of-funnel? Because if you're just providing creative like that, it’s appealing, it's visual, people like it, maybe they engage with it – but are you looking for visits through to the website as well?
Jessie Healy 15:38
Absolutely, yeah. We optimize our top-of-funnel campaigns for purchase. Facebook has a 7-day window in which it would track that purchase and Google has a 30-day window. For our top-of-funnel campaigns, we're still telling the platform: “try and find us buyers, even top-of-funnel”.
Now they won’t perform at as high a ROAS as the bottom-of-funnel campaigns, but they will still sometimes lead to a purchase. That data gives us an indication of which ads are resonating the most, but we also have the click-through rate as a good indication, and the cost per click is a good indication.
If people are clicking through on the ad, it shows that the ads engaging; it's sending the right people through to the site. If some of those people end up buying, we know that that top-of-funnel approach is working. It's very data-driven, even for top-of-funnel.
David Bain 16:28
Wonderful, I love that: actually optimize the top-of-funnel for purchase. That's a tip that a lot of big brands are possibly not doing because they get into Meta or other platforms like that, and they see that there are different options in terms of what you're aiming for (traffic or brand awareness). They're probably just clicking on brand awareness before that stage in the funnel, but that's wrong, as far as you're concerned?
Jessie Healy 16:57
So, we're a performance marketing agency. We are measured and our clients come to us for trackable results. Our whole ethos is always about driving performance from the ads, so that's why our top-of-funnel approach is always going to be about performance and driving revenue for the client. They're not coming to us for a brand awareness campaign; they're coming to us for sales. That's why we approach it in that way.
But, what I would say is that we are seeing some data coming out from other agencies that we talk to, and we’re hearing from the industry, that putting a small proportion of your budget towards those other optimization goals (for instance brand awareness or traffic) is no bad thing once you hit a certain stage of scale. Not everyone's going to buy quickly and, if you limit yourself to an optimize-for-purchase audience, you're going to be limited to people who are in buying mode right now - that Facebook knows are impulse shoppers who make quick buying decisions. Actually, if you want to have the widest possible scope for your brand, you do want to put a portion of it towards brand awareness.
For your overall spend that you've spent on marketing, you still want to look at how many sales that is driving. That's your metric for success. If you’re adding brand awareness in there for 90 days, you'd want to see (after 90 days) that your overall return on your ad spend was greater than when you didn't have the brand awareness there, because you need to see that it's actually working and driving results.
David Bain 18:31
For this particular client, you mentioned Google ads and I would imagine you’re using Google ads for bottom-of-funnel. What's an example of creative that you would use for that?
Jessie Healy 18:42
For Google ads, we are also targeting people as high up the funnel as Google can go, so they already know they want a product. Let's use the digital cameras example: Google can put us in front of people that are searching for a digital camera, but not necessarily our digital camera or our website. It's the top of the Google funnel, i.e. they're already showing some intent.
They might be in research phase, which might be “best digital cameras”, or they might be further down the funnel and saying, “compare Fuji Max to Cannon” - which is a lower funnel phrase. There are nuances to how the funnel might work in Google, but there's an assumption already that there's a desire for a product, or at least to solve a problem.
Most Google Ads campaigns are still text-based, so it's search results ads, but, (increasingly, because of Performance Max) we're now uploading images and short video into the campaigns, and Google is algorithmically placing those across many different platforms that it has partnerships with - as well as YouTube and other platforms that it owns.
We are actively testing that at the moment. As an agency that's always been obsessed with creative, and knows the importance of creative for driving good performance for our clients, we are taking the learnings from what's working for us in Facebook and Instagram, and applying those learnings to our Google campaigns to see if we can get better result than, maybe, a pure search agency who's always only ever thought about keywords and data.
David Bain 20:18
Okay, and Performance Max is obviously a goal-based campaign that takes away a little bit of control in terms of where your ads are being positioned. Is that a little bit scary when you're trying to maximize the impact, or have you found the use of Performance Max to be generally very efficient and a good idea?
Jessie Healy 20:41
Yeah, I wouldn't say it's scary. As a digital marketer, we just move with the times, and we do what we’ve got to do to get the best results for our clients. It's frustrating at times because, if it works, we don't know why and if it doesn't work, we don't know why. So, how do we optimise it?
But actually, gradually, Google is giving us more and more control as time goes on. They're releasing, for instance, the keyword data that's driving the searches, allowing us the opportunity to potentially exclude some keywords from it. It’s not as much of a blunt instrument as it was, perhaps when it first launched last year. We're getting a little bit more control and we're learning ways to kind of hack the setup a little bit to give us a bit more control.
Ultimately, we care about the Return on Ad Spend, or the cost per sale. As long as we are delivering better results from that channel, then that's fine. We'll keep pushing, we’ll keep adding more budget to it, and we'll just keep optimizing it. It does bring great results. It doesn't necessarily bring great results for every client straightaway but, generally, we're seeing Performance Max have a positive impact on campaigns.
David Bain 21:49
Let's move on from what works now to planning for the future. In your opinion, what's the biggest marketing trend or challenge for marketers over the coming year?
Jessie Healy 21:59
All the consumer challenges aside with inflation and all that (we won't talk about that), the industry as a whole has been facing increasing challenges due to data privacy. iOS 14 was released a year and a half ago, and it severely limited Facebook's ability to track campaigns and optimize them. It cut off the blood supply to the Facebook brain, and it's never fully recovered. We've seen in the recent Q3 earnings results from Facebook, they have gone down. Advertisers aren't doing as well on the platform as they were and that's reflected in Facebook's earnings.
I think the challenge, for us as marketers, is: how do we optimize when the data that we can optimize from is getting worse and worse, and it will continue to do so as EU rules continue to evolve - and in America too, the rules around privacy are continuing to evolve.
That is a big challenge for us as marketers, and we are focusing our efforts more and more on what data we can capture. More of our budget goes towards email capture campaigns, even in the eCommerce space. It’s always been common in the B2B space, but in the eCommerce space, we've often just gone straight for that purchase, but we are now actually collecting data. Quizzes are a great way to collect more nuanced data about your users that you get to own and hold. Those are some of the ways we address the challenges.
The other thing that this challenge throws up for us is that, in order to succeed, we have to work harder as marketers. We have to go back to almost first principles of marketing. We have to understand our customer better. Our positioning and our brand has to really resonate. Our creative has to be better than the other guys on the platform because, without data to help us optimize, we just need the performance to be better. If the ad speaks right to the customer and convinces them, and then they land on a page that's amazingly optimized, then we can have less data and we'll still get better results.
David Bain 24:01
I've been your host, David Bain. You can find Jessie Healey over at webtopia.co. Jessie, thanks so much for being on the Strategic Marketing Show.
Jessie Healy 24:08
Thanks so much. I loved it.
David Bain 24:11
And thank you for listening. Here at IFP, our goal is simple: to connect you with the most relevant information, to help solve your business problems, all in one place. InsightsForProfessionals.com
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