‘Why aren’t my Facebook Ads converting?’

I’ve worked with so many businesses this year on their Facebook ads. Some have been wildly successful, some have been unable to produce a profitable campaign. Mostly, we get there in the end after a few months of testing and working things out. Businesses with successful social ad campaigns are happy as a lamb in spring, frolicking around because they have are making a direct return on their ad spend, and all they need to do to earn more money and get more customers is increase that ad spend. That being said, most customers contact me because the ads they’re currently running aren’t working well – i.e they’re not profitable, so it gives me great insight into the problems people can face with their ad campaigns.

But when things are going badly in the social advertising world, it can be a stressful experience. You’ll be pulling your hair out, seeing your baby (your business) get hundreds of thousands of views and have nobody buy anything. You’ll be throwing away money down a drain. Businesses come to me in distress that they can’t work out Facebook ads ever since the IOS14 changes, and why has everything stopped working? New marketing managers come to me panicking because they can’t make head nor tail of their ads (and the agent they’re paying to run them can’t either!)

So why might this lack of performance be happening? Let’s explore.

Why aren’t my social ads working??????!1!1!(one)111!!!!

Your marketing funnel is not long enough

B2B? New brand? Expensive? Expecting people to buy from you off a Facebook ad without any brand trust or brand status is beyond optimistic – it’s naive. If buying from you is more of a big decision than buying new printer refills then consider being more thoughtful about your entire marketing funnel.

You need:

  • Brand awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Lead nurturing
  • A sales process
  • Remarketing and referrals

Every business needs a marketing funnel. Some marketing funnels take years for the customer to go down. The most successful businesses have very clever marketing strategies where every stage of the funnel is taken into consideration and carefully engineered.

Take a business like an accountancy, a family law firm, health practitioner, a gas engineer – most of those businesses will be needed by almost anyone but not all the time. Businesses that do well here do advertise but do so in a way that builds up brand trust – not in a way that demands immediate sales. Sadly, most of these businesses have been promised immediate sales from marketers and will jump from agency to agency trying to find the team who can give them immediate customers.

Try out advertising a lead generation mechanism such as a mail drip-feed, a free sample, a book – something that will help you engage with those people who may become customers further down the line.

If you’re selling a BIG sell, don’t expect an ad to do it. It doesn’t mean that social ads aren’t right for your business, it just means you need to use them in a less e-commerce way.

You took your Facebook expert too literally

Facebook have said that it’s best to do broadly targeted campaigns to let the A.I do all the work but guess what? A.I doesn’t know everything and there are billions of internet users to go through. Do those robots a favor and at least narrow it down to a few hundred million. I’ve taken over a few ad campaigns which were performing poorly because the old agency insisted on targeting everybody as that’s what Facebook said to do. Don’t make the ad targeting too specific. But show Facebook ads who you think your customer is likely to be.

Yes, broad ads are working better now. But this is because hyper-targeted, super-specific ads used to work the best. Facebook mean: do it broader than the old way. Your guy running your Facebook ads wouldn’t know this though, because they’ve only been doing it about 6 months. 💅

Your ad isn’t time-sensitive

Don’t make your ad something that can be checked out tomorrow. So you’re showing me your product, that’s nice. But as a customer – why do you expect me to buy from you right now? Most people who are interested in your product will probably put you on a mental to-do list to check out later and as most people browse in the evenings, you’ll likely get forgotten about unless you create something unmissable like a discount or time-limited offer. It may be that they will come back to you one day, but if that day is after 1 week – Facebook won’t measure it as a conversion which doesn’t help your marketer or you understand ad performance.

You’re using video ‘because it’s more engaging’

Sometimes we marketers get lost in our own bollocks. ‘Video is more engaging, the internet is more video-based than text-based now, we all need to be making videos!’ I’ve been saying it just as much as everyone else has but I forgot one thing – most people hate ads, and most people hate ads so much they will always skip video ads. Yes even if your business is reaaaallly coool. Even if the video is reaaallllly goood.

Images show what your product is within a millisecond, with video, people have to watch a few seconds of it before they get the gist.
The way to use video? Make it seem like something that’s not actually an ad but still demonstrates your product, like an influencer doing an unboxing, tutorial or a review. I have a client who recently had some good success with a video campaign that was essentially a mini cooking show – the focus wasn’t on the product at all.
Honestly, it took me quite a while to work out the reason why, but on most A/B tests with video vs images, the images perform better. If you want to display something quickly flashing gifs work pretty well.

You’re only selling in the UK

Believe it or not, British products actually still hold a lot of weight globally. If you have something that’s fancy and made in London, sure it will go down well in the UK but in comparison to somewhere like Seoul or Dubai, you may find that your results in the UK are meaningless and that your wealth will lie in being an exporter. If we’re going to turn a profit on Facebook ads, we need to be selling to an audience where a good proportion of people want to buy the product. That might not be England.

Too much faff to sell abroad because of Brexit and what not? That’s okay to take a hit.

The product or service just isn’t commercial enough

This one might hurt. Some businesses are good enough to get by and will even make a lot of money. But with Facebook, you’re paying per impression. Compare these two situations:

Ad 1 – shown to 10,000 people & 5 people buy it

Ad 2 – shown to 100,000 people & 5 people buy it

Both businesses are able to sell and are profitable, but ad 1 has more appeal. Out of a group, more people want to buy it and therefore the ads will be profitable. Not all businesses can get profitable Facebook ads. If you’re selling a game on Facebook and target gamer customers – more people will buy the Cyberpunk 2077 game with the huge PR budget than they will the small indie game which is aimed at people who really like detective visual novels. But you’ll have to pay the same money to show the product to those gamers.

You put too much weight on the learning phase

Your ads won’t start magically working way better once they exit the learning phase. It’s clear to me whether an ad will work or needs to change while it’s still in the learning phase. If you aren’t making profitable ads in the learning phase don’t expect that they will ever become profitable. The biggest changes to ad performance are through creative offering or audience. If I know an ad isn’t working I know it’s not working even in the learning phase.

You aren’t testing

I have had to fight with some people tooth and nail to test their ads. ‘But it will mess up the performance!’ ‘It will be pointless, we will be bidding against ourselves!’ All of this is inaccurate, testing is a must. I say this because it is only through testing that I have gotten CPC results down from 30 pence to 1 penny. We may be happy with the 30 pence, but the campaign may be 30x more successful for the budget – if we don’t test we never know.

You’re working with people who can’t admit a mistake

When I want to try something with an ad, or make a suggestion, there is always the potential that my hypothesis will be incorrect and that I will learn something new from the failure. I make boo-boos like this regularly and I don’t mind admitting to it. I’m happy to admit to a client when something I wanted to go ahead with didn’t work out. My motto is: fail hard, fail fast, fail early. If something isn’t going to plan, I shout about it and try something else at least then we can do something about the failure before we spend thousands of pounds in it. But this is a quality that not everybody has, and it’s actually difficult for many people on a personal level to be open about mistakes. Most people quite simply aren’t grown up enough to say to a new client ‘this isn’t working out the way I hoped, let’s try out plan B’ – they’d rather try and convince the client that things are going great, or will start working soon. But it is essential in digital marketing and especially with social advertising, that we can quit unproductive work.

Your marketer is unresponsive and uncommunicative

Facebook ads don’t take a long time to set up or manage, but they do require small, frequent check-ins and I often send clients a quick email or text message to tell them things are going well, or that I’m trying out something new. You need to be highly reactive with this game. One of the most common reason people look around for a new marketer is that the old one isn’t keeping in touch properly.

Your website is poorly converting

Your website needs to be easy to use, fast and responsive to mobile. You need to have apple and google pay set up – not just expect people to go and fetch their credit card. You need a clear, relevant sales process on your website. Without all these things, you can kiss goodbye to your advertising traffic as it flees your site and never comes back. I can tell when this is happening because the cost per click will be great – the audience is interested – but they won’t buy.

You aren’t capturing leads

Every e-com site going offers a 10% discount (or more) on your first order upon sign up to a mailing list – so why doesn’t yours? You may not (probably wont) get that customer the first time they visit your website, but email is a highly valuable lead nurturing tool. With no lead nurturing system, you will be making far fewer sales. Measure how many leads you are picking up from your campaign as well as the sales.

Your creative isn’t strong enough

The ads need to stand out in a highly addictive and engaging newsfeed of posts from your customer’s friends and family. Your ads are appearing in the middle of a birth announcement, a body positivity post of an arse with some stretch marks, an extremely tasty-looking burger and their ex-boyfriends’ holiday photos with his new girlfriend. Your ad has to be eye-catching and appealing enough to get the user to leave this chasm of drama and hedonism to go and take a closer look at your product.

Your ad isn’t clear enough

Most businesses are not selling what they do in a clear way. Including me. It’s actually quite a hard thing to do, particularly if your product or service is new or complicated. The biggest challenge is that you have your head ‘in’ the business and your customer doesn’t. They’re there, half asleep – possibly tipsy, looking through their Instagram feed and come across your advertisement. Is it plain to see that someone would understand what this ad is trying to sell? And what action they need to take to go and buy the thing? To check your ad is clear don’t ask your staff members whatever you do, they will never admit that they don’t understand something that you show them. They’ll spend mental effort working it out and trying to get the right answer and tell you it was easy as pie. Ask someone who’s completely unrelated to your business (but would be a good fit for a customer) to see if they understand what you’re trying to sell and understand how to buy it.

Sometimes you need to ditch clever, or funny, or branding for clear. But it’s always worth it.

You haven’t been trying long enough and your expectations are too high

We don’t always get profitable ads on the first try. It requires experimentation and adaptation. Sometimes when a campaign is going really well, things can change suddenly. However, some clients do expect me to get a 5x ROAS on the first try and I have even had a client express her profound disappointment at a 2.5 ROAS after a 3 day £50 test!!! Go into Facebook ads with an attitude of experimentation, invest time and money into it. It isn’t a magic money-making machine and marketers like myself don’t have magical ways of earning you money, all we can do is recognise trends and patterns in your account and use our experience to go with our gut and find a solution. Often customers will come to me with some nonsense method another agency has told them about that will magically increase performance – ‘they hook it up to your google analytics insights!’ (Ok what can that tell me that you can’t?) ‘They can get us a 10x ROAS after doing 3 experiments!’ But really – salespeople will say whatever they can to get you to sign up to that 6-month contract because if it doesn’t work, it’s not them who has to admit failure – they’ve made their bonus whether the campaign works or not. (Yes, an ‘account manager’ is an agency term for a salesperson – they will most likely not be doing the work themselves, nor have the technical knowledge to fully explain the procedure to you.) When a customer has come to me blinded by some promise by another marketer, there’s nothing I can do apart from acquiese as I wont make false promises and engage in the game (play stupid games, win stupid prizes) . The truth is – our ad campaign might not work, anyone who says otherwise is flat out lying.

Your contact form/ click to buy button is broken

It’s the first thing I do whenever anybody contacts me saying that they cant get sales or have stopped making them:

‘I’ve tried anything, but I’m just not making any sales! Please help me!’
‘Have you tried testing your contact form?’
‘Okay go test it and come back to me.’
‘You were right, my contact form was broken!’

Things you may assume are a barrier to good sales on Facebook/Instagram ads but actually aren’t:

You can make profitable ads on Facebook even if:
  1. The product is luxury. There are people out there who will buy your product, it’s just a case of finding them. I sell top-end luxury, extremely expensive items and make profit on Facebook. You may make fewer sales, but that’s how the luxury market works anyway. Very wealthy people still use social media, and advertising online won’t ‘cheapen’ your product (unless the ads are terrible or too frequent, obviously.)
  2. Our customer isn’t on social. They may not be heavy Facebook or Instagram users, but we can use Facebook ads to target people on the ‘audience network’ which means the internet. So you can really use Facebook ads to target anyone who uses the internet. You could of course use LinkedIn as well, but it’s more expensive.
  3. We’re B2B. Your customer works for a business you’re trying to sell to – they still use the internet in their own time and most likely take an interest in things related to their job. They probably even use internet browsers during worktime. Professionals and regular couch potatoes aren’t separate people – they’re the same as the rest of us, that posh exec may be sat in his pants looking for a new cheese subscription box as we speak.