How to create high ROI paid ads by being intentional

Jen Bryan became a leading expert on creating high return paid ads. So much so, she created an agency around it.

Publish Date
Apr 7, 2022
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Coming next week: How to use LinkedIn to build the ultimate B2B marketing flow

What does JDigital do?

JDigital.ie is a small digital agency with a “1 per industry rule” on startups. Their goal is to train first and help second. They specialize in Paid Advertising, Advertising Audits and Content Creation. Like most agency models, they deeply research their clients and their goals, then create a comprehensive ad strategy and setup the infrastructure.
They develop everything from creative assets and copy to full systems and tracking for ad campaigns.
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👨‍👨‍👦‍👦 Target Audiences

Startups that are mostly bootstrapped.

📝 Briefly describe the growth project

Because JDigital focuses on bootstrapped startups, most of their clients don’t have big marketing budgets. They need to squeeze a marketing budget and create early revenue streams quickly.
Running paid ads is not rocket science, but there is an assumption that they will simply always work for marketing. To the dismay of many early founders, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. You can have the best ad strategy in the world, but if your marketing funnel is flawed it won’t do much good. Jen takes a look at the entire funnel.

Facebook ads

Ads have a problem tracking users “off platform”. Most people make the mistake of tracking re-marketing/re-purchasing as a standard conversion. That means that sometimes re-marketing “eats up” what would have come in anyway, making your ad stats look better than they actually are. Essentially, you start paying for your organic growth.
Jen experimented with 2 clients in figuring out how to leverage “on-platform data” on Facebook and Instagram. If they take any action, it is recorded and not impacted by leaving the site. This lowers the stats on conversions, but ultimately generates better ads with a higher ROI and conversion.
As a general rule of thumb, short and sweet ads work. Jen decided to play with this and record 3-4 min long videos that were insightful about the business and brand. For example, she used scenic drone footage to tell the story of an organic wool product to depict where the product comes from. She ran this ad as a “video view” objective with a 75% completion rate on the video for conversions. It got fantastic conversion rates.
Screenshot from one of Jen’s ads
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Transitioning to YouTube ads

When you transition to Google search ads from Facebook, you are met with the challenge of only being able to use text. You’d have to throw out all of the rich media content you’ve been running on Facebook. Not the case on YouTube.
Jen again took an intention-based look at strategies. One of her clients sells baby products for breastfeeding mothers. Instead of optimizing the ads to run when there is the most traffic, she set YouTube ads to run at 1am to 5am when mothers are breast feeding. Parents are looking for how to’s and explainer videos around parenting while feeding their infants. Jen used Pinkwithgoogle.com, which allows you to find in-market segments and influencers for your target audience.
When you setup a YouTube campaign through Google, it asks you to input an audience and people default to this like Facebook. But the real winning tactic is in ignoring the audience and going after the specific videos. You can take the youtube video link and they’ll put an ad in it! If you can find these high intent videos, you can catch people in the moment when they have a specific intention.

📈 How have Jen’s ads performed?

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Jen’s paid ad tactics have had dramatic results. Their team has achieved high Return On Ad Spends (ROAS) ranging up to almost 15! That’s in an industry where a ROAS of 4 is often seen as successful.
The experiments she is trying are paying off as well. After changing the timing of her above mentioned YouTube campaign from around the clock to only between 12am - 4am, their ROAS jumped from around 8 to 15, almost doubling!

😍 Why are paid ads a good growth channel?

Theoretically, anyone can run paid ads. There are a ton of resources online on how to do them, and you can start testing with very little money. If you can figure out a great ad model, you can put money into your “engine” and receive more coming out. Almost like magic! It also starts working basically overnight, which is why it’s a favorite for early and bootstrapped startups.

🤔 Downsides to using paid ads

Because paid ads start working instantly, they’re quite addictive. This can prevent founders and growth marketers from seeking out more long term, scaling channels that are harder to build. Paid ads can also be annoying (and therefore damaging to your brand) if not done correctly. You can also spend a lot of money without necessarily generating results.

🏗 How to build your own high ROI paid ads

There is a lot of documentation on how to create ads and campaigns, and it will depend on your platform. So here we will focus on how to create high ROI ads.
  1. First ask “am I a known problem or an unknown problem”?
      • Known problem - people will search for you or something similar (Google, Youtube, other high intent)
      • New problem - have to factor in budget for awareness (this is where social media and content comes in handy)
  1. Choose a platform
      • In the vast majority of cases, stick to main ad platforms, like Facebook and Google. But you can still run experiment campaigns on smaller ones like Snapchat and Twitter. For the really niche ones (i.e. Reddit + Quora) it’s better to go organic,.
  1. Research competitors and inspiration
      • Research how much they are spending and how many people they’re reaching (it will give you broad ranges).
      • Also look at companies you think are great
      • You don’t want to re-engineer your competitors, you just want to be more clever. Check on them regularly.
  1. Get creatives that capture attention.
      • There is a premium on paying for attention. This will kill your campaign. CPM is a good indicator of long term potential. If it’s expensive, it won’t be sustainable.
  1. If the campaign is not performing well, address:
      • Campaign structure (goal) – If you tell FB the wrong thing, it will give you the wrong thing. Be intentional about this. Select the right end goal for what you want.
      • Audience – Old data may now be compromised. You can usually look at device usage to be able to parse out what data you can use and what will be valuable.
        • Sometimes Jen puts zero audience info in except for some generals like gender, age and location. After a few days algorithms start to figure it out.
        • Use Adsettings.google.com to get an idea of what Google thinks you want.
      • Creatives – Figuring these out can always be a bit of a nightmare. Outsourcing is expensive but if you have to, do it. It’s better to have good creatives than something bad quality. However, you can also be simple. Use Canva and other tools to make your own graphics as starting points.

💡 Advice for someone trying to build something similar?

  • The biggest mistake falls into the bucket of choosing the wrong structure/goal on FB, or too longtail of keywords on Google.
  • There is no right or wrong reason for the creative side, it’s an experiment.
  • Try creating your own audiences and letting the platforms do the work.
  • Remember that if you leave an ad platform, you won’t be able to take your audience with you.

You can follow Jen and JDigital on !