Facebook ads are the new flyers

facebook adsHalf the money, twice the number of people reached; this is one of my results with Facebook ads vs. printed flyers. Read on for the details. 

Small business advertising used to be a Yellow pages ad, flyers dropped into post boxes and perhaps a print ad in the local paper. Coupled with word of mouth this used to be all a small business needed to do in terms of marketing.

The problem is, these methods do not reach today’s consumer any longer. Unless your target market are the retired population who might not have access to online tools or don’t know how to use them, you won’t get anywhere with these old methods. Yellow pages have become very obsolete. Today’s consumer searches on Google (and other search engines) to find a business and then to find out more about them and they ask their peer network on social media platforms.

Newspapers have less and less circulation numbers and are an industry struggling in this new world of instant news on a small screen inside our pockets and handbags. And flyers are just not working as well anymore. Their ROI (return on investment) is rapidly diminishing with rising print costs.

New marketing methods for small and/or local businesses

How can small businesses make sure to reach eyeballs in this new world? Instead of a yellow pages ad the business needs to set up a Google Places listing or a G+ local page (they are more or less the same thing), that way they can be found top of search. It’s free too! Which is why I always am surprised when I still find businesses who are not taking advantage of this tool at all.

In terms of newspaper ads the modern equivalent are paid ads on Google and other platforms as well as Social Media outposts. Not all people, granted, but many get their news from Twitter and Facebook nowadays and their numbers are growing. Which is where the adspend of the big businesses too has been moving to.

The advantage in today’s world is that with these methods the old one-way street of communication turns into a two-way street and the consumer has an opportunity to directly engage and communicate with a business or brand before any purchase takes place.

Today’s consumer is well educated before they make a purchase decision. (Click to tweet this)

Replacing printed flyers with Facebook ads

For this article I would like to focus on the mechanism that is fast replacing printed flyers, distributed to post boxes in a neighbourhood or the post office. I’m not sure how it is anywhere else in the world but here in South Africa many small businesses are still throwing money into this bottomless pit.

In today’s world you can get a much better ROI (return on investment) than what flyers offer as with them you do not know what the result is. In fact you can’t even determine the ROI properly, unless you’re clever and put a special on that only that flyer carries and/or are in the habit of asking your customers how they heard about you (and that’s not only not a very reliable method in terms of analytics but also not always easy to keep up) you will never know how much business the flyer brought you.

But the business hopes because perhaps 10,000 flyers is a high number surely a few will have turned into business. I can’t tell you, there is no way to know.

Facebook power editorProving ROI in a digital world is easy

What I do know however is that with highly targeted Facebook ads I can proof ROI to you. We can know exactly how much business a particular ad on Facebook brought us (if conversion is the goal), we can see exactly how many people engaged with the ad/post (which tells us if it’s interesting to them) and we can continue to tweak and experiment to find the sweet spot to make it work.

The Facebook ad platform has greatly evolved, which is not surprising as that is of course how Facebook makes money. It makes sense for them to offer a fantastic tool for businesses. I don’t want to go into the whole organic/paid reach discussion, this post isn’t about that.

It is about the fact that Facebook ads have replaced the printed flyer for me and my clients (click to tweet this) and the results proof that not only do the ads work, they are also a lot cheaper.

To give you an example let me share with you one specific campaign I recently ran for a client of mine. The Playhouse Theatre in Somerset West is a small community theatre with a very limited budget. They have to make their buck go really far. Traditionally they have always relied on a 10,000 flyer drop in the areas around the theatre. At the beginning of the year I took over their marketing and have subsequently made a lot of changes.

The number of Facebook users has grown rapidly over the last years

As always you can never single out one thing for any success, it is always a combination of many items. However in this case I knew that Facebook ads were the answer for them to get the info about their shows in front of as many eyeballs as possible. 2 years ago there were only about 2 million people on Facebook in South Africa, today that number has risen to over 10 million. In the local area of the theatre there are about 38,000 people on Facebook within about 16 kilometres, if you take the greater metropolitan area of Cape Town into consideration as well, you end up with a 1.3 million.

An increased Facebook user base means while you might not reach all the people in the area, you will be able to reach a great proportion of them. The numbers the theatre needs in terms of audience aren’t nearly as high as one might think. Per show on average 600 tickets sold guarantees running costs and production expenses are covered.

For their last production Amadeus we decided to do the flyer drop as well as try Facebook ads. I had already used some Facebook ads for the show before that and the results were very encouraging which is why I pushed for a full blown campaign for this extravagant show that is definitely not everyone’s taste. It was crucial that all people in the area who might be interested to see it will know about it.

fb ad example

One of the ads I ran. Click on the image to see it larger.

The cost of the flyer drop was about R 3,800. On Facebook I ran 3 different campaigns, each with a different objective, for a total cost of R 1,900. Of course I have no way of telling you what the result of the 10,000 flyers were, but I can tell you that on Facebook I reached about at least 20,000 people (I don’t know exactly as the campaigns overlap in terms of audience) and served 350,000 impressions.

Impressions means how many times Facebook showed an ad to someone (technically it means how many times Facebook served it up, it doesn’t mean the person saw it, they might not have scrolled that far). These figures alone speak volumes.

For half the money I could reach twice the amount of people and not only once but multiple times with varying messages. (click to tweet)

In the graph below you will see the results I’m talking about, including a most interesting number, the cost per 1,000 people reached. Now this is a figure we can almost directly compare with the flyer campaign which cost about $38 per 1,000 people or rather flyer. True, one flyer will be seen by more than one pair of eyes but how many before it ends up in the bin? That is the big question, I doubt it’s many more. Compare this to a max. of $10.25 on Facebook for newsfeed ads (they are more expensive as they are more effective) and $1.94 for the other ads.

I rest my case.

facebook ad results for amadeus

Key ingredients for a successful Facebook ads campaign

I mixed right column ads with newsfeed post ads and event ads to mix things up. Within each of these I ran several variations of ads. It’s too much for this post to detail all of my findings but they are truly amazing. Instead I’d rather give you a run down of the most important aspects of running a successful Facebook ad campaign per my insights at this point in time (that’s a bit of a disclaimer as Facebook constantly changes and improves so what I know works today might not tomorrow):

  • Have a Facebook page (the number of likes is irrelevant in this case, you need it for newsfeed ads)
  • Get familiar with Facebook’s power editor for ads
  • Understand the various campaign goals and how to optimise for them
  • Have stunning images in the right size (and with no more than 20% text)
  • Setup special ad campaign posts via the power editor
  • Carefully draft post, headline, url name, description
  • Play around with using the CTA button for the newsfeed post ad
  • Test various campaign options and see which one works best for your audience
  • Define your audience; this is vital, it’s not everyone. The better you can define your audience in terms of their demographics and likes and interests the better. Facebook ads are working so well because of this. E.g. In the case of the Amadeus play I targeted lovers of classical music as well as theatre. All other people are less likely to enjoy this type of play.
  • Test advanced audience techniques: you have the ability to import your existing database to the ad section and show them exclusively an ad. Or exclude them as I did recently with an ad for my free Social Media ebook. I don’t need to show this to those who already have it. Facebook gives the opportunity to exclude them.
  • Set up conversion tracking. This is another advanced technique which I didn’t use for the Amadeus campaign but am using on others. It works extremely well and has its own pricing whereby you only pay for actual conversions. For example on ads for downloads of my Social Media ebook I only pay Facebook per actual conversion.

I am running out of time here on this post, there is really much to say about using Facebook’s ad platform in new and interesting ways. They have recently completely revamped it and will surely continue to do so. Being able to reach exactly those potential clients who are most likely to purchase from you down the line with relevant content is invaluable. It turns the old broadcasting model completely on its head. It’s no longer how many people can you reach, it’s about reaching the right people.

When you have set up a lead generation funnel Facebook ads work best. You advertise the free TOFU or even MOFU content and then nurture via email and social media towards turning the leads into clients.

The best advice I have is to take some budget and start testing these things for yourself. If you need some help you know where to find me. It can be a bit tricky and it takes some time to figure out what works and what not. I am in no way the world’s foremost expert on Facebook ads but I’ve been spending $1,800 on my own ads over the last few years plus many more $$ on clients which gives me a bit of a head start in the trial and error department. Please ask any questions you might have in the comments below or book a session for a private consultation.

Either way, I do hope I have enticed you to give Facebook ads a go for your own advertising.


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