Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Welcome everybody. I am excited to introduce you to my good friend, Steph. We get to work together on a weekly basis for a lot of our Stratos clients, but Steph actually has a marketing practice of her own. And so Steph, why don’t you tell us about yourself, who you are, where you are and about your business.

Steph: Yeah. So I’m Stephanie Scott. I live in Austin, Texas, just recently moved here from Atlanta. So still very much getting used to the non-stop heat. Like it’s going to be 80 degrees on Thursday and it’s middle of December. So that’s that. But yeah, I am a StoryBrand guide. And so that’s how you and I obviously got connected and then I quickly realized that I love the data side of things a little bit more than the messaging side of things. I kind of started leaning more heavily into the conversion side. So, okay, you know, you build these awesome websites and these great sales funnels, but like what happens if nobody shows up in them? Right? Like we built the house, but nobody’s coming over. How do we invite them? 

And so I got into ads about five years ago and then really kind of made it my specialty, probably two and a half years ago. And so that looks obviously really different for every client. You know, whether it’s an e-commerce client looking to make those sales on Facebook or whether it’s a service-based client looking to fill their lead generator or their sales funnel, things like that, I think has the amazing ability to kind of scale to whatever capacity the business needs for them. And my favorite part about ads is that you actually can answer the question, is this working? And it’s not this subjective, “I think so!” or “I feel like it is!” There’s some hard numbers around it, which I feel like is really refreshing for my brain.

Julia: For sure. For sure. Yeah. Steph and I went to the same StoryBrand training and we don’t remember it. It was a whirlwind week and I vaguely remember her being there, but it was just really funny when we discovered afterwards that we were at the same training. So let’s talk generally about ads. I think most people listening know what an ad is on social media, but let’s just make a differentiation between like, what are organic posts versus ads? How are they different? 

Steph: So organic — let’s talk in the parameters of like Facebook and Instagram, just to keep it streamlined, moving forward. So for organic, that is really only going to go out to people who follow you. So if I follow Julia on Instagram and she posts something organically, I’m going to see it because I’m her friend.

Now, obviously, somebody else can stumble upon her profile and they can love her content or something like that. But for the most part, it’s going to go out to her followers. People are more likely to engage with organic content because there’s that personal connection. Whereas ads, they look very similar, right? They’ve got the image, they’ve got the copy, everything kind of buttons up the same. However, I get to pay to show it to the people that I want to show it to. So for instance, if I’m posting on my personal social media accounts, my Facebook, my Instagram, only my followers are getting. You know, beyond the normal reach.

And then if I want to put ad dollars behind that post, or if I want to do an advertisement on a specific piece of content, I can choose to show that to dog lovers. I could choose to show that to people who’ve been on my website in the last 90 days. I like to really differentiate that as you know, it’s paying to get the right eyeballs on the content that you want them to see and want them to interact with.

Now, as far as how people can interact with your ads, there’s a million different paths that they can take. We can ask them to visit your website. You can ask them to share that post. You can ask them to buy something from you, download something from you, et cetera. That’s also a pretty key differentiator between paid and organic. Organic, there’s really never a call to, I would say maybe the biggest call to action would be liking or commenting or things like that, but an ad, it gives you the ability to link it over to something else. 

Julia: Yeah. Like where in an organic post, you might be able to use the caption and say a call to action, but with an ad, there’s usually a button that makes it super easy for people to do it. And so we’re going to focus mainly on Instagram and Facebook, but you can run ads on LinkedIn and other platforms as well. 

Steph: You can do ads probably on just about every platform at this point; YouTube, Google ads, TikTok, Taboola, Pinterest…pretty much every app in any social media platform at this point has an advertising platform. But Facebook and Instagram typically are the most profitable because there’s just more people hanging out on Instagram than there are on Tik Tok, sorry, gen Z.

Julia: And maybe people who have more money, too.

Steph: Yeah, exactly.

Julia: So when we think about like how your ads could, well, let’s go back to like targeting. So one of the really cool things that I love about ads is how you can target people. Talk a little bit about that. How would people know what to target?

Steph: Yeah, so that’s kind of the, okay. So as a marketer, I always say it’s great how much we target on Facebook as a consumer. It’s totally, totally creepy. And we all kind of hate it a little bit. So just put your marketer hat on and act like this is all information that you love as opposed to creeped out by. But basically Facebook buys data from blogs. It buys data from other, you know, big platforms that know a lot about us, be it, you know, what our interests are or where we spend our time, where we live, et cetera.

And so Facebook uses that information to create sort of like customer segments. So we can go in and target a variety of interests, whether it’s, you know, somebody who’s into yoga or somebody in the horse back riding, or somebody who is a stay at home mom, somebody who has children ages five to seven. Again, it’s very creepy and I totally acknowledge that, but there is some information that Facebook has just based on our user patterns on Facebook or user patterns on Google, things like that. So as a marketer, what we’re able to do is if we have a business, for instance, that does yoga classes in Austin, Texas, we’re able to geotarget which means geographically target, a certain mile radius around maybe where our studio is, target our age demographics. So for instance, if we know pretty much women, 20 to 35 are our clientele, we can target females 20 to 35 in Austin, Texas who have an interest in yoga. We’re able to get that granular and targeted with it.

Now, obviously you can go as broad as you want. You could target, if you maybe have an online studio, you know, where people can log in on YouTube and watch your yoga class, you could target women in the United States with the same interest in the same age demographic, but it would pull anybody that they find that kind of fits that criteria. So the sky is the limit when it comes to interest targeting. Now, you always do have to kind of keep in mind that Facebook is doing its best, right? Like it knows creepily too much about us, but it still doesn’t have us totally pegged as a person. And so you do need to get a little bit creative outside of just okay, we’re looking for females in Austin who are interested in yoga, but we could target some like tertiary interests. 

So maybe our clientele is interested in yoga and maybe also jogging. So we target people that are interested in jogging because we noticed that there’s typically an overlap between those two target audiences. So there’s a little, there’s some ways you can get really creative with going after your ideal audience. And then, you know, the biggest thing with Facebook ads is just testing it so we can always put our best foot forward thinking, okay, you know, this is my ideal target audience and we’re going to go after them really hard. And what we might find is that targeting people who enjoy jogging and coming at them with an ad more along the lines of, “Stretching out after a long jog” might be more effective than targeting somebody that’s already interested in yoga or things like that. 

So we can target interest-based. We can also target based off of their engagement with us. So for instance, we can target people who have interacted with our Instagram account in the last 180 days, 90 days, 30 days, people who’ve been to our website in the last 30, 90, 180 days, whatever. And, you probably all have been served an ad like this, but like an add to cart reminder. So for instance, if you put that West Elm couch in your cart and then you leave, you might notice that you’re getting some emails and also some ads about that specific couch. And so that is based on targeting because they have a pixel on their website that tracks how people are interacting with their website, and then they’re able to kind of create ads for those specific audiences. So a lot that can happen with targeting and building those audiences, but interest-based targeting is really the most creepy and the most interesting maybe. 

Julia: And in a way, I think it is. I also agree with you, put your marketer hat on. Like it is a really cool and really helpful, or even your business owner hat. Like, hey, you get to reach these people rather than just like the masses. If you put your Facebook or Instagram user hat on, then it feels creepy. But at the same time, there’s something to be said that we’re going to be fed ads that are interesting to us rather than I don’t get any ads for car stuff. And so does that make me, spend more money once in a while? Yes. But at the same time, I’m seeing stuff that interests me. And there is something to be said about that too.

Steph: Totally, I mean I am in the market right now for some dining room chairs and Facebook’s doing all the work for me. Like they’re just sending me ads and it’s really great. I’m like, I actually don’t mind this too much.

Julia: Exactly. And another odd piece of information is Steph and I are both expecting, and I don’t know about you, but I get served baby stuff ads out the wazoo. And some of them, I am like overwhelmed by, but there’s also some that I get that I’m like, oh, that is so helpful! And I did need it. Maybe, I didn’t know where to find it or something like that. 

Steph: I’m surprised at how quickly they picked up on the fact that I’m pregnant. I’m like, what have my user patterns been that you know that I’m expecting a child?

Julia: It is weird that Facebook figures that out. But I also think, I wanted to call out, back to targeting, we had a really interesting one where that we brought Steph on with and she helped us target women who were physicians who are also interested in interior design. And at first we were like, how are we going to target these people? But we found them and our client’s campaign was successful. And we ran them for probably nine months to a year and miraculously kept on finding people and so it does work.

Steph: Yeah! And I think the interesting thing to note on that specific ad account was this woman, basically, she was a physician herself and she was realizing, she’d come home everyday and just wished her house was prettier. She just wished it was more of like a relaxing environment and realized this is a very common problem among other female physicians, because they feel like, okay, I’ve worked a full day, I want to come home to like this beautiful space, but they just don’t have the time and, or the knowledge because they know way more about the human body than any of us do. But maybe you don’t have the knowledge about interior design. And so that’s kind of goes back to that example I was giving earlier about, you know, the yogi that maybe is also a runner, because what you’ll find is that she found that this was an underlying problem with her target demographic. Her target demographic was female physicians, but for the most part, they all kind of had that same core pain. And so we were able to tackle that problem for female physicians through her services, as opposed to trying to like niche in so hard on, you know, this tiny, tiny overlap.  

We were able to realize, okay, you know what? Most email physicians just don’t have time. And so we need to come at it from that angle. You know, you kind of are speaking their problems to them so that when they see that ad, they’re thinking, oh my gosh, you just read my mail. They totally know what they’re talking about. I’m going to sign up for her class. So, yeah, that was an interesting one for sure. 

Julia: Yeah. It was pretty fun. And I think that’s like a really good segue into one of my other questions is how do ads fit into the rest of your marketing? Like clearly, like you have to know like your messaging, because that particular example wouldn’t have if we didn’t understand like the core problem. And you talked a little bit about like building your house and then how do you get people to come to it or like building your website, but what are some ways that you see ads fitting into the rest of your marketing?

Steph: Yeah, so I would pretty much encourage all my clients not to run ads until their website is super, super clear. And that’s really just because it’s kind of a waste. So if you invite all these people over to your house and it’s not done yet, nobody gets to see the house or it’s not clear and they don’t really know what the whole thing is about.

So I recommend Facebook ads or any kind of ads, kind of as like a phase two approach and phase one being your messaging is solid. Your website is clean. You have a sales funnel. You have all of those pieces in place to actually convert somebody. And you’re not just using ads as that sole engine. Really, ads should be used as kind of like pouring gasoline on a little fire that’s already going. Because in and of itself, ads can’t make your website better. Ads can’t make you send emails or anything. There’s only so much ads can do in there. Their goal is to get quality traffic to your product or service. And obviously, I mentioned at the beginning, that looks very different depending on what industry you’re in, but phase one really has to be complete before you can really get into the ad side and that’s both to protect your business and your dollars. And also just to make those, those ads the best possible attempt that they can be because ads are advertisements and you have to pay money to get onto that platform. And so you don’t want to be running ads while you’re changing your website, for instance. 

So I would say that if you have all of those things in place, your website to very clear, you have really detailed call actions, everybody knows exactly what you do when they land on your website, you’re in a good place to start ads. Now, if you’re a service-based industry, you know, a lot of times the route that we take is having a lead generator, like some sort of freebie that you’re giving them, whether that’s, you know, a free webinar or a free download, a checklist, a free quiz, something like that, that we can point that traffic to that then you nurture in an email sequence. Or if you’re e-commerce and you’re just looking for the sale on Facebook. Again, a website plays a massive role in that, because if someone tries to go to your website and it takes 10 seconds to load, they’re going to bounce.

And so it didn’t matter how good that ad is. If your website isn’t correct, they’re going to leave. I would, that’s probably my biggest disclaimers about like when and when not to start ads is like, is everything else maximum efficiency? Okay. Then let’s go ahead and put some gasoline on the fire.

But as far as ads go, they are really an evergreen approach to your marketing. They often act as a way to get steady quality traffic to your website. Like we’ve talked about, you know, you can make sure your target audience is getting to your website as opposed to just kind of sitting back and hoping people are finding it on their own. So we typically see the biggest spike in ad spins around, you know, Q4 of the year, because everybody is running Black Friday sales, holiday sales, Boxing Day sales, all the sales. And so I always recommend if you’re starting out for the first time to kind of wait until January, just because it’s a really noisy time of year in November and December. But other than that, I mean, they’re quite effective. 

Julia: For sure. One of the things that Steph mentioned was a sales funnel. And I think that that’s one way that we have collaborated with her. Like having this lead generation machine for small service-based businesses and Steph will help us run the ads and then we’re doing the emails with the follow-up because that’s one thing that I tell people is, don’t just collect emails. Like you have to have the pieces that you will be following up with. Or else like people aren’t going to necessarily buy immediately, but if you’re not emailing them, then they won’t remember who you are. 

Steph: Totally. Yeah. And I remind people, you know, think about how you interact with ads. You know, like let’s not act like they’re this magic wand you can just wave and your business takes off. Especially if you download something free from a business and then you don’t hear from them for six months when they email you, seemingly out of the blue, you need so much more time to catch up with what they’re doing.

Julia: For sure. And sometimes you have to get served an ad like four or five times. I know, at least when I think about like my own personal habits, I have to be served an ad three or four times before I actually make the purchase because I, and maybe other people are more impulse shoppers than I am and that could totally be true, but I have to think about like, oh, do I actually want that? And sometimes if you do want an ad, here’s a secret if you do want an ad to appear up here again, click on it and it’ll probably appear again.

Sweet. Tell us, I would love to hear from me like a success story that you’ve seen, or maybe a couple of whatever you want to share, but a success story when you’ve seen people use ads well. 

Steph: Yeah. So this is actually really fresh. We’re recording this podcast on December 21st, 2021. So we’re kind of coming out of Black Friday season and going into Christmas, Christmas Crazy, if you will. And so I had a client come to me, probably mid-November so like right before Black Friday. And they were like, “Hey, we just launched!” He was a designer. And he had just launched an online store that was basically putting his designs on like pendants and journals and mugs and things like that.

And he basically had 12 products. And so he was like, we just launched our online store and we really want to do well on black Friday. And I was like, “Oh, my gosh. Okay. You mean the sale that starts in 11 days? Like, okay, cool!” And I told him, I was like, “I don’t know.” like we have not been running any ads to warm up our audience. We’re trying to kick off ads during the craziest time of year when people are spending millions of dollars a day, but like, you want to give it a shot? Like, let’s give it a shot. 

We worked really, really hard and fast at the beginning to do just some like top of the funnel targeting, like trying to find our audience. Because again, typically you want to do that for like a good couple of weeks before you start asking for those sales, as far as e-commerce goes. And so we kind of expedited that process, got some top-of-funnel ads, started prospecting some audiences. And then after about a week, we were ready to launch Black Friday.

And when I say that I was so nervous about this campaign, I mean, I’m just like, I just don’t have any data to go off of, you know?  I can tell you what I expect out of the industry, but like, we don’t know what the conversion rate is on your website. We don’t know if people like your product. We don’t even know if, things are set up properly.

Julia: There was like no flame to put the gasoline on.

Steph: No, like we were using a starter log and I was like, okay, like, here we go! Oh, and the other thing was, he only wanted to spend $250 that weekend. And I think he originally said $100 and I was like, okay, we got, do $250. And I was like, let’s just see what happens. And so we launched his Black Friday sale and it wasn’t anything crazy. It was like, I think 20% off site-wide, you know, with free shipping over $75, like a very standard offer. It wasn’t anything crazy. And we spent $250 over that weekend and we made $1,250 in five days. It was like so exciting. So we like had a really solid row as we were getting crazy purchases. And I was like, shocked. I mean like genuinely I’m like, I mean, obviously I love to see this, but you know, when you don’t have any of that historical data to see, do people even like this stuff, or what are the best sellers or things like that, it was really cool to see that even with $250, you can make over a thousand dollars and also it really it’s strengthened my courage of like, okay, you know what? You don’t need these massive on-ramps to start seeing results from ads. It really can be a matter of two to three weeks, which is absolutely crazy. So now that’s the e-commerce like Black Friday, you know, totally different. 

Julia: And disclaimer, Steph is saying, if you want to do that next year, contact her not 11 days before Black Friday.

Steph: Yeah maybe at least before November 1st, let’s have a plan.

Yeah. So that was, it was awesome, but so that’s kind of like the e-commerce side of things where, you know, people are ample shoppers. Like that totally happens. And then, you know, Julia and I live more kind of in this like service-based world where, you know, people have review courses or they have different podcasts or things like that, where they really are just trying to grow an audience. And it’s a bigger sale, right? It’s like a $2,000 upsell as opposed to like a $20 mug or something. And so we worked on one together that did keto ice cream. And I remember at the beginning we were like, that feels like a really niche thing, you know? Like you’ve gotta like keto and you gotta like ice cream. Well, I guess most people like ice cream. 

Julia: You have to be willing to eat ice cream while on keto.

Steph: Yeah, yeah exactly. You gotta be kinda like loose with it, I guess. And so, and again, with like prospecting those audiences, Facebook is a little bit picky on your interest because it doesn’t want you to be promoting like weight loss supplements and you can’t be promoting like certain categories. And so we were kind of walking the line a little bit, even with… this would quickly fall into the diet supplement or like guaranteeing results or something like that. And so Julia’s team wrote a really awesome lead generator for the keto ice cream and we were getting leads for them at like 50 cents, 49 cents at one point.

And, you know, we were only spending $5 a day, but that meant 10 leads every single day were coming into their email lists and they were able to like, one, launch their product, eventually. I don’t think they’ve launched it quite yet.

Julia: But when they do, they’ll have a ton of emails to launch it to. In the first three months, I think we got them almost a thousand leads, which was super exciting.

Steph: At $150 a month! That’s crazy. 

Julia: Those are a thousand people who are really interested in their product. They don’t even have a shop live. They do have a website live and it’s gorgeous, but they don’t have a shop live because of the production supply issue. But they’re serving their audience with really good content. And when they do launch, there’ll be able to launch really well.

Steph: Yeah, actually a really interesting role in kind of building that list, I mean, I know a couple of years ago it was really popular to like buy email lists and I would just, unsolicited opinion, never do that. Instead, if you’re going to buy an email list, use Facebook ads, because then they’re at least attached to your brand as opposed to finding them in some other place and acquiring some email addresses.

Julia: Also, they’ve joined your email list willingly. Not unwillingly.

Steph: Right! You don’t like getting emails from random people and nobody else does. So I would say if you’re going to go that route, creating a valuable piece of content that you can promote on Facebook to capture those email addresses has proven to be very successful for us. Pretty much every industry.

Julia: We’ve done like a ton of partnerships, like really weird ones too. Like where we have a CPA review course that we found students for. It was hard, but we found some, and we’ve also done, oh, what are some other ones we’ve done? We’ve done the physician’s one like the female physicians who are doctors.

Steph: Yeah, online courses for like interior design, online courses for all kinds of different things where, you know, it’s more of a nurturing process. And so the email address is really important and it allows you to kind of take what would be like a rather expensive ad spend and pull it into your email funnel, as opposed to having to spend thousands of dollars warming people up on Facebook. You capture that email address and then you warm them up over email.

Julia: For sure. And that’s one thing, going back to organic posts. You can’t guarantee that somebody will see it, but you can at least guarantee that the email will get to their inbox. They may not open it, but at least you can guarantee that it’ll get to their email inbox. So just to recap, some of the things that we’ve talked about for those people who are listening to us were like, maybe I should try ads.

We’ve talked about, you gotta have your house in order, get your website up, your sales funnel. Make sure you have email nurtures going out. I would even add like also do some organic social posting. You don’t have to do a ton, but if somebody sees an ad clicks on the profile, and then doesn’t see anything on the profile, I think there’s an assumption that it’s like creepy scammy spam and so nobody’s going to take action on your ad.

Are there other things that you would add for how people would know that if they’re ready for ads? 

Steph: I mean, that’s a really great starting point. And then I think I would just also say, you know, once you kind of have those big boulders in place; like your website is done, your lead campaign, your PDF or your lead generator is done, your sales funnel is done, you know, also realize that not everybody is going to convert off of that sales funnel. I don’t convert off of every sales funnel that I’m in. I would guess that you probably don’t either, Julia, and maybe the listener doesn’t either. And so be prepared that once you start acquiring email addresses, kind of like kickstart your marketing to being more hands-on. And you don’t have to send an email every day. You don’t even have to send an email every week, but every two weeks and the theory behind that, right? It’s like, if they’re staying on your list and to some degree, they’re still interested in hearing from you. 

And so unless they unsubscribe, which I personally don’t take offense to unsubscribes, that just means like, they’re not my audience and they are like checking out. And so I don’t have to wonder if they’re going to purchase from you one day, you know, but I would say that like, it’s not kind of like turning ads on and then it all goes from there. There is a good bit of nurturing that still needs to happen via email. And so I feel like it’s a really, either a really great way to like, like I’ve been saying, pour the gasoline on the fire, but then you still have to tend to that fire. You still have to tend to that audience and you can’t go dark on them. So I would just say maybe that’s the last little piece isbeing totally okay and being ready that like, this is the catalyst that’s going to grow your business and with growth comes, oh, I was gonna say great responsibility but that’s just so cheesy!

Julia: I think ads could help grow your email list, grow your business, but you still have to be in it for the long haul. Like we have had clients who have been really frustrated with both Steph and I, because she’s doing the ads, we’re doing the emails, because people don’t convert immediately. But when, in reality, especially if you’re a service-based business collecting emails, you have to be in it for the long haul, because, I have this particular company that I stay subscribed to for their one-time a year sale, just so that I know when it is! And do I open the rest of their emails? No, but like, I don’t unsubscribe because I’m waiting for that for that once a year sale. And so you just have to have confidence that the people who have joined your email list and stay on your email list are there for a reason. 

Steph: I would say, too, about that is like sending emails are free and that is, you don’t really get to say that much in marketing, you know, most things cost money.

And so as you’re growing your email list, that’s your audience. And so you’re able to give them valuable content, but you’re also gonna ask things and then you can send surveys and figure out what they want to learn more about. You can invite them to join your podcast. You know, that really becomes your audience, that you have to nurture.

And just like anything, if you start nurturing it even for a month or two, you start losing that trust and you have to kind of start all over again. And then, so, yeah, I think, I think that’s a really great point, you know, that it’s kind of game on from there. Like once you start ads, and I would say even the same on the e-commerce side, right? Like it’s so much cheaper to have a repeat customer than it is to go find a brand new customer, warm them up to your business, get them to make their first purchase. But if you never send out emails and you just expect someone to randomly remember who you are and come back and buy something else, it just doesn’t happen.

And so no matter who you are nurturing, whether it’s leads or first-time purchasers or anything like that is so, so important. And I think the ads and email marketing, how they work together is so powerful. And quite honestly, oftentimes overlooked. 

Julia: For sure. Hopefully, for all of you guys listening, this has been helpful. Steph and I could like talk forever about ads. We do it once a week.

Steph: After baby talk! We talk about the babies and how much they’re kicking us!

Julia: Yes, exactly. But if people are interested in ads, how could they reach you, Steph? 

Steph: Yes. So my website is newlight.marketing, no “.com.” Or you can just email me at stephanie@newlight.marketing and we can talk about it. We can figure out what your goals are, figure out what you need to have in place before we start running ads, because oftentimes there is a little bit of a punch list, but wanting to make sure that everything is there so that we give it our best shot moving forward. But we’ve done it for the craziest businesses and so I’m excited to see what comes! 

Julia: With like the shortest runways, apparently. 

Steph: Truly, over the short runway.

Julia: But that’s one thing that I really appreciate about Steph and that’s why at Stratos we partnered with Steph rather than any other ads person is because, there are a lot of ads people out there who will be like, let’s just get started and build the house as we go. But in reality, like your ad money could get wasted if you don’t have some of those things from the get-go. And so, Steph, thanks for joining us. I really appreciate you and everything that you do, but thanks for joining us and sharing your knowledge with our people.

Steph: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It was a great time.

Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. 

If you love our podcast and want to give us a rating or a review, I promise we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us.

Also thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week and I hope you will be, too.