The Secrets of Facebook Ad Targeting – Dr. Ben Adkins
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When running ads for your business, where you target potential customers is just as important as who you target. Search engines like Google generate more direct sales because people searching there generally already know what they’re looking for. Alternatively, with Facebook the key is to impress your potential customers by first getting them to know, like, and trust you.
Too often businesses think if they just send ads out to everyone, then they’re bound to generate some business. But the smarter way is to niche down and target only the most ideal audience for your business. That’s what’s going to help you both stand out and survive.
Rich: Dr. Benjamin Atkins created the Closers CaféBlog & Mastermind when he realized that other local businesses around the globe also need effective marketing. Closers Café is a resource for those who are looking to build their own Facebook ad agency so they can help their own community thrive.
Ben has been a highlighted keynote speaker at conferences all over the country, including ones like Traffic and Conversion Summit, so I’m very excited to have Ben here today with us. Ben, welcome to The Agents of Change.
Ben: Hi Rich, what’s going on? It’s so good to be here.
Rich: So I have to ask, how do you go from being a chiropractor – that’s where you started, right – you were a chiropractor? And then you moved into Facebook ads, what was that path like for you?
Ben: It’s one of those things that started off with wanting to do something with your life and then making a lot of dumb mistakes that led you into having to find a way to fix those dumb mistakes. I started off and I had this practice that I opened, and you take out loans to make sure that you’ve got enough money to live when you first start the business. And what I did was I took out loans for staff, me, for all the things that were in the office, and then you sort of get to the end of what you budgeted and you wake up and realize, “Crap, I didn’t really add into the budget what I needed to do for marketing.”
So I looked up but had not even close to enough money to do what I wanted to do like on newspapers or billboards, things like that. So I had to start getting creative. And the cool part was there was this little thing called Facebook which wasn’t exactly new at that point, but this was starting to take hold I guess in the normal people world. It was really big in colleges and things like that, but they had just really started to open it up to all of us.
I started getting on there and I started asking what’s available and what can I do. And then we started see that they’ve got ads, and the way that they did ads I noticed very quickly – like all of us that are into digital marketing – I noticed pretty quickly that these particular types of ads were much different than anything I’d ever seen before. So it started off as just sort of this weird fascination and coupled with this crippling need to get in front of people and to do it in a way that I didn’t have to spend as much money as I did on the traditional stuff.
Rich: So what were some of the early ads that you were running? How did you first grab people’s attention, and has it changed over the years?
Ben: It’s funny. What I first did of course – just like everybody else did and it didn’t work at all – I got into this at first and I was making these really boring ads that were about, “Hey, come in if you’re hurt or your neck is bothering you or you’ve got a headache”, things like that. Just stuff that didn’t really make me stand out at all. And what actually started working really well was when I started talking about my life and what I was doing on a daily basis and giving people a peek into that. And it was funny, the less I talked about chiropractic in my ad, the more people came through the door.
And for anybody listening wondering why I’d run an ad for my business that didn’t talk about my business, what I started to realize very quickly after I ran a lot of stinkers was that people were more interested in the person behind the business at first. Because on Facebook people aren’t there to get advice on what business they should use, at least in the beginning. They’re definitely smarter now.
So what I started doing is I’d go out to eat somewhere and – I know this sounds funny & please don’t post what you eat – but that’s what I was doing. I would just post something that would almost look like an ad for a restaurant. And I would post that up and put a little ad money behind that so it would show up in all these people’s feeds, and I started to do this pretty consistently. And what was really funny is people started identifying with that because all the businesses in town that I would show up at, all the things that I would do in the community, I put an ad behind them, and so people started to feel like they really knew me even though they never met me in person. So I became sort of this local celebrity that was just known to be everywhere and people gravitated towards that.
So it was funny. They kind of felt like they knew me. Once they had someone that needed what I was offering or they needed what I was offering, I became like the instant referral because they felt really close to me and they trusted me. So it was one of those early lessons for me that being business all the time doesn’t work really well. Showing people who you are causes them to do business with you. And so that worked well.
Rich: So you definitely put all your eggs in the “know, like, and trust” basket then.
Ben: Well, yeah. Because I failed on my face on the other side.
Rich: I’m not saying you were some marketing genius, I’m just saying that you found this thing and it worked for you. I’m sure the other businesses must have been pretty surprised and psyched when all of a sudden they were like, “Wait a second, I don’t remember advertising on Facebook”, and they realize somebody is just talking about what a great time they had at their restaurant.
Rich: So how big is your community? Because I notice you mentioned “community” a couple times. So are you living in a small town, are you in New York City? What is that like to say that you got to be known around town?
Ben: Sure. I started off in this community that is a tight community. It started out, the actual community was about 40,000 people, not huge at all. But the interesting thing about this particular community is they pulled people from a lot of little tiny communities and so the actual community with all the towns combined- because this was the center – was about 100,000 people.
The bad part about it was I had a lot of competition that I was up against and there was really no reason that I should have had any business in that town because there was so much competition. But that’s sort of the thing that made me stick out was that whole “know, like, and trust” thing. So it worked out really well and there was a lot of people that came from all these little towns and it worked out well.
Rich: So let me ask you, did your chiropractic practice have your name in front of it? Because of course I’m always saying to myself, “I wonder if that would work for me?” But I don’t know. I have Agents of Change and flyte new media as my brands, compared to Rich Brooks’ Digital Agency. So did your name come up in your brand automatically?
Ben: Yeah, that’s a good question. My chiropractic office was Atkins Chiropractic. Even for a while I thought maybe that’s the reason that this sort of “celebrity branding” thing works so well. And then I started getting hired by all these other businesses that weren’t like that, they actually had a straight brand, and we started actually doing some of the same things. We always found the centerpiece person of the business – and it wasn’t always the owner, it wasn’t always the doctor – sometimes it was the front desk person that just happened to have that kind of personality.
But we started figuring out ways with all the businesses that ask us for help. Because once you start doing something like that people notice. We started noticing that once we found that person and we taught them to do a couple things like I was doing, that it worked in just about any kind of business, even if it was not branding behind that person’s name.
Rich: Alright, so that’s good to know. Because obviously that would be a very small niche if it only worked if you named a company after yourself.
Rich: So before we get into you working with other people, I want to talk a little bit about…well because we’ve talked about community, we’ve talked about local, so how are you targeting the audience? What were some of the parameters that you used to take this ad and get it in front of the right people?
Ben: I think that’s absolutely the most important part. I think that’s what a lot of people miss especially at the local level is they just target anybody and everybody that could possibly be one of their folks. And pretty quickly we learned we’re going to have to niche down to survive and to stand out. So what I did was I had this very interesting case study and I had no niching down and we were getting people coming through the door.
But what I did very religiously is every week I would look and see who was coming in and who was kind of my best people, who were the ones that were referring the most people. It happened to be females between the ages of typically 35-40. And that was sort of our core market. Not just our core market that was coming in, our core market that was referring all of their family. Those were the people that were singing me form the rooftops. And so really quickly our ads go from being more kind of spread out and shot gunning, to going exactly at that group of people.
And what’s so funny is once we started going exactly after that group of people, that’s where we started to really explode. So yeah, we very much niched down in the local level, our town, this zip code and surrounding zip codes we’re going to target, the exact person, do they have kids. Those are the things that we got really in depth on. And it’s like every time we added a layer of specificity to that – because we were learning along the way and split testing live – we started getting more and more and more, and it just started to scale from there.
Rich: Alright, so it definitely sounds like your advertising got more niched and more effective the longer you were at it, because you were also paying attention to real world criteria and not just what Facebook was feeding back to you.
Ben: Yeah. It’s funny, on the agency side later on I started to really pick up on how we grew so fast versus why some of our clients – in the beginning anyway – were taking so long. It’s because we weren’t getting that kind of feedback back from the office right away. And I think that is such a key thing if you’re running an agency and you’re helping businesses, is it’s got to be a team effort ad you have to talk especially to the person that answers the phones and runs the front desk for any of these places that you work with. They have to be telling you this is what’s coming through the door, this is what our week looks like, this was the type of person that’s coming in. And your ads have to sort of grow with that. Otherwise you start to really kind of die out with what you’re doing and it becomes less effective over time.
Rich: So what kinds of questions are you asking these clients who are doing their own Facebook ads? Like from the agency standpoint when you’re talking to your clients they’re talking to their customers. Like, what kind of questions are you asking them? Are you just saying, “Give me the description of everyone who walks in the door”, or “Are you seeing any emerging trends, like are you starting to get younger people, older people, people who play guitar?” How does that all look?
Ben: I focus in on a few layers. With certain businesses you always know where to start now, if you’ve been doing it for a while. So like chiropractors, because of the style – and doctors and dentists fit into this – it’s always sort of that females between 25-40. That’s always our start because just the way those businesses work.
But once you start asking the folks that are in the business who are your rock stars. There’s always the 80/20 rule, there’s always that 20% that just refers like crazy and they tell everybody they know and they’re singing it from the rooftop. And that’s why one of our main questions is if everybody that came in this last week or last month, if you could take 3 of them and multiply them and hat be your entire patient population, what do those patients look like?
Rich: Oh, what a great question.
Ben: And once we actually get them to answer that and break it down, that’s when the ad stuff really starts to take off because then we can really focus our ads on creatives and offers that we put out there. And even the stuff that we’re putting out there that has nothing to do with, “Hey, come in now!”, that’s the kind of stuff that once we start getting it to appeal to that group it’s just aimed that way and it’s beautiful.
Rich: Alright, so that makes a lot of sense to me. How are you figuring out the creative side of things? In other words, what kinds of ads based on this audience are you doing or does that even figure into it? And then I guess also to just add a layer of that, what kind of ads do you find most effective? Is it a single image, is it a carousel, is it video, what’s working for you these days?
Ben: It depends who you’re working with to start because they have to play ball, right. Now if I’m going to give you what my ideal client- let’s say I’m working with a chiropractor or a dentist – my ideal client, if I can get them to put together a 1-5 minute video teaching that particular audience that we’ve really niched down now, if I can get them to out together a video that actually educates them on something that they don’t have to come into the office for that can actually solve a problem, I love doing those. I think that those are some of the most effective ads out there for a couple of reasons.
Number one, when you do a video you can actually – most people know this at this point – but you can actually build a custom audience based on how long someone watches the video. So let’s say that I get a chiropractor to cut a video, even if it’s not a video of them teaching something that they do in the office, but even if it’s a video of them doing something in the community. A lot of times we have chiropractors we work with that are part of the Lions Club or Rotary, and we’ll get them talking about a project to promote that project. So something as silly as promoting a community project, and we can retarget people based on how long they watched that video. When we get somebody that watches 75% of a video we put them into a custom audience and then we put a really pointed offer in front of them. That’s when things shoot through the roof because we know we’ve already got that “know, like, and trust” established.
So if I was to pick out my perfect client, the one that we can really blow up quickly, it’s when we can do those kinds of videos. And then you can get back into, “Hey, can you do an educational video on how to get rid of a certain posture at work or get rid of headaches?” Once we get into that and we start targeting people that watched all the way through the video or 75% of it, things just sort of blow up.
Rich: That’s very impressive. And of course while I’m listening to you I’m also thinking of all the things I could do for flyte or Agents of Change along those sort of things. So when you’re doing the video ads there’s obviously the first one that is maybe targeting a cold – although targeted – audience.
Rich: It might be a, “Here’s how to sit up straight at work” kind of a thing. Are you trying to get them to take an action at that point, or is the goal just to get them to watch a certain percentage? Now this is somebody who worries about their posture or this is somebody who worries about their back problems, now I’ll send them other stuff. Or are you ready to just make your call to action that says, “Hey, we’ve got plenty more helpful ideas at our website”, or, “If you’re really worried about this come in and book a time and I’ll give you a free consult”. What are you thinking about that first iteration of videos to warm an audience?
Ben: If you’d have asked me this 3-4 years ago I would have said always call to action, do something that makes you money. But after looking at the stats over a long period of time and looking at the way people interact, the way people either believe you or they don’t, I think that it is absolutely huge that you have content out there where you’re not calling people to action to come into your office and come into your business. I think it’s key that a ton of your content goes out there. The call to action at the end is simply something of, “Go do this right now and after three days let me know how it went for you in the comments below. Or, “If you’ve got a friend that’s suffering from a headache, share this video with them, it’s going to help them in a big way.” That becomes the call to action.
I think that so many people call people to action to do something that’s beneficial to actually them in the business, they actually lose their credibility when they do that so it comes off as more of an ad. And we don’t want that. I sort of subscribe to what Gary V. (Vaynerchuk) says at this point, you gotta really throw those jabs before you throw the right hook. And the right hook becomes extremely effective just because you threw the jabs. And that just means be completely ok with putting out good educational content, especially on Facebook, that solves a problem. Because people remember people that solved their problems and they do business with them very quickly after.
Rich: I completely agree, although there’s this part of me that says, “Remember the good old days when you could just create mediocre content and people would flock to it and you didn’t have to put any money behind it?” Now I have to create really good videos and pay people to go watch them.
Ben: Yeah. And that’s the thing, just because as technology gets easier and easier to use that there’s more competition and you have to continually do things to stand out. The beautiful part is giving great value and problem solving techniques is absolutely never going to go out of style. So that’s what I love about it is all the things that I’ve always done that have been problem solving things, if I ran those ads 5 years ago, I could literally run those ads today and they still work so well. It’s the tricks that start to die out, right?
Rich: Right. As people just get used to seeing the same thing, I think they just build up a tolerance for them. So besides the fact that maybe people are going for the sale too quickly, what are some of the other mistakes that you’re seeing businesses out there do when it comes to Facebook ads?
Ben: I think the big one – and I think if you have an agency this is the most important if you actually own a business and you’re running your own ads – is when the phone actually rings initially when you first start running ads, it becomes an annoyance to the person answering the phone. Because in any campaign when you first start, you’re just busy trying to dial it in and get right the first month or two. And I have seen so many campaigns get destroyed by difficult and bad feedback from the person that’s answering the phone. I’ve seen so many get killed by that when the campaign was actually working and we were just building into it.
I think it’s so key that if you’re running something for a business or you’re running your own ads, that you really make the person that’s running the front desk or answering the phones for you an integral part and understand that this is not going to be great in the beginning. You are a part of how we’re going to make this great and I think too many people threw up their ads because there is a hole in their funnel and it’s typically the person that’s answering the phone because they’re not adequately prepared. It’s not just their fault, somebody didn’t give them what they needed to be successful.
Rich: So some of the things you said today made me realize that so often you think about Facebook ads as just being something that takes place on Facebook, but really that’s just one small part of the funnel.
Rich: That we’ve got to get our front line people aware of what’s going on and involved and we’ve got to get buy-in from them. We’ve also got to be – whether we’re the owner of the business or and agency – we’ve got to be talking to those people and continually getting better information about who’s coming in and who are those champions that are really going to help grow their business as well. What other advice do you have when it comes to creating really effective funnels where Facebook ads are a part of it?
Ben: I think the key is always have your end in mind and always be really aware of all of the steps in the funnel where there could be problems. As I was saying, most of these local funnels are very lopsided and most of the funnel takes place offline. And I don’t think a lot of people think that they run a Facebook ad the phone doesn’t start ringing – or the phone does start ringing – and they don’t get what they want right away, and it’s always because they didn’t trace back to what they really want.
So with most of the dental clients we work with, for instance, we’re just trying to help them get people through the door, you’d think. Right? Well, no. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to find that person that’s going to spend $5,000-$8,000 this year on cosmetic stuff. What is the end goal and what are all the things that have to happen. I’m definitely not advertising a lot of cosmetic dentistry stuff on Facebook. Maybe on Google but not on Facebook.
But what I can do is I can target the kind of people that would be perfect for that kind of thing, and then I can put an offer in front of them that would be super easy for them to take. But it’s not one that they’re going to have to spend a lot of money. It’s usually going to be a teeth whitening or something that is very much down their alley.
For instance, we would target teeth whitening to somebody that perhaps was just getting a divorce, or just getting ready to get married. Something that would put them in a place to where a free offer for teeth whitening, but is going to set up our office to put the kind of questions in front of them when they’re in that teeth whitening, that we can start to identify someone that might be a $5,000-$10,000 cosmetic dentistry person.
Rich: That’s an interesting point for sure. So there are these triggers that people have I their lives, and if you can help identify some of those you might be already well along your way of creating these successful funnels.
Ben: Absolutely. And once again, niche down but know all the steps in the funnel to get to where you actually want to go.
Rich: Now when you talked about some of the high end dentistry work, you said you might throw money behind Google ads but you wouldn’t do it on Facebook ads. Give me your logic behind that statement.
Ben: Sure. Well when you’re on Facebook you’re there to hang out, check up on your friends, you’re not typically there to search out a problem. When you’re on Google that’s all you’re doing. You’re trying to solve a problem and trying to solve it fast. So if you look in the mirror and you say this is getting bad with your teeth, you’re going to go to Google first to actually search out who’s a good dentist that does this kind of thing.
So putting something that’s very direct to the big thing that you want to do absolutely works on Google. On Facebook you’ve got to be a little more structured because you can filter those people out if you’re a little creative, but you’ve got to walk through more of a funnel. The cool thing is a lot of times we use Facebook to put things in front of people that they may not realize they needed yet. We can start putting some very interesting clues that lead them down a path that really gets them to raise a hand and say, “You know what, that IS me! I do want a brighter smile.” And so you have to be a little more step-oriented and take them by the hand and walk them. On Facebook and Google they’re just going directly to say, “I need help with this.”
Rich: I totally understand that. That makes a lot of sense, I appreciate that. I know that a lot of people are going to want to learn more about you, learn more about your Closer’s Café, where can we find you online?
Ben: Sure. So I have this place that’s basically a diary of all the things that have worked as we’ve gone through our agency. You can go to closerscafe.comand you can pretty much read about all the things that have worked, all the things our friends are doing this stuff with us that worked, and we try to keep that pretty updated. You can pretty much just go and spy on all the stuff that’s working for us there.
Rich: Awesome. Ben this has been great, thank you so much for your time and expertise today.
Ben: Thank you so much.
Ben Atkins is a master when it comes to the Facebook ads game. His strategies for niching down to find those rockstar prospects and clients, have helped businesses grow exponentially. Make sure to check out his blog where he shares his mistakes & successes in with Facebook ads, so that you can reach the same success.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he has added “author” to his resume with his book!