If you're running paid ads, you've probably experienced "ad sweats". You know, that feeling when you've been hemorrhaging money on Google ads for a week, refreshing your analytics or subscriber pool to see if it's actually getting you any money.

We've all been there.

The fact is, advertising on social channels is getting harder every year. It's no longer a simple case of throwing up some adwords and watching the money flow in. If you're a small business owner, this is doubly so.

Luckily, there's usually just a few clean things you can fix that'll help your campaign hum along better and do what it's ultimately supposed to do: bring you customers.

1. You're not tracking (the right things)

The biggest mistake most people make is one of 2 things: they're not using any analytics, or they're tracking the wrong things.

First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way: you need to be tracking everything.

Google Analytics isn't enough anymore. Those are the basic requirements, on top of which you need to know much, much more. Your competitors are watching every move their visitors are making - where they're coming from, who they are, exactly what they're doing on their website.

If all you know is vague details on how many people are showing up and from what channels, how can you possible expect to compete?

At the same time, it's easy to fall into the trap of track-everything-itis. This is the disease of numbers, where once people start tracking, they track everything. The problem with too many numbers is that it becomes impossible to separate the signal from the noise and you end up spending hours gushing over statistics that are meaningless.

To know what to track, your goal should be to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are your customers? Consider tools like MadKudu, ClearBit and Baremetrics to help answer these questions.
  2. What are they doing on your website that lead to a succesful conversion event (sale, email submission, etc.)
  3. What are they doing on your website that lead to a negative event (not buying, churning on a subscription, requesting refund)
  4. Where are they coming from?

These are the 4 questions you need to answer before you can expect any kind of real ROI from advertising spend. Unless you know who your ideal customers are and where they hang out, how can you possible affordably advertise to them?

Heap Analytics, Amplitude & Mixpanel are all tools that will help you do this. I get it: it can be tricky to jump in, and the tools look big and complicated. But I promise you they'll pay dividends.

2. You're not using video

Video ads consistently deliver the highest ROI in digital advertising, with average click-through-rates pushing 2%. Yet, surprisingly, few if any people are really investing in them.

This, of course, makes some sense since video takes a great deal more effort to put together.

That's where Shakr comes in.

Shakr has libraries of stock videos that you can use in your own ads which have been proven to perform. It's a great way to tap into the crowd's knowledge and pick out videos that are guaranteed to convert, especially as a small business that's looking to find some quick wins.

Don't overdo it though: as with all things, diversification is key.

3. You aren't testing your ads

People who are new to the ad game think that the difference between them and seasoned advertisers is coming up with catchy headlines that convert.

This is false.

The fact is, the age of the brilliant Mad Men style ad exec sitting in their penthouse loft throwing out wonky catch phrases is long gone. Marketing is far more methodical now, and the best marketers aren't the ones coming up with brilliant copy: it's the ones who have mastered experimentation.

Advertising is an optimization game. It's the law of natural selection: you create 2 ads run them both side by side, the best one wins. Rinse and repeat. If you do this over and over and over again you'll slowly build brilliant, high-performing ads regardless of your copywriting chops.

You can also trust someone like ContentFly to come up with some slick ad copy.

4. Your audience selection sucks

OK, this is the hardest one to fix and it happens to everyone. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be doing everything you can to fix it though. The biggest factor in getting your ads to perform well is making sure that you're advertising to the right people.

A few tips to solve this:

  1. As we mentioned earlier, ensure your data analytics is on point and dive down to figure out exactly who your ideal customer is. Who are they, what do they like, what halo brands do they follow? (More on this soon)
  2. Figure out halo brands (hey, look at that). Halo brands are brands who aren't competing with you, but who you share a similar customer base with. For instance, ContentFly's customers are also likely to use Social Media planning tools - so we target our advertising often towards people who follow tools like Buffer, or HootSuite on Facebook.
  3. Use your existing customers as a lookalike. If you have a customer base or an email list of people who have bought from you at some point, assuming it's relatively sizeable (500+ is a good place to start), you can create lookalike audiences in FB and LinkedIn to target people who are similar to your list.

5. You don't have a clean funnel

When creating an ad, think about what the customer journey is for people looking at that ad. Imagine a billboard of a succesful restaurant - the billboard probably says something like "Take exit 456".

So, you take exit 456, see the restaurant, and walk inside.

Now, what happens when you walk inside? Do you have to rifle through multiple menus? Do you have to ask what kind of food they serve? Do you have to figure out where to sit, and dig around for different pricing?

No, you usually just go in, sit down, look at a menu, order food, pay for it, and then leave.

On the web, that same journey takes place in your funnel. What happens when a user clicks the ad? Are they sent into a wonderfully targeted landing page with clear call-to-actions, or just some generic homepage with a million different links? Are you making it easy for customers who have shown intent to buy to get to purchase, or are you confusing them with TMI and an unclear flow?

Again, the issues around your ads may not be the ads themselves - it might be the journey you're sending these visitors. You need to tighten up your funnel and make sure that your customers can glide as frictionlessly as possible - that they can figure out all the information they need, and when ready to purchase, do it as easily as possible.

6. You're being impatient

Look, the toughest part of advertising - particularly small business advertising - is playing the waiting game. Ultimately, no campaign is going to be ROI+ right from the beginning. It takes a while to get enough data to start making proper, statistically significant decisions.

The worst thing people do is run an ad for a few days, decide it's not working, and change it up. Be patient, allocate a responsible budget, and let that budget work.

Even if your ad is complete garbage, your ad platform will eventually optimize it to be not-so-complete-garbage. As long as you've got a solid website with a good funnel, and are following the previous steps I've outlined, the last step is easily the most grueling one: be patient.

That's all. Good luck.