How to Sharpen Your Marketing Message by Creating Personas

We see and hear as many as 5,000 marketing and advertisement messages a day. From what we read in magazines to what we hear on the radio, we are bombarded with advertisements. But how many of those do you think we pay attention to? Probably very few. We’re so overwhelmed with marketing messages we tune most of them out.

How Personas Get Your Message Heard

Unfortunately, the large majority of your marketing messages get tuned out too.

To cut through this message clutter and reach your prospective customers, you need to create marketing personas. “Personas” may sound odd if you’ve never heard about them, but they’re easy and fun to create.

A persona is a thorough and detailed description of your ideal buyer or customer. Personas tell the story of your customers’ behaviors, needs, and concerns. They help you understand your prospects better so you can speak to them clearly and directly in your advertising messages.

While creating personas might seem like an unnecessary step, the work is invaluable. Without them, your marketing messages will be less effective at cutting through the clutter, and less effective means fewer new members at a higher cost to acquire them.

So now that you know why you need personas, you’re probably starting to wonder how to create them. Well, just read on.

Steps For Creating Personas

Do Research

Your goal is to thoroughly understand your prospective customers. To do this, you need to do some research. You can conduct interviews with your customers, send surveys to your community, or talk to people in your network.

Go into the research process methodically and with an open mind. It’s easy to think you know your people, but you’ll be a bit surprised with what else you can learn. You should also start with a set of basic questions or a template for what you want to find out. But be sure to ask open-ended questions to generate conversations.

Here are some common things you’ll want to find out:

  • Personal details like age, gender, goals, motivation, challenges, education, spouses/children
  • Professional or career background, skills needed for their work, approximate household income (if willing to share)
  • Where and how they like to find information (ex: social media, books, magazines, the news, etc.)
  • Where and how they like to shop, and where they buy nutrition items and supplements
  • Things specific to your business (ex: what programs they like, how far would they drive to get to you, ideal hours of operation, etc.)
  • Why (and how) they were attracted to your business.

Identify the Traits of Your Ideal Customer

Now you’ll need to take the information you collected and start to make sense of it. You’ll want to look for patterns and common characteristics to tell the story, or stories, of your prospects and members.

For instance, do you have a customer base that’s mostly female and professionally-minded? Or is your community young men who are family-focused? Try to find the commonalities in the stories you’ve collected. It’s normal to have a couple of different stories emerge, and you can have as many personas as you need to account for the generalities in your community.

Document Your Persona(s)

Here’s where you can be creative. There’s no right way to document your personas. You can use poster board, PowerPoint, a whiteboard, or any other medium that captures the nuances of your personas. Some people like to name their personas so they are easy to remember, and assigning an image to your persona is also helpful. You will want to keep and use your personas for the foreseeable future, so be sure they will be savable.

After you’ve created your personas, share them with your team. Ask for their feedback on what you’ve created. Your team will have ideas to help you refine your personas. 

Using Your Personas to Reach Prospects

Now it’s time to be heard above all the marketing noise, or cut through it with a well-sharpened knife, if you will. You can use your personas to create targeted advertisements and marketing messages, using words and ideas that will resonate with your ideal prospect. For instance, let’s use the examples we gave above.

An advertisement for working professional females building their career will differ significantly from an advertisement for ex-corporate, entrepreneurial males.  Not only will the words you’d want to use be different, but the colors, images, and the main point of your message will be as well. Your personas will also give you insight for promotions and seasonal attendance drivers, as well as clarity on where to post your advertisements. 

Another thing that makes personas helpful is the ability to address a person’s reasons for wanting your product, or conversely, not wanting your product. If you speak to these issues in your marketing messages, they will be compelling and powerful.

Personas Are a Powerful (And Necessary) Tool

Personas must be a part of your marketing strategy, and they’re essential for building a strong brand. They will make your marketing messages targeted, specific, and effective for your intended audience. Although they take a little time to create, they are invaluable and will help you grow your business.

The post was originally published on Causely, where I was co-founder and CMO.

6 Reasons The Facebook Ad Platform Is Really Just A Terminator

If I said that the Facebook ad platform is the most powerful ad network in the world, it might sound a little crazy. It also happens to be true. Do you know why?

It’s because the Facebook ad platform is actually an experimental software-only version of Skynet’s artificially intelligent autonomous war machines, also known as Terminators. Here are the six pieces of evidence that prove it :).

Read more6 Reasons The Facebook Ad Platform Is Really Just A Terminator

Facebook Campaign Objectives: Here’s How To Choose

Understanding Facebook campaign objectives is a bit like buying a vehicle: you know that they all basically do the same thing, but picking the wrong one can lead to misery and frustration.

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t do much to illustrate the differences between each of objective. Here’s an example. The help text for the “Increase engagement in your app” objective reads, “Use the app engagement objective to increase engagement in your app.” Wow.

To make picking the right Facebook campaign objectives easier (and far more entertaining), I’ve matched each Facebook advertising objective with its vehicle counterpart. If only buying a real car were this simple.

Read moreFacebook Campaign Objectives: Here’s How To Choose

Facebook Ads Not Working? Fix Them Now

When I was a kid, there was a sure-fire way of getting Super Mario Bros. to work on NES when the game wouldn’t load: take out the cartridge, blow into the end with all the electronic bits, and retry. Nine times out of ten you’d be back in business. Unfortunately, Facebook ads are often just as finicky. Except that blowing on your computer screen won’t get you very far. That’s why I wrote this guide: to give you a 14-step guide to fix things when your Facebook ads not working. After all, if you’re dependent on Facebook for growth, nothing with destroy your marketing strategy faster than ineffective campaigns.

Tip #1: Double Check Everything

If you notice your Facebook ads not working, it might be that they are configured incorrectly.
So many buttons, so many things to go wrong. Facebook ads aren’t much different.

Remember when you called your Internet provider because you couldn’t get House of Cards to play on Netflix? And they told you to first check if your cable modem was plugged in? This is that step. Except it’s more like piloting the Apollo space capsule: there are a thousand switches to check, and if you bump the wrong one, bad things happen.

If you’ve made any of the mistakes below, you’ll soon see your Facebook ads not working:

  • Used the wrong URL for your ad’s target destination
  • Forgot to add your Facebook tracking pixel to your landing pages
  • Didn’t set the right objective for Facebook to optimize on
  • Left a campaign, ad set, or ad set to “OFF
  • Sent traffic to a landing page you haven’t published
  • Used an expired credit card to pay for your ads
  • Hit a budget limit on our account or a campaign
  • Pre-pay for a full tank of gas at $5.63/gallon when renting your Kia Forte from Hertz

Check these first before diving into the more difficult fixes below.

Tip #2: Pick The Right Objective

Right now, Facebook offers over a dozen campaign objectives to choose from. That makes things complicated. Heck, ordering from McDonalds feels like taking a multiple-choice test from a sadistic 3rd-grade teacher, and they only have nine Extra Value Meals to pick from.

Facebook ads not working? Start by picking the right objective.
Facebook ads not working? Start by picking the right objective.

If you’re unsure of what objective to pick, Clicks To Website is probably your safest best. When you’ve got the basics figured out, consider moving to Website Conversions. This will allow Facebook to send traffic to people it thinks are most likely to take a certain action on your site. Like downloading your latest ebook, The Beginner’s Guide To McDonald’s Extra Value Meals: What To Choose, How To Eat, And Best Places To Get Sick After Consumption.

One word of caution when using Website Conversions…

If you aren’t getting at least five conversions a day, Facebook will consider your campaign unsuccessful. Facebook will then stop running your campaign “to keep you from wasting money.” You won’t find this listed anywhere in Facebook’s help articles, but I can confirm this both from personal experience and conversations with Facebook support.

Tip #3: Check Placement (Don’t Use Audience Network)

If you see your Facebook ads not working, it could be because of placement.
Facebook ad placement is one of the most important aspects of campaign performance.

Facebook offers four ad placements: Desktop News Feed, Mobile News Feed, Desktop Right Hand, and Audience Network (aka the 5th Circle of Hell).

What is this Audience Network? It’s a smorgasbord of ad placements on external sites and within mobile apps. It also includes ads placed within Facebook’s Instant Articles.

The problem with Facebook Audience Network ads is they offer a very poor user experience since the ad layouts vary greatly. You also are subject to the “fat finger” problem, where users inadvertently click on an ad when navigating on their phone.

You’d think that Facebook would simply show your ads on the best-performing placements, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, when I wasn’t paying attention, I’ve seen Facebook spend nearly all of my budget on Audience Network.

So to be safe, turn off Audience Network placements. Completely.

Outside of Audience Network, your mileage may vary among the other placements. If you see one that’s under-performing, take a look at how your ads are presented. Maybe your creative doesn’t work well in small sizes. Maybe your headlines are too long for mobile. Whatever the case, either turn off an under-performing placement or revise your copy and creative to make sure it presents well in all formats.

Tip #4: Get The Right Audience

The best ad in the world won’t convert if it’s delivered to the wrong audience. And you’d be surprised at how very similar Facebook audiences can perform quite differently.

Try testing different versions of your target audience if you find your Facebook ads not working, and see which works best. Here’s an example of how to create three different audiences:

  • Build your first audience using Facebook Likes and Interests. Try to find things that only people in your audience would have an interest in.
  • Create a based on Facebook’s Behaviors options. Dig deep into the choices Facebook offers. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
  • Finally, try a “Lookalike” audience of your existing customers or leads.
Facebook's behaviors tool offers some interesting ways of targeting people.
There are 156 million people interested in computer servers?!

Next, take a look at the audience size relative to your budget if you find you Facebook ads not working. You may have created the “perfect” audience. But if it’s made up of only 35,000 people and your budget is $500/day, you’ll wear out that audience in just a few days.

Tip #5: Check Your Relevance Score

Creating a good user experience is a big focus for Facebook. That means they don’t want ads that are spammy, annoying, or well, irrelevant.

That’s why you need to pay close attention to Facebook’s Relevance Score. A high relevance score of say, and 8 or 9, means you’re doing it right. A low score means your audience and your message are never, ever getting past a first date. 5 or 6 is about middle ground.

Remember that Facebook Relevance Scores can change over time. If you’ve found a winner – great! Just keep an eye on it – if relevance declines, it may be time to shut things off and move on to a new ad.

Tip #6: Don’t Compete Against Yourself

Facebook ads not working? Make sure you don't have competing objectives.
Your Facebook ad campaigns can compete against each other when they target the same audience.

Seriously, this is a thing you can actually do with Facebook ads.

It happens when you have more than one campaign targeting the same audience. When that occurs, Facebook gets… well, confused. And when Facebook gets confused, it will either stop delivering your ads or it will charge you more than it should. Either scenario is bad.

Thankfully, Facebook has a Compare Audience Overlap feature. Just select two or more audiences and you can see how distinct they are. As a rule of thumb, anything with more than a 50% overlap is probably going to cause you problems. If the overlap is between 25-50%, you’re still probably OK, as long as the audience size is large enough.

Tip #7: Be Patient

Here’s the real challenge when you see your Facebook ads not working: your fixes don’t work right away. Here’s an example:

I recently set up a campaign for website conversions. I was willing to pay up to $20 per conversion, a number I’d consistently hit before.

But did my first conversion magically come through once I had spent $20? Nope. How about $50? $75? Keep going. The first conversion didn’t happen until I had spent nearly $100. But a short while later, I got my second, bringing the average cost per conversion down to about $80. A third brought the average down again, to about $60. And so on.

Once I gave Facebook some time to optimize, everything fell in order, and I got plenty conversions well under my target. #epicwin

The lesson: don’t make changes until you’ve given Facebook plenty of time to optimize.

Facebook ads not working? This is what an optimized campaign looks like.
Facebook can take a few days to optimize, but when it does, it works!

Tip #8: Evaluate Your Landing Pages

If you find your Facebook ads not working, you can just look at the ad itself; you have to look at the entire user experience. Sometimes your ads are just fine, but your landing pages are sucking you dry. How do you know? If you answer “No to any questions below, you still need to work on your ads. All “Yes” responses and you can safely move on to your landing pages:

  • Is your Cost Per Click (Link) healthy? Don’t get confused by regular ol’ Cost Per Click, as that includes any click on your ad, not just those that go to your landing page.
  • Is your Click-Through Rate (Link) above 0.5%? That’s just rough target, but if you’re seeing numbers below this, you probably need to make some changes to your ads or your audience.
  • Is Frequency below 5? Frequency is the number of times people have seen your ad. If your audience has seen your ad at least five times already and they still haven’t responded, they’re not about to start now.
  • Is your Relevance Score a 5 or above? Anything less and Facebook thinks that your ads are not very pertinent to your audience.
  • Do you have enough data? Don’t assume things aren’t working if you only have a few clicks or a few hundred impressions.

However, if you are getting clicks to your landing pages at a decent cost (aren’t you proud of yourself?), then check out Unbounce’s The Most Entertaining Guide To Landing Page Optimization. You’re welcome.

Tip #9: Understand Who You’re Talking To

If you don’t know what’s important to your audience, good luck getting them to click anything. Here’s the good news: if you aren’t sure which of your product’s benefits will resonate, you can test. Here’s how:

  1. Start by creating a persona of the person you’re trying to target (let’s call him Greg). Click here for a handy resource on creating personas.
  2. With this vivid picture of Greg in mind, identify 5-6 benefits your product can provide that will help him. Does he want to save money? Sleep better? Collect every Star Wars action figure ever produced?
  3. Create an ad for each benefit, using unique copy and creative.
  4. Test all of these ads together – the winner should tell you what benefit resonates best with Greg.
  5. To optimize further, continue making new variations centered around that winning benefit.

Tip #10: Say Exactly What You Want To Communicate

Facebook ads not working? Take a look at your copy.
There is no confusion about what this Nature Box ad offers.

Copy is one of those things that everyone can write, but few can write well. Your word choice can make a tremendous difference in how people respond to your ad. Here are three questions to evaluate the quality of your copy:

  1. Is it clear? Choose clarity over cleverness, and being succinct over verbose.
  2. Are you triggering the right emotions? Whether you want the reader to feel curious, excited, anxious, or whatever else, pick words that match that emotion.
  3. Does the reader know what to expect next? Make sure your copy clearly states what the reader should do (click, download, etc). and what she can expect once she takes that action.

If you’re stuck, here’s are some great resources from Copyblogger on writing great copy and from Authority Hacker on writing copy for SEO.

Tip #11: Run The Right Number of Ads

Did you just stay up all night making 67 variations of your ads to test? Hold on there, hombre. Running all those ads at once won’t help you when you notice your Facebook ads not working.

Like a nervous first-year high school basketball coach picking his starting lineup from players he knows nothing about, Facebook can’t optimize your ads until it knows which of them are the best performers.

And if you have too many ads, it will take Facebook a long time to figure that out. Or worse, Facebook will pick a “winner” before it’s given all your ads a fair shot, leaving a potentially great ad stuck in the dust bin.

You run into a different, but equally bad, problem with too few ads.

Let’s say that for every 100 ads you create, 30 are solid, and 70 are duds. Nothing wrong with that. But if you only test a few ads, you’re not giving yourself a good chance of finding a solid performer.

To avoid both problems, shoot for 5-6 ads within each ad set.

Tip #12: Get (The Right) Creative

If you see your Facebook ads not working, poor creative could be the problem.
If Bob Ross made Facebook ads, they’d be unstoppable.

Developing the right creative is often the scariest part for many marketers. It’s the part where we have to rely on an actual artist to develop art, something most of us can only pretend to know much about. That, or rely on some crummy stock photography. Not even your mom would be proud of you then.

Here’s the good news: developing creative isn’t that much different from developing copy. Identify who you’re targeting, the message you’re trying to convey, and any emotions you want to trigger. Share these with your designer. Ask him to copy up a few concepts to see if you’re both speaking the same language. If one of those looks good, create 3-5 final variations that you can test.

Don’t have a designer on hand or the budget for a freelancer? Try a free tool like Canva or use a service like Fiverr to hire one for a little as five dollars. Exchange rates are your friend when there are skilled Photoshop ninjas in Romania. Just make sure you specify exactly what you want to have designed.

Tip #13: Try Rebooting

Resetting is sometimes necessayr if you see Facebook ads not working.
Resetting your Facebook ad campaigns isn’t fun but it’s sometimes necessary.

Sometimes Facebook just needs a good kick in the pants. With a steel-toed boot. If you’ve made a bunch of changes to your campaign and nothing seems to be working, then clone your campaign, burn the old one to the ground, and start over.

If this sounds stupid, it’s because it is. Rebooting your campaigns should not be a viable solution to getting your ads to perform, but it is. It’s as though Facebook’s ad delivery algorithm sometimes turns into a bipolar robot who huffs glue when you’re not looking. Once brain damage sets in, there’s no turning back. The only way to fix things is to toss your campaign in the incinerator and begin anew.

I hate trying this technique when I see my Facebook ads not working because it’s so blunt and unscientific, but sometimes it’s exactly what needs to be done.

Tip #14: Be Human

This is the least concrete but most important concept. Ads that are pushy, gimmicky, or disrespectful won’t get results. Even if they do, do you really want to be that type of marketer?

If you aren’t sure how your ads will be perceived, show them to a friend, your mom, your boyfriend… anyone who’s a reasonable human being. Ask them how the ads make them feel. For bonus points: tell your friend that the ads were created by someone else. You’ll get much more objective feedback.

If your ads consistently get negative feedback from others, keep working at it. No one got great overnight!

Facebook Ads Not Working? All You Really Need To Know Are These 5 Points

Hopefully, the points above give you some new ways of solving things if you find your Facebook ads not working. But if it all seems like too much, remember that there are only five things you need to be successful with Facebook ads:

  1. Understand the mechanics of the ad platform
  2. Offer something of value
  3. Respect the user
  4. Have the persistence to keep going until you get things right
  5. Oh, and read this article when you need a reminder.

Have other advice for fixing things when you discover your Facebook ads not working? Share what you’ve learned in the comments!

This post was originally published on Flag and Frontier, my marketing consulting business for B2B technology companies.

Learn These 5 Tips For Building A Strong Brand

Most businesses wonder what it takes to build a brand that reaches to the ends of the earth (think Coca-Cola, Apple, Kleenex). Everyone knows these brands, and if you don’t, you probably need to get out more. But what makes them so successful?

Good branding is not just about a name or a logo. Branding is far more psychological — it’s what people think of when they hear your name, see your logo, or use your product. Do you ever call it a “tissue?” No, you call it a Kleenex. Boom. Brand brainwash.

So how do you get there?

Well, we’ve mapped out five tips we think are essential for building a strong brand. We can’t promise that your brand will spread to China, but we can promise that spending a little brain power on each tip will help you solidify your brand and grow your business.

Let’s get started.

1.  Know Yourself

Cat Stevens said it best, “If you want to be me, be me. And If you want to be you, be you.

It sounds simple, but this might be the hardest part of building a brand. Nearly every business struggles with pinpointing its personality and vision. Often, in hopes of nailing down a specific niche, businesses take on more than one personality. This is called “mission creep” and it can be detrimental in the long run. Instead, focus on what your business offers.

If you’re a yoga studio, don’t try to be a CrossFit. If you’re a chiropractor, don’t try to be a dentist (obviously). Losing focus can result in losing customers. After you establish your purpose, your brand will have legs to stand on.

To begin this process, try brainstorming words that represent your company’s product or values. For example, if you’re a restaurant, you might start with words like health, entertainment, enjoyment. These words will help guide the language you use to communicate your vision and develop a mission statement.

2. Know Your People

You can’t build a brand without knowing whom you’re building it for — your customers. And to reach your customers effectively, you must cater to their communication preferences. What does that mean? Find out what they like, how they talk, when they’re listening, and where they hang out online. Make sure you offer something that your customers actually want (not what you think they want).

Your priority is to make a connection that hooks your customer’s brain and heart. If you can do that, you’ll have customers for life, AKA “brand loyalty” (think Harley Davidson and men with bushy beards, leather jackets, and plenty of tattoos).

To really know your customers, you’ll need to create customer personas. Don’t know what that means? Here’s a quick walk-through to get you started.

3. Be Honest

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
— Albert Einstein.

Being honest reinforces who you are and how you do business. Be completely honest about everything — your successes, your failures, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Evaluating your weaknesses can be tough and requires a great deal of humility and courage. But demonstrating honesty shows that you’re business is run by real people. When your customers feel like they know the people running the business, they’re more likely to develop trust.

As much as being honest will help build your brand, it will also build your customer base. People are attracted to honest brands because they are more trustworthy. If your members trust you, they will be more likely to recommend you to friends (hello, word-of-mouth referral).

4. Be Passionate

You love your business — it’s your passion. And your passion can be contagious if you let it be. As much as people cling to honest brands, they also cling to passionate ones. The passion starts with you and your employees. Together, you are the face of your organization and its biggest advocates. Communicate your passion in the way you relate to your customers. Before long, they’ll share your enthusiasm.

Here’s an example. When you think of Apple, what do you think of? For many people, Steve Jobs immediately comes to mind. After all, he developed some of the most loyal brand followers on Earth. It’s real. You could feel his passion every time he spoke about Apple. Your passion has the power to inspire your customers to tattoo your logo on their chests.

Just kidding, but you get the idea. Passion attracts people. When others see your passion, they will likely  be more receptive to what you’re communicating.

5. Be Consistent

Perhaps one of the most important pieces of a good brand is consistency. Coca-Cola didn’t get into 200 countries by changing its mission statement or logo for each country. Once you know your brand, stick with it! If you’ve grown so much and need to reevaluate, you can. Just don’t do it every week.

Oh, and remember how we talked about honesty? Well, consistency and honesty are kind of the same thing. Really, really important. Without a consistent brand, your customers will get confused, lose interest, and gravitate toward other brands that provide the trust they are seeking.

Consistency in logos can be especially tricky because your logo is the easiest piece of information for people to remember about your brand. Make sure your customers support your re-brand if you choose to go down that route. Avoid re-branding pitfalls by taking a look at these logo redesigns gone bad. 

The post was originally published on Causely, where I was co-founder and CMO.