Meetup Summary

Paid advertising on Google, Facebook and other popular ad platforms can be one of the most effective ways to promote your business, especially when emerging from a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. But paid digital advertising can also be a huge waste of money if your ads say the wrong things to the wrong people. At this meetup you’ll to learn best practices for ad messaging, ad creative and ad targeting. We’ll have a panel discussion with subject matter experts and have a time for open questions and answers from participants.

Our panel of subject matter experts includes Katlyn Kincaid, the Communications Manager at Eagle Lake Camps and a certified StoryBrand guide. We’ll also have Sam Shoemaker, Creative Director and Skip Lefever, Director of Pay-per-Click Campaigns, both of Improve & Grow, a digital marketing firm. 

You will walk away with tips that you can put in practice immediately. As always, this meetup is 100% free with absolutely no soliciting or sales pitches.

Guest Panel

Video Recording

Key Takeaways

  1. Three key components that will make or break your ad campaigns: messaging (the words you use), creative (image, videos or graphics) and targeting (who sees your ads)
  2. Use messaging that tells a story: Be the guide that helps meet the need of your target customer. Use simple, clear messaging in a voice that reflects your brand and that will resonate with your audience.
  3. Use creative that connects with your audience: Incorporate images that support the message and help the viewer put envision themselves having the experience or outcome they are seeking
  4. Target your ads with purpose: Use ad targeting settings to isolate that persona using demographics, behaviors, locations and/or keywords
  5. Don’t worry about perfection – test and then evaluate, tweak and test again
  6. Don’t “set it and forget it” – measure the performance of your ads, adjust your messaging, creative and targeting, and measure again
  7. Learn from your competition – review ads from similar companies, adapt what works and improve upon it

Resource Links

Messaging Resources

DIY Creative Tools

Digital Advertising Tools

Other Tools

Meetup Transcript

[Carl] All right everyone, welcome to the next Accelerate Tourism marketing meetup. This is Carl Lefever your host and, and guide for today’s discussion. And just wanna welcome you all, thank you for joining. We see some new faces on the call today so just wanna kind of tell you a little bit more about the Accelerate Tourism marketing meetup. This is a virtual meetup via Zoom for business leaders serving the tourism industry. We focus on sharing tourism marketing ideas through guest speakers and open discussion. And we’re planning to hold these weekly during the lockdown period and then because most of you are gonna be busy running your businesses after we get out of lockdown, we’ll be shifting these to monthly and we try to focus on topics that are relevant to everyone or most everyone in the group. Our topic today is how to boost your bookings with winning messaging, creative and targeting in ads. Just by way of introduction you know, paid advertising whether it’s digital ads on Facebook or Google or offline ads in magazines or printed media can be one of the most effective ways to get immediate visibility with your target audience and it can be, it’s really nice ’cause you have complete control of the message, you have complete control of where you place those messages and to some degree, with most forms of advertising you can also trace your results. You can control your cost and track what happens. That’s particularly true with, with digital marketing but true with other marketing mediums as well. But as you’re probably well familiar, paid advertising also creates a pretty large risk which is you’re paying a lot of money, either up front or as you go, and usually you’re paying those costs whether the ads work or not. So it can be really important to make sure your ads are working, that they’re hitting the right people, that they’re saying the right thing, that they’re getting the right result and personally most of you know I’m involved with a digital marketing firm. We run, we focus a lot of our client base is from the tourism industry. So we’ve been involved with running hundreds of campaigns in the travel and tourism industry and we’ve seen some work really well, seen some work not so well. Thankfully been a part of turning a lot of that around and there’s three common threads that we’ve seen in what makes an effective ad campaign. It’s the messages you use, the creative you use and who you target those ads for. So we’ve invited three guests today to help us unpack those three concepts. Share some examples, share some best practices and maybe share some good resources along the way. And I know that maybe not all of you on the call are running ads right now or maybe you don’t even run ads at all. One thing I wanna point out is these three concepts of messaging, creative and targeting apply to organic efforts as well. The emails you write, the social media posts you post and the copy that you use on your website. So even if you’re not specifically running ads right now, I’d encourage you to hang in here today because you’re gonna get a lot of useful tips that’ll help you with copy that you write. So with that I’d like to introduce, I’ll introduce our three guest speakers and then we’ll be asking each of them some questions as we move through our topic here. When I introduce Katlyn Kincaid, she’s the communications manager at Eagle Lake Camps and she’s also a certified StoryBrand Guide for those of you that are familiar with StoryBrand and Donald Miller and she lives in Colorado Springs. Sam Shoemaker is creative director at Improve & Grow. He’ll be joining us on our panel today and you guys would recognize, he’s been our guest moderator from time to time on these calls and Skip Lefever is a Pay Per Click director at Improve & Grow as well. And you’ve probably seen him on past calls too. So just wanna welcome those guys and for those of you that are on the call, listening in, Scott will be moderating chat today. Scott from our team at Improve & Grow. If you have questions we encourage you to ask them in chat. Scott’ll be checking in with you via chat throughout the session, so submit your questions there and we’ll weave those questions in during our discussion. With that, we’re gonna go ahead and get started, Katlyn, welcome.

Messaging

[Katlyn] Thank you, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here with everyone today.

[Carl] You bet, you bet. So Katlyn, we know each other a little bit just from some StoryBrand training and just really impressed with your kind of hold on the concept of messaging and how important that is and also you work for a business that’s involved in the travel tourism space at Eagle Lake Camps and so I was hoping you could just tell us a little bit about why you think messaging is so important, especially in light of these times right now and with COVID-19.

[Katlyn] Yeah, yeah. Well first of all I mean, I’m just such a huge believer in the power of words. I think words are probably the most powerful weapon, not weapon, tool we have. People can use them as a weapon but, it’s so important to understand and grasp your message and I think when you have a very clear message, especially if you can be very clear and very concise, you’re cutting through all of the noise and you’re capturing your audience’s attention. And so, you’re able to really simplify and clarify what you wanna say, right away you’re catching people’s attention. And especially in this time right now I think people have a lot of emotions and most of them are probably on the more negative side. They’re scared or they’re confused or they don’t know what to do next and they’re looking for a guide, they’re looking for someone to come alongside them and say hey, I’m with you in this and I think when we can really clarify our message in a way that makes us, not the hero of the story but sets them up as the hero of their story and we are a guide that can equip them and help them feel confident and capable and ready to take that next step, ready to make a good decision, then they wanna come to us. They’ll come to us if we’re able to say, and this is kind of a StoryBrand philosophy but if we’re the guide, and like we want to help you and come alongside you, you can be the hero of your story. People will respond to that. They love that, especially with a really clear easy message to understand. I think getting really simple, clear messaging that’s willing to set people up for success because we truly care about their success, that wins, that wins customers and wins people to you.

[Carl] Yeah, great I love that. So most of us on the call, myself included are not professional copywriters and really see writing messaging as kind of a burden if you will. Do you have any tips for, for how to direct messaging or how to do good at writing it?

[Katlyn] Yeah I think the, the most important thing is to know your audience, who are you talking to? And if you have a couple of different audiences, so for example, because I work at a camp we have our parent audience and then we have our, we’re trying to talk to staff, potentially getting staff to our doors so we’re talking to staff. We have donors, we have to talk to donors but then even within our parents, we have parents who want an overnight experience with their kids or they want a daycamp experience for their kids or, and then even within those we have parents who are really choosing camp, we’re a Christian camp so they’re choosing the camp for spiritual things and we have parents who don’t care about it as much about that so we have parents who really just want the fun outdoor adventure. And I don’t always know the parents’ motives but we do a lot of AB testing copy, I don’t wanna get technical but basically we know that we have a lot of different people who are coming to us for different things and so we set our copy and our ads up for different audiences. And I don’t wanna take too much time, especially if we do an ad, we’ll run an ad for one audience. Put one audience on this side and use this copy for another audience we may have and then once they engage with us, we talk to them in very different ways in our followup email direct campaign. So it’s really important to know who you’re talking to and again, you won’t know who they are necessarily at first but you’ll know who they are based on how they’re responding to your content and so, it’s kind of, you have to play the long game a little bit. Try something, see what happens, see how people respond to it and see which parts of it they’re responding to and really engage with those aspects when you begin to follow up with that. So I think knowing your audience is really important. Another thing that we’ve found is really important is choosing your business’ voice and by that, I mean you have to know who you are as a business. And again this is a StoryBrand philosophy where we want to set yourself up as the guide. So we very much work to set ourselves up as the guide and our customers as the hero. So we also as a camp don’t want to be very serious, full of you know, straightforward very, I’m not sure about it but very, not fun information. We’re fun, we want to be fun and so we’ve worked really hard to refine our voice so that we sound fun. So that our copy is fun and lighthearted. Even when we’re talking about hard things, we’ve found that we can say it in a hard way or share the hard things but share it in a fun way or a lighthearted way or something where we’re always looking for the good that’s coming out of it and not all businesses should do that. That’s not something every business should take but you need to find what your business’ tone of voice is and then always speak in that tone of voice so that’s what they come to expect from you. So I think those are kind of the two biggest things.

[Carl] Yeah that’s good, I liked what you said about testing and it really kind of resonated with me that you know, the words you use with like your youth, if you’re like promoting a youth event versus the words you might use with parents or with donors or with staff. Even just you know, the phrases that you use can really help, help resonate with an audience and bring them closer to you or alienate an audience.

You know and take them further away so that was, that’s really good. I loved what you said about voice too where kind of picking a voice for your organization and sticking to that in all the ways you write your copy. Even I, you know I think of even when it comes down to the way you describe accommodations or the way you describe the services that you offer as keeping with that tone is consistent, that’s great. Do you have any specific examples to share? Like sometimes I know for me it’s helpful to like contrast like you know, here’s a good example of messaging, here’s a bad example of messaging. Any examples to share?

[Katlyn] Yeah. So, well one example. So again I said a lot of what we do is we try to attract college kids as counselors and we know that they don’t wanna make a commitment really right away or ever. And so instead of saying apply today we say hey, start the conversation by starting an application so that they know that they’re not automatically committing. We just wanna talk to them and then, that’s again a little bit playful. Like hey, just start the application, we’ll start the conversation. Let’s just move forward in this, we wanna get to know you and we’ve found that that’s worked really well. Another example, we’ve had to cancel the first two weeks of camp this summer which is really sad. So we started our email with a line, I think it was, we have some bad news but then we have some good news so keep reading to the end because we have something exciting for you. And then we went into, it’s with heavy hearts we have to cancel weeks one and two but, and then we listed all the options we have for parents who are effected by the change. Because we did work hard to create some options for them and we, yeah. It was really cool to see how many parents instead of just taking their refund, took some of the other options we had for them.

[Carl] Yeah that’s really good. I saw another organization that runs youth events all summer long, they did something similar to that where it was like the bad news was these huge events that youth get involved with all across the country are canceled but they had a really cool idea of ways the youth can still be involved in the places that they live and they did a great job with balancing the tone on that. That’s a good tip.

[Katlyn] Right and you have to, especially in this situation, you can’t make light of what’s happening but if you can help them find a silver lining or help them understand. And not just be positive for positive sake but truly offer something that will improve the situation for them, I think that really helps.

[Carl] Yeah. What about things to avoid in messaging?

[Katlyn] Yeah, I hate fear mongering. I feel like I see that a lot. Some people find it a successful strategy, I think using it can backfire so quickly and so easily. Anything that would really stir people, stir the fear or the anxiety in people, you don’t wanna do that. There is an element of you know, helping them identify the problem they’re facing and how you’re helping them solve the problem. But you don’t wanna ever agitate that by making them feel really negative emotion. Like easier. So I would say that never works. I think also one thing that I especially have to be careful of is not trying to say too much at the same time. Simplicity wins the game every single day. There’s the quote, the Shakespeare quote, “Brevity is the essence of wit.” And I should just stop there, I should stop overexplaining it but I truly believe that the more words you use, the more people will be confused and will check out.

[Carl] Yeah that’s good. That’s good. Katlyn, are there any resources or tools that you would direct people to that might help them either learn more about some of the concepts of messaging or even help them with crafting messaging.

[Katlyn] Yeah, well I mean, I obviously love StoryBrand. I’m a big believer in the philosophy and I think part of the reason I really appreciate them is they have so many online free resources. So you don’t have to buy anything you can just, they have a lot of stuff that you can just look at for free or Donald Miller has a podcast that’s really helpful and then I’ve found that a lot of his guests speak to what I’m doing and so then I can go look at his guests and go from there to find what they’re talking about and look at their research. So that’s probably my favorite resource for messaging.

[Carl] Cool, yeah we’ll drop a link for that in the comments and we’ll also put that in the notes, cool. Thank you.

Creative

[Carl] Sam, so we had talked about the messaging being a really big component. The next big component we talked about is creative which, just to kind of put some context on that, messaging is obviously part of creative but I’m thinking specifically of the images or videos or the graphics that are used in advertising or on our website. Why do you think that’s such an important element? And again, especially in light of the times right now.

[Sam] Yeah, I think it’s easiest to start by saying it just enhances everything that Katlyn talked about. And in the same way that words help connect to people I think you also have, you have a lot of people who, I believe that there’s people who will connect with the words first and then there’s people who connect with the images first. But then they go hand in hand. Obviously the business that I’m in, I am that visual learner, I am going to immediately connect with an image or an video and that will lead me to, lead me deeper down the trail to actually engage with the words. People are different though, people approach it from another way. So just generally speaking, images help to create an absolutely lightning fast connection with an audience and specifically and good images and good videos will specifically connect with them in a way that identifies with what they actually want to be, what, where they wanna see themselves based on the problem that they’re currently having and the solution that you’re trying to deliver to them. And that can be kind of you know, no matter what anybody in this Zoom meeting offers, you have a solution to somebody’s problem and if you can use an image to show what that will you know, what the person who has this problem really wants to be you know, after this problem is solved, you can use images specifically and use videos as well to immediately make that connection. And more generally or more specifically for you know, the current COVID-19 situation, communicating empathy in images is huge. So you know, and in just, empathy almost through inspiration as well and just kind of reminding people that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You know the kind of the mantra that is around this whole thing that we’re all in this together is you know, you definitely convey that through really the combination of images and words, so.

[Carl] Yeah that’s good, that’s good. I think you know something that resonated for me when you were speaking there was you know, showing an image of you know, if you offer some kind of unique experience like an outdoor experience for instance, showing people enjoying that experience you know? So just pictures of a zip line without anybody on it or pictures of a landscape where you’re doing tours or something like that without people in it isn’t gonna come across nearly as well as the group of people that look like the kind of people that you’re trying to reach that are smiling, laughing, looking like they’re having fun together, basically achieving. You know when people do an experience, they’re, they wanna do that experience but they also wanna have fun. They wanna make memories as a family or as a group of friends or as a couple, so showing people looking like they’re making memories, enjoying that experience is an example would be really, really compelling, that’s good yeah.

[Sam] Yep.

Sam, any tips for how to develop strong creative? Like how should we go about picking images, making graphics, those kinds of things?

Well to answer and at the same time bounce off of what you were just saying Carl I think the first thing I would say is benefits over features. Hugely important and I’m gonna say it again. Benefits over features. And what I mean by that is when you know, Carl was describing like kind of the images for an outdoor activity of you know, people enjoying the experience. You know that’s featuring, that’s focusing on the benefits of you know what your business has to offer and far too many times people get the two mixed up where they all you know, they’ll show the impressive zip line or they’ll show a picture of like the climbing tower at a you know, an outdoor activity center or you know, even things like we have a lot of bed and breakfast owners, you know showing just an empty room. While the room may be absolutely beautiful, people are going to better connect, they’re gonna more easily make that connection, they’re gonna be able to see themselves in that picture if they see somebody else in the image. And by no means does that require a professional level of photography though sometimes it may. And but it’s just so important to have that, that focus on you know, that aspirational identity to pull from a StoryBrand terminology, that thing that your audience aspires to experience. So I think the other, the other tip I would have actually is is super practical is literally just looking at your peers and competition. You know, it feels like cheating a little bit but if you’re not aware of what other people are doing, you know you may, you’re gonna, you’re sort of operating in a vacuum. Obviously you know, nobody is kind of in their own industry. Everybody has peers and competitors or, and sometimes those are the same people and we don’t really view our competitors as you know, people that we’re working against but you know, people who are in the same industry see what other people are doing. Don’t copy them but just look to see what else is out there and what people are really doing and what you think your particular audience would really benefit from and it’s just gonna, it’s gonna strike up ideas. Really when we’re talking about images, we’re talking about conveying, visually conveying ideas by just seeing what else is out there that’s gonna strike up some ideas with you. The other thing, just talk to your guests. Talk to your customers, what are the things that they really like to see and even down to practical things like well okay, so you are on our website, what did you like about our website? What did you know, was there, were there things that you were you know, did you wanna see something that wasn’t there or now that you’ve been to our, now that you’ve been to our experience, our property. You know is there anything that you were surprised about that you didn’t think we offered or had? And then put that on your website and get a good quality photo of that and put that specifically, we’re talking about ads. You know that could be something that you wanna add to your ad then. So those are just a few things that I would recommend.

[Carl] Yeah I like what you said about looking at competitors. Both it can inspire ideas, it can also expose gaps like. You know some people focus on a specific feature or benefit and maybe you’re not even competitive on that particular feature or benefit but there might be some other aspect of the experience that you offer that is unique or that is different or just focus on an aspect that maybe others are kind of missing and I’ve seen people just do really well by hammering one particular feature, benefit or you know, unique thing about their property and that that’s really makes the difference. I know there’s a bed and breakfast locally that has a brewery on site and that’s a really big selling point for them and they really focus on that because that can really help them from that perspective.

[Sam] And you know I do wanna point out, especially when it comes to ads, obviously there’s another component that’s more like a graphic design component. You know when you’re developing an ad, yeah you can just use an image but then you can also you know, if you have, if you do have access to Adobe programs or if you use free things like, I think there’s a free version called like Gimp that is a graphic design tool. But then there’s programs like Canva and we can mention some of those later. But that same principle of benefits over features applies to graphic design as well. So if your you know, Facebook ads. You can only have so much text on the page and if you’re gonna have text make sure it’s important and either you know, when you, one key thing to point out is you know, when you’re developing an ad and you have something that is you know, it’s a sales message, you wanna make it clearly a sales message where you know, you wanna sort of differentiate sales messages from just kind of like brand awareness where it’s just like showing the benefits of our property, I would call that brand awareness or, but then when we’re specifically calling out an action that we want a user to take, we make sure that that is the clearest thing in that ad. If you are using any text, making sure that it’s you know, specific. People have no doubt that okay, you want me to do this thing in this ad. So yeah, just wanted to mention that as well.

[Carl] Making it like a nice, big button or using a contrasting color, that kind of thing, great. Well Sam, I wanna get to talking about targeting but before we jump over to that, do you have any specific examples to share?

[Sam] Yeah and I think we have some in the slide deck here. Just wanna mention, so this is one that, this would kind of go along a little bit with some things to avoid but you know, the, while there are you know, I could say a couple of good things about this, the thing that I would be most concerned in an ad like this is it’s the example of putting the features over the benefits. All three of these ads, in the text itself talking about messaging a little bit and Katlyn I think you would agree here, you know we’re just talking about, we’re really just describing things that we already expect when we go rock climbing at a rock climbing gym and then it’s just the logo. So it’s talking about yourself, it’s talking about the features and it’s not actually talking, telling or showing any of the benefits. You know that would be, that makes On The Rocks unique and then when it does show an image, it’s a, well it’s actually a video but even the thumbnail for the video is a, just a dude hanging out and I think they could do, they could just do a little bit better and you know, maybe this worked for their particular audience but I would like to personally see something a little bit more but then on the other hand we have a pretty interesting ad that I found. If you go to the next slide there Carl. This really kind of, it kind of pulls you in. These are two videos, they’ve used two thumbnails that kind of want you to click and actually okay, so what is this video even talking about? This is for the Detroit History Tours and it was, it’s not a highly produced video. I can’t really show you that but it’s super authentic and it pulls you into the story that the Detroit History Tours group is, you know, they want, it’s giving you a little bit of a taste of the story that if you engage with them, if you, you know, if you actually go on one of their tours or go to the museum, it will you know, you’re just, it gives you a taste of that. So I thought they, this did a really good job and it also creates some good empathy as well in the messaging.

[Carl] Thank you. Yeah one thing I will point out is with videos particularly, you can have an awesome video but if you choose the wrong thumbnail. Like if the default thumbnail for that video in the ad doesn’t look so great just as a tip, you can change, you can upload your own thumbnail or you can change which thumbnail shows up and we’ve done a lot of testing with that when we’re doing ads with Facebook videos, we’ll actually use the same video but test multiple thumbnails to see which ones do better to that point that Katlyn made earlier about A B testing, that’s great.

Targeting

[Carl] So Skip, with targeting, you know, if we kind of take that trifecta of the messaging, the creative and the targeting. Like I know we could easily make an argument that targeting can make or break an ad campaign right? Can you tell us a little bit about what targeting is and why it’s important?

[Skip] Absolutely, so Katlyn already alluded to this. You know any tourism business, tourism operator, lodging, restaurant, you need to know who your customers are. What’s your sweet spot? And often it’s multiples as Katlyn mentioned. She gave the example of parents, of prospective counselors, it might be donors, it might be actual campers. The same might be true for your business, so it’s important to identify who your primary customers are what their characteristics are, understand that fully and then once you know that, then obviously you can tell your messages to them, your creative to them and so forth but then you use that same targeting information to determine where you’re going to run ads. One of the most, one of the reasons why it’s so important to be targeted with your ads is because of waste. You can blow a lot of money really fast if you’ve got your campaigns targeted the wrong people. So that’s, that’s the main reason why I talk about targeting. It’s identifying the right people. Use all the tools that are available to you to narrow down to that audience and then you’ll get the best use of your money that way.

[Carl] Yeah I’m pretty impressed these days. I mean platforms like Google, Facebook and others just give you really, really detailed and specific ways you can target people right? You can target based on you know, keywords that people type. You can target based on their age, their gender, tell us a little bit more about what some of the typical targeting options are and how that relates to the concept of refining your target.

[Skip] Sure, absolutely. I always start with this question on the available platforms right? There’re tons of platforms available. We think about traditional platforms like print, whether it’s newspapers, magazines, that sort of flyers, that sort of thing. Radio, TV, signage, billboards, those sorts of things. Those are all advertising media. They all tend to be quite broad I would say in terms of their audience targeting although if you advertise on a particular radio program or a particular TV program of something of that sort, you might be specifically targeted at a particular audience. Online is the one that I specialize in and you’ve got multiple choices there as well. You’ve got Google ads, Microsoft ads, Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, Twitter, I mean it’s a, it’s a big universe of potential platforms. So first, one of the first targeting things that you gotta look at is where are my prospective clients hanging out? Where are they spending time? Are they in the squaredown town or are they driving on the highway? Are they watching TV? Are they spending time on particular websites? Are they on Facebook, are they on LinkedIn, et cetera. Based on where your customers are congregating, that’s where you wanna start experimenting and targeting. Other thing, other keys, you’ve mentioned some Carl. Key words, you can target based on location, day and time. You can target specific devices and not others if you want like phones, tablets, desktop computers and sort. Websites, one that sometimes gets overlooked is language. I’ve run campaigns for, that are directed at English speakers and I have run campaigns that are directed at Spanish speakers. If Spanish is the primary clientele, you obvioUsly wanna speak to them in their language if you can. So language is another one. Audiences these days. Ads are triggered in many ways. It might be because it just happens to be the media that someone is standing in front of at this point. So, so it’s a self selection. It might be key words, but audiences is another. Particularly with display advertising. A lot of Facebook advertising is done this way, where you first identify characteristics of the people that your customers, that are your customers and then you sort of add to them. So it’s a list of people or an audience is kind of the term in vogue these days. So and there’s different kinds of audiences. There’s prospective customers, there’s people who have already visited your website as an example but they haven’t yet bought. Those are people that you can retarget and you can try to get them to reengage and then there’s existing customers. I’m sure some of your businesses see the same customers come back periodically. Whether it’s once a month or once a year or every couple of years. So knowing that and addressing that audience is also important. I don’t want to, we’ve already mentioned ad copy and imagery quite a bit but those things are used to target particular audiences and depending who it is you’re targeting, you may make different selections about whether, what kind of texture you’re using, what kind of images. Video versus still images, et cetera, et cetera.

[Carl] Yeah just as a, the jump on that point. We were working with an organization at one point that, a lot of their pictures had kids in them but the particular thing they were trying to promote was for adults. Like those images aren’t gonna work as well. It’s not gonna tell the story that this is a good place for adults to have fun if it looks like there’s only kids at the property that are having fun or vice versa. If you’re trying to pitch that this is a good family friendly activity but you’re only showing you know, middle-aged adults enjoying the experience it might not translate as quickly that hey, this is a good experience for kids or young families too. That’s a great, that’s a great point. One thing I know, you and I have talked a lot in our interactions Skip is that ad campaigns are not a set it and forget it kind of thing. So even if you’ve got you know, what you think is good targeting, you’ve got good messaging, you’ve got good creative, you put your best foot forward on that but it strikes me that there’s other things that you can do to make sure that your ad’s really doing well right?

[Skip] Yeah, absolutely. I, the phrase just popped into my head as you were speaking, advertise with a purpose you know? You identify a sweet spot customer or multiple customers, you identify your messaging, your voice, your images, your products and services that you wanna represent. It’s helpful to plan all of that out from beginning to end. From identifying your audience through your creative, through your messaging and then when you’re getting ready to launch an ad campaign, again whether it’s print or broadcast or online, it makes sense to plan what it is that you’re gonna say to whom, when. So that’s the first thing I would say as kind of a best practice is plan your campaigns first. Secondly, another best practice is to do your keyword research. If you’re doing search advertising or even working on organic and permanent organic advertising use available keyword research tools. Find out what people are searching for and by the way, don’t assume that they use your jargon. Every business has their own jargon and their own way of talking about what they do. That doesn’t mean that’s the way your prospective customers talk about it okay? So it’s important to doing your research will help to identify ways that people look for what you do but they might use different words and different ways than you would think of. Using analytics, you gotta have analytics and you gotta have conversion tracking. Anybody who has a website, you can for free attach your website to Google Analytics. There’s other analytics tools, some of them are paid but you gotta have an analytics program that you can collect data with and analyze and you’ve gotta track your conversation actions. Whether it’s a sale, a phone call, a form fill, a chat, whatever it is. You need to track that so you can link back to your ad campaigns and understand what your ad campaigns are driving and how people are responding to them. Regular maintenance and optimization. Several people, several times we’ve mentioned testing today. It’s not set it and forget it. It’s plan, it’s launch with a plan, then it’s test, test, test, test and keep evaluating the data based on your analytics and your conversion tracking data. Make you promote the things that do best, you demote or pause the things that don’t do well and then you try the next experiment and we do the same thing with ad copy over and over and over again.

A couple of other things. I’ll just mention them without going into detail. Bid strategies need to change over time, they need to evolve. You might start out bidding one way for your paid ads online. You might in a mature account, you might bid in a far different way. One of the things I’m learning recently, we talked a little bit earlier that these same principles can be applied to organic content and messaging and so forth as well. One of the things I’m finding is that we need to understand that your Google My Business pages and your Facebook Page has two good examples are really an extension of your main website and you need to treat them that way. Meaning that if somebody hits your Facebook page instead of your webpage, you wanna do something to get them, to encourage them to convert or to go back to your website. I think that’s it Carl, that’s what comes to mind.

[Carl] Skip, I believe you pulled some specific examples of ads that are doing really well. It might be cool to share those with the group.

[Skip] Yeah let’s do that, I think you’ve got a couple of slides there. Okay, here’s an example. This is a straight text ad. There’s no imagery involved other than what you can see that the words. So this is gonna show up in Google or Bing as a on the search results page. It’s gonna show up at the top of the page or the bottom of the page. This particular ad was very successful. It focused on benefits as Sam mentions quite a lot. It also did an emotional hook. I would say that’s a, in addition to focusing on benefits and making customers the hero in the story and yourself the guide, making it an emotional connection can also be very helpful. So in this particular ad it talks about a unique experience. It connects with the user or the searcher at an emotional level. You can see the verbage there. Hey, do you remember that spine tingling, toe curling rush? Have another one and that automatically conjures certain feelings, you translate the words into pictures in your head of something that you may have experienced before. Another thing to point out about this ad is it uses ad extensions. The blue type down at the bottom and the phone number, those are called ad extensions. Many ad platforms like Google, Bing and so forth make these available to you. They allow you to make your ad bigger, they allow you to provide multiple links to your website and in this case, it gives a very obvious way for somebody to call. This ad is intended to be seen on a smartphone, all they have to do is click on the phone number and they’re calling them. This is a keyword targeted ad. It’s targeted at people who are searching for a ziplining adventure in Lancaster, PA. The keyword is prominent, it’s right up there front and center in the ad. What was interesting about this ad is it was, when we put this ad in place it was three times the prior average clickthrough rate on the account. So this was kind of a breakthrough in messaging for this particular tourism business. This is an adventure attraction that we’re talking about here. This was kind of a breakthrough in messaging, let’s go the the next one Carl. This is a, a local theater. They’re geared towards tourists primarily but also locals. It’s in a major tourism area and in this case, they’re providing stage shows. So it’s a small local theater. Small meaning audiences of 100 to 150, thereabouts, but lots, lots of showings. In this particular case they were advertising a magic show and so there’s several things I like about this ad. It’s eye catching, the imagery, this is the thumbnail that we deliberately chose from this video so it’s eye catching. Between the text and the, and the imagery, it does make a connection. At both an emotional level as well as an intellectual level. It connects to both tourists and locals. This case, the use of a child sitting and observing and actually being close up and participating, hooks an emotional reaction and that was sort of the theme of this show. It was called Magic and Wonder. So this image helped to kind of conjure that idea. This ad was obviously targeted really well because the engagement on the ad, this was Facebook ad, the engagement on it and the clickthrough rate on it was three to four times other ads in the same campaign. So this very effective for a number of reasons. Next slide Carl. Just wanted to show this one. We’ve already had a couple examples of COVID-19 and reopening kinds of messaging. This is another one. You know this organization is a campground among other things. They provide lodging, camping as well as outdoor adventures and so they were able to, they were in the first wave of business reopenings in Pennsylvania. So we worked very deliberately on the messaging with the client and had several sessions talking with them as well as in our team. Sam, myself, Carl and others talking about how do we wanna talk about this customer and their offerings when they’re just coming out of COVID-19? So they focused on, they acknowledged the elephant in the room. We are just reopening. They acknowledged the need for consumer safety and helping to make people safe. And that also formed an emotional connection. So you can see the messaging there, I won’t repeat it. This one also uses ad extensions. You can see that they’re choosing to use in their reopening effort, they’re using some promotions. They’re doing some cabins by donation. That’s particularly for healthcare and essential workers. They’re encouraging people to be able to get away from what they’re doing every day and people can donate that for them or they can purchase it themselves but for a donation rather than the regular price. Fight Fear 19% Off promotion, et cetera. This ad also has a very significant clickthrough rate so far. At least triple if not four times the average for this campaign. That’s it.

[Carl] Thanks for sharing those. Well I see we’ve got some questions in chat. Scott, would you wanna surface any questions for moderators here or our panelists?

Open Q&A

[Scott] Sure. I guess the first one would be you know, how do you begin to find your voice. So are there specific questions you should be asking to identify it?

[Carl] Katlyn do you wanna take that one?

[Katlyn] Sure. I think, so going back to knowing who your audience is you really want to know what they want from you. What are they turning to you for? So for example, at Eagle Lake, they’re turning to us, parents are turning to us because they want a fun and safe experience for their kid. Counselors are coming to us because they want a fun and meaningful experience for their summer and so in both those we know there is that word fun and we’re a camp and so we want to make sure we’re representing that. And so I think it’s important again, knowing your audience, what do they want from you? Are they turning to you, if you’re an outdoor experience place, are they wanting excitement or adventure? If so, you wanna use a lot of big words. Like excitement or adventure or experiences or thriLling. You know you really wanna pull those in. However if they’re turning to you because they know that you are a source of information, they want your wisdom or knowledge as they plan their own experience. You’re not gonna want to necessarily use lots of big fun language. You’re going to want to make sure you sound, like have lots of factual information or this is what is a great experience for you. Or here is how you want to move forward in this. So you’re just really thinking about what your audience wants from you I think will help you begin to move forward and find you your place and then again, I would say it takes awhile to figure out what your people respond best to. And again, you might need to lightly modify your voice for your different customers. And I think one of the most like interesting and crazy inducing parts of the job is thinking that like sometimes you’ll get this perfect copy you’ll know it’s exactly what you want, you’ll put it out there and no one will respond to it and sometimes you’ll say oh, I just don’t know about this, we’ll just try it and see what happens and then people respond really well and so sometimes it’s just a little bit of a game to see okay, I’m gonna put this out there, we’ll see what happens and then slowly over time you’ll realize oh, these are the phrases or these are the words that consistently appear in the campaigns that have done really, really well. Like Skip was saying, you have to go back and look at how your ads do. You can’t just put them out there and you can’t even only look at your conversion rates. You wanna see how, like what people are clicking on, how long they’re watching your videos. You wanna look at all of that because even if they don’t convert on that ad right away, they’re engaging with you and so, sorry this is a little bit off topic but you wanna think of these as almost a dating relationship. When you’re starting out with your messaging, you’re not asking them to marry you right away. You’re saying hey, let’s get to know each other a little bit and just slowly over time, the more people see your ads or your content, the more they’ll continue to engage with you if they’re interested and I think very few people will convert that very first ad they see but the more they see it and the more they’re interested in your language, especially that language they respond to, the more likely they are to convert down the road. So that’s why it’s so important like Skip was saying to really look at how people are responding to your ads across the floor.

[Sam] Yeah, yeah I wanna add onto that and maybe give some practical way to test all this stuff that we’re talking about. Yeah the dating, the dating analogy is good and I would go one step further and call it speed dating because you don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to, the window of opportunity to make that connection is very, very short. We’re talking seconds, not even minutes and so one practical way to take all of these concepts, targeting, messaging and creative, you know we’ve obviously we’re talking about a lot of ads here. Specifically you know, Facebook ads or Instagram ads and then more text-based, search ads. As Skip talked about with Google and even Bing which are two pretty standard platforms, especially Google. You know one of the easiest ways to, if you haven’t done, if you haven’t really intentionally thought through and planned through some of these tasks or some of these items, the easiest way and kind of the down and dirty way to do this would just, if you can create a page on your website. If you’re able to create a new page on your website, even if it’s not the prettiest, just think of a message that your potential audience would really resonate with. Choose a single image that you think that would resonate with them. And you know, put, put an offer, put you know, put a buy button or a book button if that’s something you can do. And make sure you have some sort of tracking. Google Analytics or at least just the ability, the ability to track the number of downloads or the number of bookings that you get from it, or even the number of email signups. Like if it’s, if you just want them to sign up for, I know there were some bed and breakfasts that were doing some stuff with recipes and things like that. Just create something that people would, can take an action on on your page. Set up some ads that resonate that same message. And start pointing people to that specific page and if they take that action that you want them to take, you know that it’s resonating and if its not, tweak the message on the page, tweak the message on the ads, change out the images and just keep testing it like that and it doesn’t have to be a big budget, it’s all gonna depend on your audience that you’re gonna define. But it can be a way, you don’t have to go and redo the messaging on your whole website or you know, have some super complicated ad campaign. You can test some of these ideas in a pretty down and dirty way when, when you know, just to explore and test.

[Carl] Good, how about another question from our group?

[Scott] Okay, with mentioning about looking at competitors and things like that. Are there, how do you know if what your competitors are doing is successful? What if you see their campaigns out there and you wanna mimic them or try and pull from them? You know, how do you know what they’re doing is working?

[Skip] I’d look at it a couple of different ways. Some of the ad platforms actually give you feedback right on the platform in terms of who your competitors are and give you certain amounts of data about that. Google Ads is one of those. So I’m often using their tool, it’s called Auction Insight. Another is to just to sample searches and look what ads appear and do them periodically for the same search queries and see if those same ads continue to appear. And a third one that I use periodically is software tools. There are tools like Ahrefs, SpyFu, things like that. We can probably list a couple of these as resources in the notes for the meetup. But some of those tools can actually help you to identify ads that your competitors are running for the same search queries that you’re interested in.

[Carl] That’s good, any other thoughts on that Sam or Katlyn?

[Sam] Not on that but Justin had posted in the chat about think like your audience when writing copy, put yourself in their shoes and make an attempt to think like them. Great suggestion, I would, and that reminded me of something that I do pretty frequently and this is just another tip of kind of finding your voice and you know, how to get the right message to the right people. So one general rule of thumb is you know, you’re creating a target audience and that target audience you can sometimes boil down to this single person that you create, this persona it’s called. And the single persona encapsulates your target, particular target audience and one thing I find super helpful is just kind of this little trick of opening up an email and basically addressing an email to the single person that you’ve defined as representing your target audience and that way we’re, we’re, we’re getting to you know, some really concise words. Because nobody really wants to write or read a very long email. So by it’s just kind of like a psychological trick because you know, when you look at a whole, you know, an ad campaign or even a single ad it’s you know, it’s a little difficult to sometimes wrap your head around what you wanna say but if you just take all of that out of your mind and simply write a message to somebody. Even just a quick message, like pretend they asked you a question and you’re just responding quickly to you know, that question that they asked. I’ve found that that, you write differently and you write better when you’re trying to address somebody in an email and that email is going to one specific person and in this case, that one specific person represents your target audience. So another trick that I, I use.

[Carl] Yeah that’s really good Sam. I’ve used that, this isn’t advertising but I’ve used that with blog writing. You know I’ve taken emails that I’ve written in a response to somebody on a question and realized you know, it was a pretty in-depth question and realized I’d written a blog article and it was in a conversational tone whereas if I try to write on some topic from more of an informational perspective I end up coming across as you know, a bit professorial if you will. So yeah that’s good, that’s good. I think we might have time for one more question before we close today. Scott, is there another question from the group?

[Scott] Sure, so I think this goes a little bit with what Skip was talking about maybe with the different types of ads that people are using. You know say if a business has maybe using billboards or radio, and this is just really noticing trends that people are shifting platforms, has anybody noticed them? How do you tell if they’ve shifted to what platforms they’re using? How do you change your messaging for those if you’re using more say traditional forms of advertising prior to everything going on right now?

[Skip] Wow there’s a lot in that question. You know in terms of are people shifting, and these days people use. You know these days people use multiple platforms so it’s important to be in multiple places I would say but I’d let the data tell me where they’re spending time. The data that’s available on the platforms to give you a sense of how many people are there, how many are watching, how many are creating and then your analytics data will tell you things like how many are actually engaging, how many are converting, that kind of thing.

[Carl] I would say, I’ve been watching a couple of ad accounts that we’re involved in and that are running on multiple platforms. We’ve definitely seen a big shift down in search traffic for specific experiences and we’ve seen a real shift up in social media engagement. So we’ve really, we’ve pushed a lot more ad dollars. You know the overall budgets are down over this time and even the costs from the ad platforms are down which is good ’cause those lower budgets are going farther but we’ve seen a lot more engagement, particularly on Facebook or some of the social media platforms versus search. Like I’m thinking of one particular experience where in a normal time at this period of the year, there would be thousands of searches a day for this specific experience that they offer and right now that number is under 100 on a daily basis because people are stuck at home, they’re not even necessarily thinking about those experiences but on Facebook those same users are responding to videos about that experience, they’re clicking on ads inviting them to buy that gift cards for that experience and those kinds of things. So I definitely believe there’s been a big shift from search engine to social over this time. I think by the way that’s gonna come right back as soon things start opening them up. People are going to be right away starting to search specifically for the things that they were inspired by and saw on social over this time.

Closing Summary

Cool well thank you Katlyn and thank you Skip, thank you Sam for joining us today. Thank you to everyone that was on the call, thank you for the questions that were submitted. We always try to leave you with some resources, I will admit my resource list here is pretty heavy on the digital marketing side and even more specifically it’s very heavy on the Google and Facebook side. I know our speakers have mentioned some other resources so we’ll put those in the notes but just a couple of things I wanted to point out to you for those of you who are running Google or Facebook ads right now, we are, we wanna be here to help this group. If you have an ad account you’re running and you’re not sue if it’s working well or if you implement some of the tips from here and you’d like a second set of eyes on it, we offer a free ad account audit for Facebook or Google on our website. You can use the link there. Again, we’ll put that in the notes. I find it really helpful to have benchmarks. There are really good benchmarks out there from a company called WordStream for both Facebook and Google that break it down by industry and break down key metrics like clickthrough rates and cost per click and conversion rates. So one way that we tell whether ad campaigns are working or not is judging you know, we’re always trying to be better than average or better than benchmark. So benchmarking your ad campaigns against your peers in the industry can be really helpful and while those benchmarks don’t get down to a specific property they do get down to the industry or sector level and then also if you’re just getting started with ads or if you’ve been running ads for awhile and you don’t feel like it’s working very well, there are really good guides online for how to get the most out of the ad platforms that you’re running. There’s links here, there’ll be links in the resources and in the notes for Google Ads Guide and a Facebook Ads Guide and if you’re using some other ad platform or even offline media and you’re looking for tips on how to optimize those I would encourage you to start doing online searches. Quite frankly, that’s how we learned everything that we know about ad campaigns and a lot of what our speakers are sharing here today was learned through internet searches was learned through experience and then we’ve shared those things on blogs and guides and that kind of stuff. So I’d encourage you to dive in deep, you’re spending a lot of money on ads, you wanna get the most money out of that as you can. So making sure they’re running well is really good. So again, thank you for your time. Next week’s topic, a lot of you have asked about blogs. Should we be doing blogs? How do we write blogs? Do they really help our business? How does that tie in with SEO and how does that tie in with social media? So our topic next week is How to Get More Bookings with Strategic Blog Content. So I encourage you to sign up for that. We’ll be posting the information on that on the Facebook group later today. And then sending out our normal emails next week and just in closing here, the Facebook group, you know let’s keep the conversation going throughout the week. If one of your questions didn’t get addressed today, join the Facebook group, pop your question in there. If you’re trying some new things this week and you wanna get some input, put some screenshots in the Facebook group or put a comment or post up about it. We’re watching that regularly, we’ll jump on and answer and I’m sure your peers who are part of the group can provide input as well. All right, and again, just as a reminder for anybody who’s running Google ads or Facebook ads right now, if you want a second set of eyes on that, when we send out the notes there’ll be a link for requesting that free review. Great, thank you everyone. Thanks for joining today, we’ll see you next week.

Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & President

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations and he is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.