Facebook released their Custom Audiences advertising feature in September of last year. The concept is pretty simple: use phone numbers, Facebook UIDs, or email addresses to target audiences through ads and sponsored stories on Facebook. This post highlights some interesting ways I’ve seen this used in the past several months. While we’re running these programs for our clients, these examples aren’t specific to those. Quick note before I get into it: before you embark on using any of these methods, or Custom Audiences and Facebook Advertising in general, you should make sure you’re adhering to Section II of the Facebook Platform Policies.
Increase LTV by Encouraging Upgrades
This example comes from a SurveyMonkey ad I was served. We’re a SurveyMonkey Basic customer; we use it to survey clients after projects and on a quarterly basis, and for some internal stuff as well. We’ll sometimes upgrade the account, then downgrade it after we’ve used certain features of the upgraded version for specific needs. Well, it looks like SurveyMonkey is uploading all the email addresses of their Basic customers and encouraging them to upgrade to paid accounts. I had a “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” moment when I saw this. Pretty simple concept, but really powerful. Using the ad copy to promote a specific feature might work better then the generic request SurveyMonkey makes, or offering a discounted introductory price for an upgrade, might work a little better. Regardless, when you start to think of the opportunities companies with business and pricing models like SurveyMonkey have with these ads, you start to generate some cool ideas.
Let’s apply the SurveyMonkey idea to a company with a free trial. Say your trial lasts 30 days, and you want customers to upgrade to a $49/month fee at some point before that time is up (or slightly thereafter works for you also). Every week, you take the email addresses of the customers that signed up for your trial in the previous week. Create a Custom Audience in Facebook with their emails (or FB UIDs if signups/logins can occur through FB) – a cohort audience essentially. You probably have a good idea of what discourages conversions in that 30-day period, so you run ads to combat that over the next 3 or so weeks. Week 1 you promote your knowledge base and support; week 2 you encourage advanced features or ideas, week 3 you offer a discount if they sign up, or remind them their trial is coming to an end; then separate “one-more free month” messaging after the cohorts trial is over. Obviously going to be different for every application or offering, but you get the point. Now, a bit of work is involved here, you need to upload and tend to a number of audiences and ads on a regular basis, but there are ways to make that easier, and if this method increases conversions by a bit it is worth your time.
Focus on RFM for Ecommerce
Stepping away from subscription or saas based models – let’s look at the opportunities for standard ecommerce clients. Sure, you can just chuck your whole email list up there and serve general ads, but why not focus it a bit more? Say you’re the Vitamin Shoppe; look for all the customers who have purchased multiple times in the last 2 years, but not the last 6 months. There are going to be customers in that group that are now probably buying somewhere else, or keep forgetting to buy that certain vitamin, supplement, or whatever. Export those emails from your CRM, upload them into a new Custom Audience and encourage them to “Come Back” or “Stock Up”. Promotion based or not, these ads will probably encourage or remind many of these folks to return to the site and purchase. You’ve increased the recency and LTV of this group by hitting them with some relevant messaging. None of this is really new – most sophisticated ecom retailers have been using this type of targeting with email for years and years – but now it can also be done in Facebook. Some other examples: reward loyal customers with a special offer, create “reminder” ads to encourage frequency, or run ads for supplements that encourage immune system health to all your customers in cold-weather geos in the late fall. Obviously lots of ideas here.
But It’s Still Facebook, Right?
Naysayers, I hear you: “so what if I can target better in Facebook, it’s still interruption marketing; I’m just going to get poor click-through rates and conversion numbers from a more targeted group.” Maybe. I’m not saying that just because you can target better with Custom Audiences, you’re going to suddenly get killer ROIs from Facebook advertising. It is worth a try though – take a look at the ads you’re seeing when you’re logged in. You think those companies are running those for the heck of it? I will say that it appears that FBX retargeting is already taking up a lot of the inventory on Facebook; of the 5 ads I just looked at on my FB News Feed, 4 appeared to be retargeting based. All the more reason to consider the medium’s viability for your target audience.
One thing to consider is that not all your email addresses (or phone numbers) will get a “hit” in Facebooks database. The recipient must also have that email address tied to their Facebook account. So you may get 25% or less of your emails matching up. Also consider the costs here – obviously that will have a major impact on whether this is a successful ROI for you or not.