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18 Jan

Hey, I don’t think it’s working. Let’s move on.

No, this is not a post about romantic breakups.

Rather, it’s about what you can consider doing when you’re just starting up on a bootstrapped budget and want to get the most bang for the buck out of your marketing spend.

See, when you initially start marketing, it’s difficult to attribute results to any particular thing that’s working. You’re starting out with a whole bunch of fresh variables and you might have some intuition around what’s going to work, but you still do not know what finally made a certain set of ads work.

Is it the copy that is working? Is the visuals that are working? Is the content of the post itself that is appealing? Is the audience targeting really good? Or is the product itself in such demand on this channel that none of these things matter?

But if things are working and you’re seeing sales, that is still okay. The real problem arises when things aren’t working.

How do you troubleshoot what’s responsible for your ads failing to convert?

Well, some things are easier to figure out than others.

Carry Context over

For example, if you’re getting a site visit but the visit-to-conversion ratio is abysmal, then you know that your website funnel flow needs some work.

In many cases, this problem occurs when the context isn't carried over from the advertisement to the landing page. If the CTA lands on a page that does not connect to the content of the advertisement at all, your visitors will just drop. Because remember: They clicked on the ad because they found something interesting, and you ideally want to nurture that same interest on your landing page.

Change one thing at a time

Another problem might be that while isolating the root cause of failure, you might change too many variables at once. You might change the copy and the visuals together and end up getting confused as to what worked if your ads were more successful this time around. In general, it's a good practice to change just one variable at a time and see what happens.

Assess product-channel fit

Yet another problem might be marketing on a channel that doesn't have a good product-channel fit. How do you assess that? Simply by seeing the nature of your product and the kind of people who buy such a product.

If I wanted to market a book, Twitter and LinkedIn would be ideal. If I wanted to market a fashion accessory, I would ideally go for a more visual platform like Instagram or YouTube. If I wanted to market baked goods, I would identify on what platforms mothers hang out the most, since they're mostly making these purchase decisions for the family.

If the product-channel fit isn't there, there's hardly anything you can do to salvage that sinking ship. And you should probably move on.

Identify available inventory

One more issue that commonly pops up in performance marketing is how do you figure out if you should continue advertising on a channel that has worked or move on to exploring a different channel?

Can you milk a channel enough for it to get exhausted?

I approach it as a matter of inventory. In advertising, “inventory” means “all of the available advertising space.” In a magazine, that means the total square feet of space allocated to the adverts.

Think how much additional inventory is available to you on the platform. Are there potential audience groups you haven't targeted yet? Or is it the case that people are seeing your ads everywhere and that has now started to work against you because people are tired of seeing your marketing push everywhere?

Advertisement fatigue is real and you need to be mindful of how much of a marketing push you subject your target audience to. Do it excessively and they'll start running away.

Aim for significant improvements

Early on, only big improvements in performance tell you anything significant. If one of your tweaks increased performance by 2x, that's significant and tells you something real. A 10% improvement, by comparison, is most likely noise.

When you’re small, almost no data you collect is statistically significant. Most variation you will see is due to random fluctuations, not real results. Hence, you should only be seeking large effects to confidently say that you have "learned something" from the experiment.

If you’re getting one sign-up a day, a 10% improvement still means one sign-up a day.  You need two signups a day.  You’ll know if you get a change that drastic! Those are the only important changes.

If you consistently find yourself only getting incremental performance increases than significant jumps even after many iterations, maybe that channel just isn't for you. Maybe you don't understand that channel at all, or maybe people on the platform just aren't interested in your product. In any case, it's a problem simple iterations on copy or visuals will likely not remedy.

(Note that all of this advice is only true for low-budget marketing in the initial stages and not at all true for high-budget performance marketing.)

To summarise

When you're on a low budget, iterate wisely. Understand the platform. Don't change too many things at once. And don't get excited by tiny, incremental results.

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15k+ business professionals act on our advice every day. You should too.