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Hail Mary Facebook Ads Saved Christmas

facebook-angelWe had one of our clients budget substantial spend-cash for Christmas weekend PPC, as holidays are always a serious hotbed of activity for their product. Last year the same December days resulted in leads that generated hundreds of thousand in sales.

Last Friday’s 5:15PM email from their CFO was ominous: “Marty, I had to cancel the cc due to fraudulent charges. A new one will be issued within 5 business days.” This “legacy” client represents the only remaining aimClear account which still uses their credit card and, due to regulatory issues, we can’t use ours. The Grinch was screaming bloody murder at the door and it seemed Christmas was ruined.

Triage Time
I managed to get a hold of one of the client’s principle officers (at the cabin) and he had access to a corporate Discover Card. Google and Yahoo don’t take Discover. Facebook was the only option as they DO take Discover. We hatched a Hail Mary plan to pull Christmas out of the fire.

The Case Study
Clicks on Google, Yahoo, & MSN cost between $5-$10 for this product, with CTRs between 2% & 11%. Landing page conversion-to-leads percentages typically sit around 4%-7%. Buying leads from resellers costs between $35 & $58. Leads which result in sales generate 35K+. The target demographic is right in Facebook’s wheelhouse.

We quickly plotted points on the Facebook social graph to ascertain whether our customer’s interests showed up in the preset Ajax FB category options. BINGO! We identified about 850,000 potential customers who, as expressed by their FB behavior, engaged in activities highly associated with our client’s product. The plan was to run the ads until each target customer saw each ad once-about 1.5 million impressions.

We put on our British clickbaiting hats and wrote 2 ads with killer headline bait to alternate. Facebook experience has taught us that low cost impressions burn brightly for 24-36 hours and then flame out like comets or get expensive. Alternating them prolongs the effectiveness. Worry beads in hand, we were ready. Trembling hands, I pushed the button and we held our breath. Over the holiday we alternated the ads every 12 hours or so. One performed better than the other.

The Result: Christmas Was Saved

The results were nothing less than stunning. Though the CTR was low (usual for FB) the cost-per-click was a small percentage of typical mainstream engine PPC prices. Out of the 970 unique FB visitors 143 converted to leads, a whopping 14.7%, between double and triple the historic landing page conversion average. The cost-per-lead was just under $5.73, significantly less than usual. Given the laser-focus of the targeting, we believe that leads could convert to sales at a higher rate than usual.

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They say that necessity is the mother of all invention and, in this case, we got lucky. Facebook is obviously not for every product. All our client knows is that we avoided disaster and opened up a new marketing channel. Our team will look back on Christmas 2007 as the year Hail Mary Facebook ads saved Christmas.

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12 Comments

  1. michael streko on December 26, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    :) thanks for breakfast that morning.

  2. Marty Weintraub on December 26, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    You’re welcome. No doubt our conversation over crumpets @ SES Chicago was useful to our perception of Facebook.

  3. DazzlinDonna on December 28, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Makes me think y’all are quite simply – brilliant!

  4. Local SEO Guide on December 28, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Great info as always Marty. I’ll be curious to hear what the conversion rate was.

  5. Gab on December 28, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    Also, I’d be interested to see what you guys make of this NYT piece on Facebook Users selling their own Ads

  6. Gab on December 28, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Fascinating case study here Marty. So many people have been bashing Facebook’s ad platform lately as not converting, but it appears quite obvious from your post that you can do some good business there. I’d love to see a followup on the lead-to-sale conversion rate, vs regular ppc leads. On a related note, how did you alternate the ads? Were you pausing them and then letting the next one run? ‘

  7. Marty Weintraub on December 28, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    @ Donna: *blush* that’s so nice. Thanks.
    @ Local Local SEO Guide: You know we’ll share.
    @ Gab, I sphunn the NY Times story December 9th:
    http://sphinn.com/story/17864

  8. SlightlyShadySEO on December 29, 2007 at 3:22 am

    I’ve had terrible experiences with Facebooks PPC, but it’s lovely to see someone makes money off it without getting banned. It’s a tricky setup to be sure.

  9. Marty Weintraub on December 29, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    @ SlightlyShady: Other campaigns have taken some serious tweaking to figure out. Facebook is the classic round hole, impervious to square pegs.

    Also, we’ve experienced the RUDE letter FB sends if they don’t like your ad. They accuse you of “harassing” their users. It’s not good language for any vendor to use with their customers.

    Thanks for stopping by. We read your blog. :)

  10. SlightlyShadySEO on December 29, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    Glad to hear it!
    And yeah, towards the end of my facebook run they no longer sent letters. Just banned the whole account.
    …and sometimes IP
    …and sometimes credit card
    …and sometimes keywords/subject lines
    …and sometimes domains.
    I suspect I’ll eventually toy with them again, but I really do dislike the idea of giving them more money.
    I’m surprised you guys got the letter though; reading this blog I can tell you do your homework before you launch a campaign…but their policies are so vague and random…ugh.

  11. Marty Weintraub on December 31, 2007 at 12:42 am

    @ SlightlyShady: We’d sure like to see a post which shares the history of your nasty interactions with FB. :)

  12. SlightlyShadySEO on December 31, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    heh I actually have one out there about my attempted return to them right http://www.slightlyshadyseo.com/?p=76 there.
    If you want to hear more stuff though(my original experience with them was quite a bit more colorful), an e-mail with instant messenger info may be needed…some tricks ya gotta keep quiet about ;)

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