The Untold Truth About Facebook Ads and the Reality of Investing in Paid Advertising in 2019

After investing over $84,000 (and 2.5 years) into cracking the “code” to paid advertising, we wrote The Real Cost of Paid Advertising as a part of our Unhidden email series.

Important Note: $54,000+ of that investment was ad spend alone. $20,000+ was spent on online courses and agencies we hired. And as a result of all that learning and growing, here are 6 of the biggest “secrets” the paid advertising world does NOT want you to know.

If you want to learn Facebook ads:

You can learn about Facebook ads from Facebook itself **for FREE.** They’ll teach you everything including how to get started with advertising, how to target the right audience, how to generate leads, and how to manage your FB/IG ads inside Ads Manager:

If you want to run your Facebook ads:

If you don’t want to learn Facebook Ads Manager (since it can be overwhelming and super techy), you can run your ads through AdEspresso (for $69/month). AdEspresso is our favorite way to run our own ads because it does so much of the management and testing for us.

In full disclosure, no matter how much we learn about Facebook Ads Manager, we’ve always gotten the best results from AdEspresso. Our cost per lead was always the lowest AND the time it took to manage those ads (once the strategy was already mapped out and the ads themselves were already created) was only 10 minutes a day.

When I specifically asked our NEW Facebook Ad Specialist about this (before we hired her), this was her honest response:

“AdEspresso is a really great tool and many advertisers use it just as much as business owners do. Because you guys are digitally savvy I know that you are utilizing it to the fullest and I am sure you will get results if you continue to advertise through there on your own! The only downside with using it is that YOU are still managing it which I know was a big frustration of yours. Another small downside is when new features are rolled out to Facebook there is a delay as to when they are integrated into AdEspresso. So if there’s a new targeting option available, there’s a delay. Or if there’s a new ad format, there’s a delay. Not a HUGE deal, but I know you guys said you want to be ahead of the game and that could slow you down a bit.”

If you want to hire an agency:

If you want to hire an agency, there are 7 elements they have to get right (otherwise, you’ll waste way too much time, energy, money, and tears). Those 7 elements are:

  • Strategy (Are they thinking outside the box and creating ads that are different than everyone else in your industry or are they constantly trying to fit you into a template?)
  • Management (Are they on top of communicating with you about the testing, tracking, and tweaking of your ads? Are they delivering weekly reports? Are they maintaining a high level of customer service?)
  • Insider knowledge (Are they in Facebook Ads Manager on the daily, knowledgeable about new changes, and forward-thinking in terms of pivoting/adapting before the curve?)
  • Design (Are they able to design ads, at a high level of excellence, that look/feel good and represent your brand well?)
  • Copywriting (Are they able to write ads, at a high level of excellence, that sound like your voice and perfectly align with your brand?)
  • Metrics (Are they deeply in-tune with your numbers, your ad spend, and whether or not your ads are truly profitable? Or are they focused on vanity metrics that make them look good?)
  • Care (Are they invested in you and do they care about your results/success, your money, and your long-term sustainability?)

All this to say, if you choose to work with an agency (or build your own internal agency like we are), please, please please:

Pay attention to your numbers. If we hadn’t personally been in-tune with our numbers, we wouldn’t have caught the fact that our ad spend jumped from $2,000 every 4 weeks to $4,500 every 3 weeks without our approval. And we also wouldn’t have caught the fact that our weekly reports were often skewed in the agencies favor. Skewed metrics = prioritizing vanity metrics OR the projected lifetime value of the customer, NOT actual revenue generated.

Don’t settle for breaking even. One agency tried to convince us that we should be “happy” we were barely breaking even each week, after 4 months of working with them. When we brought this all the way up to the Owner they actually replied, “I don’t know how to say this without sounding rude, but we’re actually losing money on you.” So essentially, it wasn’t worth it for them to get us results or to improve our numbers. Important side note: This specific agency runs ads for Marie Forleo and Amy Porterfield. So we signed them based on reputation/street cred, but were delivered a different level of service/results because we weren’t Marie or Amy. Talk about the trickle-down effect in motion!

If you want to decrease your cost per lead and overall ad spend:

Warm your audience up organically first. Everything we do with ads only amplifies what we’re doing right with organic. A great example of this is the amount of organic swipe ups we got on this ONE recent Instagram Story. 162 link clicks for 100% free. And better yet, those free swipe ups are from our warm audience, which means they already know, like, and trust us.

To build your organic warm audience, we recommend focusing on four key areas: 1) Your website traffic, 2) Your page engagement (messages, comments, likes, etc.), 3) Your video views, and 4) Your email list.

By focusing on these four key areas, your warm audience will grow and then become “retargetable” for up to 180 days. Note: For your website traffic to be retargetable, you have to have a Facebook pixel installed on each webpage.

All this to say, the more we double down on what works for us on the organic-strategy side, the more everything we do related to paid marketing/selling works. That’s why our 6-part podcast series was such a wild success (from 0-36,000 organic downloads in 8 weeks).

And it’s also why we get 4,800% more comments on Instagram than other accounts that have the same audience size (which you can track with

Also, important side note: When you compare the fact that we organically gained 525 email subscribers in ONE WEEK in January 2019 to one week’s worth of results from a “top” Facebook ad agency we hired last year, the numbers speak for themselves.

1 week’s worth of our own organic results = 525 subscribers
1 week’s worth of paid advertising results from a TOP Facebook ads agency = 149 subscribers

So yes, in one week we increased by 525 organic subscribers for FREE and in comparison, the “top agency” we hired last year got an average of 149 paid leads per week, at $2.31 per lead, with an average ad spend of $1,500 per month. And of course, this doesn’t even include the actual agency fee of $2,000/month.

If you want your ads to convert:

Think of your ad strategy like a sales funnel ...

  • On the front end, you need organic content and paid ads that will build awareness for your business and grow your warm audience. Facebook/IG Lives work well for this, Insta Stories work well for this, high-quality content on your FB/IG feed works well for this.
  • After that, you need ads that serve as a “catalyst” and transition these warm leads into taking a specific action (like joining your email list, downloading a PDF, joining in a webinar, booking a call with you, claiming a discount code, etc.).
  • After that, you need ads that follow-up by directly promoting your offering and actually helping these leads overcome any objections they have to your service/product/course. This means you’ll need a variety of ads like: Ads that remind people to watch your webinar, ads with reviews/testimonials from your customers, ads that lead people to visit your sales page, ads that remind people how many spots/units you have left, ads that address any deadlines, ads that speak to any special bonuses/discounts, etc.).

And as you’re mapping out this ad funnel, please, please, please remember: Paid advertising can only amplify what’s already working right. Facebook ads do NOT fix a broken sales funnel. Facebook ads do NOT fix your sales page. And Facebook ads do NOT fix any problems with your offer, your pitch, or your product.

Beyond that, Facebook ads do NOT automatically = your ticket to scaling your business. Again, throwing money at ads doesn’t fix anything. But amplifying what’s already working (i.e. sales funnel that converts, webinar that converts, product that converts, etc.) is the best feeling in the world.

So when you see Hey, Sweet Pea running ads, don’t forget that we’re sending paid traffic to something that’s already proven to convert. So yes, we’ll be sending paid traffic to the opt-in page. But that’s only because we *already know* this opt-in page is converting at 55% (which is way higher than the industry standard of 10-20%).

Our paid advertising strategy serves to amplify our organic strategy. And when both of these elements work in tandem together? That’s when the true marketing magic happens.

If you want to prioritize real revenue instead of vanity metrics:

Listen to Episode 3 of our “Nobody Talks About This” podcast: Money + Debt. Then start keeping track of the flow of money within your business (as CEO of your company, you can NOT avoid this).

Also, anytime you start to compare your launch or end-of-year review to someone else’s … remember that real revenue is the only thing that actually matters and moves the needle forward.

So if someone had a $10k launch but spent $7k on ads, remind yourself that their launch was only $3k. And if you hear a Facebook ads agency share a “win” about a $230k launch they recently finished for a client, don’t forget they spent $170k on ad spend (<< true story), which means their “wildly successful” launch was actually a $60k launch. Or, when you envy anyone else’s “biggest launch yet” and can’t figure out HOW they did it … don’t forget about the cost of affiliates (which often take 50% of every sale), or the cost of running a team, or the cost of all the software/tech associated with that launch.

All this to say: The pursuit of vanity metrics only leads to more vanity metrics. So as fun and strategic as Facebook ads can be (if done right), it’s always about that real revenue number. And if you keep your eyes on that ONE metric, no matter how you choose to scale, you’ll keep making wise decisions on behalf of your company, over and over again.

There’s more where that came from!
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