How to win at Facebook ads

Facebook advertising puzzle

Small businesses undertaking their own Facebook marketing can often be overwhelmed with it all. If you’re not yet at the stage where you can take on a social media agency, there’s a lot to understand and a lot you can get wrong. In this article, I want to try and address the fear and help you get started.

 This is probably the question I get asked the most:

“Why aren’t I making money from my Facebook ads?”

I always give the same answer.

People go to Facebook to engage with people they like, to look at cat pictures and to have the odd argument about politics.

They don’t go on Facebook to spend money. They certainly don’t go on Facebook to spend lots of money. So your 10 yoga classes for £100, half-price lawnmower or one-week bookkeeping course may be tremendously good value but the chances of someone seeing your ad and whipping out their credit card are slim at best.

So why, then, does Facebook advertising work so well?

When it is done correctly and with a good action plan, it is a low-cost form of advertising that you can target towards exactly the kind of people who will buy your products or services. According to Statista, Facebook boasts over 2.7 billion monthly active users and it is the biggest social network worldwide.

What is targeting?

Targeting is simply choosing the audience you show your adverts to.

5 years ago, people writing “how-to” articles on Facebook advertising always recommended keeping your audience size as small as possible. This is no longer the case. Facebook has become more sophisticated in who it shows its ads to. Also, narrowing your audience too much can make your campaigns expensive. You can use Audience Insights if you have never advertised on Facebook before and so don’t have any customer data. I wrote a handy blog on how to do this. This brilliant tool tells you a lot of useful information about the people who follow your Facebook page.

If you install the pixel (which I go into further on), you will get great data that Facebook can use to start targeting narrower audiences. You can tell Facebook to target people who look like the people who have already purchased from you. Until you have that data, don’t try to second guess too much. Use the Audience Insights tool and let Facebook start gathering data for you.

So how do I draw people in?

  1. Create leads.

The notion of lead-generation for sales is as old as sales itself. Get someone to express an interest in your business, get them to willingly give you their contact details and then you can make them your offer. So if we go back to the yoga example:

Create something of value and offer it for free. For example, create a video and call it “10 minute morning yoga sequence guaranteed to give you more energy after one week”. People will be required to give you their contact details before they watch the video. But when they do watch it, they warm to you, your service and your brand.

You can then contact them offering something else of value for free. Maybe another video or a download. Then go in for the kill and offer them your yoga course. They will be so much more receptive.

2. Offer something cheaper to warm people to your brand.

One of my clients makes beautiful gemstone jewellery. It’s lovely but a necklace can cost £100. That’s a lot of money to ask people to part with when they only popped on to Facebook to check out their ex’s new flame.

My client also happens to make earrings, which are much cheaper. So I ran a series of ads focusing on the earrings and a number were sold. Once people have bought something, they can then be retargeted with further Facebook advertising (I’ll go into this in a bit) or with a newsletter if they gave you permission to contact them when making their purchase.

3. Advertise an offer or sale.

This is fairly self-explanatory. However, there are a couple of things to bear in mind:

  • Create a sense of urgency. The sale MUST end in 3 days.
  • Make it genuine. People aren’t stupid and fake sales are easily discovered and can put people off your brand.

Choose the right landing page

Always choose the most relevant landing page. If you sell women’s clothes and you have a sale on T-shirts, don’t direct people to your home page. Make it easy for your customers. Direct them to the T-shirts page. Or be more specific if you can. Have a sale on 5 T-shirts, make a carousel advert with 5 images – each one linked to a specific product. If customers can’t find what they want within a few seconds, they will leave your website. Forever.

Your content makes the sale

You’ve chosen the audience that you think will be most receptive and you’ve got a great offer that no one can refuse. What you say now (and how you say it) will make or break the deal.


This is the most important part of your ad. Please, please, please don’t use a generic picture of some guys in an office. Or a generic yoga class. Or generic anything. And don’t use anyone’s copyright images. Use bright colours or black and white. These will stand out. You can use free graphics packages to edit images. For example, you can make an image black and white and add a pop of colour like the second image below. If you’re going to use people, have them looking directly at the camera. Also, use people that your target audience can relate to.

This is a good ‘un that stood out to me. So is this.


A tried and tested formula for Facebook copy  is known as AIDA, which stands for:

Attention: Grab users’ attention with a snappy headline.
Interest: Generate interest by describing how the user will benefit from it.
Desire: Create immediate desire for your product with an offer, time-limited sale or free trial.
Action: Choose the right call to action.

Here’s an example for aspiring guitar players:

Become a master of the blues
Learn all 6 main blues techniques in just 6 weeks with blues legend, Justin Sandercoe.
Save 50%. Enroll now.

Make 3 ads and test them

When you’ve created your main ad, add another 2 to your ad group. Test ONE change at a time. If you change the copy and the text, you don’t know which worked best. Keep refining. Ditch ads that are too expensive and not seeing results.

Keep testing and refining your Facebook ads

Facebook ads do not fit into the “set it and forget it” category. You will see your audience start to drop off after 3 – 10 days. This is normal. Make new ads and keep deleting the ones that don’t perform well. Don’t edit your ad or you will lose everything you’ve learnt.

You may also find that your results fluctuate massively and drop off before you expect. This is often because you have exhausted your audience. Setting small audiences for each objective or campaign and changing them often should help you avoid this.

The Facebook pixel

Can you advertise without installing the pixel? Yes, you can. Would I recommend it? No. Even if you ignore the rest of this article, set up a pixel before you advertise.

I’m not going to use this article to explain how to set up the pixel when there are already many great “how to” articles and videos.

However, you need to know that the Facebook pixel does two main things for you.

  1. It allows you to track your results. You can see how many purchases have been made, of what products and at what value. It allows you to see the behaviour of your visitors on your site and to track your ROI.
  2. It allows you to retarget people who have already been to your website and to people who have already purchased. There are a number of rules you can set up and try but people who already know your business are usually the most valuable. As well as targeting people who already know about your business, you can set up lookalike audiences. These are made up of people that Facebook thinks are similar to the people who have performed certain actions (viewing products, making purchases, etc.) on your site. So instantly, you have expanded your audience to people you didn’t know about. And don’t forget that Facebook collects a lot of data on everyone that uses it, so lookalike audiences can be very valuable.

Once you’ve set up your pixel, you can use it in conjunction with the demographic and interest-based audience. I once set up a campaign for the jewellery-maker client I mentioned earlier. She wanted to generate interest in a craft fair at which she’d be selling her jewellery. Using the pixel, I was able to apply super-slick targeting towards people who had visited her website in the last 60 days and who are based in the local area. I spent £5 on this advert and she reported her best sales ever at a fair. A steady stream of local people showed up to the fair to see her. These were people who had been to her website but were undecided as to whether to purchase, so they came to see the items in person.

So pixel-based targeting can work for businesses of all sizes when used the right way. I’ve also used the pixel for many other businesses to target people who added items to their shopping cart but never purchased. There are all sorts of really great ways to use it.


I could really write all day about the right and wrong ways to do Facebook advertising. However, I have tried to stick to the key points that small businesses (and big businesses) often get wrong.

So make sure you:

  1. Don’t narrow your audience too much.
  2. Warm people to your brand and/or create a sense of urgency. Don’t just go in for the kill without a really good offer
  3. Use images that catch the eye
  4. Use the AIDA formula for copy
  5. Test, test, test. One change at a time
  6. Use the pixel. No excuses

Good luck!

Get in touch if you’d like to chat about your Facebook ads – or anything else!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *