When am I going to start seeing results?
How fast can we scale to $25,000?
How much am I going to spend on testing?
These questions (and more) come up frequently as we're talking to companies who are considering working with us to grow their business. Whether they are just starting out on a new e-commerce store or looking to increase their app signups 3x in Q2, the underlying question is really the same.
Let's face it: marketers (and marketing agencies) have really turned their approach into a "black box" over the years. Whether they do it by hiding behind jargon, slapping clever branding over the top, or creating complex or confusing diagrams, the end result is confused business owners who don't really understand what their dollars are going towards, or why.
Now, take a deep breath.
For you, with us, that stops here.
We're about to open the box.
I have two little kids, one who who is in preschool and one toddler. Both are (alarmingly) ambulatory, moving all over the house and getting into everything they aren't supposed to. The older one can unlock deadbolts, push open screen doors, climb ladders and stairs, while the younger is content with simple seeing how fast she can get her body moving in a single direction before she either topples forward or encounters an object with refuses to budge when she slams into it.
Why do I bring this up? Because they didn't start this way.
Yes, it's a tired cliche, but it's so true: you have to walk before you can run.
If your business has never run an ad before, never used marketing to sell, never attempted to convince someone brand new to the brand or product or service that they should part with their hard-earned Benjamin Franklins, then your first question should not be, "How much can I make?"
You don't have TRACTION yet.
By traction I mean a pattern of desired behavior occurring in a consistent, somewhat predictable fashion. This could mean generating leads, getting purchases, onboarding new users or whatever else your business goal, it doesn't matter. The point is that you need to be able to say that you can cause it to happen, repeatedly, with your efforts.
When we work with clients who have never run ads before, or who are just starting out, our first forays out into the marketplace are focused on finding who will buy and what will cause them to buy. Put another way, this is about audience and creative/offer.
Let's bust a myth: just because you have a product or service does not mean people will buy it. This is not Field of Dreams.
On the contrary, you have to wade through scores of unqualified or uninterested people to find your best candidates, and then test multiple different messages, angles, images, videos, taglines and more in order to find traction.
"Okay, but how long does that take?"
Well, that depends.
I know, that's not what you were hoping for. And if I can tell you that it would take 2 weeks or 2 months or whatever, I definitely would. Instead, here's what I can tell you:
When you work with us, you aren't hiring wizards (or gurus or ninjas) - you're hiring data-driven marketers. So we're going to test, and test, and test, and generate lots of data, and then we're going to do what the data tells us.
Sometimes it's fast, and we see traction in just a few weeks. Sometimes it takes less time, sometimes it takes longer. All the factors above impact that.
But the good news is, once you have TRACTION, you can move on to start thinking about...
Too many times we'll talk to a business owner who is putting money into ads and wants to see immediate return. If they don't get a certain CPA or ROAS in the first 3 weeks, they think there's something "wrong" with the ads. They don't realize they are trying to run before walking, that you can't build a house without the foundation, or whatever analogy you best identify with.
Once we help our clients find TRACTION, then (and only then) is it time to start discussing PROFIT.
If you don't have enough data points, you can't optimize.
Put another way, if you don't have anyone buying from you, how do you know who your best customers are?
Getting this data and acting on it is the basis of improving your PROFIT metrics. If you want a better CPA, you need to find out which creative gets the best response and then test small optimizations on it - a new emoji, a different headline, a carousel vs a static image. If you want better ROAS, you can segment by device type or placement or time of day that gives you the best baseline.
The key to the PROFIT stage is having goals. And I don't mean "I want to retire and sleep on a bed of Andrew Jacksons every night" type goals, more like "If I can generate new users for $20 each I'm profitable and am basically printing money" goals.
We help our clients walk through some simple calculations to set their goals. For an e-commerce store this might include repeat purchase rate, average order value (AOV), and cost of goods sold (COGS). For a SaaS client, we would consider lifetime value (LTV), profit margins, and upsells. Whatever the case, we want to end up with a single number.
That number is our PROFIT goal. If we can hit that goal with consistency, it unlocks us to move on the third and final stage.
Ah yes, scaling. The magical, mystical land of unicorns and rainbows where you trade $1 for $4 ten thousand times while eating ice cream in your pajamas.
Okay, well, not quite, but that's how the "get rich quick" YouTube personalities pitch it. Sounds fun, huh?
Truth is, scaling isn't the end - it's the beginning.
You can't start putting more dollars into your campaigns until they are making you money back consistently, and you can't do that until you build a system of repeatable client generation. Hence the reason it's the final step. But there's another reason we counsel clients to be smart about getting to this stage: the game changes.
If you want to triple your investment in ads, especially on a channel like Facebook Ads, just about the worst thing you can do is start jacking your budgets up quickly.
This causes the algorithm to have to start relearning, and oftentimes can tank your PROFIT, forcing you to go back to the drawing board. Instead, you have to be intentional, constantly revisiting your PROFIT goals and testing new TRACTION experiments to widen your funnel. And this is why we insistent on walking through the process with clients - because failing to do the hard work on the front end ends up in a house of cards that falls apart, leaving everyone unhappy.
Some of our best success stories are clients who did things the right way, worked with us to build a repeatable system for growth and testing, and then let us run wild with new audiences, creative, automation, rules and more. Their accounts grew from 5 to 7 figures in ad spend profitably not by some mystical proprietary technology or the wizardry of a paid acquisition savant, but by being intentional, creating a solid foundation, and trusting the process.
It's not easy. It's not as fast as we'd like. But the results are worth it, and the potential that it opens up are amazing.
No black box. No magic. No single genius with the inside track on the algorithm.
Just lots of testing, patience, observation, analysis, failure, growth and consistency.
That's the secret sauce of EmberTribe, and it's one of the reasons we've had such great success for ourselves and our clients since our inception. A three-step process of TRACTION, PROFIT, SCALE that works across industries, across business models, regardless of the age or success of the business to date.