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Coffee, Scaling, Gym and GDPR

April 20, 2018

Coffee is seriously one of my best investments. I'll admit I may or may not take it too far, and I have no idea how that's going to play out in the long term. But putting that aside, I can quite comfortably say that for the time being, I'm very happily addicted.

There's a coffee machine (that I use) at the coworking space I work from (Impact Hub), yet somehow I'm still a regular at another two nearby coffee shops. That may not sound like the healthiest habit to have (it isn't), but ever since I gave in completely to my coffee cravings more than a year ago, my productivity levels went through the roof - and stayed there. 

In my mind, it just makes sense to keep it up. Plus, coffee actually does have some pretty cool health benefits too, so maybe I'm slowly breaking some things by overdoing it, but hey - it's doing good stuff too, so... that's good?

Scaling Facebook Ads

Over the past year, I went from managing between 3-5 projects at a time on my own, to now managing 12 at a time (and counting), working with 2 different teams, and keeping up personally with most clients. There's also my website on top of that, staying on top of my finances, and this blog. I've had the good fortune of working with increasingly bigger marketing budgets, and this gave me the opportunity to test my assumptions about scaling. 

So far so good. Here are a few notes I can share:

1. There's always more than one right answer.

*Ranting intermission* 

I really can't stand reading or being forwarded articles by people claiming things like "I FOUND THE HOLY GRAIL OF MARKETING. DO WHAT I DO OR YOUR BUSINESS IS AS GOOD AS DEAD". Can't stand those types of claims, or anything even remotely close to them. They're arrogant, cocky, and as any half-decent marketer should know, never actually true. 

Marketing has been around for as long as businesses have been around. Trends change, it's never just one thing that works, and principles for the most part stay the same. So there's no big secret. There's no universal blueprint. Several things work. I've had clients where one approach worked really well, and others where the same approach tanked big time. 

You have to be open minded and open to testing multiple things, if you're really serious about building a sustainable business model that's right for you. And to anyone who's just starting out, I would add that you should never feel discouraged if your first attempt at marketing fails. Most first attempts do.

*Close ranting intermission*

When it comes to scaling on Facebook, there are broadly speaking 2 ways to go about it (I find both can work):

A) Big audiences with a big spend - if your product is of wide appeal, or widely accessible (low cost/ free/ subscription based etc), then a few ad sets with a big audience and a large daily budget can work for you (emphasis on *can*, not always *will*). If this approach proves profitable for you, great - this one is the one that requires less ongoing management (so less work, in other words).

B) Medium audiences (more closely targeted) with smaller spends, but more of them running at the same time.Those notions change as Facebook continues to update its algorithm, but nowadays, I would consider an audience of about 100-500k people a medium-sized audience for Facebook. 

This second approach requires a bit more work - so it usually goes better when you have a dedicated advertiser managing the campaign for you - but it has a number of significant benefits over approach A. First, it's in some ways less risky. By diversifying your campaign, you have more control. 

For example, let's say you have 10 medium-sized audiences running at the same time, all of which are bringing in positive results. Advertising isn't static, things vary, so having more diversity protects you against unexpected performance drops or cost spikes.

In other words, if one campaign proves too volatile or unreliable, you still have 9 others you can switch your focus to. My general approach is to test a lot of different stuff when I start a new project, then gradually work on switching off everything that is underperforming, and moving that extra budget into my top performing audiences. It's not rocket science, and it does work.

2. Watch your audience size and frequency. 

Make sure your links are working at all times. If something goes wrong and people complain about it in the comments, fix it asap and relaunch your ads. If you continue to run the same ads, anyone who reads the comments may assume you're still having issues. This in turn affects costs, so that's a no-no you don't want to have.

3. The rules don't change that much. 

I used to be afraid of raising budgets in ad sets that did really well because I was worried that could ruin their performance.

It's true that your CPAs likely will go up some when you scale, so I recommend trying to get your ads to convert below your target goals before scaling. That way, if you scale and costs go up a bit (they likely will) you still have that margin that keeps you safe.

That being said tho, unless you're targeting a really limited, niche group of people, you don't have that much to worry about. Just watch your audience size, your frequency, and how things evolve. Add more ad sets if needed, otherwise feel free to scale the ones you have that are working.

4. Stay organized. 

At scale, things can get really confusing (and frustrating) really fast if you’re not organized. Decide on naming conventions from the beginning and use them within all campaigns to make sure it's easy to keep track of what you're working on.

For example, at campaign level, I generally include the type of campaign I'm running, and "bigger-picture" notes. Here are two examples:

A) "[Product/Landing Page Name] -Traffic ads - cold targeting" - this would mean that the goal of the campaign is to drive traffic and I'm targeting an audience that doesn't have previous contact with the business.

B) "Conversion ads - retargeting" - this would mean the goal is to get website conversions, and I'm driving traffic to someone who has already been on the brand's website.

At ad set level, I focus on the targeting parameters. So if I want to update a specific ad set, it will be easy to figure out who I'm targeting in each one. Mention stuff like age range, country, placements (etc) - so generally speaking things you can update at the ad set stage.

At ad level, I focus on naming conventions that revolve around the text and creative. For example, txt1 img1, for standard image ads, where it's variation 1 of the text, and variation 1 of the image. Others can be: txt 2 video 3, txt 4 carousel 1 (etc).

...but that's enough about Facebook for now.

Staying active

I love this statement: Healthy body -> healthy mind. If it were animate, I'd hug it... and then I'd lift it up, and I'd show it off. Point at it, stare at people, and yell out: "Look! Loooook at this! THIS! Thissss..." That's how much I love it.

I work from my laptop all day, but humans didn't evolve this way. We need physical exercise. It's good for our health, our energy, and even our minds and ability to think and make good decisions.

It's an important part of my weekly routine, and the way I look at it, sure, I invest a little bit of time into going to the gym several times each week... but I do feel strongly that I get that back many times over. Because as a result of that, I'm just faster, more energetic, and can work stress-free for longer stretches of time. I pay with time (and some effort) to buy more time.

GDPR

Ah, the wonderful General Data Protection Regulation that goes into effect in Europe as of May 2018. An "exciting" new set of rules aimed at just about all companies that deal with user data as part of their business. And with potential fines set to gravitate around a sexy sounding $24.5 mill (or 4% of global annual revenue for the previous financial year - whichever is higher), business owners are understandably concerned.

That being said tho, we can all clearly see the rising negative consequences of misusing people's information, especially when it happens at scale. So I do think it's reasonable to say that people who have access to personal information about their users or visitors, have an ethical responsibility to keep that data away from 3rd parties and only use it to the extent that is necessary for their service. At the end of the day, it's not the most exciting read, but I have decided it's pretty important to read the new regulation in full and understand it (99 articles, I believe) because, well, I don't have $24.5 mill.