I have been stuck in a trap before where I feel like I HAD to use paid advertising to grow… and I’ve felt very frustrated with that mindset. So I want to tell you why you do NOT need paid advertising to grow, where you could use it if you want to, and where you might run into some frustrations.
You do NOT need paid advertising to grow
Want to listen to the podcast version of this post? I’ve got you covered!
Let’s talk about paid advertising!
I have felt VERY frustrated with paid ads over the last year or so, but I have also always been an advocate for using ads if you have money to throw at them. But I am also not someone who constantly has ads running. If I don’t see a major ROI, then I will not run ads.
Definitions of paid advertising
Paid advertising is when you pay a platform to show an ad of your choice to certain people.
Google ads are one example of this – meaning you pay for your business to show up with a certain search term. They are pretty simple to use and are generally cheaper than other ads. They are great for businesses that have specific or location-based customers. For example, with the new store I’m starting, I might run Google ads for the key term “places to shop in West Jefferson North Carolina.”
Pinterest ads are essentially a hybrid between what a Google ad and Facebook ad are. People are very likely to click on a Google ad since it’s something they were searching for, while a Facebook ad shows up while they are scrolling. Pinterest ads can appear whenever someone searches for a key term or when a key term is recommended to them. So, it’s an in-between.
Then, there are traditional Facebook ads. For most of us with online businesses, Facebook ads are typically where we turn. I actually LOVE Facebook ads. They have really cool potential and I could nerd out all day about the creation of ads for that platform. But they are absolute GARBAGE right now (in late June 2021). Their cost skyrocketed during and after the 2020 election, and then iOS updates (the operating system on Apple phones) included some major security changes so people can opt out of being tracked by advertisers. So Facebook ads changed a ton, and nothing is working super well.
My past Facebook ads strategy
Like I said, I do NOT believe in running ads just for the sake of running ads. I only run ads on Facebook if I have a specific objective and see a massive ROI. Here’s an example of something I did in the past.
When I had a much smaller audience, I would create videos that helped people who would want the thing I was about to launch. Then I’d create an ad with that video and pay for people to watch it. Then, I would create NEW ads for my webinar and show them to the same people who watched that first video. And I’d sell to them at my webinar.
I’ve also done ads that link straight to products, like my ClickUp course. Plus, I’ve done ads to content that then sells people something (like podcast episodes or YouTube videos).
I have also done typical SLO funnel ads, which stands for a self-liquidating offer funnel. Those are ads that send you to a low-cost offer where they will then send you to an upsell and an order bump. There’s a lot of strategy behind them that you can learn more about on an old podcast episode here.
Now to the point – I DON’T think you need paid advertising to grow
I’ve used lots of ad strategies in the past, and I’ve had a lot of good AND bad luck. And I’m telling you that you don’t need them. The cost of Facebook ads is really annoying to me currently. If you’re a beginner, don’t know how to or can’t pay someone else to run Facebook ads, or have an offer less than $1,000, then you probably don’t need to run ads.
Ads as a whole are becoming a lot harder to use because people on the other end of those ads are getting smarter. They understand what’s happening and what the goal of your ad is much more than they did a few years ago.
I market B2B. In that instance, the people on the other end of my sales funnels are recognizing ads more often than they were beforehand. And I don’t want you to go broke running ads!
Back in May, I literally wasted $2,400 on Facebook ads and did not make all of that money back. I’ve done the same thing with Pinterest ads. And that is INCREDIBLY frustrating.
Why do people run ads?
You can run ads for a few different outcomes.
- SLO Funnels (so to recoup the money they spend while growing their audience)
- Promoting webinars, challenges, or etc. to sell to you later
- General publicity – to get their name out their and get more likes
Here’s the kicker…
If you’ve ever heard “oh, just run some ads,” know that you do not HAVE to do that. You do not need paid advertising to grow!!
I have used paid ads in the past, and even as recently as a few weeks ago. But it's not something I do on the regular. I’ve gone through an entire year without running Facebook ads and did just fine.
Ads are COMPLICATED
Google ads are the easiest to use because there is limited copy, the ads are text-only, and you run them based on key terms. If you know there’s a specific key term for you to target, that can be a really great place for you to start.
Otherwise? Paid ads are super complicated. They take time and a ton of expertise to do well.
I talked to a Pinterest strategist a few months ago, and they told me that my ads weren’t working for the DUMBEST reason. There are a ton of little quirks with Facebook ads too – like you can only increase your budget by 25% or they won’t work anymore, etc.
Adding the stress of learning the platform, learning how to run the ads, and maintaining them is BANANAS. If you know what you’re doing and you’ve seen success from ads, then you can keep going if you want. But if you have no clue whether it works and you’re sending Facebook ads to them… maybe re-think that strategy.
I am so sure of this theory, that I’m committing NOT to run Facebook ads for the next year
I may experiment with YouTube and Google ads over the next year, but I am committing to you that I am NOT running Facebook ads for the next year.
Let’s do a check-in every 6 months where I share the growth trajectory of my business. Because I promise that you do NOT need paid advertising to grow. Instead, you need a service or product that makes you money getting in front of more eyeballs. And you can do that with ORGANIC CONTENT, folks.
You can do that by creating the content yourself and getting on other people’s content! Be on podcasts, YouTube channels, blogs, etc. Or, you could use networking and word-of-mouth!
If you’ve ever thought you can’t get there as quickly because you don’t have the budget for Facebook ads – ERASE THAT THOUGHT.
You can do everything you need to do without ads.
Here’s a time when paid advertising worked really well for me
In December of 2018, I stumbled upon digital planners. I made a YouTube video where I talked about digital planners, and I KNEW it would get tons of views because of my YouTube knowledge. So I strategically created and sold my own digital planner in that video – and I made thousands of dollars from it.
Then, in May 2020 I started running Pinterest ads to a bundle of digital planning things that was $27 – no order bump or upsell. These ads did SO WELL. I was spending between $500-$700 per month and was making between $3,000-$5,000 per month from them.
We did super well for several months, but in September less and less people were buying it because it included a 2020 planner. We spent September making the 2021 planners and intended to launch them in 2021 with the same ads.
NOTHING changed about the ads – but they completely flopped. I spent all of October and November wasting money on Pinterest ads that I never saw a worthwhile ROI on.
Now a story about Facebook ads
I launched a new small-offer funnel earlier this year that is a starter pack for launching an online course. It’s a CRAZY awesome bundle (I promise, ha).
The offer is $27 and it has a $47 order bump and a $77 upsell. I finish it and start running ads to it and it is AWESOME. I’m tripling my money, I’ve nailed the positioning, and it’s going really really well. That never happens on the first try!! 3xing my ad spend.
Then, all my ads got shut down because I hadn’t done whatever I needed to do for the iOS updates. I do what I need to do and spend weeks fighting with Facebook ads. But one of the new updates requires you to wait 72 hours before you start running ads if you change the objective.
Once they turned back on? THEY TOTALLY FLOPPED. Nothing had changed – and they had been tripling my ad spend the week before. I spent $2400 on those ads in a month, and I didn’t make that money back.
In conclusion: you do not need paid advertising to grow
You can do all the things you need to do without Facebook ads. Especially if you’re a beginner, running Facebook ads are probably NOT worth your time.