The Secrets to Profitably Acquiring Customers on Facebook

We were thrilled to have Emily Hickey host a conversion-focused breakout session at this year’s GrowCommerce. If you missed the conference, have no fear! We interviewed Emily to ensure her insightful and impactful advice is captured for all retailers looking to up their acquisition game. This is the full interview, which was originally condensed and published in Forbes by GrowCommerce’s Veronika Sonsev. If this just isn’t enough and you want to know more, be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can keep tabs on next year’s GrowCommerce summit for customer acquisition.

The Secrets to Profitably Acquiring Customers on Facebook

Advertising on social is an ever-evolving area of customer acquisition. It’s increasingly challenging to acquire customers in a way that generates a positive return on investment (ROI).

So, who’s really doing it right these days?

Lolly Wolly Doodle, a children’s apparel retailer, built their business on Facebook — and Emily Hickey was the company’s COO at its peak of social success. Since leaving Lolly Wolly Doodle, Emily built Instant Ad Copy to help advertisers quickly and effectively launch social ads. And, when she isn’t speaking at national retail conferences, like the upcoming GrowCommerce, she’s consulting with retailers on how to profitably acquire customers on social channels like Facebook and Instagram.



I sat down with Emily to learn what it takes to acquire customers on social.

Veronika Sonsev: When you are consulting for clients today, which social channels have you found perform the best and why?

Emily Hickey: Facebook is the most powerful ad platform in existence—it has huge numbers of engaged users across numerous target markets, along with incredible targeting and affordability. It also lets you advertise directly in your target market’s Facebook feed. All this creates ample opportunity to acquire customers cheaply.

The strategy has to be direct response advertising—finding the right image that makes customers stop, writing awesome copy that makes people click, figuring out highly effective audience targeting, and optimizing landing pages, email capture, average order value (AOV), and email marketing.

Sonsev: People often say Facebook is no longer a profitable acquisition channel, but that’s clearly not your experience. What’s your secret?

Hickey: The two most common scenarios we see when people say Facebook doesn’t work are:

1. Clients tried using an agency, or two, who didn’t work with the platform creatively or aggressively enough to see returns, so they simply gave up. We find agencies only focus on the ads and then they neglect other key parts of the sales funnel, particularly landing pages and email capture.

To understand how to optimize a Direct Response (DR) landing page, here is an example:



The original landing page was converting fairly well with some areas for improvement: ‘Earn’ sounds hard; ‘Rewards’ is ambiguous.






The revised landing page matched the language on the ad and addresses the ‘getting paid’ value proposition directly. Below the fold, we added press logos, testimonials and copy directly addressing key benefits and objections.The revised landing page overall converted 28% better.




2. Clients don’t fully understand, or aren’t comfortable with, direct response advertising. When we work with clients, we’ll brainstorm creative ideas to put in front of clients and decide what will really make people stop on their ad. Many times, we have to convince a brand to be more direct in its value prop, more proactive about addressing key objections, unconventional in its imagery, with a much more casual voice. Advertisers can’t use stock images. They have to scrap the marketing language and create a friendly voice their audience trusts. We convince brands to test ads that feel “off-brand” and use the data to inform their next decisions. While they may be appalled at the creative, they achieve unexpected results.

To understand how to optimize ad creative, consider this client case study:



This original ad used the blueberry image and more indirect marketing copy. It would have delivered ~28,000 sign-ups with the client’s ad budget.







The revised ad used more direct, colloquial copy, and an image totally unrelated to the brand, but the combination of elements is much more effective at making people stop and read. This ad produced over 500,000 qualified sign-ups with that same ad budget, making it 18x more effective.




Sonsev: What tools do you use to define audiences, to post ads, and to measure results?

Hickey: To define audiences, we start with the advertising tools provided by Facebook. The best performance comes from lookalike audiences on Facebook. In the Facebook advertising world, lookalikes are people who closely resemble your customers. You can find lookalikes on Facebook by uploading your email list to Facebook — Facebook then identifies similar audiences on Facebook based on a number of attributes. This approach is has the best performance, but only scales to around 1MM people. If you want to reach more than 1MM people, you’ll need to manually map what prospective customers like, what sites they visit, etc. and target based on those attributes.

Lastly, to measure results, we use Facebook’s native tools and our own offline reports—we’ll always pull numbers into our own formats, pivot tables, etc.

Sonsev: What kinds of return on investment (ROI) are you seeing on Facebook?

Hickey: Our target is to secure a minimum of 2x return on investment for our clients, meaning the advertiser makes twice the revenue invested in advertising. A client’s desired return on investment will ultimately depend on their average order value (AOV) and profit margin. In some cases, we need 3x-4x revenue returns on ad spend to make a campaign profitable.

The reality is that scale and return on investment can be at cross purposes. As you start to scale advertising, it’s hard to maintain targeting precision, so the return on investment will go down. Advertisers have to make a trade off between the speed of growth and how cheaply they can acquire customers.

Getting good results from Facebook advertising can be tricky, but it is not impossible. We hope these suggestions help improve your next Facebook campaign and make the entire process of Facebook advertising more accessible.

To read this article in Forbes, click here.