Facebook is a pain in the ass. I’d happily close my account if it didn’t work so damn well as an advertising platform for our clients. Bottom line, we’re getting customers from Facebook and Instagram so it’s hard to leave.
It’s actually gotten a little too easy to sit back and rely on big blue to send us a steady flow of customers. Our dependency on this one platform leaves our clients vulnerable. We were reminded of just how risky it is to rely on Facebook and Instagram on Black Friday when they shut down two separate client advertising accounts for no reason.
Facebook gave us no explanation outside of saying the account violated a policy. It took two days to get Facebook to review the accounts and realize it was an error. Your primary acquisition channel being down during the busiest shopping day in history is kind of a big deal.
We got things back up and running, but it was a kick-in-the-nuts reminder that we’re too dependent on Instagram and Facebook for our top-of-funnel customer acquisition. That’s changing. We’re actively developing new acquisition channels that fit for each client.
What works for my clients might not be right for your business, but I feel confident there’s one or more strategies below that will be a viable option for growing your company. I’m not trying to push you away from Instagram or Facebook with this post. My goal is simply to provide viable alternatives so you don’t get caught with your pants around your ankles on the busiest shopping day of the year—like we did. Here are four proven ways to get more customers without Facebook or Instagram ads.
Google – SEO & PPC
Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day (internetlivestats, 2019). That breaks down to 40,000 searches per second. If you want to know something, find something, or buy something, there’s a good chance you’re starting that process at Google.
We’re working to improve the top of our clients’ funnels where new buyers become aware these companies exist. Using a search engine receiving 3.5 billion searches per day seems like a pretty logical spot to connect with fresh faces. We’ll be using two tactics with Google:
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization
- PPC – Pay Per Click Advertising
I’m not going to go deep into explaining SEO and PPC. These are both huge topics with full books, blogs, and businesses dedicated to each. Instead, I’ll explain the role each will play in our strategy and how you can leverage them. If it sounds like a good fit for what you sell, give me a shout and I’ll provide more resources for each.
My father-in-law runs the most trafficked site for dog food information in the world. He built the website while he was working as a dentist. The site grew over a span of about 7 years until he was able to retire from dentistry and focus completely on his site. He now dominates every potential dog food search term you can imagine on Google. Each day, tens of thousands of people are perusing the pages of his site. His business was literally built on the back of SEO.
We’re using this same strategy for Special Sauce and our clients. This is a long-term investment that requires strategy, execution, and patience, but the payoff when done right is massive. My father-in-law consistently produced killer content (after a full day of dentistry) for years before the payoff really hit. Don’t tread into SEO expecting immediate gratification, but imagine what having tens of thousands of website visitors on your website every day would do for your business.
Pay Per Click is the immediate gratification yin to SEO’s long-term yang. With PPC, you pick the search terms you want to show up for on Google and then pay each time someone clicks your ad. If you pick search terms with high buying intent and send prospects to a landing page that fulfills their search desire, PPC can be an explosive growth tool.
We pair SEO and PPC for many of our clients. We’re constantly producing badass content that will eventually rank on Google, but we’re also using PPC to get the immediate gratification (aka customers) they need to drive revenue today. Seriously consider testing PPC if you’re in the b2b space, or if you sell a high $$$ product or service.
Podcast & Email Newsletter Sponsorships
There are a lot of quality podcasts and email newsletters out there today. You can find a podcast or email for pretty much any niche. These folks have done the hard work of showing up every week with quality content people want to consume. The result is an attentive audience who listens to their recommendations. Using these media companies to tap into an audience full of your ideal customer is almost like cheating.
We’ll be investing heavily in these two channels in 2021. Our plan is to stitch together a carefully selected group of podcasts and email newsletters for each client. We’ll test direct CTA’s (with a discount code) as well as sending prospects to a lead magnet or email capture page.
Let’s look at Tim Ferriss’s podcast to show the potential that lies in podcast and email newsletter sponsorships.
The Tim Ferriss Show
Tim Ferriss’s podcast has over 400 million downloads (probably a lot more because that stat is from 2019). His show is supported by advertisers that he carefully vets and selects. Thanks to his focus on quality products he personally believes in and uses, his band of entrepreneurial listeners responds with their wallets. Being spotlighted by Ferriss has put several brands on the map.
Ferriss actually tested moving away from sponsorships (ads) to a fan-supported model. His fans screamed for the ads. Turns out, his listeners enjoyed getting ads at the beginning of each episode. They saw these spots as valuable recommendations and discovery tools for products.
The Tim Ferriss Show is probably out of the budgetary reach for most companies reading this article, but there are hundreds of niche podcasts and thriving email newsletters with loyal audiences that aren’t. Find the show or newsletter that has the audience you want and get your brand in front of them. Perfect your conversion by testing your CTA (call to action) and then spread to other podcasts and email newsletters.
Paid Social (on networks not owned by Facebook)
I preach focus when it comes to organic social media execution. Select one or two channels where you’re going to be remarkable and execute. It’s just too hard to be good on 5 different channels as a small to medium company.
Paid social is a different story. Using ads on 5 different social channels is nice diversification as long as you’re getting a solid ROAS (return on ad spend) everywhere. Unlike organic where you have to be there every day banging out the content, ads are more passive once you get your targeting and creative dialed-in and generating results.
I can’t tell you which social media site is right for you. The social media options are diverse and what’s right for your business depends on who your audience is. That said, here are a few specific channels where I’d start my research if I were you:
Facebook and Instagram ads have worked for our clients. We’re just too dependent on them. Dialing in these other platforms will allow us to pivot if Facebook decides to hike ad rates or shut down our account. Give your customer acquisition efforts a look and make sure you don’t have a single point of failure. If you do, start testing ads on other networks to protect your business.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning influencers. These are people who have built substantial followings on social media. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Kardashians. They’ve made a living being influencers. Companies give the Kardashians money to talk about their brand on social media.
Huge influencers like the Kardashians are ridiculously priced. A better option is micro-influencers. These are social media users with 5,000 – 50,000 followers. I feel this is the sweet spot for small to medium brands. Micro-influencers have more realistic prices, they’re more excited to partner with brands, they’re easier to contact and work with, and their audience is often more engaged.
Nerdy Nuts and TikTok Influencers
One of my favorite examples of leveraging micro-influencers recently is Nerdy Nuts. The brand used a small band of TikTok influencers to bust down the door of the peanut butter market. They went from tiny brand doing a few thousand a month to peanut butter player selling out of limited edition flavors each Friday.
The key to Nerdy Nuts’ success is combining the urgency of a limited drop model with TikTok influencers to drive awareness. They sold 5,947 jars of peanut butter in their first promotion and haven’t looked back since.
We’ll be testing micro-influencers on multiple platforms—including Instagram and TikTok. Our strategy will be different for each client, but the approach will be similar. Here are the steps we’re using to build our influencer portfolio:
- Research The Niche – Find micro-influencers in the 5,000 -50,000 follower range with the audience we want.
- Engage – We spend one month engaging with the influencer’s content and monitoring their feed. This gives us confidence they’re right for the brand and it also puts us on their radar.
- Contact – Once we’re comfortable with the influencer being the right fit, we contact them to discuss their interest and rates.
- Execute – Launch a coordinated campaign around a specific event so we can gauge effectiveness. Don’t just give an influencer money and ask them to mention your brand. Plan and execute a coordinated campaign.
- Track – Assign each influencer a unique discount code to track redemption.
It certainly doesn’t take a NASA engineer to run influencer campaigns, but it does require time, research, planning, execution, and tracking if you want to get a positive return on your investment. I’d recommend starting with a platform where you’re familiar and comfortable. Seek out influencers in the 5,000 – 10,000 follower range to start. These folks will be less expensive and highly appreciative of your desire to collaborate.
Cut & Double Down
I’ve given you four viable customer acquisition tactics that will lessen your dependence on Facebook and Instagram advertising. Go ahead and dip your toe into SEO and PPC, paid ads, email and podcast sponsorships, and influencer marketing. Run tests, more tests, and a few more tests. Cut what doesn’t work and double down on what does. That’s the recipe for getting more customers in 2021.