A couple months back I attended MicroConf 2016 in Las Vegas, a get-together for information entrepreneurs and software startup founders.
I met a lot of razor-sharp people there. One of those was a guy named Adrian.
The thing that impressed me most about Adrian is the way he's doing something that I wouldn't have thought possible:
He's selling an advanced programming course to people who DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO WRITE CODE!!!
Yep, pretty nuts. But it's working for him.
(Don't try this at home kids.)
Adrian's looking to scale up his business now, and he writes:
I just pushed online the PyImageSearch Gurus sales page — a course that I created with a $95/month or $995/yearly fee (much higher than previous products):
I'd like to drive traffic to it so I can test various aspects such as lead magnets, whether or not I offer a trial period, and in general, make sure I have the messaging nailed down.
I was thinking of using Facebook Ads or Google AdWords. Other than re-targeting, I have absolutely zero experience with these platforms, so I would be starting from scratch.
Do you have any suggestions for a total newbie trying to break his way into the advertising world?
I'll preface all of this by saying that I'm NOT a paid advertising expert. I understand it well enough to generate leads, but so far the campaigns I've created haven't turned a profit.
Actually, that right there is a good place to start.
“Paid acquisition” is a whole discipline in and of itself.
I've been through multiple courses and books, and I've spent several thousand dollars testing ads on Facebook, AdWords and Twitter.
I understand a lot of the theory and mechanics, but I wouldn't say I've “mastered” this art.
The biggest hurdle I keep running into with paid advertising is the economics of your business has to support it.
It's a lot like a “fight club.”
Essentially you're slugging it out with other businesses to buy customers. Paid clicks are expensive, and they get more expensive every year.
Each customer has to bring in enough revenue to offset that cost, so whoever can afford to take the most rabbit punches to the kidneys without passing out, wins.
In other words, if you're selling a $19 ebook, AdWords ain't gonna work for you.
Now in Adrian's case, he's selling a $99 per-month course. I'll estimate that his per-customer value is probably around $500.
That means he has some room to play. (Although not as much as you'd think…)
Here's how I'd tackle this…
My first recommendation for Adrian is to pick ONE traffic source.
The two 800 lb. gorillas these days are Google AdWords and Facebook. They're both VERY different animals.
I think Adrian could make either one work, but in his case it makes more sense to start with AdWords.
Facebook advertising is quirky—ads fatigue quickly, which means you constantly have to feed it new content.
AdWords is more like a machine that you can dial in over time, while you tweak and tune your sales funnel to maximize conversions.
And in this market, Adrian will need to do quite a bit of fine tuning.
He's targeting programmers and entrepreneurs who might be interested in learning to code. My experience on both AdWords and Facebook is that programmers are expensive to reach.
The best campaigns that I've put together in this niche still seemed to cost around $1 per click.
This is where the economics kicks in, because it's all about the math.
If you make $500 per customer, and you're paying $1 per click, you have to get at least 1 customer for every 500 clicks.
That doesn't sound that hard in theory.
But in practice it's pretty dang tough. You're trying to get ice cold traffic that doesn't know you from a hole in the wall to fork over $999 for a course they only learned about 3 minutes ago.
I don't know many marketers who successfully run PPC traffic to a sales page and do it profitably.
At a minimum you'll probably want to do a two-step process where you run traffic to a landing page that offers a free email course so you can capture email addresses.
If you do this, you can expect that out of 500 clicks you'll maybe get 50-100 to sign up for your free email course.
Now you need your email sequence to quickly warm up that cold traffic and turn at least one of those subscribers into a customer.
Then you're breaking even.
This is why the name of the game in PPC is optimizing each step in your funnel.
Better ads get you more clicks for less.
A better landing page gets more subscribers for every click.
A better email sequence means more sales per 100 subscribers.
And you need to be able to track and measure all of this, which means you'll need to develop a pretty sophisticated sales machine.
All that said, I'm NOT trying to discourage Adrian from doing PPC advertising.
It's a great way to scale and grow a business.
Just realize that there's more to it than just figuring out how to get your ads up and running on Google or Facebook.
If you don't go slow, Google and Facebook will happily max out your credit cards whether or not you're making any sales…
A good initial goal is to learn enough about buying traffic to get yourself to where you're able to buy customers at a small loss, or even break even.
Then you can hire a real pro to get your campaign profitable.
If the PPC expert is any good, you'll usually pay at least $1,000 a month as a retainer, not including the actual cost of your clicks.
As far as where to start when you're learning AdWords, hands down I'd recommend The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords by Perry Marshall and Bryan Todd.
This book will give you the right mindset for approaching PPC (and really marketing in general).
Read the Ultimate Guide once, then reread it while you spend a few dollars a day experimenting with a few campaigns.
This measured approach could save you from wasting thousands of dollars in “Google Stupid Tax” with nothing to show for it.