If you could convert $1,250 retargeting ad spend into $50,000 in sales, would you want to learn how?
In 3 short months, my friends Ray Walia and Alex Popa and I launched Traction, a conference that was rated one of the top tech conferences by Inc and Forbes.
The concept behind Traction was to create an educational conference by bringing together founders of the highest valued companies to share their secrets to get, keep and grow customers and revenue.
Time was limited - we had 3 months to secure top speakers, create a theme that engaged the community and sell out the conference. We literally had no budget and only 3 part-time volunteers including myself.
The first thing we asked ourselves was, “How can we most efficiently spend our small marketing budget?”
To create an inbound campaign, there was a vast amount of content we could create about our speakers, their achievements and the lessons learned ahead of the conference. Content was key as we wanted the audience to know in advance what they would learn at the conference.
The problem was that we didn’t have the bandwidth to start a blog and write content of our own. We knew we wouldn’t be able to commit to a cadence of publishing relevant content regularly.
So we wondered … how can we leverage Other People’s Content (OPC)?
A normal inbound campaign is about creating irresistible content on your website to drive traffic to it. It turns out there is a way to achieve the same results by driving traffic to other people’s content on their sites.
A friend of mine had been working on Retarget Links, a URL shortener that enables you to show ads to people who click on ANY links you share via social media or email. Regardless if it’s your content or OPC.
“Link retargeting” is similar to “site retargeting” - you visit a pair of shoes in Amazon and you will start seeing ads about the pair of shoes in Amazon as you browse the web.
The difference between “link” and “site” retargeting is that you can retarget your audience before your target lands on the site and thus can create an inbound campaign using other people’s content.
This is why we called link retargeting an “Inbound Growth hack”.
Since we were already sharing a ton of valuable content, related to our conference theme that was written by our speakers and other big influencers, we decided to give it a shot.
The result? A 40x return on investment.
Step 1: Create your first Retarget Link
You sign up to the service by creating your very first link. You can use a random link, but you might as well shorten a link to some great content that your audience is more likely to click on.
In our case, it was the article about Lynda.com’s $1.5 billion acquisition by LinkedIn. The news was fresh and she was going to speak at our conference, so we knew we were going to have a lot of clicks on the link.
Once the sign up is completed, you will land in a “Links Dashboard”. This looks like any standard URL shortener. It contains the list of short links created and a chart showing how many people have clicked the links over time and from where (Facebook, Twitter, email etc).
Everybody that clicks the link will be “cookied”, creating an audience that you can show banner ads to. This process is free.
As you can see in the screenshot below, we shared about 873 links in email, social media and in our blog post. We had a total of 85,138 clicks on the links and were able to cookie 58,296 unique targets (the difference is because some people clicked twice or more in our links).
Step 2: Launch your ad campaign
You will first need to go to the “Settings” button to enter the weekly budget and your credit card details. The minimum weekly budget is $25 and is enough to show about 15 ads to 800 people. The system charges for the campaign upfront and any unspent budget will be rolled out to the following week.
There is also a frequency cap of 3 ads per hour, 5 ads per day, 9 per week and maximum 15 per person. This is because more than 15 ads will start creating diminishing returns.
Then you’ll need to drag and drop your ads after clicking the “Ads” button. If you don't have any ads, simply "Request a design", use a design agency like Smartketer, or a free DIY tool like Google Web Designer or Banner Snack.
As you can see below, we used recognizable headshots of our speakers as, a vivid and recognizable colour background, our logo and a call to action.
Step 3: The advanced settings
From the Ads Dashboard, click on “Advanced” to have access to the following advanced settings:
- Place your HubSpot or Facebook pixel to either link those that clicked to a HubSpot campaign or to show banner ads on Facebook (the later will require you to run the Ad Campaign in Facebook).
- Use Retarget Links as your site retargeting provider in case you want to run a site retargeting campaign in addition to a link retargeting one.
- Track the number of people that click on the links and visit your site after seeing the ads. You will need to add the script to the heather of your landing pages.
- Track the number of people that convert by adding the script to the “Thank you for your purchase” or “Thank you for your registration page.
- Set how much each conversion is worth. This is usually the life time value (in profit) of a converted customer for subscription businesses or an item (or a $499 ticket in our case).
Step 4: Download the Chrome app
If you use Chrome, you might find the Retarget Links Chrome app useful as it integrates with Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Hootsuite, Buffer etc. This is very handy to avoid changes in workflow for your social media marketers.
The best feature of the app is the auto-shortening of the links. Any link pasted in the above services will be shortened with a retarget link. The integration also ads an on/off button in the form or a target (on = red, off = grey).
Step 5: Check Your Progress
After your campaign has launched, you'll start seeing reports on the number of impressions served in your dashboard. You'll also be delivered weekly email reports at the beginning of the week, together with the weekly invoice showing the number of ads displayed.
As you can see in the screenshot below, we set up a weekly budget of $100 to display about 1,800 ads a week to those that clicked our retarget short links. Over a period of slightly over 3 months, we displayed 161,340 impressions for a cost of $1,250 ($8 per 1,000 ads).
Out of those that saw the ads, 422 clicked on them and 525 didn’t click but went to our conference site via search or by clicking on an email previously sent. The total number of people who saw the ads and went to the website was 947.
Out of these 947 visitors, 186 purchased a $499 ticket at a total revenue of $92,814. Because a purchase decision is made by multiple factors (word of mouth, email marketing etc.), we assumed an attribution of 55% to the campaign.
The revenue, thanks to the campaign, was $50,600. A 40x ROI considering we invested $1,250 during that period.
Recap: How we transformed $1,250 into $50,600 with x40 ROI
- We shared valuable content from influencers and third party sites via email and social using Retarget Links’ URL shortener.
- We uploaded our ads in the Ads Dashboard and displayed it to those who clicked on the content thus driving traffic back to our site and helped us convert $1,250 ad spend into $50,600 in sales.
P.S. The next Traction Conf is on May 31 & June 1 in Vancouver, Canada with founders and leaders from Atlassian, LinkedIn, Asana, Instacart, Trello and more. Use the code "Bizzabo" at TractionConf.io/register for $100 OFF regular tickets.
Lloyed is the Co-founder of TractionConf.io, a leading conference focussed on driving growth and revenue, and Boast Capital, which helps innovative companies recover their R&D costs from the government.
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