How to Build an Effective Facebook Advertising Strategy From the Ground Up

Starting a Facebook advertising campaign without any kind of strategy or planning, dooms it to fail before it has even begun.

An all-too-common mistake I see is businesses jumping into spending money on the platform without properly breaking down things like their numbers and key metrics; who their audience is; what exactly they have to offer that makes them stand out, and how are they going to go about communicating it.

Wondering how you can avoid these mistakes and build a winning Facebook Ads strategy? Read on for my six steps to constructing this from the ground up.

1. Start With the Numbers

Ok, so you're convinced of the value in running Facebook Ads for your business - and if you aren’t, check out these seven reasons you should be.

'How much should I be spending'? Is usually the first question I (and probably every Facebook advertiser) hear from potential clients.

And I always think we're kind of the wrong people to ask, because the more you can give us to spend, the better chance we have of quickly finding winning ads and getting results.

It's a bit like asking one of your kids if they want one or two bars of chocolate; they'll always go for the higher number...

However, there are some ways you can apply a bit more science to this process, and this is generally how I will guide new clients towards deciding their budgets.

Four key numbers you need to know here:

  • AOV - Average Order Value
  • LTV - Lifetime Value (also CLV/CLTV - Customer Lifetime Value)
  • CPA - Cost Per Acquisition (or CPP - Cost Per Purchase/CPL - Cost per Lead if that is your goal)
  • COGS - Cost of Goods Sold
If you don't at least have a rough idea of what those are for your business, you are doing things wrong (and not just with your Facebook ads!)

AOV is crucial for understanding how much you can spend to advertise. You wouldn't spend $40 to get one customer for your personalized mobile phone covers if your AOV is only $35, would you?

And equally, if your AOV is $35 then you wouldn't spend $25 to acquire a customer if your COGS was $30, leaving you with a measly $5 profit after all that effort?*

*There is an exception here which brings me nicely onto LTV. If you have a handle on your LTV, this instantly gives you a huge amount more scope with your ads.

Take this classic example of a gym.

You might make the mistake of basing your spend on what someone will pay when they first join the gym, say $30 for a monthly membership. Even if you are smart and deduct your costs and figure out you can work off a CPA of $15, you still haven't taken LTV into account.

And unless your gym is terrible, that person should stay anywhere between 6-8 months on average.

That makes your LTV more like $180-240.

Now, if you knew every member of your gym was worth $200, wouldn't you be prepared to spend a bit more than $15 to acquire them?

It's similar in retail. If customers only buy from you once and you never see them again, fine. But if they come back again and again, you need to factor that in. For businesses like dentists, chiropractors, etc., the LTV is huge because once you have a customer, they should be one almost for life.

PRO TIP: If you really know your numbers, a lot of businesses these days don't NEED to make more than they spend on Facebook Ads. In fact, a lot will only aim to break-even to cold audiences as they know they will get many times that back in repeat custom or from smart retargeting.

NOTE: You also need to factor in Facebook's recommendation that you get at least 50 conversions per week, per adset in order for your ads to optimize. This might be tough for some businesses, especially at first, but if you have enough to generate at least 25 a week that gives you at least some hope of consistency with your performance.

2. Who Are Your Ads For?

Now, put yourself and your business aside for a second.

Someone else is far more important.

Before you carry on planning YOUR strategy, you need to consider who all of this is designed for.

Yep, your customers.

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It's impossible to advertise successfully without an understanding of who they are, what they look like, what their interests, pain points, and goals are.

This impacts numerous aspects of your ad strategy.

#1. Targeting

Facebook has a huge array of targeting options. Important questions you need to answer here are:

  • Are your customers male or female?
  • Where do they live/where do you ship to?
  • What age group are they in?
  • What other interests do they have?
Brainstorm these and use them to start building a marketing persona which will help with everything I'm going to mention here.

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PRO TIP: Use Facebook's Audience Insights feature to create a master list of related interests to target in the future. Key in on the highest affinity interests first, put them all into a spreadsheet and check off the ones you've used as well as some kind of grading based on performance (I use a simple traffic light system and highlight the best performers in green, average ones in yellow and red for the worst). 

That said, even an average targeting audience can deliver if you have great...

#2. Creative


Based on the questions you've asked above and the customer persona you've built, what kind of images/videos will appeal most to this audience? Come up with a few different versions of each and test them to see which resonates best with your potential customers, and always go by the data.

I'm regularly disappointed when a client sends me what I think is an awesome video that I'm sure will knock it out of the park, I roll it out live... and it gets outperformed by something I threw together mainly just to test against it.

#3. Copy

This is where understanding your customer is even MORE important. Your copy should speak directly to them, letting them know exactly what's in it for them and how it solves their issues and meets their needs.

Why should they stop scrolling and care about your ad?

Don't fall into the trap of only talking about yourself and your business or going into a load of features without the benefits to the customer.

Your offers should be designed in the same way, consider what will really appeal to them and get them to tap that CTA button on your ad. Is a 10% off sale likely to do that for a cold audience?

And remember, you aren't even necessarily selling your product or service in your ad. You have to sell the click first and get the customer interested enough to do that, then your landing page is where the real selling of your product begins.

PRO TIP: A great metaphor for writing compelling, solution-based copy is 'sell the hole, not the drill.' Identify the problem your customers have that you are solving and sell that to them, rather than the actual product itself.

Do you see the difference?

3. Zero in on Your Starting Goal

Everyone wants sales. Unfortunately, with so many tales around the web of 'How I got a 420X ROI With Facebook Ads’ a lot of businesses also have unrealistic expectations.

You are very unlikely to see fantastic returns straight away, so you need to forget that Ferrari, private yacht and Caribbean villa you plan on buying for a while.

Start off with the mindset that you are buying and investing in data with your ad budget and be prepared to lose some money at first in order to achieve this.

Ultimately, if you know your numbers from Step One and your ads are profitable within a few weeks, that's a start. You have to walk before you can run.

Your price point and AOV go some way to determining your goal. If you have a higher-priced product that needs some explanation first, then you will need to educate and warm your audience up first with videos before retargeting them with more direct response ads.

Screaming at your audience with 'Come and grab these $750 headphones today!' before they even know who you are or why they are so expensive will not turn out well.

Check out this Bang & Olufsen ad, which directs people to send a message for more info rather than make a direct purchase:

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Call to action buttons with 'Learn More' will often be more appropriate at this stage than more direct ones like 'Shop Now'.

You may even need to drive visitors to a landing page to capture their email address first and then utilize email marketing or even a phone call alongside Facebook ads to nurture them towards a purchase (for example like a client of mine who offers coaching courses and programmes that go from $100 all the way up to $15,000).

This brings me onto...

4. What Does Your Marketing Funnel Look Like?

I've just touched on this above, and I talked about funnels in my Pro Tips For Facebook Advertising in 2019, so I won't repeat myself too much. But having a planned funnel is essential to the success of any Facebook ad campaign.

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Think about what actions you want your customers to take, what kind of messaging/creative you need at each different funnel stage, which campaign objectives you are going to employ and who and how you are going to retarget.

And also which metrics are important to you as you test and measure your ads at each stage.

PRO TIP: start by retargeting your hot/bottom of funnel audiences, don't rush to cold traffic like 90% of advertisers do! Getting solid retargeting in place means you are set for gold once you get the cold right. It also grabs you some easy purchases that should help your ROI even in the initial testing phases.

Talking of objectives...

5. No Seasoning Required

The misguided concept I see all too regularly in Facebook ads groups of 'seasoning' your Facebook pixel is, to be blunt, rubbish. Especially as this usually involves running a bunch of low-quality traffic ads to 'warm' a pixel up.

Cute metaphors but with zero basis in practice with Facebook Ads in 2019, and beware anyone promoting these concepts as some kind of secret sauce to great results.

There is some merit to feeding an account and individual campaigns and adsets data; but the pixel is merely a piece of code that collects user data from your site and sends it back to your account for storage.

Any learning and optimization all takes place at adset level and above.

So... don't start by running traffic. You want conversions, right? So bid for your true objective.

In most cases, you should always try going for purchases first and if that doesn't work then you can back out to optimizing for a higher funnel event like Add to Cart or Initiate Checkout (don't forget Add Payment Info too if you have that event installed on your site, it's easily forgotten!).

Remember, you ideally want an event that you can achieve 50+ conversions in a week with. You can achieve moderate success at lower levels than this, but in order to scale and find any kind of consistency, you need to be prepared to invest quickly when you find winning adsets to feed them as many conversions as you can.

6. Be Flexible and Test Everything

Things can, and probably will, go wrong. That's where you need to always have a plan B.

Always be testing new ads and always have backup adsets drafted up and ready to go if things go sideways.

And don't get too attached to certain ads or campaigns. As I mentioned earlier, always go on the data, and if something that was doing brilliantly for months drops off for a week or more with no sign of recovery, it's time to wave it goodbye.

I’m not gonna lie though, I’ve shed a few tears over great campaigns that burnt out, and I had to watch sail off into the sunset. But nothing lives forever, does it?

The Takeaway

Quick Recap/TL:DR
  • Know your key business metrics and what you need to look for from your Facebook Ads
  • Put your customers first!
  • Focus on what your realistic goals need to be (not necessarily what you want them to be straight away)
  • Build a funnel 
  • You are a Facebook advertiser, not a chef, so forget any talk of ‘seasoning’
  • Prepare for the worst and ABT - Always Be Testing

About the Author

Gil is a Facebook Advertising Consultant with more than 14 years' experience in various sales, marketing and business management roles and over five years' experience running Facebook Ads, which he has specialized in since setting up his consultancy, Run DMG in 2017.

In that period he has worked for a range of clients from local businesses to health and beauty chains and e-commerce stores, online coaches, nationwide fitness franchises, events companies, sports teams and more across the UK, US, and Europe with budgets ranging from a few hundred pounds to £150k+ per month. In addition to working on several household name accounts, Gil also consults for advertising agencies all over the world.


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