Over the past couple years we have managed millions of dollars in paid social acquisition spend for startups big and small. Our traditional go-to method was to set up landing pages and then point as much targeted traffic to it as we could, via paid ads or other tactics. However, lately we have been skipping the landing page all together in certain situations in favor of lead ads on social platforms.
What are lead ads?
There are plenty of resources out there to talk about the fine details of lead ads and how to set them up, so we’ll focus more on the high level strategy. In general, lead ads are available on social platforms (Facebook, Linkedin, Snapchat, etc) that already house a users core information (name, email, phone, company, etc.). Rather than directing a user to an external page to fill their contact information, it bypasses that step and just surfaces a pre-populated form in the social platform itself… removing much of the friction/delays that can kill conversion rates. It also makes it much easier to track attribution and cost per lead in quick testing scenarios.
Problem with landing pages
Landing pages really became popularized over the past decade as digital advertising has matured. Using platforms like Unbounce, Hubspot, or Lead Pages, marketers can quickly prop up any number of pages to target certain audience segments. Following best practices like putting the lead form above the fold or stripping out the navigation can improve conversion rates tremendously over sending traffic directly to your website. However, they are not perfect for every scenario.
Landing pages continue to have a place in search ads and traffic from other sources (organic, email, offline, etc.), however, on social platforms, they are quickly becoming archaic. For one, demographic targeting on social platforms is a passive candidate. Unless you are really selling a pain killer and the user realizes that, they are less likely to go through the steps of clicking out to another site, let alone filling out a lead form. People are also expecting faster and faster experiences. Just a couple years ago, waiting 3-5 seconds for a redirect and page load was the norm… but in the world of instant articles, accelerated mobile pages, etc you can no longer pull that off. Unless you are careful and strategic, you’ll end up paying for a lot of mindless clicks that will just end up bouncing.
When to use lead ads?
We have found success in lead ads in both B2C and B2B scenarios, across all platforms. A common misconception is that traditional social advertising (i.e. Facebook) does not work for B2B since it is not work related…. but this is wrong. Virtually everyone you want to target at any business is on the Facebook platform in some way, and more often than not you might even catch them using it while at work anyways 😉
Lead ads can be particularly helpful for very early stage businesses that are still figuring out key product market fit questions. Rather than setting up a bunch of ads and trying to map that to various landing pages… you can do it all within the ad itself. The ad IS the landing page and will allow you to do test many more variations of your message, offer, pricing, etc. much more effectively than using traditional measures.
Keep in mind lead ads are not just for collecting leads to directly follow up on. They can be a great source for email addresses to build up a general newsletter list or retargeting panel. If it ends up being a meaningful or primary channel (think DTC), you might even make it the first stage of your on-boarding funnel, there are endless ways to integrate the experience so the user falls directly into your web app to complete the next steps in the process. It can really become an integrated part of your product/growth strategy.
Tips and best practices for lead ads
While each scenario is different, here are some common tips to consider when setting up your lead ads:
- Connect the pipes – Social platforms tend to house the lead submissions in their ad manager by default, and sometimes wont notify you as they come in. You’ll want to do some work up front with a native integration or a tool like zapier to make sure those leads are triaged to the right place (CRM, email, spreadsheet, etc).
- Convey everything in the creative – Since you’re not sending the traffic to a landing page or website, you only get one shot to educate the user on your product or offer. That gets particularly limited in certain ad formats (i.e. instagram, or mobile) where there isn’t as much real estate for ad text. You’ll want to take extra care to ensure your ad creative clearly explains to the user who you are, otherwise you’re likely to end up with a lot of unqualified leads.
- Add custom fields – We recommend adding 1-2 additional custom fields (i.e. How many employees at your company? When should we call you? etc.). This gets the user to actually fill in a text field and will help filter out unqualified leads that are just clicking through. You might also consider doing this for a field like ‘work email’ or ‘company website’ to get more qualified information from the user in case they don’t have the correct information pre-populated in their profile on Facebook’s default fields (an old work email address, for example).
- Optimize your ‘thank you’ message – After a user submits the lead, you have the option to redirect them to a new page. This is a great opportunity to pass along additional information (article, case study, etc) or layer in a follow on CTA (book demo, payment wall, etc) to capitalize on a captive lead. Just saying ‘thanks we’ll be in touch’ is a missed opportunity to further nurture/qualify your inbound leads.
While demographic targeting via social platforms may not work well for every scenario, it is becoming a more and more important way to reach your target demographics.