A person budget planning for digital ad spend

How We Decreased Pathstream’s CAC by 59% YoY


When we first started working with Pathstream – a Series A startup that offers online certification programs that help people level up their careers, they were spending nearly $1m each quarter in ad spend to hit their lead volume goals, but with a ROAS right around 1.10. They were hitting their application targets, but they were breaking even doing it. 

By restructuring ad accounts, testing creative, audience targeting, and different conversion events, we were able to help decrease Pathstream’s CAC by 59%, leading to their most efficient quarter ever and hitting their ideal LTV to CAC ratio for the first time. 

For 80% of our partners, we take a blended approach to reducing CAC – we focus on decreasing costs on ad channels to send more traffic to the site with the same amount of money, and we create a CRO strategy to improve website conversion rates. 

The exception? When development capabilities are limited or a partner has a custom CMS. That was the case for Pathstream. We weren’t able to implement robust CRO tests in order to improve CAC – we had to get creative when it came to optimizing Facebook and paid search campaigns on Google to hit those CAC targets.


When we first partnered with Pathstream, a majority of their ad spend was dedicated to Facebook ads, but the cost per lead, cost per application and cost per enrollment were extremely high and they knew they needed to drive these costs down in order to keep investing a large majority of their paid spend into Facebook. 

With this goal in mind, our social ads team immediately started diving into the Pathstream ad accounts and analyzing the existing data to identify opportunities or “quick wins” as we call them, while also simultaneously working on a longer term strategy for driving down Facebook costs. 

Here’s a sneak peak of how we drove down their Facebook CPL by 63% year over year. 

Testing new audiences 

We tested a handful of new audiences over the past year for Pathstream from job titles, to interests, demographics and lookalikes. We found that our most successful audiences were based on interests for specific Pathstream programs (Asana, Salesforce, Digital Marketing, Data Analytics) and a lookalike of 5% based off of previous Pathstream students who have enrolled in one of their certification programs. 

Since some of the program interests we were targeting could possibly have overlap (Example: Digital Marketing and Data Analytics), we used the audience overlap tool to ensure that the overlap wasn’t greater than 40% so that our program specific audiences wouldn’t be bidding against each other.

testing audiences on Facebook

After we discovered that these were our top performing audiences, we tested a combination audience that targeted both the interest audience and the lookalike in one ad set. This ultimately did not perform as well as the two audiences segmented out into their own ad set. Based on this learning, we segmented each audience back into its own ad set and set the budget at the campaign level which allowed Facebook to allocate the daily budget to the audience with the lower cost. 

Optimizing for Higher Funnel Conversion Events

When we first launched campaigns, we were extremely focused on driving down the cost per enrollment, so all of our campaigns were optimized toward the “purchase” conversion event. We soon realized that most Pathstream students don’t immediately enroll in a program when they first find out about Pathstream. In fact, it could take weeks or even a month for someone to enroll in a Pathstream program after first expressing interest. 

This led us to switch up our optimization strategy and test out a higher funnel conversion event (submit application), which fires once someone enters their information, becomes a lead and also completes a quick application. 

By switching to a higher funnel conversion event, we were not only able to increase the total number of applicants, but we were able to drive down the cost per impression, cost per click, cost per lead and cost per enrollment by bidding on a higher funnel action –– which is less expensive and in return gives the Facebook algorithm more data to target users likely to submit an application. 

Developing new conversion-driven creative

A large part of our Facebook strategy we put together in our initial research for Pathstream included new create asset ideas based on a creative analysis we pulled together with what’s working well and what’s not resonating as well with the Pathsream audience. 

💡We create data-driven ad creative at Tuff, and have an entire blog post about how we approach that for our partners. Check it out here!

We wanted to test a mix of image and video assets that showcased Pathstream’s value props in an engaging way that would get our audience to click on the ad. We tested a combination of school-branded assets and pathstream branded assets and found that all of the assets that mentioned “100% online” and “get a project management/digital marketing/salesforce certificate” in 6 months were our top performing static ads. 

We also tested UGC style videos (like this one) and saw a 56% increase in CTR and decreased the cost per lead by 37% once we rotated those into our campaigns. 

testing creative on Facebook

Paid Search

With an ad account this large, we ended up restructuring campaigns twice since we started partnering with Pathstream.

Phase 1 Account Restructure

Initially, Pathstream had over 30 different Google Ad accounts they were running campaigns from. Pathstream partners with different universities to offer their certification programs covering curriculum on Facebook Digital Marketing, Salesforce, Tableau Data Analytics, and Asana Project Management. They had a separate ad account for almost every university + certification program combination. 

Our first step was combining the campaigns across 30 ad accounts into one to increase the amount of lead data in one ad account to make the Google algorithm work smarter for us.

Even though we culled down campaign structure significantly in phase 1 of our account restructure, we still had over 40 different search campaigns, each with minor differences. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. Many partners have similar account structures and are certainly successful, and Pathstream was finding success early on with this approach as well. With the goal of getting CAC even lower though, we set out to restructure things again after a few months. 

Phase 2 Account Restructure

At this point, we were utilizing many automated, conversion focused aspects of Google Ads. Max Conversions bidding strategy, Data Driven Attribution, Dynamic Search Ads. With these campaign features, Google works best when there is an abundance of data, specifically conversion data flowing into each campaign. 

If campaigns are too spread out, only receiving a few conversions per month, you may be underutilizing the true power of automation. This was partially the case for Pathstream.

By condensing campaigns from 40+ to 15, we allowed more conversion data to feed into fewer campaigns, in turn making our ads more efficient. We did not limit targeting. This was not designed to decrease our volume or impression share at all. We were not looking to lighten our workload either. Instead, limiting the number of campaigns gave Google more conversion signals, gave Tuff more opportunity to experiment and learn quickly,  and also allowed for better informed expansion across channels in the future.

For starters we left our highest performing campaigns alone. The ones bringing in the most conversion volume and most search volume remained mainly untouched. The big changes were with the campaigns that had the least amount of monthly search volume. Many of them we grouped together into a catch all campaign. What was 10 separate campaigns all converting only a few times a month became one larger structure that converted much more often as a whole. 

Only 3 weeks after our account restructure we saw these results:

  • Conversion Rate increased 26%
  • Cost Per Lead decreased 38%
  • CPC dropped 21%
  • CTR increased 8%

This was only the beginning. Performance continues to improve week over week while we gather more data in a much less congested structure. From here, we can start to expand our reach by efficiently pivoting what is working best for us in the short term and beyond. 

Have a complicated Google ad account structure you could use a second set of eyes on? Or need help reducing your costs on Facebook? We’d love to help!

Benchmarking TikTok Video Ad Hook Rates

With attention spans shortening and the fast-paced world of social media speeding up, figuring out what type of marketing works for your audience can be tricky. As a growth marketing agency, we dissect all sorts of data points every day to single out which metric(s) will tell us what we need to know. The more specific we can get, the easier it is to improve what we have and plan out what we need. 

Growth on TikTok is a new marketing tactic for many businesses. Determining 1) whether the platform works for your business (and if you’ll find your target audience there), and 2) what kind of content they want to see, can be very difficult in the beginning. That’s where ad hook rates come in. 

Ad hook rates (AKA thumb stop rates) are vital to benchmarking success on TikTok. They’re a reliable way to evaluate video performance and whether your ads actually stop thumbs from scrolling past them. Calculated by 2 second video views divided by impressions, it is a key indicator of what’s successfully capturing your audience’s attention.

Ad Hook Rate = 2-Second Video Views / Impressions

Think of it like this: Of all the people who were presented with your video ad, what percentage of them stuck around for at least 2 seconds? The first few seconds of an ad are really what determines whether someone will give you their attention at all, making the “hook” arguably the most important part. We consistently see that raising the ad hook rate improves the rest of the performance metrics. So the more people who stick around for 2+ seconds, the more people will watch the full ad, click, and eventually, convert. Here’s what that looks like.

Ad Hook Rate in Action

In order to better understand TikTok ad creative performance, we took a 6-month look (January 1 – June 30, 2022) across 11 TikTok accounts we manage. The average ad hook rate across accounts was 30.66%, with several in the 40% to 45% range. This means that for most partners, less than a third of the people who saw their ad watched the video for 2 seconds or more. 

Benchmarking TikTok Video Ad Hook Rates

After taking a deeper dive into the accounts that had the highest ad hook rates, we noticed some interesting trends. 

tiktok ad example

Insight: Client 1 was able to get the main message of who they are and what they do across within the first 2 seconds of the video. See an excellent example of this here.

What to do: Test, test, test! Testing the same video concept with slight tweaks helped Client 1 find the best version of their ad (AKA what was resonating the most with potential clients). In this instance, we found that user generated content worked better than stock video.  After analyzing hook rates further, we also were able to determine that videos that proposed a question to draw in users had better hook rates compared to other video concepts that were more drawn out in getting their message across.

tiktok ad creative

Insight: Client 2 utilized trending music and saw significantly higher hook rates in their video ads by doing so. Videos that used stock background music or even no music at all had significantly lower hook rates. Check out an example here.

What to do: Stay up to date with what’s trending on the TikTok platform. A study done by SEMrush found that “more than half of viral TikTok videos used music as their primary backing sound in the first three seconds.” The addition of trendy music to your video ads help draw potential customers in and keep them engaged throughout the remainder of the video.

video for tiktok

Insight: Client 3 found success with the use of text overlays and voiceovers. Right at the start of the video, it got the attention of their audience and brought them on a “journey” through their product. See this storytelling journey in action here.

What to do: By using text overlays and a voiceover, the audience could see and hear the full user journey. Create an engaging journey that draws the audience in and makes them want to continue watching until the end. 

What This Means for TikTok Ad Creative 

In the digital world of social advertising, using key metrics like ad hook rate can be an incredibly useful tool to take your marketing strategy to the next level. Utilizing this simple metric can give you a better idea of what content resonates with your audience the most, helping you create an effective creative strategy and ultimately increase performance in the long run. If TikTok is something you are interested in (or struggling with), reach out and talk to us!

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

5 Channels to Diversify Your Digital Ad Spend

A person budget planning for digital ad spend

The great thing about the internet and how we consume content is that it’s constantly changing. This gives us growth marketers a perfect chance to test new channels and tactics regularly and make sure that we’re exploring new ways to use our digital ad spend. If you’re already running paid ads and are looking for ways to improve your channel diversification, you’ve come to the right place. 

It can be daunting to start fresh on a brand new platform, especially if you’ve had success on traditional digital channels such as Google and Meta (Facebook and Instagram). Different platforms and tactics are constantly emerging, and provide great options for your advertising efforts, depending on your goals, budget, and target audience. 


At Tuff, we’ve been able to drive incredible results for our partners on TikTok.  While B2C opportunities on the platform are well known, we’ve also explored the ever-expanding B2B targeting options when applicable.

Since TikTok is a video platform, it provides a great space to break out the creative chops and showcase your brand in a native storytelling format. Plus, since the majority of videos on TikTok are relatively low-fi, it’s easy to create new assets to test on the reg. If you’re wanting to take some of your Facebook digital ad spend and put it to a new channel, Tik Tok is perfect for you. 

Plus, did you know that TikTok is the most popular website in the world as of 2021? If you’ve been putting off testing it for your advertising efforts – you should give it a spin.


Pros: Huge audience of daily users, lots of targeting options, fun way to engage users

Cons: Clunky ad manager, ad disapprovals

Perfect For: Businesses trying to generate demand via storytelling



Programmatic” has been a buzzword for a while and we’ve certainly been hearing more and more partners who are interested in testing it out as of late.

In essence, programmatic advertising allows advertisers to reach very specific audiences outside of Google and Facebook/Instagram.  Notable programmatic platforms include StackAdapt, The Trade Desk, and Criteo, though there are many others.

Ad types include standard display, video, CTV, audio, and native display, making it easy to repurpose assets used on other channels before investing into platform-specific creatives.  Using benchmark data from legacy platforms will help inform early optimizations and the overall effectiveness of the strategy. If you’re looking to tap into a platform that can massively scale your digital ad spend, programmatic may be just the thing for you. 


Pros: Variety of ad formats, lots of creative options, massive reach of users, effective targeting options.

Cons: Easy to get lost in the weeds, easy to overspend on ineffective placements and channels.

Perfect For: A business in scaleup mode trying to diversify from the “major” players. 



Nextdoor advertising has become an attractive option for many advertisers, with 1-in–3 of US households being present on the platform.  Data indicates that these users make 90% of their purchases within 15 miles of their work or home, and predominantly from local businesses.  

When Tuff works with partners that have more of a local target audience, Nextdoor is one of the first non-traditional PPC tactics we explore. 

While Nextdoor is a great emerging channel for diversifying your digital ad spend, we do run the disclaimer that it likely won’t be a major part of your media budget. With limited placements and a growing userbase, it’s hard to spend a large amount of money on Nextdoor in any given month – although this could change in the near future as they continue to grow. 

Pros: Hyperlocal targeting, affordable CPMs, engaged local audiences

Cons: Smaller userbase, limited placements

Perfect For: Businesses with local presences



Pinterest can be a great option for advertisers, especially for ones that already possess a strong paid search strategy.  This is because the Pinterest platform allows you to use keyword targeting.  Since Pinterest is used as a search engine, this makes sense and can allow for incredibly targeted advertising.

The platform also has other traditional targeting methods that mirror Facebook, Instagram, and Google audience targeting, such as interest-based targeting.

Pinterest is a largely untapped platform, especially for ecommerce brands and service businesses. Since Pinterest users are planners, we recommend using their larger attribution windows (30 / 30 / 30) and using it as a mid-funnel tactic to increase consideration for your brand, and having it be a smaller part of your digital ad spend. 

An example of Pinterest ads

Pros: Visually appealing ad formats, very active userbase, lots of targeting options (intent + demographic)

Cons: Low last-click activity, longer attribution windows

Perfect For: Businesses trying to reach users in the consideration stage of the funnel



Spotify should definitely be considered when attempting to diversify ad spend and reach new audiences.  As one of the largest podcast and music streaming services in the world, the reach is massive and the audio ad-format adds another method of communicating with your target audience.

However, the targeting on Spotify can seem somewhat limited when compared to other platforms. Though reduced targeting options may cause an advertiser to shy away from the platform, it is still worth testing as a top-of-funnel awareness play due to its tremendous reach. 


Pros: Good ad formats, affordable CPMs

Cons: Limited targeting options, secondary platform

Perfect For: Businesses trying to scale top of funnel reach

Things to Avoid While Diversifying Digital Ad Spend

While testing new channels and tactics for your digital ad spend, it’s important to remember that channel diversification can take many forms and isn’t a one-size fits all. It’s also not a panacea – testing a new channel and finding a strategy that works for you will take time. You shouldn’t expect to see immediate results on a new channel by copying the strategy you have on one of your primary channels – it will take testing, learning, and refining to find the right tactic for you.

Here are some common mistakes we see in digital ad spend diversification that you should try to mitigate: 

It takes time to optimize

Most tests and experiments on new channels don’t work in the sense that they are a completely new tactic, and take time to master. Don’t try to diversify ad spend and expect to get the same results you’re seeing on other channels in week, or even month one. 

Don’t forget to account for extra management

Adding new channels can increase the complexity of reporting, optimization, and overall management. Instead of checking Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Google Analytics, for example, now you’ve got to learn how to incorporate new channels’ data and reporting dashboards into your existing systems and processes. 

Don’t over-diversify

While diversification of spend and strategy is a great idea, over-diversification is a thing and can present issues of its own.  If spend is spread too thinly across multiple new channels or platforms (or even multiple campaigns or ad creatives in one platform), it will take longer to gather actionable data and will be much more difficult to gauge the effectiveness of.

Want to Diversify Your Digital Ad Spend?

Tuff has managed ads on just about every platform imaginable, with budgets from partners ranging from a few thousand dollars, to one million-plus a month. Whether you’re in scale-up mode and wanting to try some new tactics or channels, or you want to optimize your advertising efforts on your existing channels, we can help. Let’s talk!


How To Scale User Growth Using Facebook Ads

We sometimes get questions about how other clients work with Tuff to reach their growth goals — so we’re sharing some stories to help bring our services to life.

Author’s note: This post was originally published in 2018, it has since been updated for 2022! 

Thnks is a platform designed to help users build business relationships by sending thoughtful gestures of appreciation. With a curated catalog of gifts, personalized messages, and more, Thnks is helping sales organizations, marketing groups, customer success teams, and more grow their business.

Why Thnks Tapped Into Paid Social Acquisition

Any company looking to grow through paid social has to consider a few things before getting started.

First, you have to work towards building your audience in the right channel. Secondly, understand that it takes time.

Scaling growth requires you to be rigorous about the channels you experiment with in the early stages of your business. It might seem easy to find one right away and then dump all your money into that one tactic but that almost never happens. Testing, analyzing, and optimizing is a great three-prong approach to finding the recipe for success.

We found the most success with user acquisition for Thnks with social ads, specifically Facebook. With a wide range of targeting options to help businesses find the right niche to reach their target audience,  Facebook ads can be a highly cost-effective channel for customer acquisition. We launched Facebook and Instagram campaigns with highly specific interest and demographic targeting with ads that were relevant to those audiences. Our goal was to help grow overall user growth, while also finding efficiencies along the way. 

The Three-Step Process

Step 1: Conduct user research and identify key audiences to target

Figuring out the right targeting is key to reaching the audiences most likely to convert. As an agency, you can lean on your client’s customer-facing team members. If you’re in-house, partner with your support team to learn more about your customers and their goals and interests. This background information is vital in crafting audiences that can attract and convert your target customer.

For our core audiences, we relied heavily on interest and demographic targeting. Knowing that sales and human resources are Thnks primary customers and highest converters, we did testing of different variations of demographic and interest targeting to create the perfect mix of both to find the ideal audiences. In addition to core interest- and demographic-based audiences, we also built out lookalike audiences using website traffic, used existing customer email lists as well as leveraged pixel data from our ads, and created lookalike audiences of people who successfully submitted leads or interacted with our ads.

Step 2: Develop custom creative for each audience

Once we were confident that our targeting options were set up to attract the right audience, we then had to look at the end product–the ads. Knowing that we were going to be targeting specific people in the sales and human resource fields, we needed to build ad creative and copy that spoke to those people.

Thnks Ad Examples

The major difference between the two ad designs is that the sales creative relates to people in that specific role that are looking to prospect new clients and close deals. The human resource ad calls out use cases for people in the role to “welcome new employees”, keep current employees happy, and show them you care. These differences may not seem like a lot at first, but speaking directly to these audiences with this messaging showed an immediate lift in performance. 

Step 3: Analyze and improve

Looking back on your data and analyzing results is one of the most important steps of the whole process. Figuring out what is and isn’t working is the first step to being able to scale and grow users. Through this process, we were able to scale what was working and optimize away from what was not. As a result, we were able to scale Thnks users by 81% in just 30 days.

Sales Audience Growth:

Human Resource Audience Growth:

At the end of the day, there really is no secret sauce to finding success through paid acquisition.

It’s only with meticulous research on your target audiences, testing different creative and ad copy, and analyzing and optimizing based on your data you can find success. Growth is a journey, not an overnight magic trick. 


We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.

Browing social media

The Do’s and Don’ts of Broad Prospecting

Browing social media

In the new landscape of paid social advertising, most customer success representatives and account managers (whether they are at Meta, TikTok, or Snapchat) are pushing broad prospecting as the new “meta” – pun intended. As a growth agency, we are approached from these representatives often, and historically speaking, advice from these representatives can be super hit and miss. They can generate some good recommendations here and there, but it’s always a good idea to validate their advice and make sure it aligns with the goals you’re trying to accomplish. In the post-iOS 14 paid social ecosystem, we’ve had ample opportunity to test this new strategy, and have created a list of general “do’s and don’ts” of broad prospecting to keep in mind. 

What is broad prospecting in paid social advertising? 

Broad prospecting, as we define it for this exercise, is the intentional effort of creating minimally constructed audiences. These audiences have very few parameters on them: maybe some loose demographic targeting, and a few interests or data points to reference to. These can get up to 10m+ in size, depending on the different parameters included, and are used predominantly on social ads

Why should I use broad targeting as a part of my paid social advertising strategy? 

Casting a wide net at the top of the funnel allows you to show your products to a variety of people that might not have otherwise seen them. The running hypothesis for leaning on broad prospecting as a strategy is that the pixels associated with your ad account are much, much smarter than the advertiser running the ads.

Ironic, right? 

The theory has some merit: a pixel associated with your ad account collects thousands of data points, and is constantly learning. We equate it to cast iron: the more data it collects, the more seasoned it becomes, and the better the result. The whole premise of machine learning depends on the pixel being smarter than what we can come up with manually. Every bid, every ad placement, every conversion feeds the pixel more information. In theory, each action creates a larger data subset for the pixel to continue to optimize, and get better. 

The do’s and don’ts of broad prospecting: 


  • Use a variety of  lookalikes
  • Test various broad prospecting techniques
  • Choose a conversion oriented objective 


  • Use broad prospecting for new ad accounts
  • Optimize for in-platform events 
  • Wait too long to make a change


The “Do’s” of Broad Prospecting:

Use Large Lookalikes: 

Lookalike audiences are a powerful way to reach new people in your potential conversion pool. Work smarter, not harder. By using data you already have access to (think: past purchasers, people who have visited your website, people who have engaged with your accounts, etc), you can strategically build lookalikes of this data. Once you pick the source for your lookalike audience, you’re able to go a step further and select the percentage (of lookalike) you want to use, ranging from 1% to 10%. We have seen some of the strongest performance for our eCommerce partners with combining a mix of percentages – Example: Targeting a 1%, 2%, 3%, 4% and 5% lookalike audiences. By combining different levels of intent, you’re able to more broadly target potential customers and maximize your brand’s exposure in one fell swoop.


Test Various Targeting Techniques:

Whether you are doing light demographic guardrails, implementing various interest or behavior based targeting, or using lookalike data for your broad prospecting, we say this: move fast, test fast, learn fast. It’s the motto of David, one of our Paid Social channel experts, and I say it daily. Isolate your variables, test things in a consistent manner, and apply your learnings to your next iteration. If you have a winning strategy, isolate it into its own campaign, and continue to use the test campaign  to try  new ideas and refine your broad prospecting strategy. By isolating new techniques into a test campaign, you’re able to work around pushing all of your campaigns back into the learning phase (which can sometimes negatively affect performance).


Choose a Conversion Oriented Objective

Don’t waste time and money optimizing for lead generation, or one of the other productive optimization strategies on Meta. For example, if you are an eCommerce store, optimize for purchases or add to carts! If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the pixel delivers ads based on the objective and the selected conversion event. 

By choosing purchasers, you’re reaching an audience that is the most likely to purchase. If you’re optimizing to add to cart, you’re reaching an audience that is most likely to add a product to the cart. If you’re broad prospecting, adding a simple guardrail of a conversion-oriented objective gives the pixel enough guidance to find the right subset of users you should be targeting in addition to your other parameters. 


The “Don’ts” of Broad Prospecting:

Don’t Use Broad Prospecting for New Ad Accounts and Pixels:

The whole theory behind broad prospecting is that it uses machine learning to optimize and deliver your ads. If you have a brand new ad account, or pixel, then the machine doesn’t have enough information to create accurate and insightful learnings. We’ve mentioned “guardrails” a few times in this article: those guardrails serve the purpose of pointing the pixel in the right direction. If you have a brand new pixel without much data, there aren’t enough guardrails built in to deliver your ads effectively, and you’re better off manually targeting the audience you want to deliver ads to. 


Don’t Optimize for In-Platform Events 

Take for instance, lead generation ads as an example of an in-platform optimized event. In some instances these ads can be successful – But typically for highly specific goals paired with pretty narrow targeting, think retargeting people who have previously engaged with one of your leads ads. While these ads can be simple and require little effort from the user, they add a step to the process of being able to maximize the potential of this purchase intent. What do I mean by that? Well, when someone fills out your lead form then this data is typically collected in the platform. Once you have that data then you need to download the leads via Ads Manager or your Facebook Page. This seems simple enough, but generally speaking, attention spans are short. If someone is ready to convert, it’s best to capture the intent as instantaneously as possible. If you keep people waiting, the interest begins to wean off and leads might fall through the crack.


Don’t Try to Sell to Everyone

You may be speaking to a broad audience, but that doesn’t mean you should water down your message. We recommend using compelling creative that is user-generated to tell the story of your brand and why people should care. Hone in on those value propositions of your business, and test out different messaging. If you water down your message while broad prospecting, you won’t appeal strongly enough to anyone to get valuable insights for continued optimization. Pro-tip: Not sure what type of creative works best for your audience? Check this out!

Looking for help when it comes to paid social? 

Look no further. Whether it’s a kick-ass creative strategy, a need for structured testing, or guidance on how to find your target audience on paid social, we’re here to help. Let’s talk! 

Ecommerce Store

How to Use Google Analytics to Discover Lookalike Audiences

Ecommerce Store

Do you remember where were you on the day that the digital advertising world stood still? Do you remember what you were doing when iOS14.5 loaded onto scores of devices overnight before their owners even reached onto the nightstand to grab them and open up their social media app of choice? Our growth marketing agency jumped into the brand new world of paid social advertising and have taken away a few key learnings for the post iOS14.5 world. 

The Fallout of iOS14.5 

On April 26, 2021, Apple followed through on its promise to prioritize privacy with App Tracking Transparency. This update prompted users to either “allow” or “don’t allow” apps on their iOS devices to track their activities. 

Paid social advertisers in particular felt the blow like they were brave enough to step into the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. Much of the targeting that advertisers had become so reliant on was either gone or no longer effective. Despite Apple and Facebook (now Meta) warning for months: so many marketers were drastically affected. 

Sure with the change, you could still target Android users, and Facebook did roll out new aggregated events to limit the fallout Some damage control measures went into place, but it goes without question that Apple had delivered a near-fatal blow. So, scrappy Facebook advertisers have had to look for new ways to find their target audience online. 

From that scrappiness, new audience targeting strategies emerged that could help social ads strategists and media buyers cut through the crowd and reach their audience. At our growth agency, we’ve identified two lookalike audiences that have proven to be super valuable. Even better, they’re accessible to anyone with Google Analytics installed on their website.

The First Lookalike: Pageviews 

The first audience we’ll discuss today is a lookalike audience based on pageviews. 

Imagine you’re looking at your analytics and you see that you have 347 transactions this week for a product. For a lot of advertisers, they either stop there or ask the question, “How can I get this number higher?”  before they close the tab and move on. Scrappier advertisers take it a step further.

Looking at Google Analytics’ acquisition report we can see the traffic generated from various channels and campaigns.

If you add in a custom segment of Purchasers, you can look at the metrics based on people that have made a purchase on the website. From there we want to know the pages per session.

Pageviews for Google Analytics Purchasers

In the case of this e-commerce company, the Purchasers had a drastically different behavior than the larger pool of all users. And this is where the beauty is.

From the data, we can tell that Purchasers visited 11.47 pages per session. They were more engaged. They clicked around, they viewed a few pages, and they inevitably visited the cart followed by the checkout page. 

We can take an educated guess that a cohort of users with that same behavior pattern would be likely to purchase as well. And that’s what we’re betting on for this first lookalike.

So back in Facebook (still not used to Meta), we’ll make our way to the audiences module within the business manager. Here we’ll be creating a custom audience.

Overview of Meta's custom audience website tool

To do this follow the following steps:

  •  Choose Website as your custom audience source. 
  • Choose the pixel you want this based off of
  • Instead of selecting all website visitors, select PageView from the events dropdown. 
  • Click the Refine by dropdown below, and select frequency. We’ll leave the middle drop-down as “is greater than”….
  • Change the number to the number of pages per session the Purchasers normally have minus 10-20% (so, if it’s 10 pages, then make it 8). We’re subtracting 2 or 3 because it gives Facebook a buffer so that they can have a large enough audience to build the audience from. 
  • Click Create audience, and then create a lookalike from that audience.

The Second Lookalike: Time on Site

The second lookalike audience uses analytics as well. Remember that the Purchasers segment spent around 11 minutes on the site. So again, we can safely assume that Purchasers spend more time on the site.

So the second audience we want to create is a lookalike based on time on site. To do this, create a new custom audience. This time instead of choosing PageView from the dropdown of events, we’ll select Visitors by time spent. 

 For the percentile, start by leaving it at 25%. If the data suggests otherwise in the future, then you could always drop it to 10% or 5%.

Be warned though. As you move to higher percentiles the audience will shrink even more. Once you’ve created this custom audience, go ahead and create a lookalike based on this one too.

Overview of Meta's Site Visitors Percentile Tool

The Real Trick to Using Analytics to Build Facebook Audiences

And just like that, you have two audiences based on data that you could target using your first-party data. And this is just the beginning. There is a myriad of different audiences you could build from the data. 

You could narrow the custom audience further by switching the parameters from Include people who meet “Any Of” the following criteria to Include people who meet “All Of” the following criteria.

You could create custom events and conversions in your pixel based on events that are important to you and build an audience based on their behavior.

You could select specific web pages to narrow your time-on-site audience. 

The possibilities are vast. The important thing is learning how to use analytics to understand your audience beyond the bottom line numbers. From there, you can segment your audience in the way that makes the most sense for your business goals.

Looking to leverage your existing data for your ecommerce site? Our growth agency is happy to dive in and work with you on a growth strategy. Let’s chat

Using black crow to build predictive audiences on a computer.

Do Predictive Audiences Work? We Managed $1.1M in Ad Spend for Black Crow Audiences to Find Out

Using black crow to build predictive audiences on a computer.

As a growth marketing agency, Tuff is always looking for new tools and tactics to continue to elevate our paid marketing efforts for our partners. In the Fall of 2021, Tuff began working with Black Crow, an AI tool that creates predictive audiences to allow marketers to scale their prospecting campaigns, and make their remarketing efforts more efficient.

Since implementing Black Crow across various partners, Tuff has managed over $1,000,000 in ad spend for Black Crow audiences for our ecommerce partners and has generated key takeaways on how to best leverage their AI marketing tool.  In this post, we’ll outline what we’ve learned and our recommendations if you’re looking to scale traffic and revenue with advanced targeting options for Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, and more. 

What are predictive audiences, anyways? 

Black Crow uses an artificial intelligence tool to score users in real-time based on their likelihood to buy. This score predicts the value of the user and allows marketers to bucket them on three tiers of purchase likelihood: high, medium, and low. High intent users are users who are most likely to purchase, and low intent users are those who are considered to be unlikely to purchase. 

This form of machine learning uses first-party data only, which helps marketers avoid the restrictions and limitations of third-party data enforced by iOS 14.5. The best part of predictive audiences, however, is that the more data that it generates and collects, the more efficient it gets – as we’ve seen with our various e-commerce partners at Tuff. 

How can I use predictive audiences in my paid acquisition efforts? 

There are two main ways you can incorporate predictive audiences into your paid marketing efforts. At Tuff, we often break our tactics on paid acquisition down into two main categories: prospecting, and retargeting. We use Black Crow for both types of targeting. 

For Prospecting Efforts: 

After installing Black Crow and letting it generate enough data to begin to use (usually within a week based on our experience, but it depends on traffic volume for your website to ultimately decide), you can create lookalike audiences of the high, medium, and low intent users. These lookalike audiences can be used to reach new users who match the characteristics of your most (and least!) likely audiences to purchase, and allows you to scale ad spend horizontally to new audiences without guessing what characteristics they contain. 

For Retargeting Efforts:

The majority of your audience that visits your website isn’t going to convert. Let’s face it- most websites have a bounce rate between 50-70%, meaning that between 50-70% of the traffic leaves the website within a minute without visiting a second page. Usually this rate is even higher for prospecting traffic. 

Since Black Crow allows marketers to use their predictive audiences to bucket users by intent – high, medium, and low, you can control your spend and efforts by the quality of users you’re targeting. It makes sense to focus on users who are more likely to convert, and then remarket education and engagement-based creative to less likely to convert users to increase their intent. These sorts of efficiencies free up additional spend for even more prospecting, increasing your overall marketing reach. 

Do predictive audiences work for eCommerce marketing?

In summary, YES.

After managing over $1 million in spend for Black Crow specific audiences, we can safely say that Black Crow is very effective in scaling prospecting efforts and making retargeting efforts more efficient. (And no we aren’t a partner with Black Crow and they didn’t ask us to write this post). 

So we answered the question that these Black Crow audiences do, in fact, work for ecommerce and that they’re effective. Now let’s answer the question of how effective? Let’s put our money where our mouth is. Since incorporating these audiences, we saw cost per purchase drop and our conversion rates jump across the board over the course of 90 days:  

  • Prospecting = 48% decrease in CPS and a 55% increase in CVR
  • Retargeting = 53% decrease in CPS and a 16% increase in CVR

Like a cast iron skillet, the more the pixel was used, the better our predictive audiences became (in both prospecting and retargeting). It stands to reason that predictive audiences refine the accuracy of their lookalike data, as well as create better predictive scores for a more refined user targeting experience the more it is used. 

Alongside these Black Crow audiences, we were running broader interest/behavior audiences and other retargeting audiences. To further put into perspective the effectiveness of Black Crow:

  • Prospecting = 23% of total prospecting purchase volume came from two Black Crow audiences
  • Retargeting = 58% of the total retargeting purchase volume came from three Black Crow audiences 

By utilizing Black Crow predictive audiences across different paid platforms, we were able to get a comprehensive look at the significant impact these audiences had (and are still having) on performance. 

What advertising channels can I use predictive audiences for? 

Any advertising channel that supports the use of first-party data should allow you to use predictive audiences as a part of your targeting efforts. At Tuff, we use Black Crow for a variety of paid acquisition channels, including: 

  • Facebook (Meta)
  • Instagram (Meta)
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • Google Search (as an observation audience)
  • Youtube

Ready to use predictive audiences in your ecommerce marketing strategy?

Want to unlock further ecommerce scale and efficiency, or learn more about how to leverage predictive audiences for your ecommerce scaleup? Let’s chat!

scrolling pinterest on a computer

Advertising on Pinterest: Ad Formats, Campaign Types & Best Practices for 2022

scrolling pinterest on a computer

Imagine someone is preparing for a trip to Oahu for the first time. They’ve never been a big traveler and they honestly can’t remember the last time they took off from work for a week and took a vacation. They don’t know what to do when they get there. They don’t know how to pack. They don’t know much about the different airlines and they certainly don’t know what workouts they should do to prepare for the incredible pictures they plan to take. So what do they do?

First they go to Google, as anybody would when they have a question. They scroll a bit and see some pretty commercial articles, so they decide “ehh, I’d rather read something else”. They click a couple YouTube videos in the search results, and those help a lot! The problem is, they saw all of these fun things to do but there are still so many questions. So what now?

Well, they take a scroll on Pinterest to find the answer to all of their questions. They find articles on traveling to Oahu, and pins about outfits to wear. They look up what to pack for their trip and they come across this pin about this incredible revolutionary thing called packing cubes from this company called Away. It piques their interest, so they click it and after reading a pretty good article, they’re absolutely convinced they need packing cubes otherwise their trip won’t be as good. 

So they do what any reasonable 20 something old would do. They head over to Amazon to look for packing cubes. They scroll and scroll but for some reason they can’t make a decision. All of these cubes look great! And they look the same! But in the back of their mind, they’re thinking about those packing cubes from Away. So after spending way too much time on Amazon, they go back to Pinterest and look up which packing cubes are the best. Again, they see this pin from Away! This time they’re convinced it’s fate. So they type in Away into the google search bar, land on the website and buy themselves those packing cubes from Away.

This is the beautiful power of Pinterest and Pinterest Ads for brands. Pinterest, one of the largest social networks, is a visual based social network that allows people to share all kinds of video and blog content in the form of Pins.  These Pins are shared over and over giving brands a plethora of exposure as users scroll through looking for inspiration for their next endeavor in life.

Benefits of Pinterest Ads

There are so many reasons why Pinterest ads might just be worth the squeeze. With a growing audience, it’s no wonder why advertisers are flocking to the social media site to place their products in front of prospective customers. As an e-commerce growth agency, this is a channel we’re constantly testing and optimizing as we look to diversify the overall channel mix. 

Your next customer is on Pinterest

It’s true. Your next customer probably uses Pinterest for inspiration, recipes, or finding new workouts to make them look like a pro in the gym without setting off the lunk alarm. In fact I’d argue that the odds are in your favor. Pinterest has over 475 million monthly active users and between October 2020 and March 2021, there were over 1.2 billion total visits. So, the numbers are there.

But Who’s Really On Pinterest?

Well the easy answer is everyone. And for the parts of everyone that aren’t there yet, they’re coming soon like a long awaited Marvel movie. While over 75% of users on Pinterest identify as female, male users have grown 40% year over year and continue to grow. 

No matter what age your target audience is, chances are that Pinterest has them covered too. Gen Z Pinners are up 40% year over year, and Millennial Pinners are up 35% in the same period. Over a third of Pinterest users are 50+ years old and another third falls into the 30-49 year old camp. The last third represent us Zillennials (too old to be Gen Z but too young to be Millennials) and our oft confused colleagues, Gen Zs.

But Does Pinterest Drive Purchases Though???

I hear you. I hear you. Having users is cool, but the real question is does Pinterest drive purchases, or leads, or conversions?

Fortunately there’s an answer to that quandary.  It is no secret that many Pinners come to the platform for inspiration. In fact, 89% of users reported using the platform for just that very purpose. The behavior that followed though may be enough to make you clean your glasses.

98% of Pinners reportedly go out and try ideas they see on Pinterest (*cough* ab workouts and birria tacos?? *cough*). And that’s not even the most exciting part for brands. Let’s make things more interesting eh? 

89% of users use Pinterest for purchase inspiration, and according to Pinterest, 80%…yes EIGHTY percent of weekly Pinners make purchase decisions on Pinterest. Zooming out just a wee bit, and about 50% of all Pinners have made a purchase after seeing a Promoted Pin.  Add in that  2/3rds of Pinners have discovered a new brand, service, or product they might not have otherwise known about thanks to a Promoted Pin, and it gets harder to deny the obvious potential here.

So How Do Pinterest Ads Work Then?

That’s a bit of a loaded question don’t you think? But I’ll answer it as best as I can.

Bidding on Pinterest

 For starters Pinterest, like most other paid acquisition channels, use bidding to decide what ad to show and at what cost. In Pinterest you can either set custom bids, or you can let them do it for you. 

With custom bids, you set the maximum you want to spend for a particular action or bid. Then Pinterest will attempt to get you the most results that it can given your maximum spend limit. You can adjust and tweak this as often as you’d like throughout the day.

With Automatic Bidding, Bids are updated by Pinterest automatically throughout the day. Pinterest aims to get you the most Pin clicks at the lowest possible cost per result while also spending your entire budget. This may sound fantastic, but automatic bidding comes with its own risks. There is a potential for price fluctuations as Pinterest works to learn what customers to go after to get the best results and adjusts for competition.

Keyword Targeting On Pinterest

One of the really cool things about Pinterest ads is that the platform allows you to use keywords. In fact Pinterest is one of the largest search engines in the world after Google and YouTube. So it makes sense that there would be some search engine like functionality in the ads platform right?

Well there is, and using this correctly definitely makes a difference for both paid and organic pin strategies. We’ll stick to the paid for this discussion though.  

Keywords can be an incredibly powerful arrow in your arsenal. It is so powerful in fact that there is a small legion of bloggers across the web that swear by keyword only campaigns. They may have a point. There are over 2 billion searches typed in on average per month and 98% of searches are unbranded. That’s a lot of opportunity to get in front of customers that are looking for inspiration and new solutions to their problems.

So maybe that aforementioned blogger legion has a point but I’m more keen to use all the tools to get the job done instead of settling for Maslow’s hammer.

ad targeting options on Pinterest

Interest Targeting On Pinterest

That’s where interest targeting comes in. Inside of Pinterest’s ad platform, you have the option to target interests. Pinterest, like TikTok, has a list of interest buckets that you can target. Users and content are placed into those buckets based on their search history and interests. Then you can target them. The problem is the interest targeting is a bit limited. There’s not as expansive a list of interests to target on pinterest as what you’d find on Facebook Meta but, there are quite a few options that could move the needle.

Ultimately, the name of the game is testing. Test Fast. Learn Fast. Move Fast. Setup AB tests to determine which strategy works best for you. Maybe it’s an only interest campaign. Maybe it’s a keyword only campaign. Maybe it’s one set of keywords vs another set. Maybe what works best for you is to use both interests and keywords in the same ad group! With paid social, try not to get too hung up on what worked before in one platform. Instead keep an open mind and try different things intentionally.

pinterest advertising targeting options

Pinterest Ads In Action 

This is exactly the approach that we took with one of our Ecommerce partners, let’s call them Brilliance to keep their identity anonymous. Brilliance sells a product that is absolutely perfect for women of all ages, especially women with some disposable income. The product positions incredibly well beside coffee and tea products. 

So we came up with a theory. We theorized that if we combined interest targeting with keywords, we might just be able to get our product in front of people that would actually purchase it. We quickly came up with a plan that would include keyword targeting and combined targeting. We opted not to test interest targeting in this instance because we had seen bad results with it in the past.

The results were better than we hoped. We initially launched with the combined targeting and after the first week, we saw a CPA (cost per acquisition) that was 50% of what we saw on Meta. 

Not trusting our eyes, we gave it another week, and again results came in strong. We weren’t done learning yet though. So, we created the keyword only campaign. Out of the gate it struggled with CPAs about twice as high as Meta results. 

We knew that Pinterest used view-through conversions though, so we decided to give it up to a week in accordance with our attribution window of 7 days post click. The results?

I’m glad you asked. The CPAs DID drop as time passed and Pinterest learned more about the right customers. So we did what anybody would do when they struck gold. We added more shovels! Well in this case we added budget incrementally. As we did this, costs rose slightly but the results continued to hold.

Custom Audiences On Pinterest

Along with the option to target specific keywords and interests on Pinterest, as an advertiser, you also get the opportunity to target custom audiences. These custom audiences will look familiar if you’ve used any other ad platform before. From prospecting audiences like act alikes to retargeting audiences, there are choices for you to accomplish your goal.

Act Alike Targeting 

Think of this like a lookalike on Facebook. This is an audience that looks and acts just like the audience you used as the source. This is a great way to find an audience that has behavior similar to people who already took an action you like.


This audience goes after people that recently interacted with your Pins. This audience can be super powerful for a bunch of reasons. Since I’ll explain it later in another less lengthy post, I’ll summarize here. This audience uses in platform behavior signals, and that means that Pinterest has full ability to track them. Engagers also interacted with your content recently so they’re warmer than somebody that never heard of you. As far as retargeting goes, there aren’t many better options.

Site Visitors

This audience targets people who have visited your site and been tracked via the Pinterest tag.  This is a great audience because it means that the person is definitely familiar with you and probably lower in the funnel if they’ve visited your site.

Customer List

This audience targets people who have a pinterest account and are on a customer list you upload. This can be a great way to retarget prior purchasers with a new offer, or product launch. There’s even some evidence that suggests that Pins with the word New on them see a pretty substantial engagement lift. 

Should You Use Pinterest For Your Business?

Pinterest is definitely not for everyone and every business. That caveat being said, there is definitely opportunity there for ecommerce brands and service businesses. The important thing to remember is that people come to Pinterest to look for inspiration, and not necessarily to buy a product or service. So before you decide that Pinterest is right for your business ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What products or lifestyle activities does my product or service fit next to?
  • What DIY problem am I solving? 

And always remember that social ads and digital marketing is always about testing. If you answer the above questions and still feel fuzzy just follow my mantra: Test Fast, Learn Fast, Move Fast.

working to increase budgets on different ad platforms

How To Scale Ad Spend Quickly (Without Spiking Costs)

working to increase budgets on different ad platforms

Scaling effectively is one of the hardest things to do with your Facebook ads. As a growth marketing agency, one of the problems potential partners come to us most often with is that they’ve gained some sort of traction with their Facebook ads, but don’t know how to efficiently ramp up spend. 

To someone not well versed in Facebook advertising, this seems like an easy solution. You’ve got campaigns that are working, so just jack up your daily budgets and start counting your profits! Makes sense right?

If only it were that easy….

Anyone who has experience running Facebook ads knows just how fragile account performance can be. A number of different factors can take your performance for a roller coaster ride, and changing ad spend is one of the largest ones. Growth Marketers are on a seemingly endless quest for stability and predictable results. While that quest will likely never be completed, being mindful of how we adjust our spending on Facebook and our other ad channels will get us one step closer to the promised land of steady results.

Before you can begin increasing your spend on Facebook you need to answer an important question.

Is my ad account ready to start scaling?

One thing we really stress here at Tuff when looking at budgets for our social ads channels is that adding additional budget at an underperforming channel or campaign won’t help your results. There are many problems in life that can be solved by throwing money at them, but poor advertising results isn’t one of them. 

There are three stages to running campaigns on Facebook when you’re looking to achieve success at scale:

  1. Traction 
  2. Scale
  3. Profit

To sum these steps up, traction is where you put in the work to achieve consistent profitable results, scale is where you increase budgets steadily while still maintaining profitability, and profit is where you swim in your money Scrooge McDuck style.

You’ve got to walk before you can run. The traction phase is where you define what profitability looks like from an account results standpoint. This benchmark will vary greatly depending on your business model. It could be a specific cost per lead, ROAS number or cost per new customer. Whatever it is, you need to understand this tipping point before considering scaling up your budget. This should really be figured out before running ads at all, but that’s for another blog post.

Once you’ve defined your profitability metrics, you’ve got to go out and hit them. Go test audiences, ad creative, and copy combinations until you’ve determined the targeting and messaging needed to hit your profitability metrics.

Before you start scaling, you’ll want to be sure you’re hitting these numbers with some consistency. With how volatile Facebook advertising can be, it’s very likely that you can hit these goals one day, and not even come close the next. You’ll want to see results above your profitability threshold for a significant amount of time before you begin scaling. The amount of time will be different depending on what budget level you start at, but a good rule of thumb is 2-3 weeks of hitting KPIs before increasing your budget.

So now that we’ve got traction, it’s time to look at increasing our budgets, which is the whole reason you’re reading this article. As I mentioned earlier, scaling up too quickly can shock the Facebook algorithm and tank your results, so we always look to scale methodically to avoid that. There are two methods of scaling that we use, which we refer to as vertical scaling and horizontal scaling. We use a combination of these to increase overall budget. Let’s get into what they are. 

Scaling vertically

Vertical scaling is the easiest way to increase your ad spend on Facebook. When you scale vertically you’re taking your existing campaign structure and increasing the daily budgets for those campaigns or ad sets. In reality, this is just fancy marketing speak for taking your budget and making it larger, but there is some nuance involved.

It is possible to kick your ad sets back into the “Learning Phase” if you increase your budgets too quickly. An ad set being in the learning phase is an indicator that the algorithm is still working to stabilize your results. While in this state you can expect more volatility and higher than normal costs per action. An ad set leaves the learning phase after about 50 conversion events, at which point performance stabilizes a bit.

Needless to say we want to get out of the learning phase as quickly as possible and stay out of it.

learning phase in ads manager

“Large edits” to a campaign or ad sets will move ad sets back into the learning phase, with large increases to budget being one of those possible edits. Specifically, more than a 20% increase in spend to a campaign or ad set will be enough to get sent back to learning phase time out. 

All of this is to say keep your daily spend increases to 19% or less of your budget if your ad sets are out of the learning phase. If your ad sets aren’t out of learning just yet, it’s probably a good idea to wait for that to happen before increasing spend.

Scaling horizontally 

There is always going to be a point when scaling your existing structure starts to yield diminishing returns. As much as we’d like to scale effective campaigns and ad sets to infinity, there comes a point where you’ve maxed out the amount of spend you can pump into a campaign structure before you have to expand outward to find new efficiencies.

Horizontal scaling is where you look for opportunities outside of your existing structure, usually in the form of new audiences, to spend budget. Audience testing is a huge part of being successful with Facebook advertising and chances are if you’ve made it to the point where you are scaling up your budget, you’ve done your fair share of audience testing already (remember finding traction?)

You’re definitely going to want to find these avenues of potential scale before you need to, so as you’re scaling vertically, it’s always a good idea to test new audiences to see if you can gain traction outside of your existing structure. 

When introducing new ad sets, it’s generally best to set the daily budget equal or lower than what your other campaigns/ad sets are at. The last thing you want to do is introduce a new audience at a really high daily budget only to see no traction and burn through a significant amount of ad spend without much return.

Once you see traction from a new audience, you can apply the vertical scaling principals I outlined earlier in the article, rinse and repeat.


Facebook loves consistency when it comes to running an ad account. Want to make a big change to an existing campaign? You’re usually going to get punished in the form of higher costs for a period of time. When scaling up your spend, make sure to stay below that 20% per day threshold to avoid having your ad sets get kicked back into the Learning Phase. Seeing rising costs as you’re scaling your existing structure? It’s probably time to look to scale horizontally with some new audiences.

Want to learn more about how we help our partners achieve results at scale? Set up a call with our team to discuss how we can apply our growth marketing expertise to your business! We’d love to hear from you! 

Person getting ready for a jog.

Kicking Dynamic Creative Ads to the Curb: How we Decreased CPA by 66% For Joyn

Person getting ready for a jog.

Joyn represents everything positive about the future of movement. True, we’re biased, but one of the best parts of what we do is choosing who we work with. And the truth is, our jobs are much, much easier (and more fun!) when we believe in our partners’ business. So, it goes without saying: we’re big fans of Joyn. 

Simply, Joyn is a movement app for every body. Built on the conviction that feeling the joy and freedom of movement shouldn’t be exclusive to muscular influencers in size 00, Joyn’s online library includes a wide range of videos led by instructors that are positive, warm, and inclusive—truly. At the beginning of each class, the instructor introduces themselves, shares their pronouns, and takes a moment to talk through their recommended modifications to the movement they’re about to facilitate. That way, people that might need to be seated can still have fun and participate. 

When Joyn reached out to us in late 2020, they had a well-established brand, product market fit, and a growing (and super excited) audience. But what they were looking to accomplish was replicating their positive growth across multiple channels and supercharging it with a growth marketing agency like Tuff. 

The Backstory

When we jumped in and got access to Joyn’s Facebook Business Manager, there was already quite a bit of historical data accumulated from past campaigns they had been running.

Similarly to many new Tuff clients, Joyn knew that Facebook Ads were a key tactic for scaling their subscription user base, so their in-house team jumped in, whipped up some creative, and launched ads to start getting a finger on the pulse of which combination of targeting and creative would drive the most conversions on the site. 

Truthfully, for any startup seeking product-market fit, this is the perfect approach. Get scrappy, launch some ads, glean some learnings, and when you’re established and ready to scale, call in more resources. 

When we stepped in, we did it with a pointed goal: drive down CPS. We paired with a clear game plan:

  1. Dig into the historical data 
  2. Test Non-Dynamic Creative 
  3. Get UGC Influencer Style Creative 
  4. Optimize what performs, ditch the rest

Joyn’s Facebook Dynamic Creative Ads: Were they Working?

After pulling and organizing the historical data, we realized that Joyn was relying heavily on dynamic creative ads, giving us an excellent place to jump in and uncover more insights. 

Dynamic ads require the Facebook strategist (or whomever is executing the ads strategy) to jump into the platform and upload several different types of creative along with several different headlines and body copy. Then, when the ad is published, Facebook—using its algorithm—automatically tests different combinations, eventually prioritizing the combinations that are most effective (“effectiveness” is measured based on whether you’ve chosen to run a conversion, traffic, video views, reach, brand awareness, or app install campaign). While generally, marketers can see some positive results using this approach, there are some significant drawbacks:

  • It’s a challenge to drop in creative that’s going to be cohesive no matter what combination Facebook serves
  • It’s relatively challenging to optimize on the fly with dynamic creative campaigns

So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and launch non-dynamic ads. The results speak for themselves. 

Launching Non-Dynamic Ads: a 66% Decrease in CPS

Our main goal when we launched non-dynamic ads was to first optimize spend toward the best performing asset. Although typically when we pivot to test new Facebook strategies (whether it’s a new audience, new bid type, or new ad creative) results are far from immediate—especially given Facebook’s seven-day attribution window.

But, after just $545 of spend, we saw a sharp drop of 62% and within the very first week we saw a 66% decrease in CPS. 

  • Dynamic Spend: $6,583.44 | 153 Start Trials | CPS: $43.03
  • Non-Dynamic Spend: $1,744.40 | 121 Start Trials | CPS: $14.41

faceboook cps decrease chat

True, non-dynamic ads aren’t for everyone. They necessitate a much closer eye and the oversight of someone that can spend time reallocating budget to best performing assets and manually testing creative combinations frequently. When done right, though, the results speak for themselves. 

Fresh Creative: Tapping Into Influencers

Next up on our agenda for Joyn was to deep dive into their creative assets and emerge with…

  1. A full assessment of the creative that’s historically been performing at the top of the pack
  2. Clear ideas for new types of creative we’d like to test

Here’s a peek at what that looked like.

We noted that the strongest-performing creative tended to be shorter videos that open with high energy and/or full-screen movement. Both of our best-performers featured a modified way to access the movement, and bright colors with quick, varying shots. Finally, we were immediately able to see recognizable Joyn branding. 

Strength Training Video  |   Yoga Video

So, the next steps: recommending fresh creative. Joyn’s library of body-positive movement classes is populated by a cohort of inclusive, positive, extremely personable coaches. So when we recommended testing influencer content, we were able to create fun, big-energy new creative on a few day turnaround without having to source or negotiate with influencers. 

We were able to get two raw videos back from two of Joyn’s most memorable coaches, Kanoa Greene and Anna Chapman, use Joyn’s internal team for some extra editing and text overlay, and deploy them without a hitch. 

While there are a few extra steps to take (both on the Joyn Instagram page and on the influencer’s personal page) once we began promoting the two videos, the results were extremely interesting.

  • Kanoa Greene Influencer Campaign: $643.18 | 14 Start Trials | CPS: $45
  • Best-Performing Audience: “Female Leaders” — CPS: $14.81

The name of the game for Joyn: drive a CPS of less than $20. And while our results for Anna’s influencer campaign were not quite as tight, serving Kanoa’s ad to fresh audiences, rotating in new copy, and testing new placements have us seeing results that are closer to what we’re aiming for. 

Ready to See What Works Best For You on Social?

While we have been able to deep dive into both creative strategy and rigorous optimizations with Joyn, no two brands are built the same. Have a suite of creative you think we could supercharge? 

Let us take a deep dive into your brand and develop a strategy built for your business. 

Download a Sample Growth Marketing Proposal