In 3 months, a tutoring start-up called Erudite Writing Lab more than doubled their return on advertising spend into Facebook ads.
They did as a new brand, with no digital marketing experience.
And today I’m going to show you exactly how they did it, and how you can too.
Erudite Writing Lab was founded in Thailand in late 2019.
In a sea of thousands of tutoring services, its founder had been trying to break onto the scene with a direct focus on improving her students’ academic and professional writing skills.
Oh, and she had a Harvard-certified teaching methodology. Yes, the Harvard.
The founder had everything set to soar far and wide, but there was one catch:
Both she and her business had no experience in social media marketing.
With no insights on what worked and didn’t work, she really had to start from 0.
The Facebook page was created right before we started working with the founder:
With no data and benchmarks there was a huge risk burning up the entire budget just to learn that the business wasn’t the right product-market fit.
At the same time budgets are tight for most start-ups.
Hence she needed a lean approach to determine whether her business was the right product-market fit, and a clear plan that will make her money both in the short and long term.
After discussions with her, we concluded that Erudite Writing Lab’s goals as a new business were to:
1. Create brand awareness from scratch to expand her target audience and compete with other tuition services in Thailand, and 2. Increase course/session sales to make the business profitable.
Here’s how we did it:
We broke Erudite Writing Lab’s Facebook marketing strategy down into two steps.
We started with 1. Content Marketing, where we made posts and ads to build brand awareness and engagement, instead of direct sales.
Then we did 2. Performance Marketing, or sales-driven marketing, to increase the founder’s bookings and drive more revenue, after we created and nurtured a high-quality and large enough audience from Step 1.
Every new brand needs content, to varying degrees. For Erudite Writing Lab, people needed to know what they were buying and why, before signing up for a 60-hour writing course.
The goal of content marketing is to get engagement, instead of direct sales.
So basically, Facebook shows these posts to people who are most likely to comment, share and react to them.
This is how the posts help you build your brand through expanding your audience or community, and lead you to get more sales in the long run.
During the first month of doing content, we aggressively tested different key focuses in the ads.
From different pricing to different captions and design, the goal was to find which approaches worked best, and which didn’t.
Then we made more versions of the best ads, to get even more engagement from publishing them.
We measured the best posts by the amount of high-quality comments they were getting, as well as shares.
And during that process, we turned out some bangers for Erudite Writing Lab.
Like this post:
And this one:
We also increased the owner’s Facebook Page Likes by running Page Likes Campaigns to improve credibility for her brand.
Why increase Page Likes?
Imagine visiting a page with 15 Page Likes vs a page with 600+. It’s a vanity metric yes, but it really goes a long way with brand trust.
And that’s why we spent a small amount of the budget (around 1,600 THB) on Page Likes ads, and ended up averaging 7 THB per New Page Like. Sweet!
About a month into grinding out content, however, the owner told us content marketing didn’t make financial sense for her anymore. At least in the short term.
In other words, she needed more actual sales, and couldn’t yet afford the time-consuming process of content marketing.
After meeting with her, we realigned expectations and marketing goals, and started on her next chapter a few months earlier than expected.
The short term goal was no longer brand awareness; she now needed Sales-driven campaigns first.
Performance ads are no longer expected to get engagement. Their primary goal is to get sales, not comments, shares or Page Likes.
By now you may be wondering, “Can you do that?” Can you just switch up the strategy and everything you’ve done won’t turn to ash?
Yes and no.
Yes, but only if it serves a purpose in your ultimate goal.
Yes, if you know what you’re doing and plan on revisiting content marketing in the long run.
Yes, if you need to take a break from content marketing and do sales-driven ads to drive more revenue to invest back into your business’ marketing efforts..
No, If you’re doing sales-driven marketing without ever coming back to content marketing again.
If you go full sales-driven, you won’t be able to get as many people to buy your product, because you aren’t educating people about your business in the process.
But here’s why we were able to switch up the strategy for Erudite Writing Lab:
We already had over a month’s worth of valuable learnings in terms of best practices for ads to fall back on from doing a month of content marketing.
We knew what worked and what didn’t work, and were able to focus the budget on what worked instead of blindly testing everything all over again.
Not a single cent from the first month of content marketing was wasted.
And now we adopted the best promotions, approaches etc. from content marketing to make sales-driven ads:
Best practices lived on. Emphasis on personal branding for the owner, Harvard-focus, and one-stop development for pupils were the key elements.
Now you may have noticed something in those ads. See this Send Message button on them?
If they’re sales-driven ads, why don’t they use a Buy Now button instead?
People rarely buy a tuition course out of the blue. They need to ask questions before they make a purchase.
And that’s where the messages come in. Facebook’s Inbox is the perfect place for potential students/parents to contact Erudite Writing Lab directly.
Students even use messages as a means of payment for the courses:
But here’s the key secret to getting more sales: We tied the amount of messages directly back to the new bookings Erudite Writing Lab was getting, on a daily basis.
If bookings were increasing from the amount of messages, then we were getting it right.
If bookings weren’t increasing, we had to improve our audience targeting to get higher-quality messages.
And budget-wise, the cost per message was all-important.
If we could continuously target high-quality purchasers, while maintaining an average cost per message, then nothing was stopping us from getting even more bookings.
We made it easier for the founder to track progress this way, too. How?
Her internal admins took care of closing the deals via messages, and we focused on getting as many high-quality messages for the lowest cost possible.
That way, she could directly track whether we were nailing it or dropping the ball at any time.
So to recap: Monitor the amount of messages you’re getting and tie it back to the sales you’re getting, while maintaining the cost per message.
Erudite Writing Lab’s performance marketing strategy basically revolved around those three metrics.
Remember: All of this was re-planned and executed in a matter of days. The transition from content to performance, as well as the KPI changes included.
That’s the best benefit of digital marketing: It’s lower risk compared to huge marketing campaigns, and it’s instant.
You don’t have to spend months re-tilting the company direction towards a new course.
This makes doing whatever it takes to help the business grow possible.
And grow it did, because…
By maintaining the average cost per message at just $3.18 (just under 100 THB), we were able to drive a 2.57 ROAS for Erudite Writing Lab, and fully book her private tutor slots until May 2020 (pre-Covid)!
And that’s just with 1 month of content marketing and 2 following months of sales-driven performance marketing.
Imagine what more content marketing combined with performance marketing could do!
1. The simplest way to develop a sustainable ad strategy is to sync your sales goals with your marketing efforts from Day 1.
Make your marketing efforts share 1 KPI, and tie everything back to the amount of sales you’re getting.
If the observed KPI doesn’t work, pick another KPI, hypothesize that it will effectively lead to more sales, and test it until you find a winning formula.
For Erudite Writing Lab’s performance marketing campaigns, it was the amount of messages, as their courses are a planned purchase.
If you’ve got something a little more impulse purchase-friendly, consider optimizing your Facebook ad campaigns for direct purchases instead.
We’ve also got a case study for that here, where we helped a men’s razor business increase their sales revenue by over 1,700%!
2. It’s ok if a strategy doesn’t work out how you expect it to. The destination is the same, it’s just the how-to that changes.
Most successful digital marketing strategies nowadays use testing as their main constant.
As a new business in the digital marketing age, you can’t survive without testing. Erudite Writing Lab had several courses and promotions to test with.
And we tested until we found different approaches to see which resonated best with their audience.
Testing your approaches is low-risk. But if you do it well, the rewards can be very high.