How "Off-Line Conversion King" Stephen Nations Connects Ad Spend Dots to In-Store Sales

Zach Johnson

Dylan Carpenter

Stephen Nations

Episode
05
|
Season 1

Stephen Nations

,

Director of Strategy, Drive Social Media

The Diamond Family

Stephen Nations is the director of public relations for Drive Social Media, a St. Louis and Nashville-area-based digital marketing agency. He is obsessed with creating compelling content and finding new ways to connect brands with their target audience.

Key Takeaways

  • Why “serious” isn’t always the best way to sell expensive upscale products.
  • The 100% worthless, real-estate-wasting phrase you should NEVER use in an ad for a local retailer.
  • What Facebook feature to use to sift website info to get the kind of granular data to build out a lot more accurate look-alike audiences
  • Why online engagement with an ad rarely translates into an in-store purchase (and what actually does).
  • How drilling WAY down on purchasing data unearthed a totally unexpected  target audience profile.

The Transcript

Season 1
,
Episode
05
Transcript

Host:  Dylan Carpenter

How are y'all? So hey, welcome to another episode of Rich Ad, Poor Ad. Today we have Stephen Nations, he is the Director of Strategy at Drive Social Media. Also does a ton of freelancing on the side. Roughly manages, shoot, 200K'ish a month, and actually has a case study from Facebook on the augmented reality side. So Stephen, man, thanks for coming on, we're pumped to have you, but I'd love to have you introduce yourself, let the people know who you are, and what you're getting into over there.


Guest: Stephen Nations

Yeah, for sure. Thanks for having me, Dylan. So, like Dylan said, I'm the Director of Strategy at Drive Social Media, which is a data-driven social first digital marketing agency in St. Louis, and we have offices in Nashville, Tennessee, and Miami, Florida as well. We run the gamut of what businesses we work with, all the way from tiny mom and pops that have a couple hundred thousand dollars in revenue, all the way up to professional NHL teams, Orangetheory Fitness, stuff like that. We dabble in a little bit of everything. We do some AR/VR, we do website builds, email marketing, PPC, but our bread and butter's Facebook. I'd say 80% of our ad spend is on Facebook. And really, what I spend a lot of my time doing is, working with these small business owners who are trying to come out of the dark ages actually. A lot of these businesses maybe have been on TV, radio, billboard print, maybe a little email here or there, but haven't really done any data driven, digital marketing, social media marketing.

 

So we spend a lot of time getting systems set up, capture data, and putting together integrated strategies that have a multi-prong approach where we're trying to pull new people into the funnel, as well as push people down through. And then the really cool thing that I like that we do is, we're able to connect the dots between what happens on Facebook and what happens in the real world. So if you're interacting with ads online, and you walk into a brick and mortar store and make a purchase, whether that's a dentist, a retailer, a gym, a restaurant, what have you, you see an ad on Facebook and then go and purchase from that business offline afterwards, we can connect the dots and tell you exactly how much the people are spending from your ads.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. And I mean, shoot, I'm a media buyer myself, so I totally understand the importance of being able to track money coming in and money coming out. So I mean, the fact we're going to have a local business on here, it excites me. And especially when it comes down to how well they've done. So I mean, as mentioned, we're going to be having The Diamond Family on the showcase today, roughly spending $2-3K a month. I want to say, you mentioned they started off maybe spending 300 bucks a month.


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yep.

Host: Dylan Carpenter

You scaled them up. But I mean, based off that, you've generated well over $120,000 in sales on that jewelry side, on a local level from these offline conversions. So I mean, I think this is going to really add some value, it's for a lot of people, and saying, hey, if you can track this, there are so many clients out there to really knock out of the park. And hey, you are the Offline Conversion King. So, I mean-


Guest: Stephen Nations

There you go. I'll take it. So yeah, not self bestowed at least. Yeah. You know, that's the cool thing. A lot of these small business owners, they might've dabbled in Facebook, tried to run some of their own ads, maybe optimizing it for things like likes, and comments, and shares, like a lot of people think they need to. And obviously we know that stuff doesn't drive results. So they go in, they don't have a great strategy, they don't really know how to do targeting or optimizations, and within a month or two they've wasted a couple hundred bucks and they say, "Facebook didn't work." When really, it's just a matter of having the right strategy. You don't need thousands of dollars a month to do well on Facebook. If you start with a minimum budget, you can scale it to where you need to over time without really being too risky.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh, spot on. And I mean, the other part about it is, creative is King in these scenarios. So I think I would love to dive in and say, how y'all came up with this creative? Just because, going from the Poor Ad to the Rich Ad was quite a 180. So I mean-


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, absolutely.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

It's super cool. We got three videos on the Rich Ad side, we'll post in the show notes. Y'all check them out. They are hilarious. But then on the other side, on the Poor Ad side, it's very kind of more broad, competitors are similar in those areas. But before we dive in too much, what are you feeling over there, Stephen, the Poor Ad first or the Rich Ad?


Guest: Stephen Nations

Let's dive into the Poor Ad first, I'd rather beat myself up at the beginning.

Host: Dylan Carpenter

Heck yeah.

So, on the results side, how did these do?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Terrible. Give you a little background on the business, The Diamond Family, they've been in business since 1978. They're in St. Louis, Missouri, they're very well-known, and they've traditionally had the typical jeweler feel. They're very high-end, they're not Zales or anything like that. They get the best of the best, and everything they do is in that luxury style branding. A lot of dark blues, and blacks, and golds, and whites, and things like that. And traditionally it's really focused-in on what you would expect to see from a jeweler, things like putting a lot of emotion into it, playing on the heartstrings, big dramatic statements about, talking about the rest of your life, and how unique she is, and all those types of things. And The Diamond Family had been a successful business for, like I said, 35 years or so before they got involved with us.

And so, our initial reaction was, hey, these guys have, like I said, done a lot of traditional stuff and we don't need to reinvent the wheel here. We need to take what they've always built on and just show it to a new group of people, do it on Facebook, and be able to track it. So we went right ahead with what had been successful for the last 35 years. Going into building a campaign for a jeweler seems very, very straightforward, we were targeting things like inter-relationship over a long period of time, recently engaged because there's a lot of people that might get engaged before they buy the ring, so they're still in the market. So, just very traditional, straight forward stuff that we did to start with.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. And just so y'all have some kind of insights, and we'll have these in the show notes as well, but I'll read off some copy for these. "So it's not just jewelry, it's a piece of your life. Make sure it's in the best hands, bring it to the family with 150 plus years of combined repair and service. Excellent." So as y'all can see, these are fairly ... It's obvious what they do, but it's not very captivating, emotional. On the emotional side, we do have a Valentine's Day which is, "Hey, the jewelry, 99 bucks. Flowers, free. Chocolates, free. Dinner package, free. Give her the Valentine's present she'll cherish forever. Click now to visit our store."


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Argh.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Click now, yeah. So I mean, you can tell it's, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel, but how long did it take y'all to figure out that, hey, these just aren't clicking at all?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

So, we generally run our creative for three months at a time, about 90 days. It's not an exact science, it could be that the sweet spot might be 87 days, the sweet spot might be 94 days, but generally we sit in that three month range. We want to give it time to get out of the learning phase, and then give us enough runway to actually draw some insights off of it. So for a business like The Diamond Family, we'll probably run five campaigns that have a split test in each one of them, or a split testing two different types of creative, or two different values. And so we ran these for three months and we spent around, I believe, $4K on them and got zero sales, not a single conversion and a single dime off of them.

Now the good news is, those weren't the only ads we were running at that time, so it wasn't a complete loss. But that being said, if we're running 10 ads and eight of them get absolutely zero results, the campaign's a complete failure. So, that's a definitely a negative ROI campaign, and for small businesses like this in St. Louis, you can't really afford to do that over more than a couple month period of time, before it really starts hurting you.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh definitely. And when it comes to those kinds of budgets, I mean, you really have to give the algorithm a little bit of room to get out of that learning phase. Just because, I mean, you're not spending a thousand bucks a day where you can get that within three or four days, you have to really pace it out where that makes complete sense on the timing range there. But shoot, that'll freak some clients out there, I would imagine. Was it more at the beginning of the relationship, or mid, or how early was it when you started working with them?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, so that's interesting. When they first came on, they'd been with us for the past three and a half years or so, but we used to have a different package where it really wasn't anything too high-level. It was for businesses who wanted to dip their toe in without diving in head first. And it was a lot of engagement-based stuff, and follow our page ads, and reach optimizations, and things like that. And so, when you're running those ads and you're not connecting the dots with the offline conversion on the backend, you are going to get a lot of clicks on those things. You'll get a lot of likes and comments there, so The Diamond Family was with us for, I want to say almost six months to a year, before we started running offline conversions. So they were happy with seeing the clicks and the likes, because it looks like we're doing great work.

So, when we pivoted from doing engagement-based to doing return-based marketing, and we saw what was really behind the curtain on the other side, it was like, "Holy shit, we might not have been driving many sales for a long time now." So yeah, that was a year into the relationship when we switched. And then maybe six months that we had run similar type of creative where we said, "Okay, we've got to do something different here."


Host: Dylan Carpenter

That makes total sense. The thing that blows my mind the most out of these scenarios is that the concept of family-owned.


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yep.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

I don't do too many local ads, but I always feel like that's got to add a little extra flavor to, "Hey, support local business," but that actually had no impact, huh?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, absolutely. And it's gotten to the point where I refuse to put things on our ads anymore that say like, "Been in business since ... Family-owned. Locally owned and operated," because while that stuff sounds nice, and right now it's a little different situation where people might have a little bit more affinity for a local businesses, so I'm not going to sit here and say, "Across the board at all times that doesn't matter." But by and large, I always say, if my customers want to say, "Hey, I'd like to say that I've been in business since 1950," then I always respond, like, "Tell me the last place that you ate dinner?" And they'll tell me. "Why did you choose to eat there?" "Because it was a good price point. Because it was right by my house. Because it's delicious." Nobody's ever said like, "Hey, where do you want to eat tonight, honey?" "Oh, let's go to this restaurant because they've been in business since 1950."

Or when's the last time you were trying to decide between two roofers you wanted to buy from, and said, "Well, this one's $10,000 more expensive, but they're family-owned so I'm going to give my money to them." So, we realized really quick that, that stuff's not a driver of revenue at all.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. And I mean, especially when you have a lot of big brands out there, the competition is heavy. Competitors are bidding a little bit higher these days. So I mean, it's one of those concepts where you really have to connect with your consumers. So that was a really cool takeaway. I saw you mention towards like, "Hey, there's just not much connection to the business by any means with these kinds of creatives."


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, you're not building any relationship with it at all. It's just the same stuff everybody else says. And at the end of the day, if you're offering the exact same connection, or branding, or loyalty, then the only thing that you have to compete on is price. And with a business like, The Diamond Family, they don't compete on price.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. No, yeah. I'm just pumped to talk about these Rich Ads, because y'all are going to geek out over these.

I know we had a little recap, so I mean, spent a couple thousand bucks and no sales by any means there. Trying to not reinvent the wheel just yet, but hey, just didn't click there. But on these Rich Ads, as mentioned, 28 X ROIs, over $120,000 in sales, let's get into the nitty gritty because you seem to pivot pretty hardcore, but I'd love to have you dive more into the actual strategy side of it. We'll have the videos in the show notes. Y'all totally got to check them out, they're a minute long each, and hey, you're going to laugh your butt off for sure.


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, appreciate that. We're pretty proud of them.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Yeah. So when it comes to how y'all pivoted, I know a big thing was that money-back satisfaction, which I feel like may not be Southern-Sue common to be promoted these days. Outside of the money-back side, what other areas were you focusing on for these Rich Ads?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah. So a lot of it had to do with the targeting. Instead of just shooting a broad spectrum of people that might be engaged, once we started collecting customer data, and we do that through a litany of different avenues, but once we started collecting customer data, we were really able to drill in and say like, "Okay, this isn't just people who recently got engaged, this is men that are most commonly between 27 and 34 years old, that are most commonly coming from these seven zip codes." So instead of having a broad radius that covers 15, 20 miles around the business, we're dropping smaller radiuses that are going exactly to those zip codes we're seeing the most purchases from. And then, The Diamond Family was driving a lot of people to the website, but they weren't very good at capturing information off the website.

So, if people wanted to fill out their first name, last name, email, phone number, so they could schedule a consultation, or reach out to the business and something like that, there was just a lot of clicks, and a lot of friction, and a lot of busyness on the website. So we cleaned up the website, made the calls to action a little bit more clear, made them a little bit more eye-catching. And then one thing that we started to do was, once we were able to get their purchaser data, we ran lead-generation style campaigns on Facebook. And we basically did a giveaway where we said, "Anyone who spends $6,000 that enters for this promotion, will get $1,500 off their purchase," because it made sense for them to get in there, to get people to spend at least $4,500. That was their breaking point where they start to make profits.

So, we would take everybody who went to their website, because we had thousands of people go on the website, but only 50, 60 info captures. We took everyone who was going to the website and then we, from their Facebook profiles, restricted anyone who has either given their email before, or anyone whose purchased before, or anyone who picked up the phone and called, because we're hooked into their VoIP too. So basically, if they have customer information from someone that went to their website, we extracted those people out of it. So all you're left with is the people who showed interest in you by going to your website, but did not identify themselves. Then we ran those campaigns to a bunch of people and said, "If you just click this, drop your first name, last name, email, phone number," to anyone who went to the websites that remains anonymous, that information gets sent to The Diamond Family.

And the beautiful part about that is with the Facebook pixel, if someone goes to your website, but doesn't take an action, doesn't buy from you, they stay in your funnel for six months. But if you can get them to leave their first name, last name, email, phone number, they stay in your funnel for life because you can always target them with a custom audience of an email, or something like that. So then we started identifying 40%, 50% of their website audience by running that, and our data just got a lot more granular, so we could build out a lot more accurate look-alike audiences. As well as those man-made audiences that are built by hand, to make those more targeted too. And then once we figured out who these people are, what their interests are, what they like, we realized it's not really that really high-end crowd that we thought we were advertising to, we're advertising to a lot of people that are in their late twenties, early thirties, that are middle income.

So, we started making our creative speak a lot more directly to those people, because those people aren't looking for the golds, and the whites, and the heartstrings, and everything, they want a brand that they can build a relationship with and connect with. And so we decided we were going to take the humorous playful route, and see if we could build a relationship with the business through that, and that's where the videos came in.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. And just so everybody has some context, I mean, these videos, how professionally done would you say they were? I mean, they're definitely done professionally, but I feel like it's not full Warehouse-quality kind of style of stuff.


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, that's a great question though. And yeah, though we have our own production studio in-house that runs the gamut from what you're talking about, The Warehouse-style stuff, to some of the stuff that might look a little bit more, I don't want to use the word amateur, but just a little bit less production quality that people can connect with a little bit more. And so, one of the videos, while we shot it with professional grade equipment, we made it look like somebody was going live on Facebook, while someone else proposes to somebody in the park. Now it didn't quite go the way that you'd expect for a video like that, you'll have to check it out in the episode notes, but we made it look like user-generated content.

And then we took the owner of the business and put him in the videos, and it was him, out in the wild, single shot type stuff, it wasn't a lot of cuts and a lot of editing. So it just felt very real and authentic, which I think allows people to connect with a local brand like that a lot more. You don't even have to say, "We're a local business that's been in business since 1978."


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. And just so y'all have some ideas with what he was just mentioning on the proposal kind of lifestyle video, it was a "wife insurance" is what you had it labeled as. Where it's like, "Hey, this money-back guarantee. You can never play it too safe there," and I'm like, "That's brilliant." But dive more into these, there are three killer Rich Ads, the “Diamond Deficit Disorder”, “Ice to Nice”, and “Wife Insurance”. So that, “Ice to Nice”, what was it you compared it to? I already forgot what it was, but I feel like it's got to ring some bells in some heads.


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, yeah. The crazy hot matrix for anybody who's ever seen that video.

Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh yeah. So I mean, it's absolute gold. It's the perfect wriggle room to say, hey, “Ice to Nice”, side of things. So the copy, in case you're curious is, "Hey, couples always ask us, what is the right amount of spend on an engagement ring?" And if you're wondering also, watch our video. But hey, warning, a good sense of humor is required." So I think y'all hit this right on the head, 115,000 views on a local level. That's pretty bomb right there. So I mean, out of those top three videos you listed, what's your favorite on those actually?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

In terms of the creative, I think it's got to be the, “Ice to Nice”, scale. I liked the owner, Michael, on that one. He kills it, he nails the tone of it perfectly. Their face says they're taking it seriously, but it's very, very tongue in cheek. And that one, we didn't want to write a script for that one, we wanted them to ad-lib it a little bit more because again, we didn't want it to feel like that super-high professional quality. And so Michael's going through, and basically the cliff notes version is, "The more ice you bring home, the nicer she'll be." And he ends with saying, "If you're not willing to go flat-broke for her, it begs the question, do you really even love her?" And then they ended by when he says that, they both crack up, and they drop their pointers and walk off the screen.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh, you can tell it's that final blooper moment, that's just ... And I mean, who's going to forget this? I mean, even on a local level, this has such a connection with the consumer. Is whether it's a hard pitch or not, you're getting in their head, you're connecting with them in some way where it's, hey, if they drive by, "I remember seeing that video." To where that's going to be a hard one forgets where, hey, maybe five years from now, they're finally ready and I imagine The Diamond Family's going to be the first one that comes to mind just because of this video, you know what I mean?


Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, absolutely. And that's, I mean, you nailed it, Dylan, that's something that we talked about a lot was, I know that we're seeing a lot of 28, 29, 30 here, but let's lower this to maybe, 24, because we can start building that relationship with that younger crowd that in the next three or four years, is probably going to be in the market for a ring.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh, 100%. I mean, I'm 25 over here, whenever I see funny marketing or ... I may not be ready for it now, but I mean, that stuff stands out to me to where it's like, hey, I'd rather support a business that goes out of their way with great marketing. So I mean, with me being a marketing guy, I was eating this up and I'm like, this is a goldmine.


Guest:  Stephen Nations   

I love it.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Well, heck yeah. So I mean, when it comes to those kinds of takeaways, it really goes to show, creative is King in this scenario, to connect with the consumer, understanding who's actually your buyer avatar seem like a huge area. Because even you mentioned, "We were going after the wealthy individuals, richer zip codes." When in reality, the ones who are actually purchasing are middle income, they’re average people. So I mean, I feel like understanding your avatar is the first step in really developing this killer content.

 

Guest:  Stephen Nations

Yeah, 100%. And that's, I go on, and on, and on all day long about data, data, data, data's worth more than money sometimes. You don't know those, you don't know you can't make those decisions. And I can't tell you how often we get partners in where, during our onboarding we ask a million questions, just to see where their head's at. And I can't tell you how consistently it just blows these business owners minds. And people who have been in business for five, 10, 15 years, that give us what they believe their profile is. And then once we get our hands on their data and we figure out who those people are, it's usually night and day between who they think their customer is, and who their actual customer is.


Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh, most definitely. I mean, it's always kind of funny because I always have a ton of clients like, "Hey, my audience is only on Instagram," and I'm like, "Well hey, let's test Facebook a little bit too." And shoot, 95% of the time we'll get cheaper conversions on Facebook and I'm like, "What's up?" You know?

 

Guest:  Stephen Nations                                                                                                            

Yeah. Yeah. Of course, man, and I love it.

Facebook doesn't lie.

 

Host: Dylan Carpenter

Oh, no. Yeah, numbers don't lie at all. And I mean, even as you said, data's money, and I mean, with Facebook being very data-oriented, I mean, you've really got to spend money to make money in these scenarios, which is the best way to have that investor mentality, I guess you can say.

 

Guest:  Stephen Nations                                                                                                          

Yeah, of course. And I think people are finally coming around to it. You know, there's this cloud of suspicion, I guess, around data collection in general. And I got a lot of partners that come to me and when they sign on, they're like, "Hey man, I've got to be honest." I had somebody recently say, "You know when Lance Armstrong was doing steroids, and so everybody else that was doing cycling started doing steroids?" I feel like that's what I'm doing with Facebook. I don't like doing this, but I know that I have to do this to be able to compete. But at the end of the day, if you're good at data collection, people aren't ... they're not annoyed if you have good targeting, and people know what they're doing.

It doesn't bother me when I see ads for craft beer, and punk rock, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball, because that's the type of stuff I want to see ads for. So, the better your data collection, the more of a relationship you can actually build with who really does want to buy from him.

 

Host: Dylan Carpenter                                                                                                                  

Oh, 100%. Well, to get some final conclusions here, I mean shoot, we saw how the Poor Ad performed. Well, it didn't perform at all, it didn't result in any sales there. But on that Rich Ad side, incorporating some killer video content, really speaks to the actual audience generating well over 28 X ROIs, over $120,000 in revenue. I mean, the numbers speak for themselves. So Stephen, man, this was super juicy. I absolutely love this. How can anybody find you, website, email, Twitter, what's the best way people can stay up-to-date with what you're doing over there?

 

Guest:  Stephen Nations                                                                                                           

Yeah, for sure. So, drivesocialnow, is our website. And then as far as finding me personally, I can be reached, obviously I have my LinkedIn profile. I believe, I'm the only one on there with my spelling, S-T-E-P-H-E-N. And then you can email me at [email protected]

 

Host: Dylan Carpenter                                                                                                              
Heck yeah, Stephen. Well, hey man, much appreciated. You just broke open the doors for local businessman, and I really appreciate that.

 

Guest:  Stephen Nations                                                                                                                    
I can't wait, Dylan, I had a blast. I appreciate you having me. Hopefully we do it again sometime soon.

 

Host: Dylan Carpenter                                                                                                           
Likewise. Likewise. Well, hey everybody, hope you enjoyed this. Leave some comments and notes below, and hey, have a good one.

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About The Podcast

Jason Hornung is the founder and Creative Director at JH Media LLC, the world’s #1 direct response advertising agency focusing exclusively on the Facebook ads platform. Jason’s proprietary methods for ad creation, audience selection and scaling are responsible for producing $20 million + of profitable sales for his clients EVERY YEAR

Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson is Founder of FunnelDash, the Agency Growth and Finance Company, with their legendary Clients Like Clockwork solutions. Under Zach’s leadership, FunnelDash has grown to over 5,000+ agency customers managing over $1 Billion in ad spend across 41,000 ad accounts on. Zach’s private clients have included influencers such as Dr. Axe, Marie Forleo, Dan Kennedy, Dean Graziozi to name a few. Zach is also a noted keynote speaker and industry leader who’s now on a mission to partner with agencies to fund $1 Billion in ad spend over the next 5 years.

Dylan Carpenter

Dylan Carpenter will be diving into what he and his team are seeing in 200+ accounts on Google and Facebook when it comes to trends, new offerings, and new opportunities. With over $10 million in Facebook/Instagram ad spend, Dylan Carpenter had the pleasure to work with Fortune 500 companies, high investment start-ups, non-profits, and local businesses advertising everything from local services to physical and digital products. Having worked at Facebook as an Account Manager and now with 5+ years of additional Facebook Advertising under my belt, I’ve worked alongside 60+ agencies and over 500+ businesses. I work with a team of Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn experts to continue to help companies and small businesses leverage the power of digital marketing.

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