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Planning an Ad Campaign: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Since I started my marketing career almost 10 years ago, I’ve learned a ton about planning, optimizing, and reporting on ad campaigns. Over this time, it’s become obvious the handful of reoccurring mistakes that, when made, are guaranteed to impact your overall campaign performance. So here I am pointing them out in hopes that my fellow marketers will avoid them.


Mistake #1: Not Starting By Defining Your #1 Goal

This may seem obvious, but what we often see are campaigns that are trying to accomplish too much.

“I would love to generate leads and grow my social following on Facebook and hopefully help with our product awareness issue.”

While it’s important to have goals for both the top and bottom of your marketing funnel, those two goals should be strategized and planned for in separate campaigns. Let’s look at the two example campaigns below.

In goal #1, we’re focusing on generating leads and optimizing ads for form submissions, targeting that and related content downloads as our KPIs.

In goal #2, we’re leaning into more cost-effective, awareness-based social channels like Facebook and audio and video-driven channels; optimizing for impressions, reach or video views; and monitoring success metrics like impressions and video views.

As you can see, the channels selected and the way we set up the campaign and report on it is drastically different between the two, and therefore, you really shouldn’t be trying to hit both goals at the same time or your campaign won’t be as strong and successful as it could be.

What your #1 goal impacts:

  • Key messages: Think important messages and ultimate CTAs
  • Channels and tactics: You may find yourself selecting lead generation channels like paid search and LinkedIn vs. awareness-based channels like Spotify and Facebook
  • Targeting: Your top vs. bottom of funnel focus or even how wide or narrow a net to cast
  • Content created: Whether you need more in-depth resources like whitepapers or how-to guides vs. more video or audio assets
  • Ad setup: What you're optimizing for
  • Success metrics: What success looks like

Stay laser-focused on your #1 goal and don’t get sidetracked by any of the other “nice to haves” along the way.

Tip for establishing your #1 goal:

  • Determine what success looks like; Is it a high number of impressions, increasing brand exposure, new demos scheduled, increasing qualified leads for your sales team, or something else?
  • Pull out and prioritize the must-haves from the nice-to-haves (e.g. we’d like )
  • Consider where customers are in the sales funnel and what it will realistically take to move them along

Now that you know what your #1 goal is, let’s talk about what can be people’s least favorite topic: your campaign budget!


Mistake #2: Establishing Ad Spend Before Your Channel Research and Projections

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “But Mel, I only have so much budget!” I get it! I’m not saying you have an infinite budget, but you would be surprised at what could be gained or lost by not doing your due diligence.

One of the best ways I can think of to explain the importance of this is through the beloved childhood fairytale, Goldilocks.

Too little ad spend: Limiting your campaign

What might that look like?

  • Your audience may be active on a more costly channel like LinkedIn thanks to its unique targeting ability
  • Your audience may be more competitive to reach than you realize, and therefore, more expensive to target
  • You may be unable to reach all key audiences
  • You may be limited in how many ads you can run and therefore, forced to scale back on the messages or placements
  • Your campaign may only reach a small percentage of your audience

Too much ad spend: Wasting your budget

What might that look like?

  • A small geographic region might mean you can reach your audience with less money
  • Your audience may be small because your product/service is made for a niche group of people
  • Your ad frequency is too high and your audience is tired of seeing your ads

How to get your ad spend just right

How to accomplish this?

  1. Learn all you can about your target audience, including their interests, behaviors, current role, where they’re located, and more. Interview your sales team and even those who might be your target audience. Really get into it to understand what defines them.
  2. Leverage what you’ve learned to build out your audience targeting in each ad platform, such as behaviors, job titles, company names, interests, age, and geography.
  3. Review the audience size projections from each platform. Is the audience even big enough to warrant a campaign? Is it bigger than you thought it would be?
  4. And finally, forecast the amount of budget necessary to reach your audience and #1 goal. A good starting point is to use a CPM (or cost per thousand views) calculator, inputting the average CPM for that channel and the number of impressions you’d hope to get based on your size audience.

Now that you’ve landed on channels and targeting – and an appropriate amount of ad spend – let’s talk where you’re driving users.


Mistake #3: Not Developing Campaign-Specific Landing Pages or Content

Don’t be the guy who asks, “Is this page on our site good enough to use?” While I’m all for repurposing, one place I’m not is when it means skipping the development of a campaign-specific landing page. Your landing page will have a huge impact on your overall conversion rate, so this is something you should want to put your time and effort into!

Campaign destination must haves:

  • Similar messaging and visuals across all marketing materials so it’s a seamless transition from ads or emails to the landing page
  • Copy and design tailored to the target audience of the campaign, speaking to their pain points and using language they're familiar with
  • An offer developed with your target audience in mind (Think, “What would they find most valuable right now?”)

Let’s look at this example from HubSpot. On Facebook, they’re running an ad about getting a Sales Hub demo, and when you click on the ad, it takes you to a landing page that is all about—well—Sales Hub and getting a demo!

This page was definitely created for this specific campaign. It’s got:

  • ✓ Similar messaging, speeding up the sales process and helping close more leads
  • ✓ Messaging tailored to someone in sales
  • ✓ A lead magnet that matches the copy in the ad and is the right next step for this audience

Creating campaign-specific landing pages is a step in your strategy that should never be skipped!


Mistake #4: Not Considering Nurture or “Warm Audience” Opportunities

Targeting audiences who have previously shown interest is a no-brainer! I’d go as far as to say it’s an almost guaranteed way to boost engagement while also decreasing the cost to reach each user.
I’m sure we’ve all seen retargeting ads in the wild: You’re searching for a product and then for the next few days, ads for this product seem to pop up all over.

This tactic helps to keep the product top of mind in hopes that you will come back to purchase.

What are some must-have retargeting and remarketing audiences?

Retargeting previous video viewers

This is a favorite of mine! Create an audience of users who watched 50% of more of your video, a clear indicator that they engaged with your brand, and then run a single image ad to them that is further down the funnel (e.g. promoting demo sign-ups).

Retargeting those who visited your website but didn’t convert

Ah yes, ecommerce brands love their abandoned cart ads! You can use a similar tactic for your B2B lead gen campaign, retargeting those who made it to the landing page but didn’t fill out a form.

Leveraging lead or customer email lists

Use your own data to your advantage! These lists can be used to upsell, cross-sell, or bring them back for another purchase.


Mistake #5: Failing to Set Up End-To-End Tracking

I am a big fan of marketing analytics because let’s be honest: If you can’t track and report on your campaign, then how will you ever prove it was a success?

There are 3 boxes you need to check from a tracking standpoint before you go live with your campaign.

1. Setup UTM Parameters

UTM parameters are a string of characters added to the end of your link that will help your analytics platforms record important information like the source, medium, campaign name, and ad content from that website visitor. This then helps you further understand the channels and specific ads that your website traffic and conversions are coming from. They’re especially valuable in determining which ads are most successful and which could be further optimized.

Leveraging these could help you answer, “Which products are getting the most tracking from our Facebook ad campaign?”

2. Setup Website Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking through GA4 helps gauge engagement on your website by signaling when an event has occurred, such as a form submission, video view, key page click and more.

Ensuring this is setup will allow you to answer, “What types of activity are our Facebook ads driving on our website?”

3. Setup Tracking Pixels

A tracking pixel is a piece of code that you can put on your website that will communicate back to the ad channels (such as Facebook or LinkedIn) when a user has loaded the website or converted from your ads.

Tracking pixels are the backbone of website retargeting audiences. They also play an important role in helping the ad platforms optimize based on each user’s interaction.

If you don’t set up end-to-end tracking, how will you see the full picture of your marketing tactics? Tracking your campaigns from end-to-end is the only way to truly prove if it was a success or not. And, when a campaign isn’t performing as you’d expect, this level of tracking can help you investigate why—and optimize it!


Your Campaign Planning Checklist

So, now that you know what not to do, here’s a little checklist to remember what you should be doing in your next campaign launch!

  • ✓ Define your campaign goal first and foremost
  • ✓ Research your audience and project the size before finalizing your budget
  • ✓ Develop campaign-specific landing pages that are in-sync with your ad campaign
  • ✓ Always consider “warm” audience opportunities like remarketing and retargeting
  • ✓ Set up tracking before launch to monitor and improve the campaign, as well as prove success

Did any of these mistakes hit home with you? Drop us a line! We’re here to help you make the most of your marketing budget.

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