Customer Validation using Facebook Ads

For those who are not familiar with Timo Herttua he is a Helsinki based Growth Marketer who is the current CMO at Plan Brothers. Timo took time away from his busy schedule to come to the Turbiini Prestartup Accelerator and teach our teams about validating customers using Facebook Ads. This post outlines some of the theory we learned during the workshop as well as the actual process involved. If you are in the early stage startup using Facebook Ads to validate customers can be both inexpensive and fast. I will outline the basics here so you can decide if this method is right for you.

Customer validation involves seeking out potential customers in the early stage of the idea building process. Basically you move fast to quickly convey the core concepts of your product’s features to target customer in order to get instant feedback and understand if you are heading in the right direction. Until now selecting the best techniques for engaging customers has always been kind of kind of tricky. Most startup literature recommends various types of customer interviews, which can be valuable but also require a great deal of time to perform correctly. If you are looking for another approach, Timo recommends using Facebook Ads to seek out early evangelists. Evangelists will be your first customers since they are people who are willing to try (and hopefully buy) your product despite its present faults. Using Facebook Ads may not be as effective as face-to-face interviews but it is an approach worth exploring, especially for targeting customers outside your immediate geographical area.

Timo demonstrated that by using Facebook Ads it was possible to utilize the powerful targeting capabilities of the Facebook platform to easily reach intended customers in our first step towards customer contact. The great thing was that once you learned to use the platform the actual implementation is pretty straightforward and can be easily repeated again. Also the process is not very expensive; our teams were able to reach their intended audience working with an advertising budget of well under 20€. On the other hand the approach does not offer qualitative data and it does require some basic analytical skills.

The process in more detail

In order to start using Facebook Ads to validate customers you must get Facebook Business, it is easy to set up and you can quickly get going. Then you need a concrete goal and objective you can use as a guide. Lastly you need to think of the target audience and the appearance of the advert. Bellow I have outlined the process, it starts with a more compact list and then gives more detailed explanation.

Step 1: Create a Facebook business page.

Step 2: Create goals for your Facebook ads.

Step 3: Choose an objective for your campaign.

Step 4: Choose your target audience and ad spend.

Step 5: Choose how you want your ad to look.

Step 6: Place your order.

Most of the participants had concrete startup ideas they wished to test, but it was also possible to create adverts which offered products or services which were still conceptual in nature. Our goal and objective (Steps 2 & 3) were to see gauge public interest by analyzing how many people saw the advert and responded to the call of action, which was to enter an email in order to learn more about the product or service being offered.

For us the actual process started in Step 4 where we had to decide the audience type (demographic, interests etc.), all of which affected our reach size. For example if we preferred to target a niche customer segment of women over the age of 60 who enjoyed ice skating, the audience size may be smaller than if we targeted anyone from 20–40 who likes music. Due to Facebook advertising laws the minimum age you could target people was 19 years old, meaning if you have a product or service that is aimed at younger people then this method may not be suitable for you. Also, since the customer response was generally limited to a clicking action or filling out a form, the method would probably not be so effective if you wanted a more qualitative response.

After choosing the audience size we had to select to think about the actual add we wanted to show to people (Step 5). For many teams making the actual add was the most challenging but also the most rewarding at the same time. It certainly was not easy to be spontaneously creative in a way that would satisfy the advertising goals and make the rest of the team happy. However, after some time, most teams selected an appropriate picture from the stock photos available or uploaded one of their own. Next, came the accompanying text and the marketing message of the advert. The final objective was to select text that matched the photo and get people to click on the advert, and feel comfortable to sign up on the form provided.

We initially wanted to run the advertising until all the groups reached the spending limit of 20€, (about 1–2 days). The results varied from team to team depending on how well the advertisement was made and how niche the product or service was. The data generated is most effective when compared against similar products or services, or during marketing campaigns that utilize A/B testing. Generally speaking most people got something out of the exercise because in each case the results generated spoke for themselves about the market value of their idea. In a way this was the first real test for all the groups about venturing into the unknown and trying to sell their idea. We felt we accomplished a great deal without even setting foot out of the building