Facebook ads are one of those copywriting deliverables that neither of us focus on in our business. But we want to know more. So we invited copywriter and Facebook Ad Specialist Sarah Sal to share what she knows about the dark arts of Facebook ads. Here’s what we talked about:
• how Sarah went from math and IT to writing Facebook ads
• the connections between the disciplines of math and copywriting
• the basics you need to know about the algorithm to write Facebook ads
• what elements (tactics) you should include when writing an ad
• the resources she looks for before Sarah starts to write an ad
• why you might want to encourage comments on your FB ads
• some of the changes that have some to FB ads in the last couple of years
• how she looks for the different angles that might appeal to readers
• changing ads versus changing strategy
• what Sarah has seen is the most effective kind of ad on FB
• the investments she’s made in herself to make her more effective
• how she structures her packages and why she doesn’t sign on for the long term
• the mistakes she’s made along the way
• what she’s done to land big clients—and how you can do it too
• Sarah’s experience in The Copywriter Underground
To hear what Sarah shared—or the extra thoughts Kira and Rob added—click the button below. Or subscribe using your favorite podcast app. For a full transcript, just scroll down.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Copywriter Accelerator
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Kira: Facebook ads are one of those copyrighting deliverables that neither Rob nor I do. We’ve run ads, but it’s not our specialty. That’s why we invited Sarah Sal to be our guest for the 206th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Sarah is one of our founding members of the Copywriter Underground, and one of the most active members in that group, which is why she was also our Mole of the Month, which is one of our most active and engaged members.
And we call her Mole of the Month because most of our members, not all of them, refer to themselves as moles, as in the rodent. Sarah’s always entertaining in the group and talks frequently about her cats, and pizza, and entertains all of us, as you’ll see in this episode. And this conversation with Sarah gave us plenty to think about when it comes to running our ads on Facebook.
Rob: We’ll get to our interview in just a second, but first we want to tell you that this episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Think Tank. That’s our mastermind group for copywriters, content writers, brand strategists, anyone who is ready for the training, coaching and support that they need to grow their business to, say, $200,000 or more. This is the only place where Kira and I provide one-on-two strategy sessions and coaching designed to help you achieve more than ever. If you’re interested in learning more about the Think Tank, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and we’ll tell you a little more.
Kira: Let’s jump right into our interview with Sarah. Hey, Sarah. Let’s kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a Facebook ads strategist and copywriter?
Sarah Sal: Curiosity, like a cat that is looking for trouble. Facebook marketing, copywriting have absolutely nothing to do with my background. I studied computer science in university and then I studied applied mathematics. And I really enjoyed research in math. I actually, for my thesis, wrote nearly 200 pages of math theorem, formula, proof, and so on.
And at some point, I was. I’m going to do a PhD. I really enjoy math. It’s really like meditation for me. But then, I realized once I started that I love math, I love research in math, I didn’t like academia and the job opportunity, and asking for grant, and so on. So, I fall back on my IT and study computer science, and I worked in IT for a while.
Then, over 10 years ago, it was when Facebook ads started working and everyone was talking about Facebook ads like it’s the future. So, I started learning about Facebook API. I even joined a few hackathon in Berlin, some of them organized by Facebook, and I won some prizes. Then, one thing lead to the other because you cannot talk about Facebook ads without marketing. So, I started taking course like Perry Marshall’s Facebook Marketing course. And before I know it, I’m here and I write a lot of article about Facebook marketing. So, that’s for Facebook marketing.
Copywriting, people often tell me, “Hey, Sarah. We really love your copy. You’re a good copywriter.” And the reaction, “Am I really a copywriter?” This despite having articles, some of the best publication like Copyhackers, Copywriter’s Club, and so on. But the thing is more curiosity, because if you do Facebook marketing, Facebook marketing never live in an ecosystem and it’s all with zero interaction with the rest of the world where user is. So, for me, copywriting was curiosity, how could they improve Facebook marketing by learning something that has nothing to do with Facebook marketing. And that’s how one could be a good marketer, not only focusing on a very narrow specialty. It’s curiosity.
Rob: Yeah, I love the combination of those two things. That makes a ton of sense. Before we get into Facebook ads and what you do for your clients there, I’d really like to know a little bit more about how you see what you learned in math and science, and how that applies to what you do as a copywriter and a Facebook ad strategist today. Are their connections?
Sarah Sal: Of course. Of course. Because marketing is dipping your toe into the water and there is a discipline of mathematic or artificial intelligence called… I’m trying to remember the name. I know the French name. [foreign language 00:04:47]. Machine learning. Machine learning in English. And it’s basically you try something. If you make mistakes, you correct it. If you do something that is good, you’re keeping the same direction. Same thing with marketing. There’s no secret formula. It’s this, this, this, this and have some feedback loop that allow you to improve on what you learned, on what you do.
Kira: Sarah, you mentioned that you started about 10 years ago with Facebook ads and Facebook ad marketing. What was that moment when you felt like you made it or like, “Hey, I know what I’m doing. This is my thing”? When was that moment for you and your business?
Sarah Sal: I think sometimes you go through life, and then like, “Oh, am I really a Facebook marketer. Oh, do I do copywriting?” And if you enjoy something, you just do it, and then you’re like, “Oh, okay. Is it really 10 years? Maybe I need to start thinking about Botox?” I don’t say there is a problem, a moment. It’s just like life. You don’t go from zero to hero overnight. It’s something you build slowly. And before you realize it, you look back, “Oh my god, am I really that known and famous?”
And even people who jump on calls with me said, “Hey, I googled your name. Oh my god, you’re everywhere.” And I’m like, “Okay, okay.” So, yeah. Sometimes it’s good to be modest and not be like, “Hey, I know everything I made. I’m the best,” because then you never learn. If your mentality is I know everything I made, I have nothing to learn, then, candidly, you stop learning and then you stop getting better, and you stop being good at what you do.
Rob: Okay. So, I want to take that seriously for a minute, because there are definitely things around Facebook ads that I can learn and get better at. And that probably includes everything. Tell us, Sarah, what is it that you need to know or do to get started writing and doing Facebook ads well?
You need to forget about that algorithm. There is an unhealthy obsession and people forget they’re talking about human being. It’s nearly like a marketer every day that are rubbing a lamp and begging the genie, “Oh, genie. Tell me what’s new with Facebook algorithm today that is not what was yesterday.” And they forget it’s interruption marketing. You’re talking to a human being. You’re in Starbucks. You cannot just walk to somebody and say, “Hey, do you want to make more money? Hey, do you want to pay less taxes? Hey, do you want to get rid of back pain?”
Because people would look at you strangely and say, “Who you are?” Nobody you have a conversation with, a friend or a conversation that’s so interesting that the person next to you will turn their head, and they would say, “Oh, okay, I need to put my book down, my latte down, and listen in.” That’s like the biggest mindset shift, I would say.
Kira: Yeah. Let’s talk more about the copy side of writing Facebook ads, because it’s something that I’ve never specialized in. And even now, with the Copywriter Club, I feel like we throw our ads together last minute, and there could always be a lot better. So, can you just talk through for copywriters listening, if they’re writing Facebook ad copy for their own business or for their clients, what are some of the elements that we should include and think about and what should we avoid, beyond what you just mentioned about the mindset shift, and making it conversational, like you would, in a coffee shop? But what are the actual tactical changes we can make?
Sarah Sal: Yeah. Number one, a good ad doesn’t look like an ad. No one join Facebook to read ads. So, that’s very, very, very important. Number two, Facebook is interruption marketing, and you need to think of Google versus email versus Facebook. And that’s a big mistake. Copywriter, for example, make Google somebody look for a product. It’s just demand fulfillment. And just raising your hands, “Hey. Hey, I’m really good at satisfying that demand,” or giving you what you look for, will work.
Email, you might have a relationship with the person receiving the email for the last six months. Facebook is about building, generating the demand. And one error is people just state what’s the product or service. I give you two example, one from the Shark Tank, one from Strategyzer. Strategyzer is a business book. He wrote a book about business modeling, sold over 5 million copy. But despite very famous and having a book translated in over 30 language, their ad was, “Hey, we have a conference about business model. See you in two weeks in San Francisco.”
For that, they spent over $4,000 to get one set. One conference, you could sell with $2,000. And he’s just stating what’s the product or service. I told a story about oil companies. I said, last year, oil company, over 100 oil company went bankrupt, except I think the name was DONG Energy, something like that, in Denmark that went to the stock market with $16 billion dollar valuation, because they diversified from oil. Oil prices was high. But you know how similar company do it? Come from conference, and that moved them from making 40 cent for each $1 they spent over $18. And I wrote a case study for AdEspresso about it.
The other is about Shark Tank company. And she was saying, “Sarah, I think you just need to find the correct audience.” From the experience, 90% of the time when people say I need to find the correct audience, audience matter a lot in marketing. But more often than not, they have a content problem, not an audience problem. And the ad was like, “Hey, you have back pain? I could help you,” and really using storytelling the way you imagine you’re reading a patient or somebody’s diary works really well.
The other thing I see that are really rich in claim, in just making claim is not enough. You need to educate people. People need to read something. And at the end of reading, they’re like, “Hey, I learned something new I didn’t know beforehand.” I give you three strategies. So, it’s nothing to be good about Facebook marketing. It’s common sense. One, what is a misconception in some industry? Another one, what is that question that you might get way too many times to the point you’re sick of answering, then you wish you could send somebody a link aid and just say, “Just read that. I don’t want to answer that question for the hundredth time.”
The other one, interview your customer, because I say that ad doesn’t look like an ad because 30% of Facebook user are using ad blocker. It’s, “Hey, if you interview people who already gave you money, or people who already have the problem, then the language would be more similar to the language of somebody who have the same problem, but the language of a marketer.” And if I could give a very, very, very concrete example, because I helped with translating writing ads for the copywriter accelerator, had an interview with Gina. The problem with interview, you interview someone, if you say, how was your experience, they were going to say, “Oh, my experience was amazing. That course is fantastic.”
But it’s a claim. Why people would believe the claim if they don’t know the person? So, what I ask, “Okay, what is one thing you are doing wrong in your business? What did you change in it as a result of taking the accelerator course? And what was the outcome?” And then you keep interrogating like a very, very, very, very, very curious mind, like saying, “Hey. No, no, no. I want to interrogate you, because I want to know all the secret without giving a rip occur, that $2,000. It’s also to write better ad.” And she would say things like, “Oh, one thing I learned is how to make really good proposal.” “You tell me more.”
You first learn what’s the client goal, why they want a product or service, why do they want a copy. And then, you help them achieve that goal. And she said, “Oh, that’s why I was able to get an $8,000 contract, even after the COVID crisis.” Actually, this was really powerful because, Tracy, that she wrote the ad with me, she ended up borrowing $2,000 from her father, so she could join the course. And before doing those interview, before listening to those interview, she didn’t plan on joining the accelerator. And then after she helped me write a few ads, she was like, “Yeah, I’m really tempted to borrow some money from my father. I’ll ask if he agrees because I think that’s the accelerator that will push me to my next career.” It’s basically interrogation like if you’re with a friend.
Rob: Yeah. I love this process that you’re talking about, as far as the research goes. The very best research and the very best products, as you go through that, oftentimes, it convinces us that we could also benefit from the products. I’m wondering though, with Facebook, are there other tools that can help you with research that we don’t have for a regular copywriting project, things like the Facebook audiences or group membership, things like that? Do you use that or do you just ignore it and you do standard research into who the customer is and the stories that they want to hear?
Sarah Sal: No. There is a lot of places and also I see like Marcus, say, “Hey, I need voice of customer. I need someone to interview.” And they forget that there is a lot of content that exists outside of customer interview that does really take a lot of time. And often, I start, “Does the client have a webinar, YouTube, e-books?” And I would read that and would just look for an aha moment because I would take my marketing hat off, imagine that I’m a user. And each time I have, “Aha, that’s really interesting,” I take a note. Then, after I took too much note, I start thinking which could be a really good ad. Other things, it’s like comment sections.
I give you an example, because comment section is amazing feedback loop. And I know it’s a question that will come later. But I’ll give you an example. I have a client, have been running the language courses, the case study abroad for Copyhackers. And I said something about learning Spanish. I don’t remember the exact ad. And somebody left a note, a comment, and said, “The best way to learn Spanish is to sleep with Spanish woman.” And I’m like, “Oh, that’s a good ad.” Of course, I didn’t use the same words because Facebook will never approve the ad.
I was like, “Is dating a native speaker a good way to learn the language?” And I just googled, pro of dating a native speaker, con of dating a native speaker. And some of the con, people said, “No, it doesn’t help you because you would need to speak to an administration.” Let’s say you’re in Mexico or in Spain. And instead of practicing the language because they say, “Hey, my Spanish is bad,” it’s like, “Hey, darling, could you please do the phone call with me?” Which mean you never practice the language. But there are also pro. It’s basically just having a curious mind and acting like you really want to learn about the niche.
Kira: You’re saying you’re pulling these ideas from the comments in Facebook? Do you mean you’re looking at previous ads, like we would look at our previous ads to pull out the best comments?
Sarah Sal: Yeah, or the worst.
Kira: Okay. Maybe that’s my next question then, is how do we get more of those comments and engagement for the sake of pulling out this voice of customer data? Like I know we’re focused on sales with the ads and conversions, but it would also be great to get more of that data out of our ads. How can we do that? Because I feel like most of our comments aren’t actually helpful. They’re just usually insulting us. Those aren’t useful as far as voice of customer data, or maybe it is.
Sarah Sal: No. In a sense, a sale, sometimes it depends on the product. Our product, you walk into a shopping mall, if you can, I know there is a lockdown now, you look at a dress or high heels, or maybe a beautiful French pastry, and like, “Oh, wow, that looks delicious. And it’s just an impulse buy.” There are product that is about education, and it’s really about education, Often, I would look. This is a mistake a business owner make. They make something, they get bad comment where people say (beep). Don’t spam me. This is a scam.”
But if you teach somebody something they didn’t know before reading the ad, that’s when you commonly get a difference. I’ll give you an example, talking about misconception. One ad I’ve talked about is kids don’t learn a language more easily. Then I told them there are research about that. It’s just that the kid know a language. They have no choice but practicing the language. And think about it. You have a two-year-old kid. They want an ice cream or sandwich and you have no idea what they’re saying, they would keep trying and crying and kicking the floor until they get that ice cream. And after 60 minutes, they say, “I-cream, A-ki.” And you’re like, “Oh god, ice cream.”
What if you’re an adult? Let’s say, I don’t know, you go to Shanghai and you go to Starbucks and say, “[foreign language 00:19:25] café.” And the person say, “What café?” You only know to say I want that coffee, but not what type and you don’t understand. You’re not going to cry on the floor of Starbucks and say I want that coffee until they get your coffee. You would just switch to English, instead of talking Mandarin, an example. And that’s why adult tend to learn slower, not because their brain is not able to learn a language faster, and we wrote an ad about that.
And some people disagreed, but they didn’t disagree with us. They didn’t insult us. They didn’t say it is a scam. Someone said, “Oh, rubbish. I couldn’t learn Spanish, but my five-year-old kid that moved to Mexico with me, or Acapulco, now speak fluently.” And the other person said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. This is not what the ad is trying to say. The ad is trying to say that the human brain of an adult, because they already understand what’s a language, what’s a grammar, what’s a structure, they could learn, but adults are busy. The problem is being more busy than a kid, not that they cannot learn a language.” And then the comment get better.
Another example, I run ads for somebody who sells software to medical clinic, and one webinar was about how do you manage your time to see more patient. And people were aggressive and say, “Bull (beep), we’re going to get burned out, and the quality of the care would be horrible. This is what we call late capitalism. How dare you!” I didn’t get angry or say, “Oh my god, I’m trying to teach those ungrateful bastard something and they’re not grateful for the ad.” I said, “Oh, maybe the ad didn’t explain what it is.”
The second half, you know what, if you’re in a restaurant, you’re a chef, the chef doesn’t see if the client doesn’t take the order, doesn’t wash the dishes. The chef does have sous chef, does something very particular. But that allow the chef to get more customers. And that’s what you should do as a doctor. Suddenly, the comments were not negative. They were positive like, “Oh, wow, that makes sense.” So, it’s all about a feedback loop. But you need to teach somebody something new that they’re grateful for.
Rob: As the ad writer, do you jump in and answer comments? Or do you leave that up to your clients?
Sarah Sal: Up to my clients, because I don’t know if the niche is good. You see? I’m not somebody who knows the niche of the product, the service, the market where I eat, breathe, eat, 24/7. So, the client would be better. And two, if I was going to answer every single comment, I would never sleep because that’s like a full-time job. But that’s also about the process. I would pitch the client angles. But before writing, I say, “Do you approve it?” Because otherwise people will feel that the ad is written by somebody who’s not an expert in the niche.
Imagine you’re writing for computer security, and you know nothing about computer security, and you’re trying to convince the CTO of a big company on that. It’s not going to work. But now, if you have some content and it’s clear you’re an expert, but it’s revised, but the client, because they eat, breathe the niche, then it works better. But I don’t answer the comment, because I said, like a totally different job I don’t run.
Rob: Yeah, that’s what I thought. But you were talking about it with so much familiarity. I was like, “Wait a second. Are you actually answering the comments?” Really, I guess the next part of the question then is, what can we do… And I know you wrote a blog post for this that’s on our website. But what can we do to encourage more comments, so that we can respond and create those conversations on the ads that we’re running?
Sarah Sal: Teach people. Teach people something that they don’t know, answer people’s misconception. Outside of Facebook, what is the question? What is the top type of question people are asking you? Tell a story. And people will have an opinion about what you’re saying. It’s similar to the kids example. People are going to disagree with us that that’s the best thing. I might write an ad and say, “A vegan diet is healthy.” I’m not going to make a claim, just say vegan diet is healthy, no. People will say, “Rubbish. You vegan are preachy.”
Now, if I say, “Those are the hormone and antibiotic that get into your system. And that’s why kids are reaching puberty eight years earlier,” and then I gave a whole story about how people, maybe, 100 years ago, they have a different lifestyle, they didn’t stay in an office all day, then that will start a conversation. But you don’t need to make claim. You need to be able to back the claim.
Rob: Let’s jump in here and talk about this tactic of encouraging comments on a Facebook ad. Kira, you mentioned the blogpost that Sarah wrote for the Copywriter Club site, in which she talked about how one of her ads got hundreds of comments, and the engagement that that drove, and how it basically increased the influence and the reach of that ad. And I’m just wondering, is this something that we should be doing? It’s not very scalable. If you’ve got a hundred ads running, there’s no way that you could be posting comments on all of them, but maybe we should start… Given that we get some comments on our ads, maybe we should start jumping into Facebook and commenting on our own ads. What do you think?
Kira: I probably won’t be doing that, but you should go for it. I think it makes sense. And Sarah, it works. Sarah has proven that it works. It’s something that we should consider, because it does encourage engagement and can also help. If you’re really intentional with your comments, you could speak to misconceptions and overcome objections and hesitations in the comments. So, I get that and I agree, and I know it works with the algorithm. But for me, personally, when we run ads, I do see some of the comments.
And for some reason, our Facebook ad manager said that we attract a lot of bizarre commenters and comments. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it’s just something about the two of us that irks people or annoys people. Maybe it’s some of our images that we’ve used that are a little bit different. But we get a lot of just bizarre comments. So, I’ve learned to actually not pay attention to those. I don’t think that is where I should focus my time because it just doesn’t help me have a productive day. But maybe we should have somebody looking at that.
Rob: Yeah, I mentioned that mostly joking, because like Sarah was saying, that’s not really the role of the copywriter. But as copywriters, if we were working on a Facebook campaign, that’s the kind of thing that we might encourage our clients to do, because if it does increase engagement, and it increases the reach of the ad, it can make that ad far more profitable. And like you said, it is an opportunity for a product owner to go in and correct misconceptions that maybe people have, or objections that they might raise before they click through and actually purchase a product of some kind. So, something to think about, certainly something to encourage our clients to do, even if as copywriters, we don’t necessarily do it ourselves. So, what else stood out to you with those last couple of comments that Sarah has been making?
Kira: Well, she talked about the importance of creating conversational copy in Facebook ads. And I think that’s a term that we throw out as copywriters, frequently, conversational, let’s make it sound real, and authentic. So, I was just thinking, as she was talking through it, it’s natural for some copywriters to write that way. They’re probably listening and they’re already doing it. But for anyone who struggles to write conversational copy, it could help just to do what Sarah was talking about, and even record conversations with friends, with family members.
I joked around with family members and friends about just transcribing, recording my entire life, and transcribing all of it just to pull in voice of customer data. I was trying to think of how much that would actually cost to do that. But it could be really helpful to record your own conversations to capture phrases that you could use in your client work or in your own marketing, if that’s something that you struggle with, because she’s right on. That is what actually grabs attention in Facebook ad copy, not the marketing speak.
Rob: Yeah, I 100% agree on this. And this is where that voice of customer information really comes in handy, because you need to speak the way that your customers are speaking, the way that your customers are reading. And we’ve even had comments on our own ads, people who say, “Oh, that’s not the way that you should be writing something.” Well, that may be true. As writers, we would like to think that everybody uses perfect English, perfect grammar, whatever. But that’s just not the reality.
Writing ads for people, as opposed for algorithms, for robots, means sometimes not following the grammar rules. It means ending a sentence with a preposition or starting a sentence with an “and”, or other conjunction. All the things that our fifth and eighth grade English teachers told us never to do. Those rules don’t apply when we’re talking about copywriting, in general, and certainly not in an ad platform like Facebook.
Kira: Well, that’s a relief for people like me who like to break those rules. I think it’s also important to know what those rules are, especially if you’re not familiar with them. I know I’m constantly trying to learn all of the rules so that I can break them, and I actually know what I’m doing, and being really intentional about breaking those rules, too. Okay. As we’re talking about breaking, let’s break in again and talk about how Sarah creates angles.
Could you talk about how you’ve seen Facebook ad copy and the images change over the last maybe two to three years, beyond what you’ve already shared about, education and really teaching, and giving people a reason to pay attention and hooking them in. But what else are some of the big changes as far as what was working, but it’s no longer working today?
Sarah Sal: I would say what was working 10 years ago still work today, and what was working 50 years ago still work today. Facebook is just a medium. And if tomorrow, Facebook disappear, there would still be interruption marketing one way or another. In a certain sense, a snail mail you didn’t ask for is another form of interruption marketing. I’m able to give a very, very, very specific example. Maybe it was 30, 40 years ago, cinema used to make popcorn with coconut oil, because it made it all smooth, and so on. And the health administration said, “Oh my god, that had this many grams of saturated fat.” If I said 50 grams of saturated fat, you have no idea. Is that too much? Is that too little?
Then they said, “Well, that’s the same as eating an egg, bacon, sausages, a burger, steaks, and some fried combined.” And that made the first page of New York Times, CNN, you call it, etc. And that’s the power of analogy. You take something people understand that you could visualize, and you use it in the language, including in the ad copy. And that’s something that worked 30 years ago, and I’m sure there are people who use analogy to explain concept people don’t understand 500 years ago.
I think in terms of communication, what’s going to work 10 years ago, still work today. This is why I said the key is to master how you talk to people and forget there is an item. Of course, the item, these changes would be that now you could run video ads. And maybe five years ago, you could not run video ads that before, some bidding, like what you call OCPM didn’t exist, and today exists, that track didn’t exist back then. Actually, when I started a Facebook ad, Facebook Pixel, the measure already existed. Now, it exists.
But if we talk about how you talk to a human being, you need to touch people on multiple channels. Maybe Facebook is not enough. Maybe you need to have a webinar. Maybe you need to have online marketing. Maybe you need to have them on YouTube. Maybe you need to use video and not only text. I had a client. That’s the same client mentioned Copyhackers and it’s nothing to do with Facebook ad. They had a product, their webinar. Hey, you want to speak Spanish fluently. And it did the play. You would do a webinar and get $5,000 in sales.
He sent a survey to his email list. People couldn’t care less about being fluent. If they were in Mexico and Acapulco and Barcelona, if they’re able to order a coffee and a chocolate croissant, they were happy. They couldn’t care less about listening to a politician and watching a debate in taxes, raised caps, foreign policy, and etc. That was the difference between making $5,000 in sales and 20. But the biggest problem, people said, “Hey, I’ve been learning Spanish for all those year. A native speaker speak too fast, or they answered me back in English.”
By having a webinar, a landing page, I had a copy about, “Hey, are you struggling with understanding native speakers?” He needs something like eight to $1,000 in two week, nothing to do with Facebook. You see? It’s like maybe in five years, MySpace is the biggest social network again. And such principle, serving an email list to know what people are struggling with, it still works. So, you want to find something that works independent of the social network or the algorithm, or what changes Facebook have, because changing tactics might add a five, 10% more to your revenue. Changing strategies is what will 10x your revenue.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. Sarah, I’m curious about the different kinds of ads that we can run on Facebook and what you’ve seen being most effective. I know you can promote a post that has been on your page or in some cases in your group. Obviously, there are text ads, text ads with images, and also video ads. How do they compare to each other? Which ones are the most effective? Which ones should advertisers be doing and maybe which ones should copywriters be selling their clients on?
Sarah Sal: Often, when I get that question, I tell people, ketchup or caramel sauce. Do you want caramel sauce on your burger? Do you want ketchup inside your cereal? It’s all about context. You cannot say video is better than text, or look-alike is better than interest targeting, or dark image is better than images with pink background. And I tell people, use whatever you’re better at. Some people, when it comes to video, are great speaker. They have good energy. They have good software, editing software. They could capture people attention for 10 minutes.
And other people on video, maybe after two minutes, the person with bad insomnia fall asleep for 10 hours. It’s all about testing. Never make assumption. I always tell people test, test, test, test, test, and then let people vote with their mouse. Let the numbers speak. Don’t make assumption that something is going to work better. And that’s why many people fail at Facebook. They’re like, “Hey, what’s working?” Look-alike, video, carousel image, retargeting, and they don’t test on every single business. Even a business in the same niche as you, what work for them might not work for you, because people might know your name, might not know your name. You might have a different audience.
Here’s a fun fact. I had a client selling some healthy snack and spent a lot of money. And I look at the dashboard like, “Oh my God, we didn’t get any sale.” He was like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, we got a lot of sales.” It just happened. People Google my name. After they Google my name, the first result is on Amazon. And as we run an ad, the sale from Amazon skyrocketed. But sales on Amazon is never tracked on Facebook, because Amazon want to keep everything like a black box and never show the data, because that’s what makes them money.
This is just to say, people see an ad, and you think they’re not going to Google your name? If you have a product that costs 500 or 1,000, $2,000, even $30, people might Google your name. And what they find when they Google your name is different than the other person. And this is why you cannot say what worked for Person A is going to work for Person B.
Kira: I’d love to hear more about how you work. And you’ve touched on it a little bit already. But I know we worked with you a year ago, a couple years ago now. And you presented these different angles as part of your process before diving fully into your work. And I love that approach that you presented these different creative concepts. Can you share your process when you’re working with a client, especially for copywriters listening who want to do what you do?
Sarah Sal: Sure. Number one angle is, I call them aha moment. It’s not a draft. It’s even like a pre-draft, very high level pitch. Think about it this way. If somebody had a wedding, you don’t want to come to the wedding with a strawberry cake, and that person say, “I’m allergic to strawberry.” Or you don’t want to come with a cake that is milk and egg with it, and the person say, “I am vegan.” So, number one is study the content, interview clients, look at the comment section, answer misconception of the industry, etc.
Then, you say, “Oh, I have those 10 ideas. Which one do you like? Which one you hate?” Because the client might say, “You know what? I love number one. I love number five. But number seven, please never talk about it, because I might get sued if I say that publicly.” Then, number one is writing the draft. And I always try to work with somebody else. Why? Because if I wrote the angle, I want to say, “Please write that,” one, I want to make sure I communicated that clearly. Then when I read it back, I could say, “That’s what I meant,” or “No, no, no, no, no, no, I didn’t mean that. Please modify it.”
Because it’s like on the first test or the other person did first test, and that was the thing. We’re very biased in our comp. It’s so easy to criticize other people, but it’s very hard to criticize your own work. And then, we get the client to review it and say, “Hey, you could get one or two round of edit.” And this is really important, because you want the final ad to look like somebody who eat, breathe, and sleep the niche. And if a client who were, we say, the expert doesn’t review it, you might slip… I give you an example.
Once I wrote an ad and said, “It’s really hard for a veterinarian to get a job,” and that was true a few years ago. But right now, it’s other way around. People who have a veterinary clinic struggle to hire anyone. And if it wasn’t reviewed by the client, people will be like, “Hey, you know absolutely nothing about the niche.” So, you want the ad to look and sound like someone who’s an expert in the niche.
Rob: Sarah, I’m curious. What changes have you made in your business? Or what investments have you made in yourself that have made the biggest difference in what you do and how you do it over the past 10 years?
Sarah Sal: Copywriting. Like I said, I’m not sure if I call myself a copywriter or not. I’ve got a crazy amount of copywriting courses and even went to conference. I went to Italy to Laura Belgray, a retreat. I took a $2,000 course from Perry Marshall. Of course, I’m part of the Underground community. I took Copyhackers Copy School courses. And it’s all about, if I took a course about ad management, about Facebook ads, on how to grow a freelance business, I’m sure every single Facebook ad strategies is of the same group applying the same tactic. But it’s only when I’m curious like, “Oh, I’m not a copywriter. I really wonder what copywriters are doing.” It’s where I would learn something that, other than know, that would make much more impact.
Kira: Can you talk about the packages you currently offer for your clients? Are you working with them long term? And how do you structure those packages? If you don’t mind sharing, how much do you charge for your packages?
Sarah Sal: I never work long term, and here is why. I have a client I’ve been working for three, four, five years. I never jail them in a contract where I say the minimum you hire me three months, six months, etc., and just say, “Let’s work it one month, see what’s your ROI. If your ROI is positive, you could keep me. If your ROI is negative, why…” You don’t want to be shake and like, “Oh my god, I’m doing work for which you’re not happy. I’m doing work for which you’re not getting ROI. And now, because you need to give me all that money, you’re not happy.”
I’d rather have that, let’s say, client retention because I get them a positive ROI. And you know what? There are businesses where they might get a positive ROI for five months, and then they stop having a positive ROI. Then it’s better for both of us to split away. The other thing, from time to time, I sell ad copy, but this is like a very tiny percentage of my business, maybe less than 5%. What I do the most is manage ads. And that’s I take a percentage of ad spend, because it gives me something flexible. I don’t like to say, “Oh, this is a $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 package. And with that, you get to send me only 50 email and you get to only request five changes. No, you want something flexible.”
Someone using Facebook might spend $5 per day and get positive ROI. And if they spend 50, they stop getting a positive ROI. Someone might be spending $1,000 per day and still getting a positive ROI. I want to reward myself based on the ROI. I get people not on a fixed price. And you know what? If one month, I have way, way, way, way more work because I manage a bigger ad spend that I make more money, and then you have businesses that are seasonal. In December, people couldn’t care less about losing their weight. They’re, “Oh my god, I’m eating all that cream, all that chocolate.” Then, in January, “I’m going to train.”
And if there is a seasonal business that is not making money, it allows some flexibility. So, that’s what worked for me. I’m not saying that’s how you should do it or not. Often, I tell people, don’t look at what other people charge. Look, if you could justify their… if you could say this is worth it, if people think this is too expensive, or this is too little, but I like to tie it to make sure people are getting an ROI for my work.
Rob: Sarah, will you tell us about some of the mistakes that you’ve made along the way, as you’ve become a sought-after consultant and copywriter? Where did you fail?
Sarah Sal: I’m trying to think about it. Probably a lot. Probably a lot. I think one of the biggest mistake, and that’s really, really, really early on, I just copied what people said. People used to do engagement for the sake of engagement. People used to teach you click like if you love or hate. And I used to make those type of ad just for the sake of engagement. But that’s wrong. And even today, if I look back, I have planned to post random things in there, some days that have nothing to do with their business. They’re like, “Oh, but it’s good for the name.” And I’m like, “So what?”
Imagine I’m in New York. I’m giving a speech. Imagine, “You know what, you, New Yorker? Your pizza is 100 times better than Chicago deep dish pizza.” I couldn’t understand how they call that monstrosity of pizza in Chicago. I’m sure a lot of people would stand up and applaud me and say, “Good, Sarah.” But if I said that, who would hire me? Just because I told people that their pizza is better than another city pizza, no one would come after that and say, “Thank you, Sarah.” This talk about the pizza is why you should hire me as a consultant. No.
What makes people want to hire me a consultant is they read an article about how a company failed their ads, and how now they’re making more money, the before and after, before I work with them. So, that’s one of the mistake, that I used to copy other people. People used to say that ad copy should be short. I only got a good result and I’m like, “You know what? Hey, I’m a mathematician. If you say that short copy work, given mathematics, you could never say two plus two equal four. Then, I conclude that two plus five is also equal four.” No, you need to come with a firm… You need to come with a mathematical proof. If you don’t, we assume two plus two equal four only for those two numbers. And it’s when I became more curious, and I tried what people said, “Oh, this stuff would work,” that I got better success.
Kira: What else are you doing to find great clients beyond that? I know you’ve worked with big names, celebrity clients like ClickFunnels. You mentioned a couple of them earlier, Strategyzer, Hootsuite. What else could we be doing and copywriters be doing to land more desirable clients, right, like more those big name clients that some copywriters want to work with?
Sarah Sal: It started with both Facebook and Google work, and I didn’t do it because I wanted to get clients. I would join a course and I just really enjoyed saying what worked or even saying what I failed or asking for help. But if you think about content, think about it like losing weight, you hear that going for a walk is great. But if you don’t love walking, you’re not passionate about walking, you might leave the house, walk for 10 minutes and say, “Okay. Tomorrow, I walk longer.” And then, after three day, you lose motivation. And you say, “You know what? Going for a walk doesn’t work.”
Now, if you really love walking, “I’m like, oh my god, that lake is so beautiful. Let me circle that lake and see what other lake I could find,” then suddenly like, “Oh, wow. I couldn’t believe it’s been already two hours I’ve been walking. This is really amazing. I love the adrenaline rush. I should do that every day.” And that’s how you lose weight. So, when I would answer people, comment on Facebook group, it was something I was opinionated about, I was passionate about, as in people saying, “Hey, the algorithms stopped working.”
I’m like, “For god’s sake, this is interruption marketing. If you keep giving people the same message over and over and over again, people get tired of it.” And this had nothing to do with the algorithm. People started noticing that this is how I got actually invited in a Perry Marshall webinar that was given by Keith Krance’s, the course that people paid $2,000 plus because Keith Krance said my name and said, “Sarah, I love your contribution on our Google group.” And how I ended up working for Hootsuite and their special, which is, “Hey, if you’re doing Facebook ads, Hootsuite is the biggest tool for managing organic social media. And it’s also the biggest tool for managing ad outside of Facebook Ad Manager.”
I was in Jon Loomer’s group. And I would just answer people question because I had passion answering their question. I didn’t do it with an agenda, “Oh my god, I need to answer every week five questions to get clients.” No. And before I know it, oh my god, I spent half an hour writing a reply. And this is when a colleague, Antonio, ho’s also working for AdEspresso, he reached out to me and he said, “Sarah…” First of all, he post on Facebook, he said, “I need a Facebook ad expert.” Everyone raised their hand and say I am an ad expert. But really, the reply you get from the group, I could really tell you have an experience and you spend a lot of money and you got people result.”
It’s the same about creating content. I sometimes get a call with a company who want to hire me and look at their website. I see maybe 50 blogposts. I’m like, “Hey, are you getting any results from that?” They say, “No. I just pay somebody $100 and they write me two blogposts per week, and that’s it.” Some of the blogpost I wrote for Copyhackers, it didn’t matter how much time it took me, but maybe it took me like 50 hour. And there’s difference between saying, “Oh, this is a necessity,” and between someone, “No, no, no, I’m going to do it good because I love doing that. And I love teaching people.”
It’s the same with ad copy. Everyone used to say, ad copy need to be short. And I was sick of that. So, I wrote a very long blogpost debunking that for Copyhackers. And because it was so urgent, I think it got like 83 back link, active campaign link to it. Now, people actually are referencing that article to say, “Oh, by the way, long ad copy work. Want to know why? Go read that article.”
Rob: Sarah, when you’re working with big clients and maybe even small clients, what do your packages look like? And how do you price what you offer them?
Sarah Sal: 25% of that.
Rob: You have a package of certain number of ads, that kind of thing?
Sarah Sal: No, no, because a lot of my clients, I write ad for them, I don’t charge them for it. Why? Because better ad allow them to spend more. So, the way it started, I would look at an ad and be like, “Oh my god, that’s really bad.” I would start looking at their content to rewrite it. Suddenly, we’re able to spend more. And for me, the ad was about retention that, “Hey, I have clients I work with for a few years.” I did not stop. I didn’t start writing ads. Maybe I would spend most of my time, instead of getting my current result, trying to pitch or cold call people, or pitch on LinkedIn.
The other thing, an ad that do well can allow client to spend $5,000 per month, instead of spending $700 per month. So, for me, it’s just something as a tool that gets people more ROI. That’s how it worked for me. But so far, I don’t charge them. Would I charge them in the future? I don’t know. But for now, it was more by pure concern about how could I get my clients’ ROI. And it pay for itself, but indirectly.
Rob: Yeah, I’m really interested in that. What does that conversation look like when you’re talking with your client and telling them it’s going to be 25% of ad spend, no upfront costs? Obviously, there’s risk there for you.
Sarah Sal: There is an upfront costs, but that changes based on my demand. So, I don’t try to say it here, because if tomorrow I’m really in huge demand, I don’t want people saying, “Yeah, yeah. You said this is the cost,” or if I noticed that I need to charge more to be able to write an ad, because I want to subcontract some type of ads. But the main part that stick with people, it’s much cheaper than agency that charge a flat fee. That’s for sure. It’s 25%.
Some resists it. Then, I tell them, “Hey, if you don’t think that me helping you will improve your result, cut your cost per conversion, or increase your number of conversion by at least 25%, we shouldn’t be talking to each others. If you’re looking for a 2% improvement, maybe don’t hire anyone. 2% is not worth it.” So, this is why I said earlier, can you justify your price and have the experience I have? In case of Strategizer and improve their result by 36x, so the 25% is tidy. And actually they got sales nearly for three quarters of a million dollar because of the ads I wrote and my management, and so on.
The other thing, I have clients and I have an honest conversation. I know I charge more than the other agency. But you know what? The other agencies would make your ad, then will grab two lines, and that’s it. And then they jump on the other plan, because they have a 20-client meet. I would spend two hours of reading your ebook, and then spending an extra hour watching your webinar. I come with ad that work better covert, better that makes me look like an expert. And this is why the 25% is justified, because people microwave ads. No, no, no. Me, it’s a slow cooker. That’s a slow cooker.
There are companies, there are case studies on AdEspresso, a Shark Tank company, used to lose money because Facebook became more expensive, more competitive. I am helping them improve their ad. Suddenly, they were profitable again. And that’s the value of the slow cooker, as opposed, I’m taking a lot of client and I’m going to charge less percentage because I’m a volume business. A McDonald’s is how you position yourself and how you explain it.
Kira: Okay. Let’s pause right here and talk about how to find clients by helping in Facebook groups. What stood out to you, Rob?
Rob: This is something that we see a lot of copywriters talk about doing, but maybe we don’t do very well. And this is something I think that you’ve pointed out that Sarah does really well in our groups, in particular, and I think in other groups on Facebook, where she jumps in, she offers ideas. She offers even strategies. She doesn’t immediately drive people to direct messages or whatever, but she’s just always sharing her knowledge and things that she thinks might work. And that I think creates some authority and notoriety around her so that people start to recognize her as an expert in her space.
Kira: Yeah. And you don’t have to do that in Facebook groups, especially if you’re not on the Facebook platform, and you’re not in those communities. That’s where I know we see Sarah frequently. But you could do it in any forum and Slack groups too. And I think the whole point of it is just showing up and giving a little bit more time and attention to people’s questions than everyone else is giving. So, Sarah does that so well. It’s good to hear that it actually works for her and helps her land projects, too.
Also, Sarah mentioned how she creates different angles when she’s working with a new client, or maybe when she’s working with all of her clients. But I know because we’ve worked with Sarah before on Facebook ad copy, I loved working with her and seeing her process, and even analyzing her process as marketers, as we do. And it was really cool to see that she presents multiple angles for her Facebook ad copy during the first phase of the project.
As a client, as I was in the client’s chair, it’s almost this relief to know that Sarah had thought about all these different approaches, and that she wanted my feedback to see which ones I thought could work best. It felt like it was it was more of a collaboration and there was less pressure to just nail a couple ads and move forward and test them. So, I think her approach could be something that, yes, it works for Facebook ad copy to nail the angle before you move forward and write all the ad copy.
But it could also work well for sales pages. You could do that with new clients, and introduce three different angles for the lead or for the headline. Or you could do that with email copy. You might not need to do that with clients that you’ve worked with repeatedly. But for new clients, it could benefit both parties to approach it that way.
Rob: Yeah, I think this goes back to what Sarah was saying about writing for humans, in that we never know how humans are going to react. If you have one idea, you may think it’s great, but the audience may not resonate with that idea. But if you’re throwing out six, seven, eight, 10, however many ideas, even two or three, you give yourself a better chance at success. And that’s one thing that Sarah does really well in coming up with just a variety of ideas to try and to test.
Another thing that stood out to me was the way that Sarah prices herself. By not taking a fee, or at least until recently not taking a fee, but by taking a percentage of what the ad spend is, she’s basically saying to a client that she’s going to get them results that are at least equal to that percentage that she gets. And if she doesn’t, obviously, she’s going to lose that client very quickly. So, it’s a really interesting way and almost a subtle way to guarantee a response or to guarantee a certain level of engagement in the work that she does.
A lot of times we see copywriters who are asking, “Should I guarantee my work? Or should I offer my clients some level of conversions or improvement, or whatever?” And while that can be a really difficult thing to say, and to guarantee flat out on the line, by the way that Sara prices herself, she’s really saying, I’m going to increase your conversions, the click throughs, your sales by 25%. Or you’re not going to be working with me in the very near future.” So, it’s kind of an interesting idea that maybe more copywriters might want to consider.
Kira: Okay. Let’s jump back in for a few final minutes of our conversation with Sarah. Sarah, we’re almost out of time here, but I’d love to hear more about your experience in the Underground, because you’ve been in there with us from the beginning. And you mentioned you’re a part of a couple different communities and you’ve grown as communities have grown. Can you just share from your experience what it’s like in the Underground for anyone listening who may or may not be interested in joining that community?
Sarah Sal: Imagine, it’s a very friendly coffee shop where everyone else is a copywriter. And just by virtue of having coffee and having conversation, you’re going to learn a lot. One important point, copywriters are good attracting other people copy. They are great at criticizing other people copy and say why it’s bad and what they need to prove. But they’re horrible at writing their own copy because it’s nearly like a cat that is patting themselves on the head.
And one of the things that Underground had me a lot is the critique you gave me for my website, and I even go and podcast interview and people are like, “Wow, I really love your copy. It’s one of the best I read.” So, that’s really, really, really important. The other thing is like when you said, “Sarah, you have an amazing process for writing ad because we work together. I know your process is amazing,” you need to explain your process. And it never occurred to me to explain that process.
Then I came with all that, this is why number one and this is why the review is important. This is why the angle is important. You know what? I am no microwave. I’m a slow cooker. I do a masterpiece. And this is why the ad work better. So, the whole thing from getting feedback to my… because people, like big podcasts, before they interview me, they shoot my website, and before the interview gets recorded, they’re like, “You have good copywriting. Your copy is great.” I think, “Okay. Thank you. It’s very underground.”
And the other is like, “Yeah, they think somebody who could criticize your work,” and I know from the Underground people like, “Oh my god, I have that problem. Client paying late. Client wanting to negotiate my price.” And, you have like a private community where you could ask questions, where you might not want to put that in your public Facebook profile for everyone to see. And that’s worthless. No, not worthless. Is it worthless? Worth a lot.
Rob: Yeah, worth a lot. Yeah, there are definitely a lot of scripts and things that people share in that group. They’re really helpful as far as client conversations go. So, I’m glad that you value that as well. You are known in the Underground as somebody who likes cats just a little bit. You’ve posted pictures once or twice of your favorite cat. Tell us a little bit about your love of cats and how that plays out in your life, and maybe even in your copy life.
Sarah Sal: Actually funny. One article I had tried for AdEspresso was the most shared article AdEspresso ever had. And it was like, what cat teach us about marketing. And I would do parallels, like saying, “Hey, there is a cat jumping on my lap, not letting me work.” Here kitty, here kitty, here kitty, here’s some food. And then, once the cat leave the room, I close the door and I work. This worked only once. And then, the cat like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You want me to leave you alone. You take the food. You open the tin. I want to see the meat on the floor. I don’t trust you. You cheated me once, not twice.”
And then I wrote about parallels and people laugh at it because it’s unique. The other thing, cats did not hear the better. It’s better than Mr. Bean comedy, where the cat annoys somebody else than when they annoy you. And something, you’d go to a cat cafe. You had a busy, hectic day. I used to live in Hong Kong and work there, and I have a really, really, really hectic day. Just seeing a naughty cat jump on the table and tell the other person, “No, no, no, no, no. That’s my food. That’s not yours,” really make you laugh and forget about everything else, and you have energy again.
Kira: My son is obsessed with cats. So, we may be getting a cat soon, too, to add to our family. All right. I’ve got to jump in right here to talk about the cat.
Rob: I knew you were going to do this. I knew you’re going to talk about cats.
Kira: I know. And in the conversation, we were talking about how my son really wants a cat. So, update, we are getting a cat. We’re picking up our kitty this weekend. It’s a snow Lynx Bengal. Apparently, they act more like dogs, and they’re quite entertaining. I don’t really know what we’re getting ourselves into, but we are adding the cat to our family. I know, Rob, you are not a big fan of cats.
Kira: But Sarah is and Sarah gets it. So, I’m really excited about having a cat because the last time I had one was when I was a kid. It’s a pretty big moment, Rob, for me.
Rob: Yeah. Well, I have to admit, if I was going to get a cat, I’d probably want to get a cat that acts like a dog because I’m definitely a dog person. And you know I have a dog. I’ve had a dog almost since the first week that my wife and I were married, we’ve had a dog. So, yeah, good luck with the cat. I wish you and the kids lots of luck. Hopefully, it’s a happy home pet situation. But I think I’m going to stick with dogs.
Kira: I’ll talk about the cat on future episodes. This will be my ongoing update just-
Rob: Yeah, every time cats come up, we’ll get the update.
Kira: Yes. Okay. So, thanks to Sarah for sharing so many details about Facebook ads and her business and her processes. We both learned a good amount about an area that we definitely could learn a little bit more and improve our skillset in. To connect with Sarah or learn more about her approach to Facebook ads, go to Sarah-Sal.com, where you’ll see an intriguing headline. I love her headline. Almost guaranteed to keep you reading the rest of her homepage. So, go check it out.
Rob: And we’re at the end of another show. If you like what you’ve heard, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts. Our intro music was composed by a copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by a copywriter songwriter, David Muntner. You can learn more about programs like the Copywriter Underground, which Sarah is a member of, and the Copywriter Think Tank, which we talked about at the very beginning of the episode by visiting TheCopywriterClub.com. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.