DTC 5: 📦 Handle me with care
May 21, 2023
Content Tag

DTC’s been around the world, and ended up on your doorstep. The UPS delivery guy tossed it gently on a chair and played with your cat hilariously. 

Your security camera caught it and now he’s a Reddit celebrity. 


This week we’ve got a care package brimming with news, hot takes, and deep insights to keep you feeling well-read and well-fed:

📦 How can marketers navigate a cookie-less future?

📦 A quick dive of some winning image creatives to see WHY they work

📦 A methodology that helps you turn your ad testing into ‘pieces of gold’ that you can use up and down your funnel (forever)

📦 Why now’s the time to ‘reel’ in that organic reach (Instagram Reels) 

📦 5 ways to start getting ahead of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategy to make it your best year yet

As always, read to the end for a timely bonus: This weeks’ DTC podcast is available to you a day early (Chef’s Knives + Funnels = 💰)

Apple Batters Facebook: Baking Up A Cookie-less Future

What’s Happening:

  • Apple has a built-in feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) which is an anti-tracking tech that aims to protect the privacy of its users by blocking third-party cookies.
  • Third-party cookies power ad tracking tools (e.g. Facebook’s pixel).
  • This tech is used in the Safari and Firefox browsers.

Why It’s Happening:

According to Apple, the ad industry has become overly-intrusive and leaves many users feeling like advertisers are eavesdropping on them. 

(Our response: We see both sides, but if you’re going to see ads anyway, wouldn’t you want them to be relevant?)

The Implications:

  • According to StatCounter, Safari and Firefox represent a 24.15% usage share of all browsers.
  • On some devices, Apple has already limited a cookie’s lifespan to just 7 days (for most users, it’s currently 30 days)
  • The Interest Explorer blog is calling it ‘cookiepocalypse.’ They point out a few of the problems a 7-day cookie lifespan causes Facebook advertisers:

🍪Conversions are not attributed to ad clicks when these happened +7 days prior.

🍪Your retargeting audiences will last for maximum 7 days, then they're gone.

🍪Exclusion audiences of past Purchasers will only last for 7 days, after that your ads will start showing again to people who just purchased from you.

🍪Your lookalike seed audiences are super small (filled with just 7 days of users), so the resulting lookalikes will be of low quality.

Source: https://interestexplorer.io/cookiepocalypse-2020/

 Here Are Some Of The Fears:

Devil’s Advocate: Why It’s Not As Bad As You Think

Many in the ad tech space have been predicting a cookie-less future for years. Here are a few reasons this is a positive:

1. It's happening to everyone, so it creates new opportunity for innovation 🧨

2. It's not happening to all browsers at once, so its impact will be staggered.

3. Ultimately users will have the choice to turn off ads. That leaves it up to marketers like us to practice high quality advertising to keep people interested in what we have to offer.

Whether it’s a slap from Google, a slap from Facebook, or the current slap from Apple, marketers always find a way to adapt. While performance will certainly be affected, now’s a great time to think about what to do if third-party cookies don’t exist at all.

🧠 Helpful Mindset Shifts:

  1. Focus On Owning Your Traffic → A best practice now and in the future is turning paid traffic into traffic you own. Once you own the traffic, you can make your targeting and segmenting as granular as you want 🦾. In other words, get really good at running prospecting campaigns.
  2. Consider how the landscape could move from ‘audience’ to ‘context’ → Rather than advertising to users based on their interests and behaviour, think about ways to target online locations where they’ll be spending their time.

Is this the beginning of the “democratization” of ad traffic? With less tracking capabilities, advertisers could have less reason to spend their dollars on platforms like Facebook and more reason to spend their dollars on smaller platforms that specialize in content their audience loves.

Facebook being the behemoth it is, this is unlikely.

But a shift is happening in the ad tech space. Stick with us and we’ll be sure to curate the best insights and strategies going forward 😉

👨🏻🎨We asked newly minted Pilothouse Creative Director Cam Wind to cough up some of his team’s best performing images this week. UGC and Video get all the love (and a lot of the sales), but we love some crisp branded images in the mix. Here’s why we think these ones work.

This design by Tad Beavers uses space well to draw attention to the promo, while providing enough visual interest around the edges to keep you locked in.

Also note the “up to.” Sitewide sale is only 15% but with bundles you can get to 35%, so it’s a good way of driving interest and AOV. 

These images are headlining a pair of campaigns driving 4-7x ROAS!

We spoke with JustWears Co-founder Alex Walsh on the podcast last week, and we went in-depth on their use of humor in ads to drive sales and brand affinity. Funny and flattering you can’t go wrong.

Pilothouse designer (and DTC brand designer) Robin Holdsworth excels at simple, iconic designs that evoke quality and style. Something about the smoke and the gold in this one really grabs our attention. 

Here’s what Robin says about what went into this design:

“I made the blanket the main focal point, by centering it and creating a ton of contrast from it and the background. 

I added a dynamic "save" configuration to draw the eye back up to the offer. The eye then reads "save $40", which provokes the viewer. 

The last thing the viewer sees is the promo code, which is intentionally separated from the rest of the creative with a white background, to make it the third and last thing to be read. 

"For a limited time only'', is there to evoke a sense of urgency for the viewer to click on the ad and buy a blanket as soon as possible.”

Prospecting For Gold: A Rapid Testing Methodology ExplainAs Facebook advertisers, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds of our own methodologies, and repeat the same mistakes over and over.

That’s why we’re introducing Testing Methods where we outline different ways to test so you can approach your advertising with a new lens.

Prospecting For Gold Testing:

Having a piece of gold in your pocket today will continue to be valuable tomorrow. At Pilothouse, we’re experimenting with a testing methodology that allows you to forge pieces of gold in your Facebook Ads, and then transpose those elements across your entire funnel.

It’s kind of like turning the Facebook Ads Manager into your ‘funnel laboratory’!

Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of how it works:

The Problem: Testing can be slow, expensive, and difficult to identify clear winning components

Solution: Front-load fast and cheap learnings at the top-of-funnel by a) optimizing for less expensive events (e.g. clicks at top-of-funnel), and b) completely isolating variables (e.g. headlines, pain points, etc.).

This will help you efficiently test which components perform best RELATIVE to each other. It’s an apples-to-apples comparison that allows you to tune out the noise and zero in on the variable you’re testing for. 

You’ll find winning components faster, so you can put them in your pocket and move on to the next component 💪🏃‍♂️

Caveat → It’s important to keep in mind that in the early stages, you’re not optimizing for sales, but for learnings. In fact, you’ll sacrifice some sales now (so you can get more efficient sales later).

Pilothouse media buyer Stu Mason says, “this is the fastest way I know to optimize a full funnel to lock in very cheap, reliable FB ads and a landing page that’s converting at 5x the industry standard.“

Goals At Each Step Of The Funnel:

Top-of-Funnel: Optimizing your ads through cheap clicks (Objective = Traffic).

Middle-of-Funnel: Optimizing your LPs and lead gens through cheap traffic (Objective = Landing Page Views).

Bottom-of-Funnel: Optimizing your sales pages and cross-sells through qualified traffic (Objective = Conversions)

Here’s a breakdown of how this looks top-of-funnel:

  • Brainstorm all of the elements you would like to test in your funnel. Some example elements at the top are: headlines, CTAs, benefits, pain points, desired dream state, lead gen ideas, etc.
  • Run a traffic campaign with the Learn More CTA → this will give you the cheapest link clicks.
  • Use a broad interest-based audience with 1 - 4M people
  • Throw dozens (even hundreds) of ideas against the wall to see what resonates:

  • Set up rules to automatically TURN OFF the ads when an ad has a CPC of MORE than $1.50 or has more than 400 impressions ⏭ This results in super cheap and crazy fast experiments. 
  • A good benchmark to aim for is a CPC less than $0.50.
  • Because we're moving quickly and iterating each and every round, the data isn't perfect. But it gets us those incremental wins super fast 💪 
  • Look at the CPCs you’re getting relative to one another.

To give you an idea of how this looks, Stu says:

“I created around 400 completely different ads to refine a number of components in my ads and landing pages: pain points and common themes, audiences, ad types, CTAs, Before/After stories, imagery, the price point, lead gen offers, headlines, sublines, and exact wording that could be adapted for use anywhere in the funnel. Everything was tested. This allowed me to figure out exactly who my audience is and how to communicate with them. (We often think we know, but only through testing will we find out).”

Think of yourself as a painter here -- don’t worry about being too careful. Throw mud at the wall.

Ideally, you end up with 2-3 ads that paint a “transformational” picture of where the prospect is right now and where they can be with your product:

☝🏼 Every bit of this ad was optimized using the Gold Prospecting Methodology. It ultimately ended up driving traffic for around $0.20 CPC.

  • Once your ads are locked in, transpose winning elements from your ads to your landing page, and run campaigns that are optimizing for landing page views.
  • Once your landing page is locked in, you’ll optimize the conversion elements of your landing page -- upsells, down-sells, lead-gens, etc.

Having done all of this testing, don’t be surprised if your pages start converting like crazy!

Need someone to collaborate with on this? Share this with your media buying team 👊🏽

‘Reel’ In That Organic Reach (While You Can) 🎣

This Instagram story from @5anjeevan sums up what you need to know about Instagram Reels (Facebook’s timely response to Tik Tok):

6 Ways To Get Ahead And Make It Your Best Black Friday Yet

Black Friday is just around the corner. Our goal is to help you make it your best one yet. Here are 6 things you can do this week to get in front of it nice and early 👌

Start Planning Now → Gather your team and brainstorm Black Friday / Cyber Monday angles, creatives, promos, product focuses, email and campaign structures. Aim to have everything ironed out by early-September so that you can begin testing by mid-September.

Engagement is the name of the game → Focus on building engagement and intrigue early so that you improve overall performance when it’s Black Friday gametime. Use this time to encourage more comments and opt-ins than conversions.

Take A Hit In October. Go Big In November → As you’re hellbent on building your audiences in October, you may experience a bit of a hit in conversions. Rest assured, it’ll pay off when you flip the ‘conversion switch’ on Black Friday (and Cyber Monday WEEK).

Look At What’s Worked In The Past → Go back and look at what ad copy / creatives worked from previous Black Friday campaigns. Duplicate the ones that worked and then pepper in some new angles.

Pilothouse media buyer Alex Sandoval says, “What I’ve seen work during BF holidays are simple static images / bright colored-GIFs with the discount in big bold fonts. Customers are looking for BF/CM deals not pretty content.”

Build Your Influencer “Army” → Start collaborating with influencers now. If you need to find new influencers, we recommend Insense.

Media buyer Nate Vankoughnet says, “Start talking to your web of influencers now, scheduling posts, getting whitelist/dark post permissions set up in advance.”

Make Inventory Plans Now → If you’re using a third-party fulfillment service (Amazon, for example), make sure they have inventory ASAP. With the possibility of Black Friday craziness aligning with a second wave of the pandemic, it’s more important this year than ever.

Final Note, Plan Accordingly:

This week we’re launching the video podcast as a sneak peek to newsletter subscribers. Check it out here, one day early to get your edge sharpened faster. 

🔪Speaking of knives 🔪

Jordan and Oliver Lamb from Bokashi Steel Knives to discuss their funnels, their marketing stack, as well as their cross branded partnership with OG DTC Icon Big Green Egg BBQ.

🔵 High end ClickFunnels + Shopify setups

🔵 Use digital incentives for ecommerce lead gen (think knife skills)

🔵 Referral programs and post purchase flows using reversion

🔵 $100K in sales with ZERO Ads with this “Collection Box” strategy

📺Watch Now: Scaling Knives to 8 Figures: Advanced Funnels for Ecommerce with Bokashi Steel

👂🏼Subscribe to the audio! (This episode will be available Thursday)

Things We Loved This Week

🗞 FB News: You can now run ads in Facebook Groups! This is huge, but if history is a teacher, it just means Zucks wants you to pay for more of your organic reach there too. 

⚒️ Tool: Getting ideas out of you and your team’s heads is critical. We checked out MindNode as a way of mapping angles and audiences for marketing. 

🎹 Music: Jacob from Pilothouse shouted to check out Glass Animals new album Dreamland! Propulsive, poppy, synthy. We love it. 

🐦Tweet: @l_ukeAustin’s thread about how to use Ad Manager custom metrics to keep track of “Net ROAS” (actual profit) instead of ROAS *chef’s kiss

✏️Article Retail Brew analyzes the wave of 2020 retail bankruptcies, and how it has the whole sector shifting hard and fast to DTC.

🎙Podcast We just discovered TechMeme Ride Home, a daily podcast that covers all the high level tech stories of the day in a 20 min blast (remember commuting?)

🐦Tweet : @iamdansnow powerfully illustrates the value of overlaying text on your ads, showing an ad that went from from a “1% CTR at a 1.5x ROAS to a 4% CTR at a 3.7x ROAS with a simple edit!“

💃🏼TikTok (that broke DTC Twitter) where this person points out that u can use Facebook’s ad library to find promo codes for online shopping! 🤘🏼

⛺️Camping: No link but wow, we went camping on the long weekend and it was great to get out in nature and disconnect a little. Highly recommended!

Favorite Pro Tip: 

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