Advertising Online for Less than the Price of a Business Card (<$0.20)

Last Update: March 13, 2020

This isn't a statistical post. This is more about me sharing my thoughts and learning lessons on advertising.

I've always been intrigued by advertising, but from time to time, I've talked myself out of it. I had piling hospital bills and other personal life things that meant I didn't want to take much financial risk: in business or anywhere.

I don't regret my decisions to avoid advertising for some time, but I know that advertising is a great way to attract new customers and make sales. By way of advertising, I was able to make my first affiliate commissions in my first month (don't laugh at that post...I was new...hahaha), so I understood the power in the traffic source early on.

Advertising can be Unpredictable

The problem is that with advertising, you can have mathematically calculated conversion percentages, but you don't have guaranteed conversion percentages. No one can offer that.

Regardless of whether you hand out business cards, go door-to-door, cold call, or meet people in some other way, there is no guarantee about who will buy and who will not (or when). There are best practices you need to do like keep meeting new people, keep presenting your offer to new people, keep following up, and so on, but that's all you can do.

It's really key to make sure there is enough lifetime customer value to make up for the upfront cost, but you won't know those numbers starting out. Since each person has a willpower and you can't force them to buy (even at predictable conversion rates), you have limits.

For example, with the recent Coronavirus scare, some businesses are feeling the impact. People might not be going to restaurants like they were before or visiting places locally. Could business owners have predicted that in their conversion stats?

Probably not.

The unpredictable part about ad spend can be a bit scary, but as entrepreneurs, we're suppossed to be "sharp on our toes" and able to pivot to solve problems in real-time. Entrepreneurs are professional problem solvers--that's what keeps us in business.

Business Cards vs. Online Ads

Recently, I got a spontaneous check and I decided to put it to work by investing it into Pinterest ads. After Jay's webinar, I got really interested in taking action on what he talked about.

I set up my ads just like he instructed us in the live Pinterest training. It's been about one week, so I don't have much hard data yet, but I'm learning more and more. These are the results I'm seeing so far...

Things are starting to improve, so I'm happy.

Sidenote: I didn't solely do ads, I increased my organic posting too and paid for ads on the pins that took off organically.

My Publishing Before the Ads

Prior to doing these ads, I've been doing great with consistently doing everything I've planned on my content calendar, but I've been wanting more results. Who doesn't? Hahahaha.

Heck, I already have more than 200 videos and more than 400 blog posts! I thought, "I'm pretty sure I can get more sales by getting more people to what I already have"! My Pinterest impressions is rising, my # of clicks to my site is rising, and it's been interesting what can be accomplished in one week with $20 in ad spend.

Of course, I'm still a long way away from matching my organic search traffic with Pinterest traffic, but I'm studying to see what it would take. Let's see.

Pinterest vs. SEO: What I've noticed so far

I didn't have a new Pinterest account. In fact, I probably had hundreds of pins there. When looking at my analytics, I noticed, I was getting 1000 sessions/mo from Pinterest back in early 2019, but I stopped focusing on that and it dropped--that was probably a mistake.

When Jay did the training, I started paying more attention to Pinterest and the results I've gotten from it, and I decided to go back to it. I probably should've doubled down on it in 2019, but hindsight is 20/20, right? At the time, I felt very unconfident about what I was doing on Pinterest. The results weren't impressive to me at that time, so I moved onto the next "best thing".

Now, looking back, that was pretty impressive considering what I was doing. Taking the knowledge I have now, I think I could go back and do even better.

So far, I can tell that Pinterest responds much faster to day-to-day activity. If I post on my blog today, I won't necessarily see results the same day. It's likely I won't see the results of my effort for months.

Whereas, with Pinterest, it COULD be same-day. Since it has the social component, it can take off quicker if certain factors line up (timeliness, on-trend, SEO, quality pin, etc.), but it also has the search engine component, so it can take off months down the road when the content is indexed and ranked, and a search has good volume. Pinterest is a double wammy.

Within a short time span of effort, you can see results, and definitely if you decide to go into adveritising, you'll see results very quickly. SEO is definitely much slower, but it's helped me to learn what converts on my site, so I can be more calculated.

Handing out Business cards vs. Paying for Pinterest ads

In 2018, I was spending money on business cards and live events, which is a good investment, but for the price of a business card ($0.20 each) or less, I can show my offer to thousands of people and have the more "qualified" or "interested" prospects visit my site!

I used to set a goal of how many business cards I'd hand out, but that was very manual. With my Pinterest ads, I set them up, and they start doing work for me. I love advertising when I can fit it into my budget (which should be always!).

I'm Committing to Advertising Going Forward

I know SEO works, but I've never been that patient with SEO. Now, I want to pair it up with a partner.

I've also tried so many things like Facebook groups, organic posting, video marketing, and so many other things, and I know organic takes longer. It's good to keep organic content creation going, but I think ads is a must at some point if you want predictable and steady growth.

I think I'm at the point where ads is a good way to go (and stay).

With ads, you're much less worried about algorithm updates. It's like relying on gifts rather than getting a job. If the gift-giver ever decides they don't want to donate to you anymore, you're hit--the same with organic traffic.

This is my opinion.

I've never liked waiting around and feeling no sense of control of when the traffic would "hit". Everytime I've done advertising (regardless of the platform), I love the benefit (even if there is a temporary pain while I'm figuring out the funnel).

I know ads don't start out profitable, but while they're not, I'm thinking of investing in ads like investing in an amazing education on the most powerful skill I can develop as an entrepreneur: the skill to acquire customers on-demand.

My Hypothesis

I haven't tested this yet, but I think my business would be in a much better place if I had a much higher budget for customer acquisition. I'm quite confident about this.

I've been thinking about businesses in general and I think the two highest costs are customer acquisition costs (advertising) and labor (paying yourself and employees).

In startup businesses I've worked with before, the customer acquisition costs will be significantly higher than labor costs, so I'm wondering if I need to rearrange my budget a bit.

My goal now is to keep increasing the percentage of revenue that goes to customer acquisition or advertising: promo products, online ads, and other means of getting new customers. As my sales goes up, I'll keep increasing my ad budget.

If you'd like to see my budget as-is, you can check out my recent video training here.

What do you think about paid traffic?

  • I know there is lots of things to understand before using paid ads, but do you think they're necessary at some point?
  • What do you think is a good sign you're ready for paid ads?
  • Do you think you should pay yourself (or labor costs) more than you pay for customers?

Let me know what you think.

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mgranados2 Premium
Hey Tiffany, great post. Pinterest ads are amazing, they’ve worked well for me and like anything else - the fortune is in the follow...

In this case retargeting. As a whole, paid advertising is becoming more and more of a must. Why do I say this?

I’ve actually become very patient with SEO but it Can more so be unpredictable than running paid ads(depending on the platform).

I used to always question how the heck I had so many blog posts, YouTube videos, social media valuable content that was up for awhile and I’d look over at the other people promoting the same or a similar product and they’d get success so much faster...

Meanwhile I made “How to’s“, reviews, workshops, vs. comparisons, awesome training and so on, but I quickly learned people were spending on solo ads, paid ads to build their list faster and get sales faster than what I could produce.

So, I know you’re feeling with SEO. Competition gets tougher...

So to complement organic SEO traffic, things like blog posting, stronger backlinks, dream 100, collaborations and in addition ads are feeling more like a necessity in certain niches more than others(cough cough MMO).

You know at a point we ask ourselves will all this SEO make a “stable and consistent” way of income that’s more predictable. And sometimes that answer is on the contrary.

-Michael
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TDenise Premium
I agree Matt. I think it’s best to diversify with paid, earned, and organic traffic. Of course, I’m like anyone else, I’d like to have majority of my traffic from free sources, but I’m trying to build a business, and paying for brand awareness and new customers is a necessary expense in my opinion. I agree with you.
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mgranados2 Premium
Likewise. Thanks for your response!
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RYAJeremy Premium
The Pintrest training was great. I got into it straight away and noticed a few impressions almost instantly and even some clicks within days.
Paid advertising is going to be necessary at some point for sure.
With myself my confidence level and site is not good enough yet for the paid advertising.
I think SEO and organic traffic should be at a good stage with a reasonable flow of traffic where you are ready for the stage of having a customer capture system set up as well, (a form asking them for their name and email.)
With paying yourself more than you pay for customers I think it would depend on how much and how fast you want growth.
Or a boost period of paying more for customers could also be set for a boost in growth.
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TDenise Premium
Wow Jeremy! Amazing analysis. It sounds like you’ve got a good plan and I agree that paying for customers may need boosting at some point. I don’t think I’m quite there yet considering how much I’m paying myself now, but once I’m paying myself a reasonable salary, then I’ll amp up on paying more for customers.
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BrendaMZ Premium
I'd stick to what is working for you. It is good to try different things to see how it all works out. Marketing online is a tough business. Starting on low paid ads in the beginning and some free ads with the social media helps to get started. Once your business starts to take off, then you can invest more into ads and pay yourself less if you can afford that. I would find paying ads a bit hard for me to do. Glad you are braver than I am to try new marketing ideas.
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TDenise Premium
I agree Brenda. It's a balance. Paying yourself more feels the best now, and my personal finances could definitely use it, but holding out a little bit could make a big difference. I'll probably do a balance of each.
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Dadaz123 Premium
Thanks for your thoughts on Paid advertising borne out of practical experience. You have done SEO with all the frustration of waiting on Almighty Google for first-page ranking and now Pinterest paid advertising. You are eminently qualified to write on this topic because you have straddled both worlds. I have always had paid advertising on my list but I need to take care of some basics first.
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TDenise Premium
One step at a time--that's what I've done.
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Stanleycmng Premium
Great points made and we should ponder. All traffic have a cost, there is no such thing as free traffic.

You can say writing content is free... it is not, the hours you put into writing content is investment that have a monetary value. Your time = $$$.

Therefore, I would look at advertising and know how effective it is as it will be a traffic consideration. The comparison with business cards is a good way to look at it.
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TDenise Premium
I agree. All traffic costs. Once you start relying on the income from the business, you see that much clearer. Ads could pan out to give a higher return than the labor costs associated with organic Traffic-related work sometimes.
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