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Marketing isn’t an exact science, so all the well-intentioned advice, tips and tricks in the world won’t work for every business, every time. Sometimes ads fail to deliver. When they do, what do you do next?

Facebook Ads opened up the world of online advertising for the mug punter. Before it came along we had banner ad networks to insert flashing, gaudy graphics at the top of web pages; a tactic that hasn’t worked for 15 years now, and Google’s incredibly complex and confusing AdWords product that got too expensive and too hard to use for many small businesses by around 2012.

Sometimes Facebook Ads don’t work and you can be tempted to think that the platform isn’t effective (Canva)

Back when you could only do those cute little sidebar ads with a tiny image and a tiny amount of text, the potential was massive. When those ads migrated from the sidebar to the feed, the world completely shifted. Now you could run a campaign in your local town or suburb for as little as $1 a day, target those ads specifically at people in your local area, who are probably already interested in your stuff, and who might even be frequent online shoppers, and you’d watch the cash roll in. Of course, things are a little more expensive and complex these days as the platform matured and we went from around 150 advertisers in Australia to over 100,000 of them. And one thing that has shifted, is the fact that sometimes our ads don’t hit the mark, don’t reach our intended audience, and just don’t convert to a successful enquiry, click or sale.

So what can you do about it?

You need to take an honest look at your ad

Is your ad as “likeable” as your posts? Or are you use trying to force-feed yourself to a customer? (Canva)

When you thumb your way through your Facebook or Instagram feed, you have to concede that most of the ads are just plain dumb. They’ve either retargeted you to buy something that you earlier went to a website to look at, or they are desperately trying to sell you something you probably wouldn’t buy on impulse. They don’t match where you’re at in the process of buying. They’re just pointing an arrow at you and shooting in the hope that they’ll snag you into a sales funnel. Sound familiar? If it does, then chances are that is exactly what you’ve been trying to do. Writing words and using images and videos that are designed to somehow magically transform someone who is not the slightest bit interested in your stuff to reconsider their life choices, do a 180-degree turn and buy your stuff.

And that’s not how sales works.

If your ad was made to sell something to someone who has never had any prior relationship with you, is trying to sell something very new and innovative, or is going straight for the quick sale, it will probably fail to do anything you want it to do.

Take a look at the words and imagery of your ad and ask yourself, “If I was a person just walking down the street and someone jumped out and asked me to buy this, would I do it?” The answer is almost always No.

Try changing your approach from “Sell” to “Educate.” This way you are bringing someone information, rather than a sales spiel. And our naturally curious nature tends to welcome education and new information, but our BS-radar tends to filter out attempts to take our money. Especially on people and things we don’t know.

Sometimes your target is a little too tight.

Small towns and regional centres don’t have the numbers to do targeting very effectively (Canva)

It’s tempting when you’re given the option to target particular types of people, to go in tight and precise. Remember though, that a lot of these targets are estimates of what people like, behave like or do regularly. The most accurate targeting of people on Facebook is by their location, their gender, age and the kind of device they’re using. So sometimes you need to have a very large number of people to even that out and get enough people interested from that estimate to make it work for you. Especially outside big cities where the data gets hazy because the populations are much lower. In towns under about 100,000 people, it’s almost useless to target interests because the numbers are too low for the system to identify enough of them.

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Dante St James is a digital marketer in Darwin, Australia. He is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Lead Trainer and podcaster on digital marketing in Australia.