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January 3, 2023

183 | Facebook Ads $80k Loss Lessons Part 1

183 | FB Ads $80k Loss Lessons Part 1 with Annie Miller

This will undoubtedly be a two part series. Because I am unpacking a year long experience that I think has unending golden nuggets for all of you even if you never take this particular approach to your business.

This is the story of me going all in with Facebook Ads for a year.

Between the ads and the agency fee for the agency I worked with, I paid over $80,000.00 and they made me a grand total of $6,000.00 – that’s me being generous. I can only confirm $4,000.00 but regardless. It was a clear loss.

Now, I will not be mentioning the agency. That’s here nor there. They certainly had their faults, but today is about MY LESSONS, TAKEAWAYS and most importantly WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM THEM.

Much context is needed, so let’s dive in and lay down a clear background.

In January 2021 I launched my free on demand workshop, Your Biz Your Way – 3 steps to build a profitable online health and fitness business. It was a massive hit.

Massive hit being the profitability of the workshop’s 24 hour fast action bonuses driving workshop attendees to buy my FitsPRO Foundations Course.

I hit my revenue and enrollment goals easily for the first half of the year, then it was clear I needed to venture into paid traffic – or so I thought.

The woman who built my funnel was amazing. She saw my numbers after month one and said I was ready for ads right away. But the first month of anything is deceiving right? We see real, more indicative trends over time.

So in June 2021 I set up a call with a Facebook ads agency that a friend and colleague of mine had used and was recommended by more than one person. The context of why this agency had been successful for these people became much clearer after a year of lessons.

I seemed to be their ideal client and we began Facebook ads in September 2021.

Why did I do ads? And what approach did we take?

  • The reason and driving factor for pursuing ads was to create SPACE. I needed time and space to create Pure PROgramming and set up some other back end things I had planned for 2022 and beyond. I needed to be done with live launching. That was my driver.
  • I was willing to lose all the money in order to definitively say this did or didn’t work. I needed this particular “what if” off the table one way or the other.

Let me tell you it is now off the table for a very good while.

  • The agency handled EVERYTHING – I chose the completely done for you package – because again, I needed that. But this was ultimately a mistake.
  • We targeting cold traffic most of the time. That was the plan. And this is VERY IMPORTANT to note and remember as I unpack all of my lessons.
  • I generally prefer working with ONE HUMAN than a team or agency

This is a very general lesson that I have learned from two clear cut experiences now in growing my business. I worked with a tax agency that I highly disliked, and now this. Perhaps it’s a me thing. I don’t deny that. But also I do think I just prefer a 1:1 interpersonal relationship, even if it IS with someone on a team or within an agency. I want a go to person and open communication. That’s something that is unequivocally needed for me and the way my brain functions. I need education, to be a part of the process, and to understand things via information to feel safe and informed. This has become undeniable to me through these particular experiences.

Knowing this about yourself is vital as a biz owner. And it may have to come through some less than ideal experiences. But good news is, it’s data to help you move forward and make more aligned decisions.

  • In hiring an “expert” in something, I need to keep one hand on the steering wheel. I need to keep MY VISION clear and be more forward with questions rather than “trusting them because they’re the expert”

In fact, fun story – it felt very much so like this agency and creative team was trying to fit me and my brand into their box or system and it wasn’t working. Finally (way too long later), I asked why we weren’t doing more face to camera video vs static graphics. They gave me a reason so I took it – again, I know nothing about ads. I didn’t know what questions to ask or how hard to push.

Side note – I’d shown some of the creatives made by the team to a few friends and colleagues of mine and the feedback was clear – it wasn’t me, it wasn’t my brand. Again this was a lesson for ME. For someone who trusts their gut and takes pride in doing so, I really dropped the ball on this one.

Colleagues made comments like “you look like every other business coach and you’re not” “where is the ‘Annie’ factor in this?” “would you create that piece of content?” It was clear there was a misalignment. But the team was using MY brand photos, so in my mind, it was “my brand” and I was letting the experts do their job! I didn’t know what performed well in a Facebook ad? How was I supposed to provide feedback? But I totally felt and valued the comments from colleagues. I had only ever done organic marketing. And frankly, I do it quite well. There is some truth to the fact that what works for organic marketing may not be best for cold paid traffic. We’ll get to that a bit later.

Then when they asked for a creative one week I just said “can I also send a face to camera video and we can compare that performance to the static image?”

I kid you not – my face to camera video became the agencies best performing ad PERIOD. Across all clients, in all fields. Not to toot my own horn but I wasn’t surprised by that. It’s what I do and it’s why people enjoy learning from me. It’s how I attract my ideal clients if you will. (This was also at the point that I had downgraded from paying them to run traffic to my workshop to paying to run traffic to building a mailing list instead because they weren’t making me any money). We’ll cover those specifics in part 2.

So, from that point on we did face to camera more reel and story style ads and the performance went through the roof. At that point I was like…why am I paying you? But I was paying them to run the ads, choose the audiences, and do everything I had no clue how to do. WHICH WAS EVERYTHING.

I was desperate for growth and space, but really should have taken a “done with you” approach to ads rather than a done for you. Because I was way too in the dark and didn’t know how to navigate that experience. Lots of wasted time and money because of that.

Even if hiring an expert, you HAVE to have a clear vision and idea of how you want that expert to perform ON BEHALF OF YOUR BRAND. Do way more research and due diligence than I did. Please.

  • People buy because of ME – I am a true “personal brand” and that became extremely clear to me
  • A better approach seems to be focusing on getting my organic content and appearance in front of more people. Not via “paid” content, but paying people to help me do more organically.

Back in August or September 2021 a mentor and colleague of mine advised against Facebook Ads for my brand in particular. He was not wrong. But like him, I was going to learn the hard way. I needed to take this option off the table with a clear win or a clear loss. It was a clear loss for me. But a loss I was willing to take for a definitive answer.

He said to me “people buy because of YOU – you have a true a personal brand and people need to build trust with you, so a PR agency or hiring people to get you on more than one platform seems like a better idea.”

At that point I’d never even considered or really heard of that. But boy does it make sense in hindsight!

The same week I cancelled with the Facebook ads agency I was working with, I got an email from an extremely well known media agency inquiring to represent me and my brand. I can’t say at the recording time of this podcast if that worked out or not, but I am sure I will keep you updated in real time. It felt like a sign to me – a confirmation of types, even if I didn’t decide to work with this Media team.

To conclude, after the ads it was clear that I had lost a bit of vision for my business. I depended on the ads working and just wanted to let go and breath while they worked in the background. That’s not how ads work, even when they’re successful. That was a very clear mistake of my own and a lesson I will take into whatever new venture I approach for growing my business and audience.

Stay tuned for part two where I will be discussing the specifics of downgrading with the agency halfway through the year, marketing to a warm audience vs cold audience, the ads approach I would personally take in the future based on what I learned here and more.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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