Marketing Expert Jennifer Spivak on Generating Leads with Online Advertising

Online advertising is a terrific area of specialization for the results-driven marketer. In many industries, paid placements can help marketers make an impact from day one by generating leads and acquiring new customers for their companies. Still, when it comes to how to create a Facebook ad, launch a marketing campaign, and build a project portfolio, most of us don’t know where to start. Enter Jennifer Spivak, an independent digital marketing consultant, speaker and instructor in our technical marketing course in New York, who helps students create their first Facebook ad before the session is even over. Jen’s class on paid placements, which she has been teaching since 2013, combines practical exercises with industry insights. Jen doesn’t just share marketing tips and tricks; she tailors her classes to her students’ interests and supports them long after the end of the course. It was this personal attention and dedication that won her the Student Choice Award in our fall cohort.

According to John Lynn, our New York program manager,

Jen is one of our best instructors—someone we invite back again and again because of her natural alignment with our learning approach, and the long-term support and guidance she shares with each cohort.  She was voted best instructor by the marketing track this past fall, and is constantly leveraging her experiences speaking and executing as an expert on her subject matter for the students.

We asked Jen about her Facebook ads training, her experience running her own digital marketing business, and her best online advertising tips:[bctt tweet="Generating Leads with Online Advertising, ft. @jennifer_spivak"]

Q: Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today. Could you tell us a little bit about your session?

A: Sure! I've been teaching at Startup Institute in New York for several years, and with each cohort I lead a session on paid placements where we discuss why paid placements can be hugely profitable for tech companies, what channels they can use for paid ads, and the importance of testing and conversion-tracking. I used to cover just Facebook advertising and Google AdWords, but as the landscape has changed over the years, I've expanded to also include Twitter advertising, Instagram ads, Pinterest ads, LinkedIn ads, and content promotion networks like Outbrain. Then, I give the students time to create their own ads, which is usually one of the most beneficial parts of my session.

[bctt tweet="#Onlineadvertising is hugely profitable for #tech companies, says @jennifer_spivak #leadgeneration "]

Q: What makes your session so effective?

A: For one, I've taught the same session several times, so I have a lot of practice! I also think that the hands-on nature of my session makes the concepts I'm teaching more "real-life" and applicable for the students. Many of them create ads during my session for their partner projects, based on the real, current needs or goals of that company. And lastly, I have a genuine interest in the success of each and every student I teach. I take the time to answer their questions thoroughly and engage them in a discussion rather than a lecture. I have also maintained great relationships with many of my students, going on to mentor some of them as they begin their careers in tech.

[bctt tweet="I engage my #marketing students in a discussion rather than a lecture, says @jennifer_spivak"]

Q: Could you explain what paid placements are? How can online advertising help a business?

A: Paid placements are when you pay to have your message placed somewhere where it will reach a certain audience—or, in other words, an advertisement. I focus specifically on online advertising during my session, covering paid search ads, social media ads, and content promotion networks. These types of paid placements can help a business acquire new customers and/or generate new leads in a relatively cost-efficient manner, with results-tracking occurring in real-time.

Q:  How has the discipline of Facebook advertising changed since you’ve been in the industry? How do you think it will evolve in the future?

A: The biggest and most exciting changes lie in the targeting options available to businesses. Facebook is undoubtedly a data powerhouse, and as they collect more info on their one billion+ users, the targeting choices available to advertisers become more advanced and more specific. This is one of the reasons why Facebook advertising is often the most applicable channel for almost any business; whoever your target audience is, there's a very strong likelihood that you can reach them on Facebook. And, given that this is one of Facebook's main advantages, I'd guess that the level and detail of targeting options will continue to evolve, allowing businesses to get even more specific with messaging and the people they are reaching.

[bctt tweet="You can reach almost anyone with #facebookads, says @jennifer_spivak #leadgeneration #marketing"]

Q:  Is Facebook advertising a good choice for any business? Does it work as well for B2B as it does for B2C?

A: Generally yes, but if there are other channels that could make sense, it is usually worth testing them side-by-side rather than making any assumptions upfront. The B2B vs B2C question is especially interesting, as I encounter this with clients all of the time. For B2B companies, often LinkedIn advertising seems like the obvious choice because of the in-depth job title/industry/seniority targeting readily available there. However, LinkedIn's ad platform is majorly amateur compared to Facebook. The biggest issue, among others, is that LinkedIn does not have conversion tracking, and costs are insanely high. A normal CPC [cost per conversion] on LinkedIn is at least $4-$6. That’s not to say that LinkedIn advertising doesn't work entirely, but it usually makes sense to test Facebook first and see if you can reach the right audience here for much, much less. And, while Facebook's job title targeting isn't as strong as LinkedIn's, there are often other ways to get at that B2B audience through interests—for example, professional affiliations your target audience might have, conferences they may attend, magazines or websites they would read, etc.

Q:  Could you talk a little bit about common mistakes you see people who are new to Facebook advertising making?

A: The biggest mistake I see businesses making with Facebook advertising is that they take the "set-it-and-forget-it" approach, not understanding the constant testing and tweaking required in order for a campaign to be successful and drive ROI. I recently wrote about this in detail for a guest blog post for 818 Agency.

[bctt tweet="A successful #marketing campaign needs constant testing and tweaking, says @jennifer_spivak"]

Q: Is Facebook advertising something that new marketers can teach themselves? Are there good resources online?

A: I am mostly self-taught, so I do believe that this is something a person can learn themselves, but it's the practical, hands-on experience that will really make a difference. As far as online resources go, is absolutely one of my favorites. But I do feel strongly that the best way to really get a handle on this platform is through real-life experience.

[bctt tweet="#marketers, check out @JonLoomerDigita for expert advice on #facebookads, says @jennifer_spivak"]

Q: What is your process for testing Facebook ads?

A: The process that I use involves testing one element at a time - first the image, then the copy, and lastly the targeting. In each round, I keep what works (i.e. what produces the lowest cost per conversion) and get rid of what doesn't, which over time lowers my clients' costs per conversion and boosts ROI. And I've definitely encountered situations where initial assumptions were disproved. My favorite is for a trade show client I've worked with for over a year—no matter how many times they've sent me beautiful, professionally-developed creative to update the ads with, the same amateur shot taken with an iPhone always performs best!

[bctt tweet="#Marketers, test one element at a time in your #facebookads, says @jennifer_spivak "]

Q: Both professionally and personally speaking, what is the most rewarding part of being a freelance marketer? What about the constraints?

A: What's most rewarding for me is getting to be in complete control of how I spend my time and, by extension, my life. Nothing has had a greater impact on my happiness than becoming self-employed. I get to work with the clients I want to, on the projects I really care about, and have complete ownership over how much income I generate each month (this can be terrifying for some people, but I find it empowering and exciting). The obvious constraints or challenges are that you are the entire business - accounting, admin, legal, HR, etc. - so everything is your responsibility.

Q:  What advice would you give to other marketers who want to start out in the field of paid placements?

A: Take your education and experience into your own hands. Learn as much as you can. Connect with as many people as possible. Create your own internships by approaching startups or small businesses and offering to do their marketing so you can get that hands-on experience and have case studies to reference down the line. And, specifically if you want to be a self-employed marketer, choose one area within the marketing discipline to focus on, and own it. Be the master of that one thing. Tell everyone you know or come across that this one thing is what you do, all day and all night, backwards and in your sleep. "Marketing" and "social media" are really very vague terms that may not speak tangibly to the average business owner. Zero in on the thing you're great at and become the expert on that topic. One hundred percent of my business is word-of-mouth or referrals, and this is because everyone in my network associates "Facebook advertising" with "Jennifer Spivak."

[bctt tweet="#Marketers—take your education into your own hands, says @jennifer_spivak"]