Let me start with a confession: I have made a lot of mistakes with paid advertising. My goal is for you to avoid those same mistakes and, hopefully, save yourself a lot of money in the process. If only I had a basic set of principles to work from when I started advertising on Facebook over four years and $20,000-plus ago. My initial campaigns sucked. They were bad. Most of your campaigns may be bad as well. I’ve seen them on Facebook. And that reveals a big part of the problem. The fact that I, a licensed loan officer, am seeing campaigns meant for loan-seeking consumers should give you a strong hint at how you may be throwing away money as you read this. You can improve, and get more from your time and advertising budgets–if you follow a few simple steps. 1. Create your Fan Page Don’t have a Facebook Fan Page? Why the hell not? It’s free, it’s easy and it’s another avenue to share content and engage and influence consumers. In the context of this column, there’s an even better reason to set up a Fan Page … MONEY. Facebook does not want you sending traffic away from their walled garden. They prefer to keep you distracted inside Facebook. They make it obvious how MUCH they want you to remain consumed by Facebook by significantly discounting ads that keep you inside it. The big takeaway is clear: You’ll spend less on ads if you have a landing page ON Facebook, as opposed to linking away from Facebook to a landing page on your own Web site. More on the “landing page” later. 2. Determine your offer Well? Why are you advertising? My guess is you need leads. But what kind of leads? What is your niche? Are you a VA expert? USDA? Or, like me, renovation loan focused? Regardless, you will find riches in the niches and that is what you need to tackle. Borrowers don’t generally click on Facebook ads looking for a great rate. There are plenty of sites where banks compete and everyone loses. Don’t waste your time or resources to compete with that. You –and your ad should solve a problem or provide a resource that they (your target audience) cannot get from Lending Tree or Zillow. They want expertise. To determine your offer, ask and answer this question: What expertise do I have to provide them? 3. Set your target audience As intimated in the opening paragraph, this is the biggest money and time-waster out there. Why then do marketers fail to define an audience? This is Marketing 101. Advertising to the entire state of Florida, including the teenagers, will not make for a winning campaign. Facebook offers some of the best demographic targeting ANYWHERE. It is a treasure trove of information … useful information. I think the best way to illustrate it is through example. My most successful campaign was for HARP 2.0. The ad copy was a house, floating partially underwater, with the word “LIFELINE at the top. Simple enough, the ad copy didn’t make this ad, the targeting did. Knowing that certain subsets of the community, pillars if you will, were less likely to short sale or “hand over the keys” to their home because pillars of the community have lots of eyes watching them. I specifically targeted PTA and Chamber of Commerce members in Florida. I set the campaign up about a month prior to the HARP 2.0 launch. By opening day, I had 65 complete applications. This was my stairway to Heaven or so I thought. As luck and career choice have it, the mortgage business enacted its revenge: My employer decided to pull back from HARP 2.0 one day after it launched. Thus is life in our industry. 4. Create winning landing pages Yes, PAGES plural. If you want to be successful with paid marketing you have to A/B test. Period. There are multiple software platforms that allow you to automatically split test your landing pages—everything from the copy to the logo to the banners and buttons. Two of my favorites are Unbounce.com and Leadpages.net. There are also WordPress plugins that can help too. Put simply, if you are not split testing, you are throwing away money. Sometimes, even for experienced marketers, it can be difficult to understand the rhyme or the reason why certain landing page copy and/or imagery converts better than other version, but all you need to know is that it does. Because you tested it. Create multiple landing pages and test them … okay? 5. Track, analyze and lift conversions If you skip this step, you might as well stay out of the pay-per-click game. At the very least, hire someone to handle it for you, because you are going to struggle. Ad copy, landing page copy, audience targeting, time of day, you name it—you must track, test and tweak. Track, test and tweak. Track, test and tweak … it's the only way to spend your advertising dollars wisely and get the most from your campaigns. Will these five basic advertising steps instantly make you a titan of your industry? Of course not, but they will get you headed down the right path. The path to taking the lead. Jonathan Blackwell is chief engagement officer for BoldCopy.net. Jonathan may be reached by phone at (404) 551-3845 or e-mail [email protected]. This article originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.