Why Context Matters In PPC Case Studies

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I read a great article today called 6 Surprising B2B Facebook Marketing Case Studies. It talked about Facebook ads, and how well they can work for B2B.

I totally agree – we’ve seen the same thing for our clients. Everyone thinks LinkedIn is the best place for B2B, but we’ve found that the audience there is small, and CPCs are high; plus the interface is clunky at best. LinkedIn does work, but Facebook works just as well if not better.

But this post isn’t about Facebook vs. LinkedIn. It’s about context in PPC case studies.

The “surprising” case studies in the article mentioned above leave a lot to be desired. They all lack context and statistical significance.

Now before someone starts throwing virtual darts at me, let me say a few things. I thought the point of the article was well-taken, and I agreed with it. I’m sure the goal was to write a brief, punchy article with “snackable” talking points (and don’t get me started on how much I hate the word “snackable”). But I’m not a fan of numbers being bandied about without context. Thus, this post.

OK. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at the case studies.

case 1

On the surface, this is a great example of why paid social (and paid search) is effective for attorneys. I used to have an attorney client, with similar success metrics. They only needed 1-2 cases per year to make PPC pay for itself.

But the attorney in the case study got one case, which does not a case study make. He could conceivably spend another $100,000 in a short time on Facebook and never get another case. The one case could totally have been luck. Or, his next case might be for $500 instead of $100,000. Does Facebook look so great in that instance?

The point is, one case isn’t statistically significant.

Now let’s look at cases 2, 4, 5, and 6.

case 3-6

The issue with all these examples is the same: there’s no context. Each case study mentions a cost per lead. If you’ve ever done lead generation, these CPL’s sound decent.

Decent compared to what?

We have no context for whether these numbers are good or bad for the clients in question. What’s the cost per lead for other channels? For case 6, what if paid search was driving leads and demos at $10 per signup? Facebook doesn’t look so hot in that case. Same thing goes for all the examples here.

For case 4, there’s enough data to back into some numbers. The industry event advertiser spent $21,758 to generate 305 registrations. That’s not a small investment for social PPC. The conversion rate was just over 1%, which isn’t bad for Facebook, but is pretty low compared with other channels (or is it? We don’t know since there’s no baseline included). CPC was $1.20, which is definitely lower than LinkedIn and probably lower than search, but what about display or remarketing? In my experience, $1.20 is high for both of those channels, even for B2B. And what’s the average cost per registration for this organization? Did the organization make money on a $71 cost per registration, or did they pay $71 for an event that cost $50 to register? I’m guessing registration cost more than $71, but again, we don’t know. So it’s hard to know whether Facebook was the right choice or not.

The cases aren’t all bad, though. Let’s look at #3.

case 3

This is actually valuable insight that a lot of advertisers and PPC pros don’t think about. Every PPC campaign is a test at the beginning – you’re taking a risk that it won’t perform. And every new business venture is certainly a risk. This business learned very cheaply that no one needed their product, by conducting market research on Facebook. Spending a few hundred dollars to save tens of thousands is pretty compelling. I’m actually thinking of recommending this tactic to clients who are thinking about launching new products or services – it’s a great way to test the waters.

Now, I’m sure there is more to the story for each of these case studies. I’d bet that the author has PowerPoint decks for each case with additional detail that he chose to leave out for the purpose of brevity.

Adding context wouldn’t have been difficult here, though; and it wouldn’t have taken away from the brevity of the article. Adding one sentence to Case 6 saying “The SaaS company’s average cost per demo was $150,” for instance, would stave off any questions or doubts in the reader’s mind.

I caution anyone who puts numbers out there to include context. It doesn’t take much space, and it makes your case even more powerful.

How do you present data in case studies when you’re talking to clients or prospects? Share in the comments!

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