Marin Ištvanić is the Senior Media buyer for Inspire Brands Group, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in social media buys. Topics discussed in this episode include maximizing Facebook Ads, trends in media buying, SEO, and much more.
His role in Inspire Brands Group
Marin Ištvanić: I'm head of performance at Inspire. That mean that I'm kind of taking care of other media buyers that are handling the clients ad accounts. I do work on some of the ad accounts, some bigger ones that they're spending, I don't know, 20, 30k a day. I'm still kind of in the trenches in the ads manager, but mostly I'm kind of the guy that's creating a strategy for client that is kind of on the call and that is helping our media buyers to execute that strategy.
Alex Bond: And you were a senior media buyer in the past?
Marin Ištvanić: Yeah, I mean I still am a media buyer, but as I said, just for those kind of like larger clients that I started with them working when, when they were spending like just a couple of K so kind of we, we scaled them to kind of like 10k, 20k, 30k. So we worked with them for like several years.
So it kind of makes sense to continue to work on those ad accounts. But I'm kind of like slowly transitioning myself from the role of the media bar. Cause like you're limited with the time. You can just do a handful of pet accounts at a certain point, so that is why I'm kind of evolving to the role of strategies doing these calls and talking with the clients.
Maximizing the efficiency of ads
Alex Bond: You're pretty active on Twitter. I think you give a lot of like really insightful strategies for free on Twitter. You know, you've spent over $30 million on Facebook advertisements throughout your career.
Marin Ištvanić: No, no, it's exactly like this year. So like this year I spent over 30.
Alex Bond: This year you spent 30 million dollars on Facebook advertisements? That's even more insane to me. So what, you know, what are some of the strategies that allow such lucrative spending and how do you maximize the efficiency of, you know, such ads?
Marin Ištvanić: So I would say that like you have to have like a brew and market fit. So basically we usually take on the clients that usually have a proven market fit. So we are just there to kind of like amplify their ads. Cause like it's easier this way when you have like a client that like is struggling to get any traction, it's hard to scale. There could be so much things that are kind of like not aligned, maybe don't have like right email sequences.
Maybe their conversion rate is bad. But when you have like something dialed in, we are there kind of like to put the fuel on the fire and to scale it. I would say that apart market product, market fit, great product is one. Like definitely that is kind of like the biggest factor in having success on Facebook ads.
When you have a pro great product, it's like everything is easier. Then we can play with the different offers potentially. Like there can be buy product, get a free gift, buy one, get one, stuff like that. But in terms of like Facebook ads, proper structure is kind of like a found. So you need to kind of like always use conversion campaign because Facebook is pretty good in giving you what you want.
If you optimize for video views, you'll get only people that will watch your video. If you optimize for card, you'll get only people that will add to add to your card, but they will not end up buying. We will always want conversions. That's why we optimize for purchase. We separate our campaigns in like three or four different levels.
So basically level one is prospecting. Those are people that never heard of you. Then we have re-engagement. Those are people that watch certain percentage of your video or engage with your, and then we have website visitors, and then we have four Layer is existing buyers. So you want to treat those segments of audience differently.
For someone who never heard of you, you want to kind of like show a product demonstration video. You want to show how the product is working. What are some benefits then, like in the re-engagement phase? Someone potentially watch the video, but he's not convinced it would work with him. So potentially you will show him, I don't know, the testimonial video or a review video that like someone else already bought the product.
And he had like benefited from buying that product. Then potentially someone could click on that ad landed on your website, but he would potentially not ended up buying. We don't know what's stopping him for buying. So in that segment, we want to kind of like change our messaging to be focused more on the objection handling, potentially tackle that we are offering free shipping, past shipping, potentially give a discount.
So basically, different level of funnel the customer is, you want to treat him with different messaging and with a different creative.
Media buying trends and strategies
Alex Bond: Aside from Facebook or you know, Meta as they're referred to. What are the other media buys that you see an uptick in?
Marin Ištvanić: Yeah, so I would say that like Facebook is still the king, at least an channel that is generating the demand. So we have Google that is capturing the demand. So basically it's hard to get like someone new at your website, unless they're searching for something new on Google.
So like Facebook is generating the demand and Google is capturing it, like Facebook still has, is still most robust. It has, it still has like most data about the user. We are still seeing the best results on Facebook. What I would say like Snapchat was okay, maybe two, three years ago when it started, it was kind of like a fun new channel.
But they had kind of like problems with their attribution because lot of the conversions were viewed through conversions. So basically Snapchat would claim that sale happened from the Snapchat ad, although like people did not interact with the ad. Pinterest is a kind of like good fit for like only small niche.
Like some of the clients that are kind of like that fit organically on Pinterest. But I would say kind of like TikTok is definitely on the up prize. Especially kind of like in the last year, more people are kind of like on TikTok, they're spending more time on TikTok compared to Facebook the users see content is both educational and entertainment in the like, same scenario.
And like we definitely see some success with TikTok ads especially for kind of like low priced items cause it's hard to get like someone to buy a product out of the TikTok ad that is kind of like over one 50 or something like that. So definitely that sweet spot is, I would say between like 30 and 70 where we find most success with TikTok ads.
Alex Bond: What are the techniques or media buys that you're seeing less return on, or that you would probably recommend that businesses or brands to probably stay away from nowadays?
Marin Ištvanić: So I would say that like since the iOS update, which kind of like affected the whole landscape.
Alex Bond: And that's the iOS 14.5 update, correct?
Marin Ištvanić: Yeah, exactly. Since that update, users have option to kind of like opt out of tracking. That is kind of like making things harder both for us advertisers and then potentially affecting the users and the ads that they are seeing.
So, like people are saying like, ads are annoying, but like for me, ads are annoying only if they're not relevant. If I want to see something that I'm interested it, like it's not annoying to me, it's kind of like beneficial for me. So since people can opt out, our retargeting is kind of potentially affected.
Cause we could potentially show an ad to a user that already bought. So that's one thing that kind of we are having some struggles with. The other thing, like, again, due to iOS look-like audiences are kind of affected because Facebook has less. To work with its ability to kind of like find those kind of similar people is affected. And honestly, we mostly stopped using look a like audience since the iOS update.
Alex Bond: Interesting. That's very interesting. And I know that since you are so active on Twitter, you kind of post what you've been learning throughout the process. I find that extremely helpful and, and it seems that people are engaged with it.
And I wanted to ask if, you know, the last two or three weeks from about Black Friday to Cyber Monday, if there's anything during that time that you have learned that you'd be willing to share with our audience?
Marin Ištvanić: Yeah, for sure. I mean, Black Friday and especially like Q4 is kind of like the biggest event for any media buyer, for any kind of like DTC client.
There are some clients that kind of like earn, I dunno, 50% of their revenue only in November. Majority of our clients started early with their offer. So as we are approaching Black Friday, the CPMs are increasing because like even the people that are not advertising, usually they want to start advertising during Black Friday because it's a great chance for them to kind of like get good results and get cheap clients.
I would say that that brands that started earlier, so like mid-November with Early Black Friday offer or something like that, they had more success with because they kind of like captured those customers earlier. That's one thing. So basically start earlier. The second thing is like create a bundle of your product.
So basically if you do just discounting, you are kind of like eating your margins. But if you bundle, I don't know, two, three of your products, even though you offer a discount, you are increasing your AOV. So your margins are not affected so much. So definitely brand that started earlier and brand that kind of like combined it with bundling did best.
What I would say what was surprising this year that like CPMs were not so high as expected. So like last year we had like crazy high CPMs. We expected same this year, but luckily that didn't have happen. Obviously conversion rate was higher, so we managed to squeeze kind of like most of our retargeting and existing buyers audience.
So that was a great technique. So basically you are building your retargeting audiences the whole year and when it times like for Black Friday offer, you want to retarget to them. You want to kind of like show your offer. So that worked pretty well because we saw, like even with the smaller budget, we saw pretty high returns.
And then like thing that I would say worked best during Black Friday was advantage shopping plus campaign. That is a new feature that Facebook introduced like maybe a couple of months ago. It relies more on the AI and the automation. You don't have like so much nuances to pick on the asset asset level settings.
It is just kind of like you pick demographics and you pick country and Facebook kind of like suggest what are some of the ads that potentially could work great based on some of the, we don't know exactly what parameters, it's kind of like a black box, but that definitely work best for majority of our clients.
So basically Facebook is kind of like getting better. They were kind of like pretty hit with the iOS, but this new feature. It kind of like worked on all of my accounts. I'm pretty excited about continue to use it.
Alex Bond: That's awesome. That's very insightful. And what I'm hearing you say is, you know, start early. Target, retarget. And you know I've heard in past interviews that you've done that, you know, CPMs have gotten more and more expensive. So you actually were, what I'm hearing you say is lucky that it wasn't as as expensive as you expected.
Marin Ištvanić: Yeah, exactly. I mean, they did increase, like if you compare November to October, or if you compare last week of November to the first week of November, they did increase, but not to the extent.
Determining when to cut losses on an ad set
Alex Bond: And you know, speaking of margins, you've also stated in the past that maximizing efficiency for a brand isn't just about scaling winners anymore. It's also about cutting losses early and cut cutting losses as early as possible really. So how do you determine when to cut your losses on an ad set or you know, when not to?
Marin Ištvanić: Yeah, so basically that's a pretty good question. Based on the data that kind of like client provides and based on their margins, we have a hard number that says like, what is our target for us? Some clients want to be profitable on the first sale, so they want to kind of like, Our numbers.
Some, some clients they know, they kind of like can afford themselves a higher CPA because they are counting on the LTV and people buying again, again. So basically we can afford ourselves to spend more potentially lose on the first sale. Because we know that user will buy like two, three more times.
So basically that's kind of like more, most important number, which we look in the ads manager. So we make our decisions based on the asset level, but like if we are kind of like above that metric, we increase the budget. Basically we scale. If we are not, we enter the ad level and we kind of check how each individual ad is performing.
Cause sometimes you could have Facebook spending money on some ad that is not getting the good returns, but there's kind of like second or third ad that didn't spend so much but is having good returns. So we want to kind of like turn off that biggest spender with bad results and keep the other active.
So basically that way you are minimizing the losses. You're kind of like checking whether there is kind of like some losers on the asset level that will kind of save you some money. Obviously you want to kind of like turn off some of the ads that have like I dunno, 2-3x your average CPC.
Cause like even they, even if they did not spend much, cause you know, it's hard to be, it would be hard to be profitable with that CPC. So basically there are some early metrics, early indicators, and soft metrics that we are looking. We're looking cost per add to cart. Cause that's a pretty good early indicator whether the ad would kind like generate the sale.
We know what is kind of like average percentage of people that add to cart and the top buying. So we know what is our target cost per card, and then we can kind of make a decision whether it makes sense to keep this ad active or not. Also, if we are using video, we are checking some soft metrics like thumb stop ratio or hold rate ratio.
So basically thumb stop ratio is kind of custom metric that tells you how many people out of which your ad got served. How many people watched three. Because attention span is getting shorter, especially with the TikTok. So people are kind of like not even watching the the whole video. So basically if I see that only 10% of people watch three second, I know like something is wrong at the beginning, so I want to do another variation to increase that thumb stop ratio.
I would say that like 25% is a pretty good indicator that you have a strong. But if you have a strong hook, then you want kind of like get people to watch the rest of your video. So we check a hold rate. How many people that watch three seconds watch at least 15 seconds or 75% of the video?
That gives us a pretty good indication whether people are kind of like interested in the video. Cause sometimes you could have some kind of clickbait hook that says, that promised something unbelievable and then people kind of, okay, this is interesting, but then, then you do not provide value and they stop.
So basically we are watching how people are interacting with video after they interacted with the video, whether they added to carp and like how often and obviously how, how it is affecting our cpa. And then for ROAS. ROAS is obviously the most important metric, but you want to check those early indicator because that's a sign that potentially you can cut some of the losers even earlier.
Search engine optimization tips
Alex Bond: So I wanted to ask you about search engine optimization more specifically. So I think it's pretty evident that search engine optimization is an important tool in e-commerce. Marketing for a brand and you're, you know, you're a bit of an expert on the subject. I would consider more than I am. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that are less familiar with SEO and how to get the most value from it?
Marin Ištvanić: So, I would not say that I'm an expert, like in seo, I'm an expert I would say in paid social, especially in Facebook ads. But like, you know how they say you have to be like a T-shaped marketer, kind of like KNOW everything about all the other channels, but then like specialize in one.
So I know a bit like about SEO. It is important to kind of like have lot of the articles that are kind of like speaking about the topic that people are searching for. So you don't want to have like a blog post that is just talking about the product.
You want to have a blog quote that is talking about the problem and how to solve that problem even without like offering your product as a solution. It can be kind of like mentioned, but focus doesn't need to be around the product. It needs to be kind of like more educational style that would kind of like get you more clicks.
Because when you check the SEO, most people are like kind of searching how to something, how can I do something? So basically, if you provide the value in terms of the education and actually actually explain how to resolve a problem without mentioning that your product, you could get quite the traffic organically from the search engines.
Also having those back links. So basically if you're connected with kind of like some publications that are featuring your article somewhere, that helps because that's a sign that. Other authorized stages are kind of like recommending you. Facebook comes that as a sign of quality content. So I would say with, in terms of the SEO, you want to kind of like write the content on the like specific search terms that is most educational.
Most important factor in the success of a DTC brand
Marin Ištvanić: Ooh, that's a tough question. I would say that like definitely the product, product can kind of like either make or break your store. Like I saw like heaps of brands that think they have lot of product that is kind of like awesome and people would like it.
But if the people are not interested in, there's no need for the product. Like you could do all of the researchers like, and all of the kind of like fancy marketing and put like lot of the money, but if there's no need for the product, nobody will buy it.
So like product and the product market fit is definitely kind of the most important factor in terms of the success of a DTC brand.