Episode 73: What Should You Change first? Audience Or Ad To Lower Lead Costs?

You want to get the best performance results for your

Jody Milward

You want to get the best performance results for your clients with low cost per lead or low cost per acquisition from their ad campaigns, but what do you optimize first when the cost per lead is higher than you’d like?

Do you start with testing the ad or do you start with testing audiences? Great question! That’s what I dive into today, in this episode of Online Confidential, where I take you behind the scenes to talk about ‘Secret Ad Manager’ business.

When you launch ads and see the cost per lead data coming in higher than you’d like, you want to start testing and improving things. Do you start with the ad copy, or the creative, or the headline? Or do you start with testing the audiences?

This can feel a bit like a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation. Which comes first?

Should you change the Audience first or the Ads?

In a perfect world, you would have a budget that you could test ads across maybe three different ad sets and three different audiences. If this is the case, and you see results that are a bit high then the best option would be to start with optimizing the ads.

In this instance of optimizing the ads first, if you’ve got the creative consistent across three audiences and the cost per lead is coming in a bit high, work on the creative. I would generally start with the image that people are seeing in the newsfeed. Then I would look at the headline and think about how to change it up so it’s a nice snappy headline that might do better capturing people’s attention.

Next, I would look at the copy. First ad creative, then copy. This is the order I would personally work through to try and optimize an ad to get lower lead costs if the cost per lead is coming in higher than I’d like to see.

However, if you’re working with a client who has a budget of only $20 a day, (they really should be managing their ads themselves, or you could coach them with the help of my ADvisory program, but let’s talk about that another time…).

If you’re running ads for a client, who’s only got a budget of $20 a day, hats off to you! They’re some of the hardest clients to work with and get results for because a limited budget means you need to run ads for a while to get enough data through, and you have to work adset by adset, or ads by adset.

It’s much easier to manage $500 a day or $1,000 a day because then there’s enough money to do budgeting and testing various things in the campaign. When you’ve only got a budget of $20 a day for your test budget it’s also your performance budget. That $20 a day is everything. If you do have a small, small budget to run ads it’s really hard to get enough data in fast enough to make decisions to optimize results quickly.

With that $20 typically allocated to only one ad set you’ll be wondering, is it the audience, or is it the copy and creative? It could be any of those.

If you know it’s a proven audience that you have worked with in the past and you have experience with that audience working really well for other clients, or you’ve run campaigns to the same audience in the same ad account and it’s got good results before, then you can safely assume the problem is most likely the copy and creative.

However, if it’s a new audience and it’s new copy and creative, and everything’s new, then I would most likely start with optimizing the copy and creative first.

Chances are you’ve done the audience research and found an audience that’s a good fit because your client provided you with great information about their avatar with their messaging, hooks and pain points. Ideally, this means you’ve got copy that’s on point.

However, if you’ve done the work and the research, found an audience and start running ads to that audience, you’ll see after a few days, maybe three days or more, that with a budget of $20 a day, you’re probably not getting the results you need in a hurry.

You would need to run those ads typically for five to seven days to get the right amount of data, or at least a minimum amount of data before you can start making decisions.

What should you change first if you have a decent sized ad budget?

Regardless of the budget, you do need to make decisions at some point with all ad campaigns. If you have a decent ad budget and the costs per lead are high, I’d suggest continuing with the audience targeting and work on optimizing the copy and creative.

First, change the creative.  Use creative that’s a pattern interrupt, or something that’s really going to speak to the audience. While we like to use positive images, it’s also beneficial to have images that relate to what people experience.

One example I can share was a campaign for someone who helps people with thyroid issues.  They had two creatives. One image creative was of a lady with her hands up on a mountain and feeling great. The other image creative was of a lady who was lying on the couch in her suit, home from work and exhausted at the end of the day. The image of the exhausted lady on the couch was the image that resonated the most with people. That’s the image people clicked on.

Definitely try a positive image, but also try an image that relates to where people are right now and makes them think ‘oh my gosh, this is how I feel’ and emphasizes a believable pain point. Test which creative works better.

Here’s what I recommend when you need to work on improving the performance of your ads and lower the cost per lead because the CPMs may be too high, and you’re wondering if it could be the audience or the copy and creative.

Typically, these are the steps I follow to reduce higher costs per lead.

Keep the audience,

  • first change the creative,
  • then try a different headline,
  • refine the copy and work on the first line of the ad copy which is the hook to grab attention

If you’ve got a decent sized ad budget to go across multiple ad sets I recommend testing the audiences to see which audiences are performing and which audiences aren’t doing well. You would keep the performing audiences and test a different audience to see if you can get a better result than the underperforming audience.

I’d love to know what you think? What’s your approach to reduce costs when you see high costs per lead coming in from your ad campaigns?

Send me an email at success@socialcharlie. I’d love to hear your thoughts. That’s it for today’s episode.


I love to share practical information to help you improve your skills, learn something new or help you avoid the mistakes that many Ad Managers and I have made to help fast-track you on your journey as a well-paid and in-demand Ad Manager.