Four Steps to Fix a Failed Facebook Ad Campaign

Four Steps to Fix a Failed Facebook Ad Campaign

“I advertised on Facebook and nothing happened!”

We hear it all the time from the small and medium-sized businesses we work with: “Facebook ads don’t work for us.” Yes, they know Facebook ads are increasing in popularity (advertising on Facebook has more than doubled in the past two years). Yes, they have seen the statistics (an almost 10% conversion rate across industries). But they gave it a go … and they got nowhere.

No clicks. Just crickets.

And yet here I am, telling them (and you!) they need to try Facebook advertising again. Why? Facebook advertising is one of the most powerful audience and sales-building tools in your small business toolbox—if you know how to use it. If you learn how to use Facebook ads effectively (or hire a professional to help), you will get better results. 

I see businesses expand their audience, showcase their products and services, generate leads, and convert new customers with Facebook advertising every day. I know that most failed Facebook ads are totally fixable with a little fine-tuning (and sometimes better funding). If you have a failed Facebook ad campaign, try working through the checklist below to see where things went wrong and how to make it right.

Find your audience on Facebook and filter it.

There are over two billion active users on Facebook, so it’s a safe bet some portion of those people are your potential customers. It’s also a solid bet that most of them aren’t. Making sure your Facebook ad is seen by the right people—and hidden from the wrong people—is absolutely essential to its success.

Even with increasing privacy controls and concerns, Facebook’s unprecedented amount of user data makes it very easy for you to find your people. For most businesses, demographics or psychographics based on personas or existing customer profiles will yield a promising audience.

All too often, people try to target the widest possible audience and not the most worthwhile audience. Don’t pay for pointless clicks! In any pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, strategic screening saves serious money. Once you have identified your audience, filter it.

Are you promoting a business seminar for women? Filter out men. Is your discount only for in-store purchases? Filter by geographical area. Smart filtering can keep you from accidentally alienating your existing customers, too. Running a signup special? Filter out existing customers and they won’t feel left out of the savings.

Create your Facebook ad and test it.

You don’t need to have or hire an advertising guru to create an effective Facebook ad, although that really helps. You do need to be clear, creative, and concise, and willing to do a little split testing right from the start.

Why are you buying Facebook advertising? To sell widgets, raise awareness of a cause, or get more subscribers to your email list? Your objectives need to be marketable and measurable.


  1. COLD AUDIENCES don’t know you and they don’t completely fit the profile of your current customer base. When you are launching a new product or service or expanding into a new area, you are often addressing a cold audience—the most challenging audience of all. Your Facebook advertising will need to give them a very compelling reason to come closer and warm up to you.
  2. LOOKALIKE AUDIENCES may or may not know you, but you know a lot about them. They share key characteristics with your current customer base such as age, interests, and income, and you can be fairly confident that marketing messages that have worked for your customers and clients will resonate with them.
  3. WARM AUDIENCES are friendly or have straight-up friended you. They have visited your website, signed up for your email newsletter, purchased a product or service, or interacted with you in some way. They like you and they are ready to learn or do more.

No one is on Facebook looking for your ad. If you want to pull their attention away from posts by family and friends, you need to give them a very good reason. Sales and discounts test well with audiences as do smart solutions to problems and pain points.

    The data is undeniable—visually compelling content is given preferential treatment in the Facebook algorithm and is more likely to catch eyes, “slow the scroll,” and create interest. Gather a couple of images you think will work, make sure they are properly optimized for your ad size, and commit to testing them against each other at the start of the campaign.

    Facebook advertising is on the move. Video ads are slowly taking over our streams, and there’s a very good reason for that: video ads typically have higher recall and conversion rates. If you decide to jump into the director’s chair, make sure your video ads are short (I recommend 30 – 60 second ads) and use captions to make your point even when muted. Over 85% of Facebook video ads are played silently.

    You caught a prospective client’s glance across a crowded screen. (Yes! Facebook advertising is romantic!) Now you need a clear call to action to convince customers to make the next move. Both your closing argument and your button text should make your best case.
    You are paying for every precious click, so think carefully about where that click should take potential customers. Don’t dump everyone on your homepage and hope they find what they want.

If you advertised a sale, send them to a landing page featuring a special assortment of discounted items. If you offered inside knowledge or insight, serve up your best blog post on the topic or ask for their email in exchange for an in-depth e-book. Anyone who clicks on your Facebook ad should go straight into a well-designed sales funnel.

And even if they click the back button or don’t make a buying decision right then, you can take advantage of remarketing opportunities so you can recapture their attention at a later time on Facebook.

If you ran a Facebook ad campaign without using Facebook Pixel you won’t really know if your ad is succeeding or failing. Facebook Pixel, a piece of code you add to your website, collects crucial tracking data on conversions that allow you to follow your leads around the web and follow up with them effectively. Especially with cold audiences, clicking on a Facebook ad is just the first step in the sales funnel. Facebook Pixel lets you grab hold of your leads and guide them where you want them to go!

Budget your Facebook ad like you believe in it.

I know this is hard—especially if you feel you’ve been burned on Facebook advertising before—but the primary reason Facebook advertising campaigns fail is for lack of funding. Facebook wants your ad to succeed as much as you do. After all, advertising dollars are how Facebook succeeds.

Your ad’s exposure is constantly calibrated by the Facebook algorithm from incoming user data to find the most favorable conditions. The more opportunities people have to interact with your ad the better it can be optimized. When you launch your brand-new Facebook ad into the world, it has a lot to learn—and that education costs money. There’s only one way to speed up that learning process and that is to pay more upfront.

So how do you decide how much is too much? For most small- and medium-sized businesses, Facebook advertising is a powerful customer acquisition tool. When you know the customer lifetime value (CLV) for your business, you know how much it makes sense to invest in your ad.

If you are short on cash or the CLV isn’t there, settle in for a slow burn. If your offer is time-sensitive, you need results right now, or your CLV is stratospheric, reach for your wallet and feed the beast.

Give your Facebook ad time to succeed.

First, build in a testing phase. Remember the 2-3 images I asked you to select? It’s time to test them against each other. You should also test different versions of your headline or call to action.

In the early days of a Facebook ad campaign your results are data, not dollars. Your ad is live, yes, but early data can only help you decide on the most effective elements for your Facebook ad, not whether or not your campaign is a success.

You did so much preparatory work. No matter how dazzling or disappointing the initial results, don’t pull your ad too fast! If you aren’t getting the response you want, fine-tune your Facebook ad before you declare it a failure. Let the algorithm find its rhythm.

Often it takes repeated viewings to convince customers to make that click. Studies show that many people don’t even notice an ad until the 7th – 9th showing, on Facebook or in traditional media. Given time, your Facebook ads will find clients and customers and start filling your sales funnel…assuming you’ve followed the steps above.

Think about your last failed Facebook ad campaign. Did you skip any of the important steps above? Maybe it’s time to give that ad another chance.

If you don’t want to go on this Facebook advertising journey on your own, or you want to get back to doing whatever it is that you do best and leave Facebook ads to people who eat, sleep, and live social ads, let me know. There’s nothing more fun than fixing an “almost there” Facebook ad campaign for another small business.