Episode 173:

Maybe things run smooth as silk at your agency. I know that’s what I hope for in mine. It’s more likely to happen on a Saturday or Sunday! One of the ways that we all try to evoke that sense of efficiency and calm is by creating processes that systemize and manage work flow.

Not that many agencies do this (if anything, we are system adverse, not system advocates) you can take it too far. There’s a fine line between creativity and process. But if things can run more smoothly and free you and your team up to do more interesting things like coming up with bigger, more valuable solutions for your clients, then the payoff is worth the challenge of getting it in place.

If you remember my solocast where we talked about being a wonder bread factory versus an artesian baker, that’s part of what I talked about. How much uniformity and what kinds of boundaries do you want to put around your business?

There’s no right or wrong answer – just a right or wrong answer for you.

That’s what I wanted to talk to Michael Koral about, because he’s lived it. Michael started out with a more traditional agency that was primarily a web dev shop with some ancillary services. Their work was very labor and people-intensive. He and his partners decided to make an interesting pivot. They decided to leverage the power of artificial intelligence, data and numbers around advertising on Facebook and Instagram – to get people the best results possible and now they run a very different kind of agency.

Michael is an operations guy, with some fantastic ideas on process and automation –he naturally knows how to get more done, more simply. His company, Needls, helps businesses advertise effectively on Facebook and Instagram, so I am going to pick his brain about what they’ve learned in that arena as well.

 

 

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How the right processes and automation can help you scale your business
  • There are lots of right ways to do things
  • Why taking time to document and develop processes makes for a better agency
  • What to know about Facebook advertising post-Cambridge Analytica
  • Click vs. Reach – what you should optimize for
  • Why you NEED to optimize for mobile
  • Best ways to capture attention with video
  • Between Facebook and Instagram, where people are watching longer video content
  • Why you should put closed captioning on videos
  • How and why to track your ads

The Golden Nuggets:

“You can’t do everything yourself. If you want to scale your business, you have to start trusting people.” – @michael_needls Click To Tweet “As long as you have a place to house all these processes, you can iterate on them. And if your team knows where to go and to follow the process, then it makes change a lot easier to manage.” – @michael_needls Click To Tweet

Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!

Itunes Logo          Stitcher button

Ways to Contact Michael Koral:

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast. Now, on our third year of brand new insights on how small to midsized agencies survive and thrive in today’s market, we’ll show you how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. With 25+ years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Excited to have you back with us today if this is a repeat event for you. Welcome to the show and to our learnings if this is new to you. Today’s topic is going to be really fascinating. Actually, we’re going to split our focus. Today’s guest has several different interesting topics that I can poke at. So, I’m going to try and do my best to get to all of them. So, when I think about the business today that we are all in, it’s very different from when I started in my career 30 years ago. So, back then, particularly around media, it was pretty straightforward. Television and radio and print and outdoor, those didn’t change that much. The rules didn’t change. How to be effective, using those channels didn’t change.

But today, with all of the digital channels, especially with Google and Facebook and some of the other big players constantly tweaking algorithms and changing the rules about what we can and can’t do, it’s a much more complicated world that we live in and that we’re buying and placing media for. So, my guest today is a guy named Michael Koral. Michael started out, like many of us did, with a more traditional agency. He started with basically a web dev shop. So, very labor intensive, very people intensive. And then he and his partners decided to make a really interesting shift.

That shift was they wanted to really leverage the power of artificial intelligence and data and numbers and find a way to calculate some of the variables, especially around Facebook and Instagram, in a much faster, more accurate way than we humans can do by leveraging, again, artificial intelligence. So, what they’ve done now is they’ve really shifted their agency to more of a media buying agency, specifically around Facebook and Instagram, but much of the work is done through artificial intelligence and through automation, rather than human beings making assumptions or calculations. They certainly have people behind the scenes doing a lot of other work, but much of the data crunching and decision making is being made in a very interesting new way.

So, I want to talk to Michael about everything from, “How do you make the decision to shift from a very labor intensive, people intensive delivery system to something that is more automated and less humanized, if you will?” And then I also want to pick his brain, because they spend millions of dollars on Facebook on a regular basis. So, they’re seeing trends and patterns and best practices that perhaps those of us that are not placing that kind of volume don’t get a chance to see. So, I want to ask them about some best practices, too. So, as you can imagine, I have a lot of questions and we don’t have much time to get to all of them. So, without further ado, let’s jump into the conversation.

All right. Let’s welcome Michael Koral to the show. Michael, welcome to Build a Better Agency. Thanks for joining us.

Michael Koral:

Thank you. Great to be here. Can’t wait to dive in.

Drew McLellan:

So, before we dig in, I did a little bit in the intro, but tell everybody the path that you went to to create what you call the first ever RoboAgency. Define that for us. Walk us through your career path of how you got there.

Michael Koral:

Sure. Well, I’ll define a RoboAgency after I go through the path. It’s been myself and my two co-founders, Jeremy and Justin. We’ve actually known each other since we were in grade school. We actually met at a summer camp out in Halifax, Nova Scotia when we were 14 years old. So, we’ve been friends for quite a while. Needls is actually our third or fourth business that we’re actually running together. The first couple one was a web development company called All You Can Eat Internet. So, just doing basic web development, ecommerce, things like that. The second one was WeSellYourSite.com, which was a full service web brokerage firm, selling high-end web businesses.

So, we had those two businesses from, I’d say, 2007 up to 2013, 2014, or so. We created Needls out of a need for those two businesses. We want to find a way to generate more leads for those two companies. We knew that Facebook at the time, they were just starting out with their ad platform. We want to be able to capture leads from Facebook for our own businesses. So, what we actually did was we created a little script on our Facebook pages that monitor conversations in real time that talk about needs for those businesses.

So, as an example, someone’s saying on Facebook that they need a new website developed or they’re just starting a new business, I need a website done. We would have that lead sent to us directly and then we’d reach out to them to actually close the deal. We closed hundreds of thousands of dollars of business through that method. So, we knew we had something there. After building that script, we turned the idea of finding leads on social media into a full advertising platform that is Needls that basically creates that, which is that RoboAgency. To describe what that Robo agency is, it’s what every typical agency would do, but all automated.

So, in a few simple questions, we’re able to create target and optimize ads on Facebook and Instagram using data science and machine learning. So, essentially, instead of having a business owner pay an agency a couple grand a month for the service or doing it themselves or using another platform that really is meant to automate their own knowledge, we do understand to target the people that really don’t know how to advertise properly on Facebook and giving them a tool to do that super simple. So, that’s what that RoboAgency is. It gives people a very easy way to create, target, and optimize ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, for those of you guys listening, if you are in one of our peer networks, if you are an AMI member in any way, then you know that you have access to what we call the AMI Marketplace, where companies like Needls put together special offers for our members. So, this is not just for direct clients. Your tool, I’m assuming since you’re in the Marketplace, is a tool that agencies can also use to automate a very labor intensive process that for many agencies, they struggle to charge enough money, because clients don’t perceive the value of how meticulously you have to go through all the data and set everything up in the campaigns.

So, in a lot of cases, I’m guessing that your clients are agencies who are using this to deliver better results with Facebook and Instagram ads at a fraction of the cost and most importantly at a fraction of the time investment.

Michael Koral:

Oh, absolutely. We have hundreds of different agencies that are leveraging Needls for their clients, right? The biggest challenge is that, like you’re saying, Facebook advertising is hard. Agencies that aren’t necessarily focused on Facebook ads, maybe it’s a web development agency, maybe it’s a design agency, things like that. They want to just add more value to their client base, but they just don’t know how to do Facebook ads well.

They can leverage our platform to automatically create these campaigns for their clients and increase the revenue per user, which is huge. There’s like white labeled reports, which are fantastic. So, you can just download a PDF report with their logo on it. It just makes the whole process much simpler. You don’t now have to charge $2,000, $3,000 a month for these clients. You can charge, let’s say, 500 bucks a month and still give them a ton of value.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, or you can charge them $2,000 and actually have margin, as opposed to this being a loss lead that you’re trying to get other work through.

Michael Koral:

Exactly. We actually have agencies doing $5,000 or $10,000 a month, because they’re offering more than just Facebook ads. They’re doing the design. They’re doing the creative. They’re just consulting. They have a phone call a week to just help these business owners and nurture them and just coach them throughout their business, because a lot of them need that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. So, really what you went from is you went from a traditional agency model, where regardless of how you package that, you were selling time and material when you were building websites and things like that, and then you got thrown into the web and domain brokerage space. Now, you’re at this RoboAgency. What had to change in terms of how your business is structured?

Michael Koral:

Yeah. So, it’s actually funny. When we built those two other businesses, it was really just myself and my two co-founders. We didn’t have really any employees. It was just us managing it. We just used contractors to fulfill the work on the web development side. On the brokerage side, we were just the broker. So, we weren’t actually managing anybody in our own ways, right? When we moved over to the RoboAgency, it was really all about changing the mindset from the doing things yourself to actually getting processes done and creating processes that are repeatable and scalable, right?

So, it’s going from, “Okay, I have to do all this stuff myself” to “Let’s figure out the right processes and automate those. If we need human capital to do that, let’s fill those spots with the right people to do that job and oversee those processes,” right? So, it was more from thinking about, “What do I have to do today?” to “What can I do today to help automate and scale my agency?” With a RoboAgency, we’re able to do that. Everything that we do is very much so automated and process driven.

Drew McLellan:

Was that a challenging mind shift for you? Because for a lot of agency owners, they’re so caught up in the day to day, because really what you did was you moved from being a doer to a manager or a director. How did you make that mental shift? I think one of the things for many agency owners, they struggle with making that shift, with not serving the clients, with not doing as much client work, because then it feels like they’re not adding value to the company. They’re so used to defining their value by either billable hours or by being super busy doing stuff for clients that I think it’s a difficult change to make.

Michael Koral:

It was at the time, because previously, we want to have control over the whole process and actually do all those things ourselves. So, being able to take a step back and say, “Okay, I’m going to let technology and my team handle things that I used to handle.” You have to switch. We were able to document what we were doing and take what’s in our head, put it down on paper or on a Google Sheet or whoever you’re using for that to make sure that we can actually transfer that knowledge. So, you have to think about, “Okay, what can somebody else do that I was doing previously?” Maybe not 100% the way I was doing it, but even if it’s 95%, that’s still very, very good.

It allows you to help scale your business because you can’t do everything at an agency. You really can’t. You want to, but you really can’t. Especially if you want to scale, you have to start trusting people. The biggest thing is before, we didn’t need to trust anybody but ourselves and we trusted ourselves. Now, we’re really trusting technology and people.

So, the hardest things for us was finding the best people. That’s a whole other beast, going through interview processes and things like that, which it’s something that we really were thinking about doing. It actually worked out well. It took some time. We interviewed a bunch of different people. And then we went through that whole process, but we documented it. Now, we know how to interview people properly and know what to look for for the right roles.

Drew McLellan:

Well, it’s interesting what you said. I think many agencies owners struggle with, “I’m the only one who can do this” or “I’m the only one who can do that.” The translation of that often is no one else does it the same way that I do it. I think one of the aha moments that we have to all get to when we start delegating work and we realize that we can’t keep it on our plate is that there are lots of right ways to do it. Your way is certainly one of the right ways to do it, but you have to let go of the idea that everything has to be done the way you would do it. For some people, that’s an easier transition than others.

Michael Koral:

Yeah, absolutely. Initially, we really struggled with that. We knew how to do something well and we just weren’t sure if our team would do the same job. It takes training. It takes coaching, right? You do that all the time with customers. You coach them and train them on how to run their businesses. Depending on the agents that you have, you can do the same thing with your team. It may take a month or two months or three months to get them up to speed, but you’ll be really thanking yourself by going through that process, because then you’re going to have more time to find more clients versus actually being in the weeds with your clients.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think the word that that you’ve used several times, the idea of creating a process or a system around it. So, I think one of the challenges for agency folks is a lot of times, we do that through tribal knowledge transfer. I’m walking by you in the hallway and I say, “Hey, don’t forget it’s Tuesday and you have to call the client at 4:00.” But there’s no documentation of that. So, if you get hit by a bus or you quit or whatever, now I have to have the same conversation with the new version of you over and over.

So, I know that it is challenging to document processes and I know that most agency owners, that’s not what we love to do. We don’t love to get in the weeds and get into the detail. By the way, you don’t have to do it all. Your team can be super helpful in this, but by actually creating process documents that say, “Here’s how we do this thing.” So, there is consistency, because that’s the other thing. As you start to scale, you start to see inconsistencies between the way Bob does it versus Mary versus Beth.

By having, “This is my agency’s way of doing it,” then you can bring everybody back together. I think a lot of agencies, especially when they get to 18, 20, 25 people, you can’t let everybody do it their own way anymore. It’s just too scattered. There’s too many balls that get dropped and all of that. So, if you want to keep scaling your business, like you did, sooner or later, you have to embrace the idea that there’s got to be some systemization that happens.

Michael Koral:

Absolutely. When we started Needls, it was just myself, my two co-founders, and one developer. That was it, right? When we started that back in 2014, one of the first things that we did was open up a Google Doc and literally outlined every single thing that we need done in the business on a day-to-day basis and just like bullet points. This is what we need done, right? And then we went through that and we said, “Okay, which of these things can be automated through technology and which of these things actually need a human to do?” We went through step by step and process by process and just started writing things out and putting the right technology into the right places in order to do that, right? That’s really where you have to start.

If you have an agency with 10, 20 employees already and you don’t have the processes there, then that’s okay. You can still open up that Google Doc and write out everything that you do in the business and figure out where the holes are, what doesn’t have a process yet, and then put the right people in place to start doing those processes. We’re still doing that today. We have 25 people on staff. We’re still building up processes, because processes change, too. We have to adapt to that as well. So, as long as you have a place that has all these processes in there, you can iterate on that. If your team knows where to go and to follow that, then it makes change a lot easier to manage.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s a good point. Defining and refining process is a never ending chore inside a business. By the way, this is not just agencies. It’s any business. I also, by the way, don’t think you have to have 97,000 processes. As Michael is saying, I think you identify the key ones that get repeated over and over and over and are critical points of success, either internally or with clients. Those are the ones that you document with great detail. And then you put them on a rotation so that every process is reviewed once a year.

If it needs some tweaking or some updating, then that’s when you do that in terms of the written documentation and then you test it to make sure that that’s how you want to evolve the process. After that, it just becomes this easy rotation where you might be looking at a new process every month, but everything is constantly being updated and reviewed.

Michael Koral:

Yeah, you got it exactly right. We couldn’t live without process right now. It’s huge to our business from support to sales to development. They obviously all have different processes, but they’re actually housed in one spot. Just one simple example, we use Confluence. It’s an Atlassian product. It’s a super simple way to just have different workspaces for each of our departments. There’s different processes laid out within each of those workspaces, right?

So, it’s just like a hub where people go to to understand how to do certain things. If you want to change things, you can easily do that too. You can actually follow different change logs of the processing. Two years ago, we’re doing it this way. Now, we’ve graduated to doing the process this way. It’s much more streamlined and more effective. So, you can actually see how you go.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, or there’s a tool in place today that didn’t exist back then or whatever it may be.

Michael Koral:

Exactly, exactly.

Drew McLellan:

All right. I want to shift our focus a little bit, because you guys are obviously placing bazillions of dollars of ads on Facebook and Instagram. So, I want to pick your brain about some best practices around that. Let’s first talk about obviously, Facebook has gone through some significant changes recently in 2018, especially around some of the ad opportunities and requirements. So, can you just comment on those changes and how that has changed the way we all have to approach these channels?

Michael Koral:

Yeah. So, I mean, when that thing came out with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook goes under hot water or stock going down, all that fun stuff, everyone was scared in not knowing what’s going to happen with Facebook and with advertising. That was actually a huge positive for us, especially with agency owners and SMBs alike, because they were too nervous to go directly to Facebook to create an ad. They want to go ahead and trust somebody that’s been doing it before, right? So that helped us a lot, because they’re just like, “Oh, I’ve been doing this myself, but I just don’t know what’s happening with Facebook right now. I go to somebody that I trust.”

To be frank, all the changes that they’re making on their platform, we understood what was happening slightly before the public. So, we’re able to iterate on those changes prior to the public really knowing about that. So, we’re ahead of the game that way. But with all the different privacy concerns and things like that, we know that the Facebook platform is not going away anytime soon.

You just have to be smarter about the types of ads and who you’re targeting. You have to be just a little bit smarter about creating those things. That’s something that we do well. That’s why people come to us, but if you’re not going to us, there’s tons of documentation online as to, “What is new with Facebook? What’s going away?” So just educate yourself on that. If you want to go at it, go at it of yourself.

Drew McLellan:

So, if somebody was going to self-serve, what are one or two things that they need to be very aware of? What are the best practices based on the changes? So, I think everyone’s familiar with the changes. I think the place where they perhaps can use some tutelage from you is, “Great, now how do I still use the platform effectively?”

Michael Koral:

Sure. So, one very, very simple thing and this is when Facebook started out with advertising is the best way to advertise back in 2012 on Facebook was to create a campaign that was driving link clicks and traffic to your website, right? You create a campaign. You optimize it for link clicks and then send it to your site, right? People to this day still assume that that’s the best way to do something. Let’s just drive someone to your site. But if you go to the Facebook platform, there’s now about 14 different options for a campaign creation, right? So, the simplest way to do it is actually creating a reach campaign versus a click campaign, okay?

The reason being is if you create a click campaign, you’re really optimizing for people who are very click happy and not necessarily someone who actually wants to work with your agency or your business, right? You can have, let’s say, your mother going ahead and going through your newsfeed and just clicking on everything that they see, because they just like seeing ads and clicking on them. You can get a very cheap cost per click, but the intent really isn’t there whatsoever. So, the idea is to create a reach campaign to reach a lot more people that could be interested in your product and not focusing the optimization directly on a click to your website, right? So, that’s the first thing.

Second, if you’re creating a campaign on Facebook and you’re not thinking about mobile, then you’re really doing it wrong. 80% of the delivery on Facebook is coming from mobile, right? So, if you’re looking at your business now, you look at your website, open on your phone and check out to see, “Does my mobile website… Does it look good?” If you’re shaking your head, saying, “No, I have some work to do,” then I’d say pause, don’t even do Facebook ads yet. Make sure your mobile site is highly optimized, because otherwise, you’re going to be missing out on literally 80% of the traffic. It’s not going to convert nearly as well. So, that’s the second thing.

The third thing is with video. Video is an incredible tool to use. It doesn’t have to be very much scripted. It can be very casual. You can look at your smartphone and just record yourself talking about your agency. That’s way better than having a designed image that you put up as an ad. Video is fantastic. The clickthrough rates are significantly higher than on images. So, if you don’t have a video, you should get one. Absolutely.

With video as well, you want to make sure you’re capturing people’s attention right away with what you’re offering, right? So, you don’t spend your first 10, 15 seconds just saying, “Hi, I’m X person from X agency.” You want to have that wow factor right within the first three or four seconds, saying, “We can help you do better at Facebook ads,” or “We can help you grow your business,” something that catches them and makes them stop in their newsfeed.

So, I think those three things. Reach campaign, mobile first, and video versus image are three, I guess, very simple things to do if you’re not doing Facebook ads right now to start and dip your toe in the water for it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay, great advice. I want to ask you more about Facebook video ads in a second, but first, let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come right back. I wanted to take just a quick second and remind you about one of the core offerings of Agency Management Institute. That is our peer networks. So, we offer them both for agency owners and also what we call key executives. So, if you’re attraction follower, these would be for your integrators. These are your right hand people who help you run the business day in and day out.

So, from the owners perspective, imagine a Vistage group or an EO group, only everyone around the table owns an agency. These folks become like your board of advisors. They become trusted friends that you learn a lot about their business and they learn a lot about yours. So, not only do you learn from us, the facilitators, but you’re constantly learning from your peer group as well.

The same thing happens in the key executive groups. We bring them together and we help them learn how to help you bring your vision to life as an agency owner. If you want to check out either of these peer groups, you can go over to the AMI website and look under the Networks tab. There you will find information on both our live and our virtual agency owner peer groups and also our key executive group. Check it out. If you’re interested, let us know. We’re happy to have a conversation. Okay, let’s get back to the episode.

All right. We are back with Michael talking about Facebook and best practices. So, before the break, you had started to talk about video. So, what are some of the mistakes that people are making when they are using Facebook video ads?

Michael Koral:

Sure. So, one of the first things and I touched upon it before the break is they’re making them way too long, right? The attention span for people on Facebook and on Instagram is so short. Literally, every single month, I feel like the attention span goes down by a few seconds, right? So, if you created video that’s three minutes long, don’t bother, right? You have to be short and to the point and grab somebody’s attention right away, right? So, that’s the first thing is they’re making them too long.

Secondly, they’re not really mobile optimized. They just don’t look good on a video on a mobile device. So, just make sure when you’re doing or creating a video that it’s optimized specifically for mobile. It doesn’t have to be… I think that was mentioned before. … too scripted, right? A lot of people think they have to have a huge production and spend $3,000 to $5,000 on this very well-designed video, but those actually produce worse results than just keeping it natural, right?

Some of the ads that we do ourselves is literally just myself in front of my phone or in front of a camera we have in the office just talking about the benefits of Facebook ads and why you should use Needls, right? We’re not paying somebody thousands of dollars to get something all queued up and looking fantastic, right? The more natural you are and the more genuine you are, the better you’re going to do with Facebook video ads.

Drew McLellan:

So, before you go on with things that we need to tweak, in your opinion and based on all the data you see, because I’m sure you see tons of data with all the ads you’re placing, what is the optimum length of time for a video?

Michael Koral:

Sure. So, between 30 and 45 seconds is the perfect time for a video. Anything longer than that, you lose engagement. We find that that first three to five seconds is key, right? If they get past that first three or five seconds and they’re still watching, you have them hooked and then you’re golden. But between 30 to 45 seconds is definitely the length of time you want to be at. If you have to go over, go ahead, but just know that the vast majority of people may not watch the rest of it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, pack all the good stuff up front, rather than waiting for a big reveal at the end too, would you say?

Michael Koral:

Yeah, yeah, there’s no point. No one’s going to watch it, right? Facebook tracks metrics like percent of video watched, right? The vast majority only watched, the first three to five seconds as they scroll through their newsfeed, right? So, you really have to capture that attention. That first screenshot or caption needs to be something that’s eye catching, right? So, when you normally create a video, you may have a weird looking face. So, the first second, you can actually pick what screenshot you want out of the video. So, it’s something that people stop and look at, right? Maybe it’s a wow face or something like that. Yeah, definitely.

Drew McLellan:

In terms of placing buys, are you finding that the same kinds of ads work as well on Instagram as they do on Facebook? Because I know a lot of people just repeat what they’re doing in both places. Do you find that that’s effective, or should we be developing separate ads for each platform? If so, how are they different?

Michael Koral:

Sure. So, with our platform, we actually do what’s called just cross-platform optimization, right? So, what we actually tell our users to do is input the identical ads for both Facebook and Instagram. We’ll actually tell you which ads are performing better across which platform, right? It really depends on who you’re targeting. The Instagram audience is a little bit of a younger audience than Facebook, right? So, depending on what your service is, whatever agency that you’re doing, if you’re going after an older crowd, you may just want to go and just do Facebook ads. If you’re going after a younger crowd, do Instagram.

If you’re doing both, then obviously, you can create a similar ad on Facebook and Instagram. Our platform actually tell you which one is doing better. We haven’t seen many of our businesses have a different strategy for Instagram versus Facebook. If you’re going after both platforms, you want to have a similar message across the platforms and across the different channels. So, it doesn’t get lost, right? You’re not seeing one thing on one platform and something else on another platform.

Drew McLellan:

But in terms of the ad structure or where the headline is placed or video versus static, you’re not seeing a difference between how those ads are being responded to on the two platforms.

Michael Koral:

Yeah. On video specifically, we’re seeing that Instagram is being watched longer, slightly longer than Facebook, which is actually surprising, because on Instagram, you have a younger demographic that has a shorter attention span, but it’s counterintuitive to what the stats that we see that people are just spending more time on Instagram now than Facebook. So, the length of videos watched are a little bit higher.

When you’re doing still images, you brought that up, the orientation of the images are slightly different, right? On Instagram, it’s a square. On Facebook, it’s typically rectangular, right? If you’re designing an image, you try to want to make it so that whether it’s a square or rectangle, it works for both. If you want to have a different strategy for each one, then just keep that in mind, square for Instagram and rectangular for Facebook.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I know one of the things you’re talking about when we’re talking about video is making sure that we optimize that video for mobile. Are there tools that you recommend to your clients that they use, that they process their video through or that they implement to make sure that the video is optimized for mobile?

Michael Koral:

Yeah. So, what I would do is you can create the video any way you want. If it’s on your smartphone, then it’s fully optimized for mobile, because you’re recording it in that orientation, right? If you want to show, let’s say, an iPhone video on desktop, if you’re using a Mac, simply using iMovie is very, very easy to use. Just make sure you fill the space on either side of the video, so it’s not just a rectangular iPhone video with nothing on either side. You can actually have some text on there or something like that that just enhances what you’re talking about within the video.

So, we have a lot of clients using iMovie, which is very, very simple to just slice and dice a specific video. If you want to see what it looks like on different platforms, there’s a service called BrowserStack, right? What that allows you to do is look at your videos or your websites in all the different devices, whether it’s an Android phone, an iPad, an iPhone, all the different browsers themselves, like your Firefox, Internet Explorer if people still use that, Safari, things like that.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. Is there a size that we should be keeping in mind? Some videos get huge. So, if I recorded on my phone, can I just be assured that that’s about the right size, that I could just upload it directly from there?

Michael Koral:

Yeah, as long as you’re not recording-

Drew McLellan:

Twelve hours.

Michael Koral:

Yeah, exactly, a 12-hour video. Then the size on your phone is perfectly fine. You want to try to keep it may be under 50 megabytes. That’s probably a good best practice to look at. Anything more than that, it just takes a little bit longer to code in. But one thing you actually reminded me about something, a best practice when it comes to a video. Most people when they’re looking on their mobile phone or on their desktop, they don’t have the sound on, right? If you’re doing a video with no sound and you’re just talking, you got to have closed captioning on there, right? You got to have some titles.

If you don’t have that, you’re missing out on probably about 90% of the people that are watching your video, right? Because think about it yourself. Do you really have your volume on all the time when you’re on your own? You probably don’t. You turn on your volume if you want to listen to something, but most people just scroll through and just watch videos and just look at subtitles on the subway or even during meetings or wherever they’re watching that video.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. Okay, yeah, that’s a good one. What else? What other mistakes do you think agencies and clients are making? You talked about when you’re picking the campaign that you shouldn’t be looking for clicks, because you end up paying for a lot of clicks that are meaningless. What other common mistakes do you see folks making when they place ads on Facebook and Instagram?

Michael Koral:

Sure. One of the biggest things is you want to be able to track your results, right? That’s the biggest thing. Everyone wants to do Facebook ads. They want to say, “Okay, am I getting a return on my investment?” Most agencies or business owners, they’re just putting up the ad and spraying and praying, hoping that they can somehow track if someone clicks an ad that they get a client from that. So, one thing that Facebook has, which is invaluable, is the Facebook Pixel, little piece of code that you install on your site to track what’s happening with your Facebook ads, tracking the conversion.

So, let’s say you’re an agency and someone clicks your ad. It takes them to a form on your website. You want them to fill out that form to get their lead information, right? When someone hits submit, you want to make sure you have a Pixel event on there that fires to say, “Okay, this person directly came from a Facebook ad and filled this form. So, you know that your Facebook ads are working.”

So many, many agencies and business owners just don’t have that Pixel set up. So, they’re losing out on that trackability and that return on their investment. There’s so many of our customers that we push and say, “Here, please install a Pixel.” They may not know how to do that or they just don’t want to do it. And then they come back to us a couple months later saying, “Hey, I didn’t get any results from our campaign.” And then we say, “Well, remember when we started, we asked you to put in the Pixel.” They’re like, “Yeah, but we didn’t think it was necessary.” We’re like-

Drew McLellan:

That’s how we would have known.

Michael Koral:

Yeah, that’s how we would have known, right? So, for us, it’s almost like a retention strategy to say, “Okay, now put in the Pixel to see all the results that you were missing and not tracking,” because we ask them, “Have you generated sales in the last couple months?” Oh, yeah, I definitely have, but I haven’t seen it come from Facebook. We’re like, “Well, how do you know?” Oh, I guess not, right? That’s a huge mistake that people are making. They don’t track their ads, right? In this day and age, there’s so many ways to track. The Facebook Pixel is huge. You really need to do that.

Drew McLellan:

Well, every agency, I think, is struggling to make sure that they can demonstrate ROI wherever they can. So, this is a place where you actually can demonstrate, at least, some traction or movement from an ad into either an informational page or a landing page or as you said, a form or whatever it may be. So, why wouldn’t you do that? Yeah.

Michael Koral:

Exactly. So, that’s a huge thing. Trackability, return of investment, it’s massive. Just in general, when it comes to creative, I think a lot of agencies and business owners are overthinking the actual copy itself, right? They’re trying to just put way too much text within the ad that people just don’t read it, right? It doesn’t happen anymore. Like I was saying, retention has been super low. So, you want to have very just impactful statements that talk about a problem that that agency or business owner is solving and just stick to that.

If you’re not that creative, that’s okay. There’s people to help with that. Especially with our platform, as an example, we have live chat. Right when they’re filling out the creative information, we can say, “Hey, do you need help with that?” There’s a little pop up comes up saying, “Okay, sure.” We have agents that actually help them with copy. So, if an agency owner is thinking about using Needls for Facebook ads but they aren’t creative, we can actually help with that too to take that off your plate.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think one of the places where agencies struggle, especially if they’re a traditional agency, is I think writing for platforms like Facebook and Instagram. They’re different than writing for print ads or radio spots or any of the traditional mediums. So, it depends on who they have on staff. If you have somebody who’s a good digital writer and they understand the digital audience and the brevity that is needed and all of that, then you’re in great shape. Otherwise, that may be a skill that your team needs to learn.

Michael Koral:

Yeah, exactly. Robots aren’t there yet to come up with the best creative. I wish.

Drew McLellan:

Thank God. You say, “I wish,” but every agency out there listening is saying, “Thank God for that, because we’d be out of work,” right?

Michael Koral:

Exactly. No, we understand that. We call ourselves a RoboAgency, but behind the RoboAgency are a bunch of humans actually doing jobs.

Drew McLellan:

Of course, but you’re using AI to look at trends and statistics and predictability and all of that. So, that makes perfect sense.

Michael Koral:

Exactly. All the actual hard stuff, the targeting and optimization of these Facebook ads, humans are, I think, now lagging behind what robots can do and what machine learning and automation can do for these ads. I know that myself, because it was a very humbling experience when it started Needls. I’m pretty good at Facebook ads myself. When we finally got the platform working to where it is now, I ran a campaign myself and I ran the exact same campaign on Needls.

Initially, within the first week or two, what I was doing myself actually beat what Needls was doing, but after four or six weeks, I was blown out of the water, right? The clickthrough rates are so much higher. The conversions are so much higher. I thought I was doing a good job every single day going to the Business Manager and tweaking the things that I thought I was supposed to be tweaking, because I’ve been doing that for a while, but the system just does significantly better, right? That’s just the nature of the beast.

Drew McLellan:

Yup. So, one last thing that we are doing that creates expensive or ineffective advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

Michael Koral:

One last thing. At the end of the day, I already talked about mobile and mobile is you have to do that. You should really focus on video. That’s a fantastic thing, too. The last thing I’d leave you with is that if you don’t have a proper sales funnel in place to start with, then don’t do Facebook ads, right? You’re driving people to a landing page that just doesn’t convert. Maybe it’s built in the ’90s or whenever it is. If you’re not converting already on other methods, if you’re doing Google ads or if you’re just driving referral traffic, whatever it is, if you’re not converting there, then what makes you think you can go to Facebook and magically start converting there as well?

So, having a highly optimized landing page and a funnel is crucial to having successful Facebook ads. You don’t know how many agencies that come to us with pages that we look at and say, “How are you still in business?” We don’t really understand that, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re a brick and mortar agency or a digital agency, you’d think if you’re digital, you have a pretty decent, decent funnel. But for brick and mortar agencies that aren’t focusing on digital, it’s crucial to have a high converting landing page just to start off with. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to do it. There’s companies like ClickFunnels or LeadPages or Instapage to create something that captures people’s information very, very quickly and effectively.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think people think of conversion as they have to give me money. Really, the currency you may want is their name and email address. So, it doesn’t have to be conversion to an actual sale. It’s just moving them further along the sales funnel in some measurable way, as opposed to just getting them to information for example.

Michael Koral:

Yeah, exactly. It depends on the agents that you’re running, but some agency owners, what they do is they provide a lead magnet, right? Let’s say filling out a form to just learn more about the agency. Fill out this forum to get an eBook or a guide or something or a podcast or something that they can digest to allow the agency to come across as the expert in the field that they’re doing. You could imagine, if you see an ad, the first thing you’re seeing is, “Okay, I’m X agency and I do this,” but I don’t know you. Who are you? Why should I listen to you? If you give them something of value first, that just instills, “Okay, there’s more trust factor there, because they know what they’re talking about before you go ahead and pitch them with whatever offer that you’re offering.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, it does harken back to the idea of we have to have something of value to share. We have to share our expertise. We have to differentiate ourselves from everybody else out there. That’s true, whether it’s the agency doing it themselves or it’s the agency doing it on behalf of a client. So, that’s the best practice all around, I think-

Michael Koral:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

… Facebook or Instagram or whatever channel.

Michael Koral:

Exactly, provide value, value, value. It’s all about promoting value.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. Speaking of, I know that you have a lot of resources on your website. As we wrap up our conversation, can you talk a little bit about some of the free resources that you guys offer and then how folks can learn more about Needls and you and get in touch if they’d like to do that?

Michael Koral:

Sure. So, over the last about year or so, we’ve created what’s called Needls University. You go to u.needls.com, the letter U, .needls.com. It takes you to Needls University, where it has tons of webinars and guides and workbooks and blog posts that really help business owners and agencies learn more about Facebook ads, but not only that, just learning how to land clients as an agency. We’re super excited, so just about a month or two ago, we unleashed what’s called the Agency Blueprint, okay? That includes an Agency Journey, an Agency Guide, and Agency Workbook, which is basically all you really need. It’s a free resource. You can come in and you can just download it.

All it is it teaches you how to find, land, and keep clients as an agency owner, regardless of the type of agency that you are. So, that’s an amazing resource. If you go to u.needls.com, you can definitely get that. If you want to reach me directly, you can email me at [email protected] It’s N-E-E-D-L-S.com. Shoot me an email to pick my brain about anything you’d like to know about Facebook ads or running an agency or whatnot. You can definitely do that or just go to needls.com directly. Check us out if you want to start it for your own agency, by all means.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Remember, if you are an AMI member, the Needls offer is one of the many things that’s in the Marketplace. So, check that out as well. So, Michael, this has been great. Thank you for letting me pick your brain about the platforms and about your shift from being a doer to a manager and growing a very different agency that I think we’ll see more of in the future. So, I’m grateful for your time. Thank you.

Michael Koral:

Thanks. No problem. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right, guys, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. I will be back next week. You know what kind of guest I’m going to bring. I’m going to bring somebody like Michael, who’s going to shake your thinking a little bit, who’s going to offer you some alternatives to the way you’ve been doing things and help you build an agency that serves you and your family and your team in the ways that you want it to. So, I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, you can track me down over at agencymanagementinstitute.com. Yell if I can be helpful. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week. Thanks.

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to midsized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today so you don’t miss an episode.