Break-even ads can generate free brand awareness

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Julian Shapiro

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Julian Shapiro is the founder of BellCurve.com, a growth marketing team that trains startups in advanced growth, helps hire senior growth marketers and finds vetted growth agencies. He also writes at Julian.com.

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We’ve aggregated many of the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this growth report.

This is how you stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

Our community consists of 1,000 startup founders and VPs of growth from later-stage companies. We have 400 YC founders, plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars, Slack group or marketing training program.

Without further ado, on to our community’s advice.


How Gmail decides which emails go to spam

Many of your startup’s emails go to spam. You must read Gmail’s recent guidelines that demystify the process.

One (of many) takeaways: Don’t hide your unsubscribe link. When recipients can’t easily find it, they’re more likely to mark your email as spam. That sends a negative signal that hurts future email deliverability.

It’s not a bad idea to remind readers at the top of your newsletter that they can unsubscribe at its bottom.

Break-even ads = free brand awareness?

Insights from Aadil Razvi

Typically, your primary goal with an ad channel is to make it profitable. But you shouldn’t necessarily turn off a channel if it’s merely break-even. Many startups reflexively turn a channel off when this happens — even when they have more than enough cash on hand to sustain the spend.

But consider this: companies spend millions of dollars purely on brand awareness, and break-even acquisition is effectively free brand awareness.

All those eyeballs now know who you are, and in the future, they’re more likely to consider you when they’re in-market.

Facebook/Instagram targeting: start broader

Insights from Nima Gardideh of Pearmill

It’s typically more effective to target your Facebook/Instagram ads to a broad audience and let Facebook’s algorithm narrow it down for you. In contrast, overly narrowing your audiences upfront doesn’t give the algorithm as much data to work with and tends to hurt ad performance in the long run.

Here’s a common, three-step funnel for helping Facebook optimize your targeting across multiple data points. Advertisers are typically running ads in a sequential order such as this:

  1. Problem awareness ads: run broad ads that interest people who have the problem you solve.
  2. Brand awareness ads: target those who interacted with your problem awareness ads with testimonials illustrating your product as an effective solution.
  3. Direct response ads: people who interacted with but didn’t convert from your brand awareness ads are shown direct CTA ads asking for a sign up or purchase.

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