Logan Herzog is a social media and content marketing specialist and cofounder of Sidekicks Group, a Facebook/Instagram ad and Adwords marketing company that crafts paid campaigns for funded, early-stage startups. He and co-founder Whitney Erikson work in 3-month sprints to build content and PPC strategies that generate demand, conversion and growth (often so their clients can reach their next round of funding). Logan says you can do a lot with Facebook, Instagram and Adwords; in fact, that’s all they use.

The keys to success are simplicity and automation—which Logan explains.

He sat down with us to explain their process and reveal the simple secrets behind getting Instagram ads to pay off.

01. Turn your value propositions into hooks

Logan’s first step with any client is to identify their strongest value propositions which can serve as “hooks” for the ads. If you’re not familiar with the term “value proposition,” it means the primary reason, or reasons, someone would buy from you rather than your competitor.

A “hook” is that one-line phrase or ad headline that Logan says “defines the entire campaign.”

“If you want to know how well your ad is going to perform, look at the value proposition and ask yourself why anyone other than yourself will give a rip. You need to go beyond the ‘what value am I offering?’ question. You need to ask why your value is more interesting than better values that likely exist out there.”

“With startups, I make sure we lean heavily on differentiation and product features,” he says. Differentiation is vital for any business. It doesn’t matter what you sell, or who you sell to, you have to find a way to stand out.

02. Your image has TWO jobs

While Logan says it’s a given that Instagram demands high quality visual content, he also says what many people don’t understand is that even the best possible image won’t increase your conversion unless it does one of two things:

  1. Ties in seamlessly to the design and/or aesthetic of the website you want them to convert on
  2. Helps prepare them for the call-to-action
Sidekicks carousel ad Caavo
The Caavo ad shows a story with each slide on the post

His example for an ad that prepares viewers for the call-to-action (CTA) is a carousel ad “that walks them step-by-step through the conversion process before they even hit it.” Which is what he and Whitney created for Caavo.

Notice the differentiator clearly stated in this carousel ad: “The first smart home entertainment system to unify all your devices, apps, and content.” Then notice the first lines of each slide—they walk you through how to use the device—until you reach the fourth. It introduces the call-to-action, and is cleverly followed up with slide #5 containing a short, pithy, impressive review (social proof is often the nudge people need to click).

03. Include emotion, mystery or exclusivity

“The most powerful campaigns I’ve run either offer an actionable solution to a deeply emotional issue, or create a level of mystery and/or exclusivity,” Herzog states.

It’s that second tactic that sets the tone for one of Logan’s most successful campaigns for an online grocery store that had the goal to be the "Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s of the Internet.”

“Literally, just a couple weeks into the launch campaign, Amazon acquired Whole Foods and we were suddenly competing with the ultimate juggernaut. This was actually the reason for our success. It forced us to focus on communicating the best possible value—doing what others wouldn’t—and avoid trying to compete with simple feature comparisons. We focused on creating a movement and using exclusivity and intrigue to drive our conversions.”

One of the best performing headlines of the campaign included both exclusivity and intrigue: “The Supermarket of the future is coming. Get on the waitlist.”

“The landing page they want to was equally vague. That worked better than any financial incentive we tried (and we tried a lot). It gave people the opportunity to be the first to try a new take on a daily task, but didn’t give too much information where people got lost in the weeds.”

He says, "The key to finding what works is to try your best guess and iterate based on the traffic and conversion data once you have it.”

04. Choose an ad type based on your goal: Views, click-throughs, or conversions

Whether your goal for your ad is to get views, click-throughs or full conversions, some formats have advantages over others.

“For views, it’s simple. Assume no one will watch a video for more than 3 seconds. With that mentality, you will stack the first 2 seconds with a solid hook, and quickly transition to the meat of the content. Whatever you do, don’t start with a title screen or your company logo. It’s dead in the water at that point.”

Click-through, Logan says, is all about communicating your value proposition clearly.

He has noticed, however, that video doesn’t typically turn into immediate click-through and conversions, so stick with images if that’s your goal.

For conversions, Logan is a big fan of carousel ads because they can be used to help the user understand the steps they need to take in order to convert.

“For example, I worked with a client whose site asks a variety of questions that lead them to a list of elections where their vote will make the most impact. I used a carousel ad to describe the process, so they understood it from beginning to the end. If your conversion flow has several steps, or is a questionnaire, this can help set the stage for better conversion.”

Value Voting was that client, and notice the copy that’s supporting the images in this carousel. The ‘hook’ here is telling viewers what’s at stake if they don’t act, and it ends with telling them how they can act to support their values - easily. Also notice that very first image in this carousel. When scrolling through an Instagram feed, it’s an eye-grabber because it looks and feels personal enough to make you wonder, ‘is that someone I know?’

Here’s another variation for the same campaign that begins with a more value-proposition-forward approach.

05. Give them an incentive to click

Logan suggests sealing the deal by including an offer for free shipping or a free trial period. He even once offered lifetime memberships to a client’s platform if users sent us a video of them deleting their [Amazon] Prime membership.” That’s one of his personal favorites.

Get your customers to your business with templates like Valentine's Day Sale Instagram Post and Vintage Valentine's Day Discounts Instagram Post

“Financial incentives (discounts, free shipping, etc.) might not always be scalable,” Logan warns, making them a “short-term solution.”

“Since the majority of my projects involve launching new products, it’s essential to help the client think outside of the box for ways they can incentivize people to become their first customers.

The most important thing for me is to understand where a client is willing to go to make this campaign stand out.”

That is an excellent question: Where are you willing to go to make your campaign stand out?

Community Growth at Zest.is. Moderator at Product Hunt and Growth Hackers. Previously: Growth at Inbound.org. I teach SaaS Founders how to build, engage, and grow communities for their SaaS products. Check out my book: The SaaS Growth Playbook.