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How I Used Facebook Messenger to Sell More Online Courses

A case study in using Messenger for sales, exploration, and finding optimal price points


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Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 8 min read

Facebook is reporting a 50% increase in messenger conversations. That’s so many more people that Facebook has a tough time keeping it from breaking.

Could this be an opportunity to make more sales through Facebook messenger? I jumped on there to find out.

What Is Facebook Messenger Marketing?

When you get messages coming into your page, you have an abundance of leads for potential sales. You can also build a highly effective feedback loop that creates better and better marketing content.

That loop looks like this:

  • You make a post where the CTA is “Send Message.”
  • You get messages to your page and start a sales conversation.
  • While chatting about your customers’ problems, you document their problem language.
  • You analyse that problem language and use it to create a new post with more effective messages and language.

When you feed the results of messenger conversations into your content creation process, it’s hard not to make posts that get you more messages than before.

So the more you market, the more you chat, and the better your marketing gets. Ultimately, that means more sales opportunities.

Why Use Messenger and Not Ads?

Ads might seem the natural route to take to more sales.

Messenger marketing can rightly be criticised as an alternative that’s time-consuming, effort-intensive, and more difficult to scale.

But Messenger marketing and ads are different tools for different tasks.

Ads are primarily a tool for exploitation

With successful ad campaigns, you take what you already know about your audience, the messages that resonate with them, and the products that fit their needs. Then you pay to leverage Facebook’s algorithm for scale and sales.

Of course, there’s room for experimentation within an ad campaign. But you’re often just fine-tuning the delivery of messages that already work.

Messenger marketing, on the other hand, is a tool for exploration

It’s a process for helping you discover:

  • Your audience’s problem language
  • Which messages connect those problems to what you’re selling
  • How good your product or market fit really is

Given the recent twists and turns in the world, doubts about what to do next are likely to come from the need to explore, rather than to exploit.

Here’s some good news: Opting to explore your audience with Messenger marketing does not mean that you need to give up on making sales. Messenger marketing can definitely bring you more paying customers.

But as you can see from the results below, the real value of Messenger marketing lies in:

  • Increasing your organic reach, engagement, and likes
  • Refining your marketing messages
  • Providing evidence for data-based decision making about what to do next

As you’ll see later, that next step may include running ad campaigns to exploit the insight you get from Messenger marketing.

Results: organic reach, engagement, and likes

The data we’re going to look at comes from my former business.

I made online courses for people who want to do English language exams. I was writing valuable content for my Facebook audience, posting it on my page, and sharing it in relevant groups. Nothing groundbreaking, until I stumbled into Messenger marketing by accident.

I was trying to connect with my audience for the development of a new course. I offered a completely free, 30-minute call with me as an opportunity for my audience members to troubleshoot. The calls would give me the chance to gather some problem language.

I made a post with a link to book a call with me on Calendly. The results were very mediocre.

A week later, with the same objective in mind, I made another post. This one had more than 6 times the organic reach and 24 times the engagement.

The difference?

In the first post, there was a promise of a call, which may seem more valuable. But it was the value that lay behind the effort barrier of signing up, as well as a link out to a page off of the Facebook platform.

In the second post, there was already good quality content that supported a CTA to message me. A “Send Message” button made the whole thing easy and kept the user within Facebook.

I was interested to see how far I could go with the formula of quality content and a “Send Message” button. So I made more posts like this.

Pretty soon I was getting a trickle of messages asking me for help, which I gladly gave. A few sales opportunities emerged (which I fumbled, owing to poor sales skills!).

As I chatted away, I started copying and pasting the problem language I was seeing into a Google doc.

Complete with adorable grammar errors from my audience of English learners.

As my library of word-for-word problem language developed, I could increasingly dip into it to write content. I arrived at the point where a lot of my main marketing messages just wrote themselves.

My content really started striking a nerve. I arrived at the period where Messenger marketing hit its stride for me.

The contrast between my organic reach (orange bar) and engagement (blue bar) before and during this period is striking.

Here’s two weeks of organic reach and engagement before I started Messenger marketing:

This is two weeks of organic reach and engagement once my Messenger marketing campaign hit its stride:

That’s an average of about five times more organic reach and about ten times more organic engagement once Messenger marketing really kicked in.

In terms of what this meant for my page, this was also a highly successful three-month period. Total page likes increased organically from around 550 to almost 6,000.

Total page likes covering the period of Messenger marketing.

There’re two key moments within this graph that are worth a bit of attention.

The first is that initial uptick in late May.

If we look at the date (May 28), it corresponds with the first post I made with a “Send Message” button.

The second is the big jump in early July.

The date again is significant here — July 8. That’s the date of the first post with more than 10K organic reach.

The reason I got that leap was because that post really hit the mark.

During the long, gentle drag that led up to July 8, I was systematically getting messages, documenting problem language and feeding that back into a much more refined content creation process.

Put simply, Messenger marketing had created a positive feedback loop which allowed me to figure out posts that really worked.

With that feedback loop steadily improving my posts, Messenger marketing was now paying dividends in terms of organic reach, engagement, and page likes.

But what about sales and insight?

Results: revenue and learning

As the owner of the business, dollars and discovery were my real objectives.

Financially, I was looking to get a new course to first revenue and set a good price point.

Learning-wise, I wanted high engagement relationships with my first customers, so I could get qualitative feedback on product and market fit.

These aren’t the only objectives that could be achieved with Messenger marketing. But notice how both of them fall firmly into the “exploration” phase, not exploitation.

The abundance of leads I got through Messenger marketing allowed me to run some very interesting pricing experiments.

While I had initially assumed a sale price of $27 for my course, I actually found that, with some adjustments to the value proposition, $97 was an acceptable asking price.

Messenger marketing brought me my first customers. And they paid three times more than I thought they would.

Because of the relationship I’d built during the sales chat, these students were also highly engaged. They provided an amazing learning opportunity for me as I developed my course.

I credit Messenger marketing with getting me my first paying students and creating strong enough relationships to get meaningful feedback on my product/market fit.

Throw in the fact that my marketing was now running in that feedback loop of post > document > improve, and I was very pleased to have added that first “Send Message” button.

Before you jump on Facebook messenger yourself though, it’s worth zooming out on the graph of my page likes so you can see what’s happening now.

What happened?

Did I hit a glass ceiling? Some kind of upper limit to Messenger marketing?

The real reason for the flatline is actually the most valuable thing to have come out of Messenger marketing for me: I quit.

Results: decision-making

Yes, I was finding out that I had a good product that fit the market. Some people could pay more than I thought they would for it. It seemed like there was money to be made here.

But ultimately, when I looked at the cold, hard data that related likes, reach, and engagement to revenue, I could see that there wasn’t enough value for me in this audience on Facebook.

So I stopped the machine.

As I said before, Messenger marketing is a tool for exploration. I explored. I found results. I had the data to make an evidence-based decision on the best way forward for me and my business.

With that knowledge in hand, I was well placed to choose a different strategy.

Messenger marketing had given me data on which posts — and therefore which content — really resonated with my audience. I could have taken that forward into a content marketing/SEO strategy on my own site.

I also had a very good understanding of the kind of customer on Facebook who would pay $97 dollars for my course. That would be an excellent jumping-off point for a paid ad campaign.

Ultimately though, something you can’t see in any of the data above influenced my decision about what to do next.

If you could track a graph of my passion for this business against the likes on my page, there would be a very clear downward trend in passion.

With this business clearly at a turning point, I chose to respond to my increasing desire to use my marketing skills for environmental businesses.

That’s where I headed after I quit my courses business.

I’m happy with my decision to quit not because it’s working out well, but because it was rooted in good data, which all came from Messenger marketing.

The ultimate results of Messenger marketing were:

  • Leads and revenue
  • Problem language for more effective marketing
  • Evidence for decision-making

My exploration was complete.

Is Messenger Marketing Right for You?

If you’re also looking to explore your audience, then it’s worth using these final points to consider if you’ve got what it takes to make Messenger marketing really work for you.

You can commit to responding in real-time

I noticed that the bigger the time gap between messages, the greater the chance of a lead not engaging with the conversation. That meant no sales and no problem language. Committing to being responsive on Messenger is a must for making this work.

You can manage the conversations

When the conversations start to stack up, the built-in functionality of Facebook pages gets clunky pretty quickly. You’ll need to get organised with a CRM like Salesforce, or use a messenger specific CRM like amoCRM. There’s an investment in setup time, learning, and, if you go beyond the freemium version, money.

You have the sales skills to unearth problem language in the chats

I fumbled my early sales leads. I needed to up my sales skills and get better at using Facebook messenger chats to diagnose problems. That was the foundation of discovering good problem language and creating sales opportunities. If you’ve got basic sales skills in place (or are willing to learn them), then the chats will unearth better problem language and more sales opportunities for you.

You’ll need to be responsive, organised, and have a good grounding in sales skills.

If you’re in that position and are looking to explore your audience, then I think now is the perfect moment to add that “Send Message” button to your Facebook posts.

This article was originally published by Sam nattress on medium.

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