Marketing July 27, 2020

Early Failures with Online Ads for Guildflow

Mike Zornek @zorn

As part of my hunt for traction I experimented with some online ads. The plan was to target DuckDuckGo users since a main aspect of Guildflow is better privacy tools for meetups. It did not go well and today I turned off the campaign. Here was my journey and some things I think I have learned through the experience. Hope this helps someone out there.


To have ads on DuckDuckGo you need to use Microsoft Ads, their vendor. Since Guildflow is pre-revenue alpha development I focused the goals around getting newsletter signups.

I built the ad copy around an emotional response. The ad copy read:

3 Reasons to Avoid | Know the alternatives.
Don't let your group be held for ransom.

It linked to here:

I ran the ad for 3 weeks, buying $200 of ad credits and got $100 in ad credits free via an promo offer. The tools to build and deploy an ad on Microsoft Ads is extremely overwhelming and it took me a day or so to figure out how to filter it so that I was more focused on DuckDuckGo. I could not completely limit my ad to DuckDuckGo and so it took even a few more days of blocking domains that felt like they were eating my ad spend. Even at the end, when I've explicitly tried to limit my ads to US and Canada I still get clicks from other countries that look suspicious.

About a week ago I finally figured out how to add some URL tracking so I could try to connected the dots from an ad click to a mailing list signup. In short, yes I am getting some signups but not enough to justify the cost. Eg: in the last 7 days I can identify 4 mailing list signups from about 150 clicks that costed me $71.66.

What I (think) I Have Learned

Ultimately a successful ad campaigns on a search platform should align with delivering what the user is already searching for. I feel like one big failure here is not really focusing on making sure the ad and the resulting page really deliver on a solution. The keywords I picked were also too generic.

Since I'm not selling anything yet, any cost is really hard to justify. I was hoping this could help get some pre-launch momentum but the volume just is not there.

I will retry ads, but not until the sales path is up.

My next experiment will be more cold outreach, first to fellow meetup organizers in Philly, then fellow iOS, Android and Elixir organizers. I plan the outreach to be more user/market research than outright selling. I feel like I still have a lot of customer education to do.

  1. 1

    Instead you could market on fb to people who are interested in duckduckgo. Better tracking, better targeting, better funnels :)

  2. 1

    Hi Mike,

    I don't think customer education is your problem. Comparing Guildflow to our Uclusion its very, very clear what your advantage over your competitor is and your front page is stunningly beautiful.

    I think your problem is the same as Uclusion had early on (and who knows may still have) that you haven't considered the full customer journey. How will a group find new members on Guildflow? On Meetup people search and find local Meetups that match their interest. How will that work on Guildflow? Its almost like you have to list on Meetups and then have people who join add themselves to Guildflow instead.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the comments.

      A big difference in my solution compared to is that you are NOT creating a Guildflow account and using it to join groups. I am giving a group a space to call their own and people join that group, not Guildflow.

      Group discovery is a whole problem unto itself and I acknowledge Guildflow does not solve that pain right now. It's one of the things I think is good for. I have some ideas how I might work on this but I want to get some foundational stuff working before giving them a lot of my time.

      1. 2

        Right but the website not addressing that is messing up any kind of advertising experiment you try to perform. For instance if an integration is your solution then you would have near the top of the website "Sign up and we will automatically migrate existing and new Meetup members to Guildflow." Without some indication of how that works its hard to sign up people. For the same reason someone on IH dinged Uclusion for not making pricing more clear - users want the whole journey mapped out.

        1. 1

          Great feedback. Thanks so much.