How to Run Facebook Ads to Sell More Cars - Comprehensive help guide for 2020 & BEYOND!

John H

Hate being stiffed over by Vendors? Sick of empty promises, snake oil, bad leads, and thousands of dollars spent into services with little to no attribution to SALES? It's tough finding the right business to manage your digital marketing assets, and even more difficult if your marketing budget is tight. Taking things in-house is no breeze either, and can be difficult without a road map.

Assuming the responsibility of managing thousands of dollars in adspend is not for the faint of heart. Especially those with no resource to turn to, in an industry where people use information like this to build monopolies........ Which I find incredibly disturbing!

Speaking of responsibility... The two BIGGEST problems with Vendors is their lack of TRANSPARENCY & absence of RESPONSIBILITY. Half the time you hire them, you may be clueless as to what they're doing. They don't educate you in fear that you'll squander this information and inevitably take things internal - kicking them to the curb. And I'm here to put an end to that!

Let's briefly go over what my help guide was INTENDED for:

* This guide is INTENDED to acquaint you to running Facebook Ads as a Dealership. (Franchise, Independent, Ect.)

* It is INTENDED to invalidate false info any vendors, social media strategists, or any entity has brought to this industry.

* It is my INTENTION to bring awareness to the effectiveness Facebook has in helping dealers leverage their markets.

What was this help guide NOT INTENDED for:

* It is NOT INTENDED to help a failing sales operation succeed.

* It is NOT INTENDED for green peas with no marketing budget.

* It is NOT INTENDED for dealers with no way to process internet leads. 

* It is NOT INTENDED for the faint of heart.

Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, let's get into a basic introduction on myself...

Names John, I'm 25 years old, and I help quite a few dealerships (Independent & franchise) sell more vehicles through the use of creative Facebook Advertisements. And we're not talking about your generic carousels, stock images, or lead ads. I'm talking unique video/photos promoted through the platform, where users are sent through funnels and buyer information is collected.

So what's Facebook Advertising, and why should I be using it?

If you have a Facebook account, and have scrolled through your news feed before, it's likely you've seen quite a few advertisements. These placements are made using the Facebook Ads Manager, which allows you to place ads within the Facebook network, with multiple methods of placement. (I will always prefer and recommend the News Feed placement)

Imagine harnessing the power Cars(dot)com, GarGurus, and other automotive commerce sites have at driving buyers to you, and being able to PREDICATIVELY do this? Adding an additional 10-30 sales to your dealer MONTH AFTER MONTH!

It's thanks to SEM and Social Ad operations that these companies THRIVE at delivering customers to you. So the question is...why not do this for yourself?


1. Creating a Facebook Ad Account

1.1: What is a Facebook Ad account?

1.2: How does a Facebook Advertisement work?

1.3: How do I create a Facebook Ad Account?

1.4: Facebook's Advertising Guidelines.

2. Navigating the Facebook Ads Manager

2.1: How do I create a campaign?

2.2: What's the BEST campaign type to use?

2.3: What's the Facebook Pixel?

3. Getting Advertisements APPROVED

3.1: Keywords & Promotions to avoid.

3.2: Bypass automated disapprovals.

3.3: How I get "Special Ads" approved. (Ads within the Credit, Housing, or Employment sectors)

4. Running effective Facebook Marketing Campaigns

4.1: The use of funnels, landing pages, or short forms.

4.2: Campaign management & sustaining Cost Per Lead.

4.3: Outbidding your competition.

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1.1 - What is a Facebook Ad Account?

Much like Google Ads, which is a platform that helps you place advertisements within Google's search engine for specific key terms. Facebook has their own platform/backend which allows you to place advertisements on behalf of any Facebook page you own or manage, within the News Feed or any other placement you desire. Targeting people with specific interests, those that interact with your content socially, people who have navigated to your website, or even those that are similar in demographic to your customers! The possibilities are truly endless with Facebook's targeting options - they are highly configurable.

Your Facebook Ad account requires a budget, much like a Google Ads account, and can be budgeted to run advertisements on your behalf for $5/day or even $500/day. The amount spent correlating to the amount of impressions your advertisement will receive. Each impression costing fractions of a cent.

Difference between Google Ads & Facebook Ads: Facebook's algorithm can learn who to target based on the data it receives. So the more you spend with Facebook, the easier it becomes to target your ideal customers (car buyers) more predicatively.

1.2 - How does a Facebook Advertisement work?

Facebook places people of similar nature/demographic into audience pools. These pools are filled with people that have identical data points such as interests, liked pages, liked posts, mobile device type, behavior, location, and you name it. (kinda creepy)

Facebook even allows you to build/upload your own pools of data called Look a Likes or Special Ad Audiences. These audiences can be made from buyer information (emails, phone numbers) and are clusters of people that are of similar nature to whatever audience you decide to upload. Imagine having a super smart Artificial Intelligence predicatively find people that are similar to those that have bought vehicles from you recently? Well... welcome to the future!  It's all a reality with Facebook Advertising.

But back to how Facebook Ads work... You can think of Facebook Ads as an auction, kinda like eBay. Where you're auctioning against other advertisers to target specific audience pools. If you win the highest bid, your advertisements will be placed as the first result on the New Feed, Facebook Marketplace, Messenger Inbox, ect. However, if your competition beats your auction, you'll be placed much lower. Yielding lower quality traffic, lower quality impressions, and essentially placing ads in front of SERIAL SCROLLERS.... which is a word I just added to Urban Dictionary by the way. (just for this thread 😂)

1.3 - How do I create a Facebook Ad Account?

It's simple really. There's no serious process to it. All you need to do is navigate to this link, and Facebook will guide you through the creation of your Ads Account. It's likely you already have one, and are unaware of it. But in the event you don't.... Welcome! 😎

1.4 - Facebook's Advertising Guidelines.

The rules of Advertising on Facebook aren't well defined. There's a host of things you shouldn't do, and many ways to get your advertising account flagged for policy violation. However, I've created a simple list of things you shouldn't do.. which can be used as a resource for future advertisements you plan to deploy.

Things to AVOID:

* Editing running adsets instead of duplicating adsets.

* Duplicating campaigns frequently.

* Launching campaigns during the daytime.

* Turning Ads/Adsets/Campaigns on or off frequently.

Uploading duplicate content from a previously flagged account.

* Running ads with more than 20% text in the image.

Words to AVOID:

* The word "you".

* The words "everybody is approved".

The word "bankruptcy"

The words "bad credit".

Content to AVOID:

* Sexually suggestive content. (Swimsuit Pictures, Cleavage)

* Before & After pictures.

* Content from a previously moderated Ads Account.

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2.1 - How do I create a campaign?

1. Navigate to the Facebook Ads manager by clicking the same dropdown menu you use to log out of Facebook, and selecting the "Manage Ads" option in the menu.

It's okay if you don't have this option - this just means you don't have a primary Ad Account created yet. Go ahead and create your ad account, then proceed to follow these instructions.

2. Once you've navigated to your Facebook Ads account, refer to the green button on the left that says "Create". You'll want to click this and enter into quick creation mode, name your campaign, select the Special Ads Category, and use the dropdown to select the "Credit" category. From there you can select your desired campaign objective - if you're completely new to running Facebook Ads, it's probably best that you select a Traffic objective. (I'd love to cover conversion campaigns in depth in this topic, but I suppose I can save that for another time, as it deserves it's own topic)

3. From this point forward you can click on the Adset tab, select the drafted advertisement, and press edit. From there you'll be able to edit your targeting proximity, targeting type, and target audience language. (I recommend a 50 mile width from your dealer targeting those that live in your location)

You can also change the placement type. It's best that you use Facebook's News Feed placement, targeting mobile devices only, as Mobile Devices account for a majority of Facebook's traffic. And I would consider mobile traffic to be much higher quality.

4. Now that your entire campaign has been structured, it's time to get creative and start working on the ad placements.

Click the Ads tab, select the single ad from the campaign you've created, and click the Edit button on the center menu. From here you can change the image you'd prefer using in the news feed, the ad copy you wish to use in the advertisement, and the link you'll be leading people to. (In our preference, we run conversion campaigns, and lead people to short forms/landing pages/funnels. From here, we track our visits using pixels, and certain objectives using those pixels as well. We normally pass lead information over in ADF/XML format to our dealer partners CRM's)

Again, if you're new to Facebook Ads, it's probably best you lead them to your dealership website. I hope to be writing a tutorial on how we run our conversion campaigns, funnels, and how we add tracking to our web pages ASAP.

2.2 - What's the BEST campaign type to use?

I've made a list of each campaign type I've used ranked from best to worst. Included are explanations as to why I've ranked them the way I have, along with a PRO's & CON's list for each campaign type.

1. Conversion Campaigns

Why this is the BEST campaign type to use:

Conversion campaigns allow you to optimize the way your ads are shown to people more intricately than any other campaign type. And the best part? They learn who to target through machine learning. So you wind up getting more leads, more appointments, and more buyers who are in your market and ready to purchase a vehicle.


* Uses Machine Learning to more accurately locate customers for you.

* Can be highly configurable versus other objectives.

* Tends to achieve more sales than any other campaign type used in the Facebook Platform.


* Are incredibly hard to understand.

* Are VERY hard to setup.

* Tends to de-optimize over time, and needs nearly constant monitoring.

2. Lead Generation Ads/Lead Ads Campaign

Why this is the Second BEST campaign type to use:

They're stupid simple to setup. You don't need any web page building experience or any expensive software to deploy these little short forms. They're internal to the Facebook platform and made BY Facebook, so you're bound to collect a good amount of leads through these forms.


* Stupid simple to setup.

* 100% uptime, no downtime at all.

* Will likely collect more leads than any other objective used, period.


* Because it pulls Profile information to auto-populate the lead form (phone, email) you may generate a lot of old/bad leads.

* Because they're easy to use, many dealers are using them. Leading to saturation and generally higher lead costs.

* They tend to optimize for form impressions and not form fills/leads.

3. Messages/Messenger Campaign

Why this is the Third BEST campaign type to use:

They're very similar to lead ads in lead quality, and tend to be VERY simple to setup. They require little intervention, and tend to generate a fair amount of messages for a considerably low cost. However, a lot of those that initially message you will never message you back once replied.


* Easy to setup, doesn't take much time.

* Can be configured uniquely, especially with integrations like Manychat.

* Can respond to interested customers fairly quickly, through the same platform they initiate interaction through.


* People will normally send you an initial message, but never respond back to your reply.

* Conversations can go dead very quick.

* Follow up is hard because Facebook ghosts your replies. So they're not hitting the customers inbox.

2.3 - What's the Facebook Pixel?

The Facebook Pixel is a little script that can be added to web pages, so you may track impressions either directly from Facebook Ads, or from users that have a visited your page(s) through organic methods. Because most web traffic will likely have a Facebook Account, it can be incredibly lucrative to track those that land on your website, and retarget them through Facebook Advertisements.

Not only can you track visitors and retarget them. You can place the pixel on more significant pages, like a thank you page people are directed to after submitting a web form, or on a web form a person sees after purchasing a vehicle. 

The possibilities are completely endless..

You can then utilizing this audience information to build Special Ad Audiences. Which enable Facebook to find more people like those that have submitted their contact info, and even bought a vehicle from you. Because the Facebook Pixel is highly configurable, the possibilities of it's use are completely endless!

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3.1 - Keywords & Promotions to avoid.

Facebook is incredibly laid back when you've gained their trust as an advertiser. However, if you've ran a limited amount of promotions, it can be challenging to get advertisements approved.

For the sake of not reiterating myself, as I've already covered keywords & content to avoid in section 1.4, I'll refer you there and leave you with one word of advice: Zuckerburg is watching.

3.2 - Bypass automated disapprovals.

You may not know this, but most advertisement disapprovals are done automatically through a system that uses keyword filters and photo detection technology. Which prevents advertisers from running prohibited content, and makes Facebook a safer place for it's users!

Since Facebook's introduction of the Special Ads Category, they've introduced measures to help advertisers contest automated advertisement disapproval. This "tool" coined the "Account Quality" dashboard. Many advertisers aren't aware of it. But through this tool you can contest each individual advertisement that's supposedly against their terms of advertising.

You can find this tool by navigating to your Facebook Ad Account, clicking the hamburger icon on the upper left hand side, and locating the "Account Quality" item located in the dropdown menu. From here you may contest advertisements that you believe are NOT against Facebook's community standards or advertising terms. Which are then manually reviewed by Facebook Employees... or maybe even Mark Zuckerburg himself? 🤷‍♂️

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4.1 - The use of funnels, landing pages, or short forms.

I've hear it time and time again - Keep your customer on your main WEBSITE.... "that's how you'll produce SALES!".

They preach it at conventions, you hear vendors saying it. But what if I told you that this is the furthest thing from the truth, and that this can be a bottleneck that prevents creative marketers like myself from achieving more sales for dealerships like yours? 

It's time that more dealers open their minds to more unique methods of capturing interested customers.

Funnels, landing pages, or short forms can be a great method of capturing in-market shoppers without having them settle on a specific vehicle. By understanding their exact needs and qualifications, it can help dealerships separate their talents effectively. Leaving the marketers to do their thing, and talented salespeople to do what they do best - and that's selling a customer on a car.

Through short forms and landing pages like this, we've achieved monumental results for our clients. One of which we've managed nearly $24,000 in adspend for the past year, and generated nearly 10,000 leads, selling an immeasurable amount of cars:

But enough of my preaching. If you'd like to learn more about funnels and landing pages, all that good stuff, please refer to the tutorial I wrote on DealerRefresh. It goes in-depth on how we use Phonesites to build awesome landing pages for our clients.... and ourselves...? 😉

4.2: Campaign management & sustaining Cost Per Lead.

So there's a fair amount of dealerships that have a good grasp on managing Facebook Ad campaigns. And it's no wonder - there's so much talent out there when it comes to technology, it astonishes me sometimes. But there's one thing that's always been a problem... and I hear it pretty frequently.

How do I sustain my Cost Per Lead and manage my campaign for SUCCESS?

The answer to this question is simple! Cut off the losers and leave alone winning campaigns.

The worst thing you can do when managing a Facebook Ad campaign is begin tinkering with things, editing existing campaigns and adsets. As this resets the learning period and all the optimization you've paid money for. Even worse? You may never settle into that same audience pool ever again.. so it is ESSENTIAL to leave winning campaigns ALONE and only adjust ads if absolutely necessary.

It's through learning periods that Facebook finds more intuitive ways to sustain a lower Cost Per Lead, for a longer set of time. Another good tip is... don't change the wheel. If you have a winning creative that seems to achieve a very low cost, refresh your creative with something similar in nature, but not identical. Through this you may sustain or even lower your Cost Per Result!

4.3: Outbidding your competition.

This may be the BIGGEST golden nugget in this thread. So if you're running advertisements in competitive areas, or plan to do so, this could save your behind!

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook Ads is an auction, kinda like eBay. Where you're auctioning against other advertisers to target specific audience pools. When you're outbid by your competition, their ads will display higher in whatever placement you chose. (News Feed, Messenger, Marketplace, ect)

However, Facebook allows you to manually control your bidding options, which can be found when editing an Adset.. So you can set a bid cap for each and every auction. In essence, outbidding your competition and being displayed as #1 ad to your audience(s) on Facebook. Being in the Chicagoland market, this has helped me achieve some pretty crazy numbers for dealers I work with, and may even help you if you're in a competitive market.

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I want this thread to be a continual resource, so if you've found any topics of this thread intriguing or if you have any questions related to this thread, please leave a comment below!

Let's make DrivingSales the #1 hub for educating dealers, vendors, and automotive marketers!

Morgan Hardy

Great info! Do you happen to know if there is a way to combine ad accounts? We had one with our vendor and one that I was using myself. We still have some ads running through both. I was told by Facebook that I couldn't do anything until all ads were stopped on either but they still didn't really tell me if I'd be able to combine them or not... Any info would be helpful! Thanks!

John H

Morgan, Thanks for the kind message. The short answer to your question is Not Exactly.

The biggest problem with Facebook Support is how unreliable they are, when it comes to questions related to using their advertising platform. Many support agents are blueprint certified - which only teaches the basics of running advertisements through Facebook. Many of the answers you receive from them are basic at most. So when it comes to advanced issues like this... they're literally clueless.

Long Answer:

You will not be able to combine campaigns, adsets, or ads between two ad accounts. However, you are able to recover the most valuable asset between these two advertising accounts - and that is the Facebook Pixel(s), which can be recovered and used interchangeably between any ad account under your business manager. 

That is as long as you have elevated account privileges.

You can read a tutorial on sharing pixels/audiences HERE.

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