Fueled by online communities and nostalgia for handwritten letters, the fountain pen has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. But Kevin Thiemann admits that fountain pens are still a niche market that’s mostly confined to long-time collectors, which can make growing his audience a challenge.
“We try to target people who have an interest in pens, calligraphy, or handwriting with our marketing,” he says.
Kevin’s own interest in fountain pens was sparked by a desire to improve his handwriting. He discovered India’s low-cost fountain pen market while he was working abroad and started acquiring different models to practice his script. There’s an art to writing with a fountain pen—slight pressure on the nib, and the pen should make a 40-degree angle with the paper—that lends itself to neat, beautiful cursive, he notes.
After networking with different manufacturers in India, Kevin decided to start selling affordable, quality fountain pens online. “The combination of being a bargain shopper and wanting to own fountain pens played into the business getting started.”
As a small, family-owned business based out of Texas, Fountain Pen Revolution relies on social media to spread the word about their products. “It’s not like you’re necessarily going to find us through a Google search,” Kevin says. But creating ads to reach their 15,000 Facebook followers helps them drive conversions.
Here’s how Kevin created a Facebook Ad Campaign in MailChimp that earned a 747% return on investment (ROI).
Target people already engaged with your brand
What Kevin likes about creating Facebook ads in MailChimp is that he’s able to target his email list with just one click. “To target people who are already subscribed to our newsletter list seems better than targeting our general Facebook followers,” he says. “People on Facebook might just click Like without thinking, but people on our list have expressed an interest in hearing from us.”
His first $25 ad that targeted his full MailChimp contact list generated $211.80 in sales—a 747% ROI—and even snagged 6 new customers from ad shares. By targeting people who are engaged with their email campaigns and products, he was able to reach a new audience because his existing customers shared the ad with their own friends and followers.
Know how to engage your audience
“Our customers and Facebook audience are evenly split between people who have been using fountain pens for a long time and people who have just started using them,” Kevin says. To learn more about his customers, he regularly runs giveaways on Facebook, where he asks followers a question and randomly selects entries to receive a free pen.
The questions typically pertain to why people use fountain pens, like “How long have you been using them?” For that one, Kevin says he received around 900 entries and got a better sense of who his customers are. “We try to keep new and existing users in mind with our marketing.”
He targets new users with content that explains some of the fundamentals of using a fountain pen, like how to clean a nib or refill the ink, but for existing users he emphasizes how affordable his pens are. “An existing user understands that to get a quality fountain pen for $25 is a great deal,” Kevin says.
Choose the type of ad that best suits your product
Instead of creating a carousel ad with several images of different models, Kevin prefers to use a single image that displays a variety of fountain pens to draw attention to the promotion or sale he wants to advertise.
Promote a combo sale or BOGO deal to drive greater conversions
Fountain Pen Revolution typically uses Facebook to advertise special promotions and combo deals. “It’s our strategy for driving conversions,” Kevin says. “We also try to feature our most popular items in our ads.”
Kevin’s first ad in MailChimp promoted a deal for 2 free pens with any order of $25 or more. Since most of the pens, including the brand’s own FPR collection, are priced in the $20 range—with the least expensive pen selling for $6—this deal not only ensures that customers will purchase more than one item, but it also helps Kevin get a greater return on his investment.
A second $40 ad promoted a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deal for a specific model, with pens starting at $9. Through ad shares from customers on their list, he was able to capture 4 orders from first-time buyers and earn a 266% ROI. And only one of the orders through the ad took advantage of the deal it was promoting; the rest were for other products and pen models in the store.
Vary the promotions in your email and ad campaigns
As Kevin develops his Facebook advertising strategy, he’s using what he’s learned about the preferences and tendencies of his customers to inform future campaigns. Case in point: his second Facebook ad.
After a successful email campaign that generated 53 orders and $1,474 in revenue, Kevin created an ad that contained a similar offer and targeted the same contacts. “I don’t think that second ad performed as well as the first one," he says, "because I had just sent an email to our list with a similar deal, and that’s who I targeted with the ad." Now, he knows that he needs to run different promotions across his various marketing channels—especially when targeting his full contact list