Treating Ads Like An ATM Instead of A 401k


April 4, 2023

Jennifer Singh

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Consistent returns 📈

Sustainability over time in any market 📈

Consistently acquiring new market share 📈

Investing in multiple streams of access 📈

Am I talking about the stock market or am I talking about running ads?

If these quick bullet points don’t resonate as true for your experience so far in running social ads for your business – or heck, you’ve stayed out of the ads “stock market” – this thought piece is for you.

Ads when done with a 401k investment viewpoint in mind can constantly bring your future customers and brand advocates back to your owned digital assets. 

That’s the whole point of them: to increase the worth and size of your owned assets (your email list, your customer list, your revenue, your website, your following).

When you run ads like a 401k you’re building your digital portfolio.

You’re investing in multiple types of customers, the different paths to purchase customers take, and increasing your revenue.

Thinking and acting like an investor rewards us with resilience and significant upside.

Here’s exactly what the difference is between:

Treating your ads like an ATM = expecting to put $1 in $3 out instantly (and every minute of every day)

Treating your ads like a 401K = expecting a 2x – 4x return on your investment over time (not every single day but over a week or month) at scale. Meaning, you no longer are investing $1 per day and expecting $3 but are investing $100 and expecting $200.

^^ this point is key, friends!

Personal Finance // Running Ads // Building A Business – What they all have in common

Early on as a business owner I became engrossed in personal finance because I don’t believe you can be a business owner that makes long term decisions for the best of your company (and the people in it and the customers) when you’re stressed out financially. 

So I listened to and read books from hundreds of really smart people.The one thing I’ve heard consistently from well known (and wealthy) investors?

The first $100k is the absolute hardest amount to invest.


Because you are in the phase of building wealth that you feel like you are giving the most with the smallest return.

Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize though:

The longer you’ve been investing the more you just know the return will be there. Maybe not every day but over time? Absolutely.

The longer you’ve been investing the less you have to touch your investments every day. Heck, they often do better when you leave them alone and let them do their thing.

This same concept is 100% applicable to running digital ads. Especially Facebook & Instagram ads.

A Brief History: Running ads from 2015 – 2019 compared to 2021 & beyond

I’m here to tell you friends…ads were cheap from 2015 – 2019. 

As an agency we’ve been running ads for clients since then and things have changed yet stayed the same.

Then business owners experienced a golden age for about 4 months in 2020 during the pandemic in which many businesses were not spending money on advertising which lowered competition on platforms and at the same time the most people of any time were on their phones and online all day. 

This caused a lot of business owners to have misinformed expectations on what “normal” returns for advertising online looked like.

As the pandemic continued, businesses around the world were forced to adapt and (shocker) start to increase their ad budgets online therefore competition for digital advertising space dramatically rose.

Many business owners were upset at the rising costs, blaming competition and the ios14 updates (friends…my bet is that cookies/tracking will be fully obsolete by 2024/ it’s best to get a plan in place now…see below…I won’t leave you hanging!).

Here’s a quick example:

We had a client who made a 2.5 ROAS on a launch in fall of 2021. One in which close to $100,000 was netted after ad costs and there was a slight disappointment as they were used to it being closer to a 4.0 in 2020.
Here’s the thing friends, in what other world are you getting 200 – 250% returns in business?

How To Be A Smart Investor

I want you to be a smart, well equipped ad investor.

Now, I equate it to people being upset they missed out on buying Amazon or Apple stock in 1999 and just opting to *not* buy it today because they can’t get it for $10 a share. 

Ahem, buying those stocks will still make you money friends. **ahem, as you know I am not a certified advisor and this is not financial advice.

Now let me get back to personal finance for a moment. 

Every smart investor will tell you until they are blue in the face that it’s time in the market for investors that makes the difference in the end over timing the market every single day.

So my question to all business owners is: when it comes to marketing and running ads, why do we get a little wonky and forget this?

For Early Advertisers In Their Journey

When business owners first start running ads they get so wrapped up in looking at their ads every day with the question “what’s my return??!”

They get so wrapped up in trying to make a dollar today that they are forgoing the nickel sized wins that will snowball into massive returns in the coming weeks, months and years.

This is what treating your ads like an ATM machine looks like.

What Smart Advestors (aka Smart Advertising Investors) Do Instead

They invest and understand early on that the wins may not look like splashy social media headlines about how much money they made instantly.

They instead focus on what the data is telling them and the compounded growth they start to see week over week.

They run ads to expand their customer base, the awareness while fixing any gaps in their online customer’s path to purchase.

They fix those potholes, reinvest their profits to start scaling.

Eventually they find winning combinations of offers, ads and audiences and don’t even have to look at their ads every day.

Phases of a Smart Advertising Investor 

Phase 1 | Forming a Plan

Starting with a goal in mind is key but picking just any plan may get you to a destination you didn’t want in the first place. 

Phase 2 | Buying Data

If you’ve never run ads this phase is vital.

If you’ve run ads but are testing a new copy/creative/audience/offer this phase is vital.

This is what we call “buying data”. You are investing in the knowledge that the data will give you to make better decisions tomorrow. The best part about this phase is you learn so much information about your customers. 

What do they like, what they don’t, what interests them that you had no idea did?

My favorite saying is “your customers know themselves better than you do”. This phase proves that while giving you insights into who they really are (and what they really want).

Phase 3 | Reinvesting Profits

This is the defining step that separates business owners who win long-term with ads compared to those that don’t see sustainable growth over time. Taking a portion (or all) of the profits from ads and continuing to expand into new audiences, test new creatives or copy, and test new product fits the market.

Phase 4 | Reallocating profits & scaling 

The snowball is finally snowballing! 

You’ve put in the investment, bought the data, analyzed it and are seeing wins. The information you have allows you to make faster decisions and better decisions which allows you to touch your ads less.

The idea that you need to create new ads every day or be in Ads Manager every day isn’t true for most small businesses. (Yes, once you start spending $25,000+/month this can change).

For the most part, though, the key for small businesses is to go through the investment phases and then the effort necessary to get results goes down.

Final Thoughts

Time doesn’t scale. Only your efforts do. Time in the game > everything. Start building your digital 401k snowball today.

Your business is one of the best investments (assets) you will ever have. Treat is like such.

Like the personal finance world will tell you: it’s never too late to get started.

Your future self (and business) will thank you.

Ready to become an Advestor?

Our mission is to help women-owned businesses increase their impact and generate wealth through their businesses with you guessed it – ads.

Learn more here.

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