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Beyond the funnel

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Beyond the funnel: how retargeting makes marketer’s lives easier

Everyone in marketing knows about the funnel. In fact, therehave been many attempts to reinvent it over the 122 years since an advertising pioneer with the extraordinary name of Elias St Elmo Lewis first developed it, but its core principles have remained remarkably unchanged. All marketing still follows the essential AIDA model –  we all still aim togenerate Awareness, maintain Interest, create Desire and push into Action. What has changed is the ever more sophisticated technical tools at our disposal, and their ability to not only bring people to the funnel, but also keep bringing them back. Think Michael Corleone in the Godfather III: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

This is the specialist but powerful skill of retargeting. And if the gangster movie metaphor sounds a bit sinister, we should admit up front that some consumers do find this practice a little sinister. People sometimes find it unsettling that wherever they go on the Internet they seem to be followed by the same company trying to sell them the same product, and lightness of touch can be important. However, there is a simple reason why most sophisticated marketers still use retargeting – it works.Search for “ROI retargeting” and you will discover claims of returns on investment of more than 1,300%, although somewhere around the 300% mark seems to be more common and is still incredibly impressive.

Why does retargeting work? Well, it all comes down to one depressing statistic which Adobe have reported: around 96% of people who visit your website aren’t ready to make a purchase yet. That means  that 19 times out of 20 all of the incredibly hard work you put in to drive people down the tunnel – the smart Pay Per Click ad campaigns you used to first raise Awareness, the blogs that nurtured potential customers’ Interest and the social media campaign that created Desire –was apparently wasted. There was no final Action, no final sale. Retargeting is your way to cut down on all of that waste, and pull potential customers back to the Desire stage again, for another chance to push them into the Action which is your ultimate goal, whether that’s buying a product or signing up for a service.

If you aren’t already retargeting then you need to start – now. Here’s a simple guide to how. The first step is the most basic, which is making sure you have your foundations in place. If you use Google Ads a lot you will need Google Analytics set up as a minimum and make sure you have inserted their remarketing code into your website (think of the remarketing code as the secret tracking implants often found in science fiction movies and you won’t be far wrong). Microsoft Ads has the similar Universal Event Tracking tag, while Facebook has the cuter sounding Facebook Pixel.

It’s these little pieces of code which allow these platforms to identify which websites their users have visited before, and help you to find them again and try to close the deal this time. But doing that effectively requires you to return to your marketing funnel and think very clearly about the specific purchasing journey of your customers, and how it differs between them. As Instapage puts it, “the key in creating successful retargeting campaigns lies with audience segmentation.”

For example, you need to understand the time that you have between your customer first exploring the idea of buying your product and the time they decide. If you are selling holidays, for example, this can often be quite a large space of time, since a consumer is likely to start researching options quite a long time before they make a final decision (sadly, this is especially true now). People looking to buy pregnancy kits, on the other hand, may have a very short time slot indeed before they make the final decision. Search Engine Journal call this the “retargeting window”.

Whatever that window is, you need to tailor your retargeting campaign to it, making sure that you get your message in front of them before it is too late. To help you, draw on all the data gathered from the tracking codes discussed before. You can follow exactly where on your website potential customers went and use it to surmise intention and what stage of the marketing funnel they are at. If you are selling holidays and they went to your Bali pages and even looked at accommodation, they are likely in the Desire stage: follow up by offering them more options in the same area, and you can push them into Action.

You can get remarkably specific in doing this. On Google, for example, you could make separate retargeting lists for large audiences (all the people who have visited your website, for example) or much more specific audiences (such as people who put an item into their “cart” but didn’t complete the purchase, or who read a particular blog and therefore indicated what aspect of your products or services most interests them). These are clearly people who already have an interest in your product or your brand, which makes engaging them much easier than trying to identify an entirely new customer. Little wonder that Lucas Lee-Tyson of Growth Cave says “retargeting is some of the lowest hanging fruit you can ever target.” 

By now, you haven’t just got an idea of your customer, you practically have a full FBI profile, complete with habits, personality quirks and exactly what stage they are at in their buyer’s journey. Now you are in a position to give them exactly what they want. If they abandoned a cart, the likelihood is that they had a pang over pricing, so you can target them with an ad offering a discount. If they visited something much more specific – such as a blog on how your exercise products can help reduce stomach fat – hit them with an ad talking about attaining the perfect six pack.

The final stage in this retargeting journey is to drive your re-hooked customer through to a landing page which has been designed with their specific needs in mind. While you might not want the landing page to greet them by name (that will trigger that unsettled feeling we talked about earlier), you do want it to anticipate their concerns (regarding pricing, effectiveness or urgency, for example) and make it easy for them to take action. Search Engine Journal argues that you need to make your landing pages “more personal, more curated, and more relevant”.

There are other, less direct ways in which retargeting can be an invaluable tool in your marketing funnel strategy. Retargeting doesn’t always need to push people directly back to the Desire or Action stages, it can also engage with them at the Awareness stage. Targeting people who have previously engaged with your website with follow-up advertising or promoted social media posts can deepen their connection to your brand. As Smart Insights argues, retargeting can allow you to“raise your brand awareness and increase the efficiency of your ads”.

Many people are attracted to digital marketing because they enjoy the challenge of it, the complexity of reaching your customers and the difficulty in getting them to convert. But it’s foolish to make a virtue of this challenge, and when a tool makes success easier we should snatch it. Retargeting is one of those tools, a no-brainer way to reach your customer and drive up awareness and sales. Get stuck in and start to feel the benefits immediately.

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