Marketing Automation for re-targeting

Author: Mike Macdonald

The technical building and reporting Ninja - Proficient in building and managing automated workflows over various marketing platforms. Creative approach to building systems that can be managed by a solopreneur or large marketing team.

Re-targeting to increase your conversions

Re-targeting is a strategy for re-engaging people that have engaged with your content, but have not taken the action that you want them to. Most commonly used on website visits, with adverts showing on subsequent pages or partner pages, but there’s so much more...

Without re-targeting, the traffic that you have spent time and money on is wasted if they don’t complete the purchase, or don’t sign up, or don’t watch the video you spent hours recording and editing.

You’ll see statistics all over the web on the amount of people that leave a website without taking action, and most quote around 96%. Leaving just 4% of your visitors that take any action. 

That’s heartbreaking, and it’s the reason re-targeting exists. It’s to try and avoid a broken marketing heart. 

Don’t blame them, they did see your awesome thing, but they got distracted, and….

Re-targeting reminds people that you exist. Whatever device people are using when they see your content, they are open to distractions, or they have doubts about your product, or they seek a cheaper alternative. 

If they have gone off to research alternatives, it’s a way to get you back in front of them. It’s your chance to shine, and return to front of mind. 

Re-targeting is achieved in different ways depending on some of these factors:

  • What medium the content was contained in? Did they visit your web page, or your Facebook page, or open an email?
  • What the action was that they did not take? Did you want them to sign up, or purchase outright, or just click on the email?
  • How the traffic was attracted to that piece of content? Is it a cold audience, your existing email list, did they come in from a Facebook advert?
  • The information you have on the person to reach them. If they are on your email list, what did they sign up for originally? If it’s Facebook, you have ALL the data for re-targeting. 
  • What tools you have at your disposal to contact them again? Do you have a Facebook business account, or Google ad account, or good old Marketing Automation with good segmentation
  • The budget you have if the re-targeting is paid advertising. The scary part... How much are you willing to spend if you are going to go the PPC route?

Same-Channel re-targeting: Using the medium that they are already on

The most common re-targeting uses advertising within the channel that has previously been visited. For example:

A potential customer visits your website, clicks on a product, but decides not to buy it and saves the tab for later, or is distracted, or closes that tab.

Under normal circumstances, your sale is lost.

With re-targeting, you can use a previously configured advert that is designed around that product that will appear on other web pages through something like Google Re-marketing.

Essentially, the visit to your product page puts a cookie on your prospect’s browsing device, and they get added to your re-marketing list. That list is the audience that will see the advert when they visit a page that has Google Ads on it. 

The more specific your ad is, the more likely it is to get noticed.

Just targeting people who visit your website may get expensive, and because you don’t know the exact page that your customer visited, you can’t show them exactly what it is they were looking at. These people have already shown an interest in your product.

It’s not completely cold traffic you’re targeting. It’s a lot cheaper and more effective to advertise to people who have knowledge of you and your product than to completely cold traffic. 

Adding people to a ‘list’ for re-targeting that is based on a specific page is more targeted than just a visit to your website, but combining that page visit with other data you may have on your prospect gives you even more personalisation. 

Cross-channel /omni-channel re-targeting: Using Email, Facebook and Google (and more) together

This is especially useful for those who are browsing on mobile devices. Think of the last time you spent a chunk of time on your phone. It probably wasn’t just in the web browser, you probably used several different apps on the device.

Maybe you started in email, which gave you a link to click on, then you got a notification of a message on WhatsApp with a link to YouTube, and then you got lost in tubeland. 

Advertising is available on most major platforms (& most non-major ones)

That email you got - If you’re using Yahoo Mail, probably had an advert above it. That advert is probably based on something you’ve browsed before. That video you watched on YouTube probably got interrupted by an advert that was trying to get you to try it’s free trial.

I’m getting beaten round the head by Grammarly on YouTube at the moment because I tried to close their ad, and clicked on it by mistake. Cue further retargeting. Lots of it.

While Facebook has been toying with the thought of advertising on WhatsApp, it’s not a thing at the moment. However, that link you clicked on from a WhatsApp message from a friend that took you to Facebook, that’s another story…

Facebook has re-targeting potential coming out of every pore of its skin

That’s because Facebook has ALL the data. It’s tightened up somewhat since it got in trouble for some things it’s done with that data, but it assures us that it’s all safe now. Safely in the hands of all the businesses that want it. 

This is not the blog for all the technical details on building your successful Facebook ad campaign, suffice it to say there is a greater degree of personalisation that can happen when you know what people like, where they are, how old they are, and all the other demographic data that Facebook has been hoarding.

With Facebook, you can specify the type of audience, based on many different criteria, and show different ads to that audience for the time you specify. 

When re-targeting is mentioned in a customer journey plan, it’s usually used very near the beginning of the journey. Fairly new prospects have shown interest in your product, and you want to reel them in. 

That’s a great start, but there are other uses for the same tactic within your complete customer journey. 


Take the unengaged email subscriber. They haven’t opened an email in two months. Either they just aren’t seeing them, or they don’t want to engage with your brand in that way. You have choices now:

  • Keep emailing them with the same type of message, which will kill your email deliverability, and may cost you money if you are charged on number of contacts in your platform, or the number of emails you send
  • Email them with a different type of message, especially something of great value that is based on the first interaction or lead magnet they signed up to consume
  • Leave them on your database, and do not send them anything, which seems a waste…
  • Delete them, which would suck as you have spent time and money getting them on your database
  • Re-target them on another medium. 

A good re-engagement strategy includes trying to reach your customers in more than one way. 

If your opt-in forms have a field for telephone number, your platform may allow you to send an SMS to find out why the radio silence. 

Your platform may have a native connection with Facebook, or maybe with the help of a plugin like PlusThis (shameless affiliate plug - we love Plusthis), you can automatically create a custom audience based on a segment of your email database. Then Facebook can present a well-timed ad to them to remind them that you’re still there, and have the perfect thing for them.

Your platform will then also remove them from that audience if they engage with your ad/content, and you no longer need to show them that ad. 

The cart abandonment strategy

In a traditional  funnel, you fling an advert in front of people for a lead magnet, they sign up, you send them emails, they buy your stuff and you lie on the beach for a while raking in money. 

But what if they don’t make the purchase decision straight away?

Simple, you keep emailing them hey? ... Sort of

The timeliness of that email is going to make a big difference in reaching them when they are ready to buy, and it doesn’t stop with email, you can use Facebook etc. for that too. 

Your marketing automation platform probably has the ability to react when someone on your database hits a certain page. (If not, it might be time to upgrade). If that’s an order form, you can wait ten minutes, then send an email to remind them that they didn’t purchase. Or, send them a SMS, or present a Facebook message.

Going back to the mobile phone scenario earlier in this post, it’s easy to get distracted by mobile, especially if you have Facebook notifications turned on. So, if they head off to Facebook, be there. 

In the email campaign - you’ve sent your sales email, some will open, some will click, but they haven’t bought, and if you wait until tomorrow, they may not be as ready as right now.

Most platforms can react on an email open, or an email click. If someone clicks the link to your product, they are much more engaged, they are interested, but for some reason they have not bought or signed up.

This is your chance to have a reasonable guess as to what is stopping them, confront their objections, and provide some reassurance or social proof, say a testimonial or five. 

This doesn’t have to happen right after you send that initial promotional email either.

If you just have a web page automation goal sitting in your campaign ready to fire whenever someone hits a particular page, especially a page with a high value product on it, it’s your chance to re-target if they haven’t completed the action within a short time frame. 

There will be a fine line between reminding your audience in a good way, and bugging them so much that they hit the spam button. That will depend on your audience. Start small, and then iterate when you have data. 

Oh, the data. Yes. Get all the data. Ok, maybe not all the data, just the useful data...

Data is your friend with re-targeting. But only the data you can use to make a decision to improve the campaign. 

Measure page views, impressions, time on page, page goals, webform conversions, email open rates, click rates, bounce rates, spam rates, unsubscribe rates and final product purchases - all those things will tell you how your content is performing.

If your email open rates are low, check your deliverability score using one of the many tools out there, and if that’s all ok, try testing different subject lines. If the open rate is high, but the click rate is low, switch out the call to action, or the content of the email. Try with and without images, buttons instead of plain ole links. 

Do you really need to collect their IP address?

Yes there are reasons why a system admin might need that, to check for spam form submissions, but keep it out of your marketing data collection, just collect and react to key funnel milestones.

Keep your reports simple and concise and then people will want to interact with them, it’s really hard to get people to get excited about a spreadsheet that has 25 columns...

Don't Get mad, get even (more engagement)

Forgive them, they didn’t know how you’d feel when they saw your ad, clicked on it, and then forgot you.

 Don’t be sad, just remind them. It may take a few touch points as social media or their workload (or a secret agent) takes away their memory of you.

Remember, you don’t have to start with a massive budget for advertising, it won’t be expensive to just target those who clicked on the link to your order form, or hit that product page. Start small, and then iterate and go big. 

Finally, don’t use a boring call to action. Lucy wrote a super cracking piece on calls to action here, and you can also get the super easy to read, super useful page of 200 calls to action to use in your re-targeting by hitting our cracking big button below:

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