Retargeting PSA

Retargeting is still (as of 2021) a good deal for small, independent businesses

Just a quick note here on “retargeting”, an odd little loophole that makes it possible for small, indie businesses to exploit the exact same advertising strategy used by massive brands. I wrote about this last year but looking over those posts, I wasn’t clear enough.

To be clear: you should get an Adroll account and experiment with retargeting. 

Who knows, maybe this won’t be true in 6 months. But I kinda think it will – and I think you should be aware of it.

On a recent client call, I had the chance to talk shop with another experienced hand at digital marketing. As we spoke, I reflected internally my surprise that retargeting is still the same opportunity as years ago. Gary Vee said in early 2018 that retargeting was a rare opportunity would end in 18 months. I believed this reasonable prediction at the time. But today it’s still a good opportunity; it hasn’t gotten expensive.

Before I go on, here’s how I define it:

Used interchangeably with remarketing, retargeting tracks a person’s visit to a website (via a browser cookie) in order to subsequently show ads to that person on other parts of the Internet.

For example, you visit a web page which details a book you are interested in. Then a month or even six months later, the book seller shows you an ad for that book on Instagram, or anywhere else on the Internet.

You can think of retargeting as “reminder advertising”.

A few important points that I have omitted from the dictionary definition:

  • Retargeting is unfairly thought of as privacy-invasive and conflated with truly invasive data aggregation driven by advertising. Properly executed, retargeting can be GDPR-compliant.
  • Pretargeting, which is closely related, can also be performed ethically if correctly executed – but it’s trickier. It involves uploading a list of user profiles to an ad network like Facebook to see if any of your users match their users. Ideally you collect your users with something like an email subscription form that has an advertising disclaimer. Anyway, once you upload your list, the network then shows your display ads to matched user profiles already in their system. 
  • Together, retargeting and remarketing are referred to as, “warm advertising”. As distinct from cold advertising, such as running ads on Google or Facebook to people who have no idea who you are. The terminological parallel is to sales calling – warm vs cold. 
  • Retargeting is the only form of paid ads (as opposed to boosted content) I’d recommend to promote specialized, non-lead-magnet content, such as in-depth stories, podcasts, YouTube channels, or art.

The enduring profitability and low-entry point for retargeting is probably bolstered by:

  • the pandemic lockdowns’ effect of creating more total ad space (even while spending on display ads is up 10% in 2020)
  • the ongoing aversion to digital advertising
  • the fact it’s still misunderstood or lumped in with cold advertising

There may be one more reason – in order for retargeting to be worth the investment, you need some web traffic (not much but some), and ideally, an ecommerce friendly-funnel.

In other words, you need a top of funnel, to drive decent traffic to the landing page where you drop the retargeting pixel. And even if you can’t sell your product or service on your site (that your retargeting ads link to), you should facilitate the booking of demos or sales calls that will do so.

With the above conditions met, retargeting makes sense for most businesses, even with modest web traffic, both because of the availability of easy-to-use adtech, like AdRoll, and because of the low cost of the advertising itself. 

Happy retargeting (: