Tell a Story with Retargeting

Marketing automation has become an essential part of any marketing plan. It allows companies to provide event-specific messages to customers based on actions that customers take. However, when people discuss marketing automation, they almost exclusively talk about email as the delivery method.

While email certainly works well in this context, retargeting ads can be used to further the effort. You can port the same strategies that you’re using in your automated emails to the AdWords or Facebook networks. Here’s how:

Decide on your segment #

Decide which part of your audience you would like to target first. At Code School, we first implemented this with our team platform marketing. We wanted to give consistent reminders to users that viewed at high-value pages (i.e. pricing page and checkout page) but had yet to subscribe. We felt that users looking at our team platform had unique needs to our individual accounts and the ads they were served should reflect that.

The idea was that if we had a series of ads of that highlighted the key benefits of our team platform, we could get more of our visitors to start a subscription. We had just launched new features to our team platform and it was a perfect time to test the hypothesis.

Decide on your timing #

Next, you’ll need to choose the sequence of your ads. Just like with email automation, timing is everything. You want to give people enough time to consider each point you are making.

We picked four days somewhat arbitrarily, but it seemed to be a good cadence for messaging changes. So, every four days a new creative is shown to site visitors if they have not yet subscribed.

Set up the retargeting lists #

This step is key to ensuring the right people are seeing the right ads at the right time. You’ll need to create a retargeting list for each segment that corresponds to the timing you’ve chosen. Also, you’ll need to exclude the previous list from each subsequent list. Here’s an example.

Create the ads #

As I mentioned previously, each ad sequence should either build on top of the previous sequence or talk about another unique benefit. This maximizes the number of messages a potential customer sees and increases the likelihood of one resonating with them.

Using a coupon code or offer in the last sequence has worked best for me. It’s a great last-ditch effort to get customers to convert.

Launch the campaign

If you’re using AdWords, create an Ad Group for each sequence and make sure each one is targeting the proper audience. Then upload your ads and press go.


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