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Back to the Future 2 is famous these days for how wrong the late 80’s film was in depicting the future world that we caught up to in real life a few years ago. While most films portraying the future have some gaffes – like seriously, where are our flying cars!? – there is one thing that BTTF2 got startlingly accurate.

In 2015, when Marty McFly & Doc Brown are trying to retrieve past Jennifer from her future home, future Marty is having a conference call on a giant screen. On the bottom is a running, news-ticker-style feed that lists the person’s name, neighborhood, family arrangement, favorite foods, colors, and more. Then, after future Marty gets done, his Asian boss pops up – he was secretly listening the whole time!

Of course, the movie doesn’t show Google or Facebook – they were still years away from even being conceived of when the film debuted in 1989. But the ongoing stream of data – that, we can all comprehend.

I Struck a Data Mine!

Most of us nowadays understand how valuable that data is. Even if your job doesn’t involve sales and marketing, we’ve all had the experience of searching for something in an online setting and suddenly seeing it everywhere we look.

Since this is a blog about sales and marketing techniques, I’m going to assume you’ve at least heard of retargeting and remarketing. Technically, one deals specifically with email. But people use the terms almost interchangeably, so we won’t worry about that for the moment. Retargeting is the attempt to move someone further down the sales funnel to buyer, by reminding them that they’re interested in your product or service.

The only problem is, it happens so often and so ubiquitously, people feel like they’re being stalked by their browser history. And they’re not wrong. Cookies, the tiny text messages originally used to help sites remember that you’d already been there, are now a driving force for marketing messages.

What’s Remarkable About Remarketing

Trying to recapture or convert a sale is nothing new. Salesmen have done it for years. Even telemarketers know that the best calls to make are the ones to people who have bought before. Anytime you can warm up a cold market or inch your prospective buyer one step closer to actually buying, that’s an advantage.

I wasn’t able to find any newer numbers, but back in 2013, studies showed that some 96% of the first time visitors to your website would never return. They were only researching, comparing prices, or just stumbled onto it by accident. Or maybe not so accidentally.

When Grow the Dream started, we helped our clients see and take advantage of just that. Discarding old methods of SEO and keyword bombing, instead we focused on finding your ideal customer. Then answering the questions they were asking that would bring them to your door in your content blog. Of course, the purpose wasn’t to trick people into coming to your site, but providing them value. Value offered free of charge with the hope the prospective client would stay, build trust, and eventually buy there.

We were also some of the first people to talk about Lead Magnets – additional value for your prospective customers that they get in exchange for their email address. The key being once you had their email, you could easily remind them of – remarket them – your product or service, and continue to build trust by providing additional free value or saving offers in newsletters.

That was the “birth” of remarketing. Remarketing became retargeting when companies started looking for a way to stand out from the increasing noise on the Internet.

The Death of Pepsi

There’s an old anecdote I learned in my college advertising classes. The facts may not be completely accurate – the full true story has been lost to time – but it illustrates my point, so I’m going to share it here.

Back in 1931, Pepsi-Cola was collapsing into bankruptcy. Inventor Caleb Bradham was not a savvy businessman, and the assets of the company were sold to candy maker Charles Guth. By this time, Coca Cola dominated the burgeoning soft drink business. Between advertising efforts and revolutionary packaging (6-pack anyone?), Coke had no competitor.

They were a household name.

So they stopped advertising.

Guth had originally bought the Pepsi recipe because Coke wouldn’t cut him a cheaper deal on the syrup for the soda fountains at his 200+ candy stores. But since he also owned a bottling company… he accelerated advertising, capitalizing on the cheaper rates offered by the newly born FM radio stations. And in just two years, Pepsi became a multi-million dollar company.

Although Pepsi never toppled Coke’s dominance of the soda world, they proved their value – and the value of advertising. Now Coke advertising is everywhere, from store shelves to billboards to sponsorships. If you ask a Coke advertising executive, they’ll tell you that there’s no way to pinpoint where the decision is made to buy a Coke. They have no way to measure the impact of the advertisements. So they spend Billions of dollars every year to promote their products.

And they’re not alone. Budweiser always has 7-10 new advertising campaigns at the ready. When sales dip even a little – it’s time for a new promotion.

Tracking Your Progress

Thankfully, for those of us who don’t have billions to spend promoting our products and services, retargeting provides a better way. A more personalized approach. Except when that approach feels creepy.

And that’s not my term. A 2021 study of Customer Experience trends by InMoment found that 75 percent of respondents said they find most forms of personalization that brands use to be at least somewhat creepy.

Many complained that they felt like they were always being watched. Like Big Brother was there, keeping an eye on them. One respondent pointed out that it could be frustrating if she had been shopping for gifts and suddenly those gift ideas started popping up randomly on other sites.

And then there’s the Dad who found out his underage daughter was pregnant thanks to coupons sent as from Target as a remarketing effort. That’s not the kind of publicity you want.

Some 49% of the people interviewed said the reminders bothered them, but wouldn’t do anything. However, almost a quarter of those folks would shop around or stop using the brand. More than 20% would tell others how creepy it was. And almost 10% would complain or post negative comments on social media about the creepy experience.

And the study concluded that if people dislike the way their information is saved or shared their interest in buying from you drops.

That’s going the wrong way in the sales funnel.

Rethinking Retargeting

Clearly, we need better methods of retargeting, especially as new laws get passed, like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which allows consumers to opt-out of almost any data collection.

I’ve got three ways to go about retargeting – or rather reengaging – your customers and potential customers without making them feel uncomfortable, stalked or pissed off. And they all come down to strategy.

Selective Retargeting

Neil Patel points out that people who don’t convert on your products or services usually fall into one of two camps:

  1. They don’t want to pay you money – yet.
  2. They don’t know how your product or service can help them.

The beauty of having all of the data at our fingertips is that we no longer need to take a scattershot approach to marketing or retargeting. We know where on your website people have gone, and we know how long and how often they’ve visited those pages or posts.

So we use that to specifically target them.

Which post or landing page did the prospective client stay on the longest? While we can’t actually read their minds yet, we can create a specific retargeted ad. An image or inline ad that is designed to help them make the decision they’re considering easier. Based on the information on the pages where they spent the most time.

The other specific retargeting we can do is creating an idea in their minds- an idea that shows the value of your product or service.

If you’re a food business, share a recipe that uses one or more of the items they’ve lingered on. A pest control business can offer a free inspection for whatever is plaguing clients. If you’re a florist, an image that explains the meaning behind rose colors in relationships. You can also be seasonal – the most affordable corsages for Prom that won’t look cheap.

These retargeting ads are specific and help the prospective buyer make the decision he or she is considering. It’s not just popping a red car on every website they visit from here to eternity (or they clear their Internet cache). Explore the custom audiences

Warming Up Cold Contacts

While this doesn’t qualify as a new approach, it may be one you haven’t considered. You’ve probably gotten one or two emails from businesses using Constant Contact or MailChimp asking if you’re still interested, pointing out that you haven’t been opening their emails in a while.

While that’s kind of a cheap way of getting back on a past client’s radar, while boosting the open rate, it’s effective. So are “We Miss You!” subject headers.

But even more important than that is reminding customers who haven’t purchased from you in a while that you’re still out there. You’re still offering the service or product that they bought (or considered enough to sign up for your email blasts).

This is one of those cases where automation makes everything easier.

At worst, these people will unsubscribe, dropping off your list while they still remember why they were interested and not screaming SPAM! And, really, what’s the point of sending out special sales or promotions to customers that never see them?

But there’s another value to your email list you may not be aware of. Facebook Business Manager has a feature called “Custom Audiences.” The tool lets you upload your existing email subscriber list and then matches it to their users. And because Facebook knows almost as much as God about you, they can connect your customers even if they used a different email address.

Conversion rates for existing customers are extremely high. After all, you’ve already shown value, built trust, and established a connection. And hopefully provided an excellent product or service.

If you want to get really specific, you can double down and use Facebook’s data and custom audiences to tailor ads to the people who are *really* interested. There’s even talk that Facebook might eventually target specific individuals with or without emails to help.

Targeting Instead of Retargeting

Remember all that stuff about knowing your ideal customer? With our strategic approach to business marketing, we want you to learn as much as possible about the customers that are the most valuable to you that you can provide the most value to.

You can do this by knowing your customers, sending out surveys, even using the Facebook Insights and Google Ad tools. The more information you have about your ideal customer, the stronger and more specific your marketing approach can be.

A nice side effect to that is you know where your customers go to shop, read the news, research, learn about their hobbies and interests, and explore. So you can anticipate them.

Much like writing a content blog that answers the questions they’re asking, you can place ads on sites and even in print publications that they are likely to see. You can sponsor their local sports teams and athletic complexes. You can support the causes they care about. Just like Coke and Pepsi, but on a much smaller scale, you can remind them of your name, product and service in their everyday lives.

For more than 10 years, Grow the Dream has taught small businesses and entrepreneurs how to strategically market themselves, both online and off. We also assist those busy business owners who don’t have the time to do it themselves with strategic analysis, including specific customer profiles, best social media practices and creating content, both blog articles and videos to make you stand out online.

If you’d like help getting more attention for your business, please reach out. We’d love to help!