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Retargeting Management: It’s Time to Change Your Approach

Written by: Erik Mansur, VP, Product and Engineering

Remember when online advertising was easy? Not that long ago, getting a good-looking banner ad placed in a prime location on the world wide web was the best way to drive people to your website.

The costs were lower, the click-through-rates were higher, and if you staked out a unique place for yourself within the online retail space, the sales were outstanding.

Today, spending advertising dollars online is far more complicated. The average marketer now must devote time and resources to all aspects of the sales funnel. Acquisition, activation and re-engagement each come with its own unique audiences, creative concepts and success metrics. Yet many advertisers are using the same channels to accomplish those goals.

Granted, managing spend on each of those channels requires different skills, so it’s understandable that a marketing VP may want to divide a team into silos based on the advertising networks themselves. But I strongly argue that a better approach is to organize the group based on the advertising objectives the team hopes to achieve.

Let’s dig a little deeper into these two approaches.

Managing retargeting by channel

As mentioned earlier, the channel-led approach is a reasonable option given the differences between managing ad spend on social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc), on mobile and online display (Google Display Network, AppNexus, AppLovin, etc.) and on paid search (Google, Yahoo, Bing).

Nearly all of the social channels have their own proprietary user interface that allows for scalable campaign management, as do some of the search providers and the options for display advertising. But the majority of publisher networks for web and mobile display don’t come with in-house tools built-in, forcing a marketing team to either opt for an agency-style solution, or build a tech stack internally.

Things get complicated when you look at this channel-led approach through the prism of an online sales funnel. The social team will be attempting to prospect and bring in new users while making use of Facebook Dynamic Ads to retarget and re-engage existing users. The display team, meanwhile, will be delivering ads to those exact same users with their own retargeting efforts, either managed by an agency (which in most cases has zero insight into what the social team is doing), or within their own tech stack (which costs thousands of dollars and man hours to maintain).

Retargeting management

In the worst-case scenario for the channel-led option, the social team serves Facebook Dynamic Ads to a subset of ideal users, who are the same subset being bombarded by ads coming from the display team. The lack of cross-channel frequency control forces those users to bail after being peppered with irrelevant ad content, leading to less net revenue. Ask any marketer in the world: less revenue is bad for business.

Managing retargeting by objective

The objective-led method for marketing teams is growing in stature precisely because it addresses the issues outlined above.

With this approach, the marketing team is divided into the areas of the sales funnel where users reside, as opposed to the channels where users are targeted. Therefore, with the objective-led approach the acquisition (prospecting) team is responsible for all forms of new customer accrual, from brand awareness on through the initial site visit, email signup or impulse purchase. Meanwhile, the retargeting team takes on the lower funnel ad spend, bringing people closer to purchases and reintegrating them into the sales funnel through remarketing.

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The two teams will utilize any digital channel at their disposal to accomplish these goals, including social and display channels, and owned inventory (email, mobile push notifications, etc).

The best case scenario for the objective-led approach would be for the acquisition team to drive net new users into the sales funnel by using the lookalike targeting capabilities on offer from the social and display networks. But, if those users don’t make a purchase during their first visit to the site, the activation team (part of retargeting) will catch them by using behavior-based audiences, and retarget them with dynamic ads on Facebook, Instagram, and on publishers across the web and mobile.

Creating a team based on where potential purchasers reside in the marketing funnel instead of based on the channels where they can be reached, can smooth over the advertising process.

The acquisition team can use custom audiences for exclusion to ensure that current customers aren’t being targeted with new user campaigns, and the retargeting team will make use of a cross-channel retargeting plan that seeks out users across multiple channels who have a higher likelihood of converting.

There was a time not so long ago when online advertising was a piece of cake. Ask any marketer in the world: we no longer live in that time. The proliferation of marketing tools and channels have added layers of complexity to online advertising, but the goal remains the same — net new revenue.

Creating a team around where potential purchasers reside in the marketing funnel instead of based on the channels where they can be reached, can smooth over the advertising process. It may even bring marketing back to the halcyon days of good-looking ads, prime locations and outstanding sales.

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