Putting Retargeting To Work For Your Startup

Like most startup founders, I’ve dabbled in some form of paid advertising — and generally losing money in the process with few results to show. Most of my early advertising was banner ads: I’d buy a placement through something like BuySellAds, upload a creative, and drive traffic to the Planscope homepage.

This didn’t work that well, and while I may have gotten a handful of trials during these campaigns, the acquisition cost was pretty steep.

A few months back, I stumbled upon Perfect Audience. A few of my friends swore by retargeting — I think it was Ruben Gamez who told me, “it’s obvious when we aren’t running retargeting campaigns” — so when Brad Flora, one of the founders, invited me to try it out I eagerly took up his offer.

But like my earlier banner ad campaigns, the results were pretty bleak. After spending about $134, I netted a few clicks back and zero conversions.

Original Perfect Audience campaign

Retargeting 101

If you’re unfamiliar with retargeting, in a nutshell:

  1. Visitor views your site (or even opens up an email of yours) and a script is fired off and they’re tagged as having visited or seen something of yours.
  2. Ad networks, including Facebook, will show people who are tagged ad campaigns of yours, generally for up to 30 days.

So if you’ve ever wondered why SendGrid ads might be showing up on a gardening blog, it’s not because the CMO of SendGrid one day decided there were enough gardeners to warrant placing ads on gardening websites… smile, you’ve been retargeted!

As someone who heavily relies on content — blog posts, newsletters, and podcasts — to promote my core product, Planscope, getting my SaaS in front of my readers makes a lot of sense. It would be pretty annoying if all of my emails and all of my posts were trying to sell Planscope at every corner, so by showing ads to people who I more or less know are in my target audience, the results should be outstanding.

Not necessarily.

As you saw above, about 100 people clicked through my Facebook ad, and none of them decided to try out Planscope. So what went wrong?

Don’t Sell The Product

Imagine you’re browsing around Facebook. You’re scrolling through status updates, pictures of kids, and whatever else. And an ad catches your eye. It’s about making more money freelancing… and hey, you’re a freelancer! So you click. And you’re faced with a product’s marketing site. Now, you’re still in “looking at pictures” mode, and here’s a site that’s trying to sell you some software. And they want your credit card. So, you go back to looking at your friends’ pictures, and I lose money on a click.

Original FB sidebar ad

It’s important to understand where and what someone is doing when they come across your ad. For most of us in the B2B space, they’re not doing something that makes them inclined to whip out a credit card and start a trial. They’re reading blog posts or looking at Facebook. They’re not looking to be sold anything.

Start A Drip Campaign

If your ad is promising that you’ll help them make more money freelancing, then the landing page for that ad should be more inline with that outcome. Software generally takes time and usage to provide value; education is pretty immediate. Knowing firsthand the power of building relationships over time via email, I knew that if I could instead drive traffic to something that immediately provided value with very little friction, I might be able to reverse some of my earlier failures.

So this time around, I put together a newsfeed ad (a new ad type that Perfect Audience is starting to support), and made the ad educational. No software, no Planscope. Just a 5 day course, which outlines my five most practical tips for growing a consulting business.

FB ad to email course opt-in

The landing page itself is pretty barebones. Here’s the problem, and here’s my solution. Oh, and you’ll get something of immediate value right now — you’ll learn how to estimate better. And all I need from you is your name and email, and you can go right back to looking at pictures on Facebook.

This allows me to slowly deliver information that’s valuable to the reader, and slowly associate the outcomes — better estimating, better clients, and a better consulting business — with how Planscope fits into that picture. By the end of the course, I’ve made a subtle case for Planscope. I don’t hard sell it, but it boils down to “if you agree with my philosophy of consulting, I’ve baked this directly into Planscope.”

Here’s what I’m seeing:

Last week PA stats

A 2.24% click through rate (granted, newsfeed ads get a lot more clicks than the sidebar ads I was using before) and a staggering 21% average conversion rate — for a grand total of $59.37, or $0.86 per conversion.

Here’s how the conversions break down:

PA Conversion Stats

64 people have opted into the email course, and 5 of them have converted to trials. Of the 5 that converted, none signed up right after clicking the ad — Perfect Audience tracks signups that happen days later.

Not too shabby — less than a dollar to get someone on my email course, and adding a new trial for a little more than $10. (My value per trial is at least 7x that.)

A Bit About The Course

For this email course, I’m using Rob Walling’s new Drip product, which is meant to help convert visitors to your marketing site to trials. Drip’s widget is still at the bottom right of just about every page on the Planscope site, but the email course landing page is centered around getting people onto that Drip campaign.

Drip also tracks conversions, and allows you to see what email sparked a particular conversion to trial. (If you don’t need conversion tracking, and have more general needs I’d highly recommend my good friend Nathan’s ConvertKit.)

Drip conversion stats

I’m still working on refining my email course, but so far it looks like about 1 out of every 10 opt-in that came via Facebook is converting to a trial, which makes this a totally worthwhile marketing flywheel for my business (the chart above includes conversion stats for my entire Drip campaign.) I’m in the process of split testing this course to try to inch up the number of trials that spin up as a result of the course. But here’s the thing — not everyone’s going to be ready for Planscope after 5 days. Not everyone has an immediate need for the software. But when they are ready to act, I’m betting that the relationship that I forged over email will help put my product at the forefront of their mind.

Want to checkout the landing page for my email course? Here it is.

5 Responses to “Putting Retargeting To Work For Your Startup”

  1. Marcin

    Hi Brennan,
    I just saw your post on HN. I’m working on a product that simplifies and makes far more advanced retargeting strategies possible for startups, b2b companies and companies with long product sales cycles. You can read a bit about what we’re doing in this blog post by one of our early clients: http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/our-blog/content-remarketing-an-experiment-with-resonance/. It would be great to connect and compare notes if you could find 30 min for a quick skype.

  2. Josh Pigford

    I always looked at retargeting as a way to solidify your brand in a potential customer’s mind.

    ie. They visited your site sometime recently and so retargeting just reminds them to go check it out again.

    But sounds like you’ve had better success ignoring that part and just pitching them an ad that piques their interest regardless.

    Giving the newsfeed ads a try now.

  3. Tyler Rooney

    Great post Brennan. Thanks for sharing your data.

    I’d be interested to hear how large your retargeting segment is. I feel like the downside to this tactic may just be that it you can only scale it up along with the size of your retargeting audience.

    Have you tried a similar ad (linking to drip campaign) on other types of Facebook targeting?

  4. Retargeting Done Right

    […] that retargeting with ads that point back to the root page of your marketing site is a silly idea. Read this for why I think that. But today I don’t want to write about how you should retargeting and what your ads should point […]

  5. How to Effectively Use Remarketing (Infographic)

    […] Putting Retargeting To Work For Your Startup […]


Leave a Reply