We’ve all experienced ad retargeting on the internet: we go to purchase something on the internet, maybe some amazing new stationary, we put the item in our cart – but something shiny distracts us, and we don’t go through with the purchase. Maybe our kids walk in, our cat walks over the keyboard, or another tab is too enticing. Either way, we close the tab before buying, but the next day on Facebook we see an ad about that exact same product. “Forget something?” the ad lures us in to finish our purchase.

Ad retargeting is, at its simplest, sending an ad to someone who already knows about your business. In this example, this ad is automated to serve an ad to someone who has visited a specific page on a website, or put a specific item in their shopping cart.

While this is the most common way we see retargeting in the wild, it is most certainly not the only way to use it. Retargeting is simply a way to say ‘okay, I know this person is interested in this thing, what’s the next step?’. For some businesses, it might well be pushing someone down a purchase path to buy a product they left in a cart, but for others, that next step might be education about a new product or service, or even inviting customers to join a mailing list.

We know the benefits of retargeting make sense from a financial standpoint: it’s 6 times more expensive to win a new customer than to retain an existing one. So we know that it makes sense target to people with ads who know, like and trust you already, who will perhaps purchase again, rather than finding new customers.

So how can we walk new customers down a sales funnel to make the most of retargeting (and does it still work if it’s not an e-commerce product?).

CASE STUDY: Retargeting for events

I’d like to share with you a case study of a project I worked on last year, where we used retargeting engage and convert customers for a series of niche events in Sydney.

The events were brand new, which meant we needed to identify the target audience from scratch, encourage them to trust the brand and then drive them to purchase tickets to the event.

Let’s walk through the phases of the campaign…

Phase One: The Awareness Ad

Our first phase was a video ad promoting the event. We tested a variety of different audiences based on who we suspected were likely interest groups. We reviewed the data, to see which audiences were most engaged, using video watch time as a metric to determine engagement.

Once we identified the groups who were most interested in the event, we strategically reallocated the budget for Phase 1 to target the groups who were showing the highest interest in the event. This meant we weren’t wasting our budget on audiences who weren’t likely to be interested.

One benefit of starting with a video is that video ads are very cost effective on Facebook. We could show the ad to a large number of people and essentially ‘tag’ the most interested people to serve an ad to later on through retargeting.

Phase Two: Consider attending the events

The second phase was to set up Facebook Events and push people to them, with the objecting of getting people to RSVP to the event on Facebook. We wanted to ensure the event had social proof right from the outset to encourage people to join the event, and we didn’t want to waste our spend on people not interested in the event.

In order to make it look like the event was buzzing right from the start, so we served the ad promoting the event to our most engaged audiences: including people who Liked the page, who were on the mailing list and who had visited the site. This meant that we were going to see a spike in RSVPs at the start, to make the event look like places were filling fast.

Initially, we served this ad to people who weren’t just in Sydney, but to everyone in Australia who Liked the Page. We found that excited fans would tag their Sydney-based friends, or ask about a local event in their area. This added some key social proof to build hype. Using this tactic of starting with our warmest audiences, from the outset we had a huge number of people who were “Interested” in attending, which made the event look like it was must-attend.

With the event page having comments of people tagging their friends,  enquiries about events in other cities and an enticing number of RSVPs, we then expanded the ad targeting to include the audiences a little less familiar with the event, but had shown interest. We used retargeting to serve an ad pushing event RSVPs to people in Sydney who had watched more than 70% of the original video ad.

On a shoestring budget, we’d managed identify our audience and encourage enough people to RSVP to meet our venue capacity. The next step was to convert them to buy tickets to the event.

Phase Three: Convert to buy tickets

Anyone who has ever hosted a birthday party knows that people who say ‘Yes’ on Facebook don’t always actually mean they will attend! When you’re running an event, using Facebook ‘yes’ to estimate numbers can be dangerous, so we want to get people to actually purchase tickets rather than simply show interest on Facebook.

Our goal here was to convert these ‘Interested’ people buy tickets to the event several days before the event so we could get the most accurate figures for the venue. As this was a brand new brand, we didn’t have historical data to help us estimate the likely attendance numbers.

Two weeks before the event, we rolled out our bff, retargeting, again. We retargeted the people who had RSVP’d on Facebook with ads encouraging them to book tickets to the event. Now is the time to buy, we told them.

For this final phase, this ad linked directly to the ticket buying site, to ensure there was the most streamlined purchasing process as possible. As this third phase was hyper targeted to an engaged audience, had a deadline for purchase and enticing call to action, 78% of people who visited the ticket booking site via our ad purchased a ticket.

Not only was the event sold out, but additional events we then launched due to the interest in the event. And, it was very cost-effective, with event team seeing a nice 161% Return On Ad Spend for the entire campaign.

What are the key takeaways:

By refining our audience at each step, when we ran ads in the third phase to push people to the event ticket sales, those people were really, truly keen to buy tickets. Our ad spend wasn’t just targeting vague demographics: we knew these specific people wanted to attend this event.

Using a variety of ad mediums meant that we could manage our budget more effectively. By starting out with a video ad, we could work with broader audiences to judge their interest in the film, and not only learn more about which groups were most engaged but also tag specific individuals for retargeting.

For this campaign, the follow-through was essential. It was not enough just to lead people to the Facebook event, but we needed to remind them that the event was coming up and that it was time to buy so we could get early and accurate attendance figures for this event.

Ad retargeting isn’t just something that is useful for e-commerce, but it’s something that can be useful as part of your sales funnel, eliminating audiences who aren’t interested, tagging those who are for future retargeting and then walking them down the purchase path.

Looking at running ads in 2018?

Rachel is an experienced Facebook Advertiser, keeping abreast of the ever-changing world of Facebook advertising. She looks for ways to set up clients to succeed in the long term to reach their business goals. Find out more about Rachel’s Facebook ads offering or get in touch today to see how Rachel can help you.


About Rachel Beaney

Rachel Beaney is an Australian freelance social media specialist with over a decade in digital media. She’s worked with global names like Microsoft, Samsung, News Corp and General Assembly, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping clients solve their business needs with creative and data-driven solutions. Get in touch today to jump on a free consultation call to find out how Rachel can help you.



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