Retargeting Is Critical to Your B2B Content Marketing Program

by | May 8, 2015 | Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Pay Per Click

This blog is part of an ongoing series as part of our 2015 Periodic Table of Marketing Trends and Predictions.

Disclaimer about Retargeting.

In all reality, retargeting drives me a little nuts. Like any paid advertising, it’s invasive. I get that, and appreciate it. It’s a necessary, yet useful, tool. What really bugs me about retargeting is its ability to “stalk” you all around the ‘net, adding a certain level of creepy to it. Seeing an empty pair of Express Jeans following me around Facebook—and other sites—frankly reminds me of a Dr. Seuss story I read to my three year old a few weeks ago.

That being said, retargeting works. And it has its uses. So stick with me for a few.

What is retargeting?
(Skip to the next section if you already know this)

Briefly, retargeting is embedding a cookie on a site visitor’s machine and following them around the web and “reminding” them with ads featuring the product from your site they were looking at. It’s great, because it reminds them they were checking it out, where they were checking it out, and ideally—how much they really, really want it. For example, I opened up to snag an image for this post. I received a Facebook alert and opened up a new tab to check my updates, and guess what appears right at the top of the ad space? An ad for iStock. KINDA crazy. Seems like magic. Great stuff for B2C. But you’re not in B2C, are you? iStock’s certainly not.

How is B2B marketing different from B2C marketing?
(You can skip this too, if you REALLY already know it)

As a point of reference, my agency focuses primarily on International B2B technology companies who are looking to establish or improve their North America-focused marketing. But we do work with big household B2C brands as well. We’ve done work with that sunglasses brand you’re constantly ogling. We’ve also done work for a giant juice brand as well as a big box electronics retailer. Do those matter to International B2B technology companies looking for a digital marketing agency?


“…because B2B marketing is ‘waaaaaay’ different (and harder) than B2C”. (a prospect said this to me recently during a pitch).

And they’re right. Sort of. Like any two related disciplines, B2B IS different from B2C. For example, in web development, you have front-end developers and back-end developers. While they’re both developers, these are two extremely different roles. You get the idea.

B2B is different from B2C in a few very real ways. Hubspot lists 10, and I don’t agree with all of them (for example, I believe that consumers DO want to be educated), but here are a few that matter, today:

  • B2B is really looking for expertise, while consumers care more about deals;
  • B2B is typically a longer selling process, while B2C is often much faster (often spontaneous), and more emotionally driven—so they have different buyer journeys;
  • B2B usually involves more than one key decision maker. It may involve a number of levels and departments. B2C usually involves one primary decision maker and maybe an influencer or two.

As a result, marketing tactics vary widely between the two. However, there are some similarities between them, allowing for marketers in B2B to leverage B2C tactics (like retargeting) when appropriate.

How is B2B Marketing Similar to B2C?
(Don’t skip this, altho you’ve probably already read it somewhere else)

There’s been a ton of chatter about this lately. And there will continue to be: the decision to purchase your product or service—whether you’re selling the next tag-generating, cloud-based, cutting-edge CRM for small- to medium-sized business, or you’re marketing the next generation of over-priced-yet-awesome Lego Star Wars sets, the decision maker is still a human being with wants, needs and emotions. And as a B2B marketer, you need to consider these when creating your marketing. For example, you might be blogging EVERY day, but if your blog is boring or doesn’t add value—the person reading will certainly factor that in when deciding to pick up the phone, or submit that web form (if they finish reading).

Speaking of Blogging, what does this have to do with Retargeting and Content Marketing?

So you’ve created your personas, mapped out your messaging and buyer’s journey, and know the who, what and how of your user. If this is all properly in place, and someone visits your blog and reads a particular post, then you know what they’re interested in and can figure out what content they will need in the latter two stages of the buyer’s journey. You can then proactively promote stage-appropriate content to them—even if they don’t sign up for your blog—through retargeting.

For example, let’s take a current client of ours, an international, highly specialized B2B technology company that specializes in digital safety products for hazardous environments. We’ve helped create a few ideal personas, mapped out the buyer’s journey, and established a keyword and content strategy for stage one of the journey: Awareness. They have a lead generation process in place, including landing pages, CTAs, a CRM, the whole shebang. Their content is HIGHLY targeted. Few people accidentally wonder onto their blog, so if someone hits their blog, there’s a very good chance they are a prospect.

The challenge they face—and many of us face—is this: what happens when someone finds your blog, views 9 or 10 posts, and then leaves without signing up for your email, following the CTA, or picking up the phone? Marketing Automation tells you that in this case—you’re at fault. Your headlines aren’t right, you haven’t chunked your information into bite-sized bullets, you haven’t used the right image on your post.


Or, perhaps people are getting tired of signing up for blogs. Even if you have the most engaging blog in the world, not everyone is going to sign up. In fact, most people won’t. Look at your own numbers (don’t judge). How many visitors did you have last month? How many signed up for your blog or emails? See?

In 2015, do you know how many blogs are out there vying for space in your email box? According to a highly entertaining, yet questionable blog via the Washington Post, there are about 106 Million bloggers in the US. Ridiculous, but you get my point. How many blogs have you subscribed to and end up deleting the daily email from your box. How many PDFs have you downloaded, never to read. Or how many browser windows have you opened, just to accidentally close them—and not bother to restore them when you relaunch Chrome?

It’s getting harder and harder to get into your target’s inbox.
So what do you do?

Follow them around the web with retargeting. But not with the same content. They already read your blog about how your latest mobile tech, cool new app or $4.99/month basic user game-changing SAAS solution is going to change their lives. They don’t need a reminder about your blog. They need you to guide them to the next two phases of buying: Consideration and Decision.

If you aren’t able to get someone to sign up for your blog, email or some other content during the awareness stage, you still have an opportunity to get your premium content (videos, storymonials, product comparisons, case studies, and more) to them through retargeting. Just follow this process:

  • Develop your marketing strategy (if you need it, here’s some marketing inspiration for 2015);
  • Establish buyer personas, target messaging, and a buyer’s journey;
  • Create content for the three stages (Awareness, Consideration and Decision);
  • Set up your website, landing pages, CTAs, and analytics to guide the buyer through the journey;
  • HERE’S THE NEW PIECE: on pages where a buyer has not engaged with a CTA and exits the page, place your retargeting code;
  • Set your retargeting platform to market your next stage content to that user across the web;
  • In addition, on pages where a user began to complete the CTA and exits, you can test retargeting that same advanced content, or next stage content.

It’s important that you dig into and anticipate your buyer’s needs. At nearly every point, you need to really be thinking about them—not you. This is extremely hard for technology companies that have created amazing technological breakthroughs. It’s in our nature to want to shout from the rooftops how awesome our new tech is (I sometimes fall into this trap as well). But you can’t. You really need to spend your time (and money) marketing your usefulness.

Help make the leap from first stage to second—or even the third.

Retargeting works for B2B in this case because you’re not marketing your product or service—you’re marketing your marketing. And your marketing is—content. You’re even helping them move from the first stage of awareness, to the second—or even right into the third, the decision.

B2B retargeting can work, but it still needs work.

So, after all that, I don’t think retargeting has to be creepy. It seems it right now because it’s not directly useful—to the consumer. But I see a world where it can be useful. I see a time when marketers use the information they get from their prospect’s visit, take that data and anticipate a need, and use that to retarget content to future customers, further down the line.

Have you tried implementing retargeting into your B2B technology marketing campaigns? What’s your success rate been?

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