Every consumer journey is different, and the path to making a purchase is not always the same. And this has never been more true than 2020, with the global COVID-19 pandemic changing not only the way we consume media and communicate, but the way we shop as well. As more and more consumers lean into online shopping, there are going to be even more potential customers online who may not already be familiar with your brand. In order to connect with this broad group of consumers, both prospecting and retargeting are critical tactics to a successful digital marketing campaign.?

Despite their individual advantages, prospecting and retargeting differ greatly as techniques. These two approaches allow brands to change your targeting strategies based on consumer data, no matter which channel mix you choose to move forward with. In this article, we will describe those distinctions and make key recommendations about how to leverage prospecting and retargeting successfully.

No matter the size of your company, your brand recognition, or your budget, prospecting and retargeting can both help to ensure that your next digital marketing campaign is a fruitful one.

What Is the Difference Between Prospecting and Retargeting?

The key difference between prospecting and retargeting lies in the way each begins and the focus of each tactic.

Prospecting is the first step in the sales process, and is focused on identifying potential customers (prospects), who may have never heard of your brand at all, let alone visited any of your digital channels. Your interest in them as “likely customers” is based on your own analysis of existing customers or data collected by third parties. The goal of prospecting is to find a new group of likely customers and then communicate with them in the hopes of converting them from potential customer to current customer.?

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that starts with consumers who have previously interacted with your brand. These consumers are at least somewhat aware of your brand and may have some familiarity with your products or services, whether they are already in the buying cycle or they only briefly visited your website. Retargeting can help you keep your brand in front of bounced traffic after they leave your website, with the goal of reaching them and bringing them back to complete the conversion or purchase.?

Both retargeting and prospecting are important tactics to use for performance-based programmatic campaigns. But as we will find, each requires its own unique creative, messaging and ad placement, as they are each associated with different business goals.

How Prospecting Works

Prospecting is similar to traditional advertising, in that its goal is to attract new customers who may otherwise be unfamiliar with your brand. Prospecting is used to engage these new prospective customers, with messaging focused on introducing your products or services and why they may appeal to that particular audience. In many cases, prospecting campaigns will target consumer profiles similar to your current “best” customers — using “lookalike” audiences as the first step in a full-funnel marketing strategy. Prospecting campaigns can also use behavioral targeting (i.e., targeting based on browsing and shopping actions) to automatically pinpoint the audiences most likely to convert.

The process for creating a prospecting lookalike audience is relatively simple for marketers, as the heavy lifting is done by machine learning. Programmatic advertising campaigns run through demand side platforms (DSPs), each of which as an AI component build specifically to help create lookalike audiences. The marketer has to identify and provide a “seed” audience, such as brand loyalists or VIP customers, and the machine learning will identify commonalities among this audience, and then identify a new new group of prospects that match that pool. The bigger the seed audience, the more data the machine learning has to work with, and the better the results should be.

Once this lookalike audience is identified by the DSP, a prospecting campaign can begin targeting these users across channels and screens, with the goal of getting them to engage with the ad (most likely in the form of clicking on it).

In this way, the ultimate goal of prospecting is to bring new net traffic to your website to convert. As we will find, prospecting can serve is a highly effective precursor to other programmatic advertising?and marketing campaigns — including retargeting campaigns, which we will describe in a moment.

How Retargeting Works

According to Forbes, “Approximately 92% of people who visit your website are not yet ready to purchase your product or service — they might be interested, but they’re not quite ready to convert.” Retargeting tactics are aimed at helping you reach those visitors who are already interested in your brand by bringing them back to your site to convert or complete a purchase.

Retargeting is much different than prospecting for this reason: It utilizes the data you have about real visitors to your website, rather than the “lookalike” or third-party-provided consumer profiles you gained through prospecting. In this way, the ultimate goal of retargeting is to bring returning traffic to your website to convert.

In other words, retargeting uses cookies to serve ads to audiences who have previously visited your website. The ads appear in a targeted way when those individual consumers visit other online properties that feature programmatic ad space. Your retargeting ads appear to them in those spaces, which are usually in a contextually relevant online environment.

So once you have started a prospecting campaign and brought a new group of visitors to your site, retargeting is a helpful next step in bringing them further down the customer funnel.

While planning a purchase, shoppers will peruse and research products at retail stores, but conversion isn’t a guarantee. If a shopper leaves without completing a purchase, the sale doesn’t need to be counted as a loss. Instead, retailers can use retargeting methods to encourage a return visit.

Retargeting data—a successful marketing technique popularized by online retailers—can be leveraged to drive offline shoppers back into physical locations via targeted digital ads and messaging for in-store exclusives, discounts, and other offers.

Creative and Messaging

The advertising creative and messaging that uses prospecting data will differ greatly from those that use retargeting data, and vice versa. Because prospecting means engaging consumers for the first time, messaging should focus more on what you understand about each customer segment within your prospecting dataset. You cannot count on any familiarity with your product, services, or brand.

Advertising for a retargeting campaign could focus on the “missed opportunity” of consumers’ website visits, where some level of familiarity with your brand can be expected.

How Can You Utilize Prospecting and Retargeting in Your Next Campaign?

Savvy brands and agencies use both prospecting and retargeting as part of their digital marketing strategies, in order to reach more potential customers at different stages of the customer journey.?

There is no single best approach when it comes to digital marketing strategies.? Each marketer needs to make informed decisions about channels, budget allocations, and techniques to ensure they leverage the best performing options for each of their campaigns.

Not sure where to start? AUDIENCEX offers access to 18+ enterprise-level programmatic, search, and social advertising platforms to deliver better performance and increased reach. No matter where your audience is online, our team of campaign experts can help you determine the best platform to find and engage with those potential customers in order to deliver sustainable growth for your business.

Contact us to connect with one of our campaign strategists to access leading solutions and support for your next campaign.