Advanced Retargeting: Nurturing Your Audience Across Digital Channels

The SaaS marketing world is humming in 2016 to the tune of offering your business something – anything – related to account-based marketing (ABM). It’s the summer hit equivalent of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

One of my favorite offerings has been to use retargeting advertising to engage with the employees from a specific account as they surf the web. Yes, retargeting ads can be annoying. But they are also effective. And when as much as 75 percent of the buying process happens before a contact ever reaches out to you, it is critical to be looking for proactive ways to win hearts and minds by building the brand through any number of tactics, including retargeting.

But just as ABM is a new concept that is really 20+ years in the making, an effective retargeting campaign for ABM relies on some old-school marketing.

Let’s review what you’ll want to consider as you launch your next retargeting campaign for ABM, and how they all the pieces fit together.

Ideal account profile

Who is your ideal account?

Just as you begin any marketing initiative by determining your ideal customer profile and buyer persona, the same applies to building out your ideal account profile.

Look at the accounts you have now or that are in your pipeline. What ones do you want to emulate? Do you understand the business drivers for that prospective account, on both an industry and company level?

Next, you want to focus on understanding goals, behaviors, language, processes, systems, and more. As you build out your ideal account profile and next move to creating personas, you will want to consider that you’ll need personas for the decision maker, the influencer, and the stakeholders.

As CMO Kevin Bobowski points out in the video below, in the example of targeting the Act-On account, we would build out personas for him (the decision maker), for his directors and senior directors of the various marketing teams (the influencers), and then a persona for folks like me that will be working every day in the product being sold (the hands-on users). The end result is that there can be hundreds or more different touchpoints into an account throughout the different stages (brand, demand, expand), all of which calls for a coordinated approach.

Content audit

As your ideal account and account-buyer personas take shape, be aware that you should have an audit that addresses each stage of the buyer’s journey for each persona. Audit the content you already have and identify the gaps. For instance, you may want to produce an eBook for users, a short demo video for the influencers, and an ROI case study for the decision makers. As this content gets identified and fleshed out, you can plan how to use it in your ABM retargeting campaign.

Lead nurturing

Let’s define it.

“Lead nurturing is an automated program that encourages prospects to interact with your brand,” said Linda West, director of marketing at Act-On Software.

According to Gleanster Research, 30 percent to 50 percent of the leads that marketers get are qualified, but are not yet ready to buy.

“Just because they’re not ready to buy does not mean they will never buy,” West said. “It means that it’s your job as a marketer to really stay top of mind with the person and really develop the relationship with that person, warm them up over time, so that when they are ready to buy, they choose you.”

She said the goal with lead nurturing is to provide that top of mind outreach through a series of emails and other communications, but not explicitly sell to the prospect, so that over time you’re building trust with them.

“You don’t want to turn them off by sending this ‘BUY NOW’ email message when you know they’re not ready to buy, when they’re not quite there yet, and when they barely know your brand,” West said. “They just won’t bite, especially if you’re in the B2B space or if you have a product with a really big price tag on it, and you have a much longer sales cycle.”

She said you can nurture a prospect across different channels, using the intelligence you’ve gathered from your marketing automation platform and your lead nurturing environment. Companies that excel at this, West said, generate 50 percent more sales ready leads at 33 percent lower cost, according to Forrester Research.

The messaging you send via your nurture program is going to be influenced by your prospect’s profile, behavior, and engagement on your website. Your nurture program is going to direct your account personas along the buyer’s journey.

The content you’ll serve could include blog posts, tweets videos, and just about anything that will help them better understand the problem they’re experiencing as their respective pain points. This can be best-practice content, inspirational content, or funny, suitable-for-the-workplace content. In later stages of the buying cycle, you’ll validate their interests and offer more specific solution/product information such as case studies, testimonials, analyst reports, and so forth.

Just as you did during your content audit, you want to map out where along the funnel you will be sending your nurture campaign messaging. Recognize that no one makes decisions on your timeline; they make decisions on their own timelines.

So as you develop an email nurturing automated program, you’ll use branching logic to say if someone interacts with this email, then serve them with this message. If they don’t interact, they get a different message. Map out the scenarios in which they interact with everything, and the scenarios if they interact with nothing.

You’ll now be ready to integrate that with your retargeting campaigns, expanding those nurturing messages via retargeting to the same personas in your lead nurturing email campaign.

“For every individual email message we have in the nurture campaign, we also have an ad that follows them around the web wherever they are, it’s a retargeting ad, that complements that message and gives them that same feeling,” West said.


Rodrigo Fuentes, co-founder and CEO of, suggests looking at how the loop can be closed via retargeting by looking at a hypothetical example: Carl, the CIO of Acme Construction Company (decision maker), has been tasked with buying construction management software for a new project Acme is starting. Carl delegates this assignment down the chain, and it eventually ends up on the desk of Anne, an engineering project manager.

Anne starts the buying process via a Bing internet search for “construction management software.” During her initial research, she comes across HCSS, a construction software company. HCSS, our hero in this example, was also on a list of prospective firms that Carl had passed down to her.

Anne visits HCSS’s website, exploring pages that give a high-level overview of various problems that construction companies have. She finds a landing page for a white paper that gives an in-depth analysis of the specific problem Acme has, and gives particulars of the benefits of HCSS’s construction management solution.

Anne downloads this whitepaper, saves it to her desktop, and then moves on to another project. You see, as mentioned earlier, Acme is a qualified buyer, but isn’t yet ready to buy. For Acme, it will be a 4–6-month buying process, and Anne has moved on to address more immediate deadlines.

But by downloading the white paper, Anne has been entered into HCSS’s CRM via its marketing automation platform. Carl is already in the system, filed under the Acme account profile. With the addition of Anne, HCSS is beginning to develop an account profile.

Based on her initial behavior, HCSS is going to put Anne in its lead nurturing program, sending her an email with content related to her interest and behavior on the HCSS website (gleaned from the marketing automation platform).

Additionally, HCSS is going to also serve Anne retargeting ads that support the nurture program. Those retargeting ads will be displayed on various third-party platforms, such as internet news sites.

The first retargeted ad offers an eBook on construction safety programs (based on her behavior on the HCSS website). A second, then third retargeting ad offering content focusing on the top of the funnel is sent out every seven days.

If Anne engages with this content, then next month HCSS will send her another batch of retargeting ads (and emails) that offer her middle of funnel content. Then, based on Anne’s engagement with the middle of funnel content, HCSS will send her bottom-of-funnel nurturing content.

Additionally, based on Anne’s behavior, HCSS will serve Carl retargeting ads that offer top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, and later bottom-of-funnel content targeted to his persona as a decision maker.

Over the course of four to five months, HCSS will have been nurturing both the influencer and decision makers at Acme about their software solution. They will have also been generating brand awareness with Anne and Carl as the two traveled around the rest of the web via retargeting ads, including ads that featured Acme’s logo in them.

“It’s really important to understand that in this postmodern marketing world that we live in, people are becoming a lot more marketing savvy,” Fuentes said. “You really have to get creative and understand how to nurture audiences across digital channels. And I think that’s really where intelligent retargeting and intelligent email nurture marketing can be extremely valuable.”

Ready to expand your knowledge about how to extend your nurturing across digital channels? Join Linda West, Director of Marketing at Act-On Software and Rodrigo Fuentes, Co-Founder and CEO of ListenLoop, as they deep dive into the topic and show you how you can generate more sales-ready leads, by extending your lead nurturing efforts through retargeting.