Your browser does not support JavaScript!

5 Elements of a Successful Brand Messaging Strategy

Brand messaging is the overarching term for the words used by your brand. It’s the language and phrasing that appears on your website and in other materials you use to promote yourself, from product messaging to marketing messaging – and everything in between. It’s much more than a slogan or tagline (though they do form […]

Brand messaging is the overarching term for the words used by your brand. It’s the language and phrasing that appears on your website and in other materials you use to promote yourself, from product messaging to marketing messaging – and everything in between.

It’s much more than a slogan or tagline (though they do form part of a brand messaging strategy). Neither is it your brand itself (although it does play a big part in developing a successful brand).

Look at Lush cosmetics, whose fun, fresh brand messaging is evident across their website, social media channels, and the product packaging itself:

Image Credit

Or British brand Innocent Drinks, which maintains the same playful, childlike tone in everything they do:

Image Credit

Consistent brand messaging that both reflects a brand’s values and speaks to its audience is essential to creating a brand that customers can connect with on an emotional level – a core ingredient in building brand loyalty.

Here are 5 elements you’ll need if you want to follow in the footsteps of brands that have owned their voice and image, and create a similarly successful brand messaging strategy.

1.   Knowledge of Your USP

What is a USP?

A USP (or Unique Selling Position) is something that highlights what makes your brand unique while illustrating to consumers why they should buy your products instead of your competitors.

At the heart of every successful brand messaging strategy is an attractive USP: something that highlights what makes your brand unique, and illustrates to consumers why they should buy your products, instead of your competitors’.

Not sure what your USP is? Asking the following questions can help you establish it.

What makes you different? This is an obvious one, I know, but it’s the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out your USP.

Take Subway. The playing field has changed substantially in recent years, but for a long time the brand’s USP was that it was a fresher, healthier alternative to what was offered by the bulk of fast food franchises at the time.

The USP at Mailshake (disclaimer: my own product) is the fact that we’ve made creating and executing cold outreach campaigns as simple as possible.

That said, a USP doesn’t have to be feature-based.

Look at Zappos. Their product range isn’t particularly unique (they primarily sell brands that can be purchased elsewhere) but they set themselves apart from the competition with their utterly exceptional level of customer service.

What problem (or problems) does your product solve? Does it help your customers complete something faster, make an element of their life easier, or allow them to carry out critical tasks with greater accuracy?

Why would someone choose to buy your product instead of a competitor’s? Odds are, your competitors have USPs too. Take those into consideration and try to establish why your product is still the better choice.

2.   A Solid Understanding of Your Audience

It’s impossible to develop a successful brand messaging strategy if you don’t know who your messages are aimed at.

This means that before you go any further, you need to know:

  • Who you’re marketing to
  • What they care about and value
  • The sort of language they use and will respond to

If you’re already trading, accessing this information should be pretty easy. Google Analytics provides some pretty detailed demographic data within their “Audience” section, and if you have a Facebook page, you’ll be able to gather data from there, too.

Want more data? Post-purchase surveys can help you create a more complete picture of your target audience (just be sure to keep them short, and consider incentivizing them). SurveyMonkey and KeySurvey both allow you to do this.

If you’re still developing your brand, gathering audience data is understandably going to be a little trickier. You’ll need to get data on your competitors’ audience, instead.

You can do this using tools like SimilarWeb and Follow (their plugins are better than their websites – you can get SimilarWeb’s Chrome plugin here, and you can get Follow’s plugin for Firefox or Chrome).

Bear in mind that brands often have multiple target audiences. If this includes you, you’ll need to repeat the above for each audience, and adapt your brand messaging accordingly.

3.   A Story

Every brand has a story; but a good story, told well, can help customers connect emotionally with a brand. It should also form a core part of your brand messaging strategy.

If you’re not sure what your story is or how to tell it, or you believe your story needs expanding, try asking yourself questions like:

  • Why does your product exist?
  • How did it come to market?
  • What does it mean to you?

And perhaps most importantly:

  • What does it mean to your customers? (If the product’s totally new to the market, you might need to use market research to inform this bit).

You can write your story when you come to pull all the elements of this messaging strategy together (something I’ll talk about shortly). In the meantime, take a look at how other brands tell their stories. Just be sure to bear in mind how the audience you’re targeting will impact the way in which you tell yours.

Here are a few brands with stories that are well worth reading:

Burt’s Bees

Innocent Drinks

Soul Cycle



4.   A Clear Goal

It’s not just great stories that help consumers form emotional connections to brands. Companies that are striving to do good things resonate with a consumer market that’s becoming increasingly socially-conscious.

So if you hadn’t guessed, when I say “goals,” I don’t mean financial goals. Sure, calculating expected turnover and revenue and setting monetary targets are essential to a business plan, but they’re irrelevant when it comes to creating a brand messaging strategy.

When I say “goals,” I’m talking about how you’re trying to change things.

I’m asking you what you stand for.

I want you to look at the bigger picture.

Take Australian toilet paper brand, Who Gives a Crap. Not only is their toilet paper environmentally-friendly (it’s made without the use of trees), but the company donates 50% of their profits to charities that help build toilets for those in need.

This ties into their core brand message, which is all about demonstrating that they do in fact, give a crap – to the point that they put improving people’s lives above profit.

While you don’t need to go to the extent of donating 50% of your profits to charity, having something you care about beyond making money, and voicing it effectively, can play a huge part in creating a successful brand messaging strategy (and building a successful brand as a whole).

5.   Brand Messaging Guidelines

To execute a successful brand messaging strategy, you’ll need to pull all of the above together to create the messages themselves. You’ll also need to create brand messaging guidelines. I can’t emphasize how important this is. It will help you maintain a consistent voice across all channels, including your website and in marketing materials – a fundamental ingredient in creating a brand that customers can connect with, and want to stay loyal to.

Your brand messaging guidelines should include:

  • Your brand’s USP
  • A detailed description of your target audience (or audiences)
  • What your company stands for and its goals
  • Any slogans or taglines
  • Any other messaging that might be used
  • Your brand story
  • The tone of voice that should be used when writing messages for the brand, including examples of it in use – i.e. snippets of web copy and sample social media posts
  • Any words or phrases you don’t want used in brand messages
  • When these messages or tone of voice should be used – i.e. do you expect staff to adopt a particular tone of voice in emails? Or is it only something they need to worry about when creating content that will be shared publicly?

Once you’ve created these guidelines, they should be distributed to every member of your team, as well as to any agencies or freelancers you work with, and incorporated appropriately.

Are there any other elements that you think are key to creating a successful brand messaging strategy? It’d be great if you could take a moment to share them in the comments below:

How to Hack Brand Awareness and Unlock Revenue Growth

Growth Marketers have 19 different customer acquisition channels at their disposal to drive distribution strategy and revenue growth. But very few channels will prove effective unless we can cut through the noise and build brand awareness: Hitting home on what matters most to the customer. Before you start testing for traction you’ll need to tackle the other two ‘fits’ (language/market and channel/product) by focusing on three […]

Growth Marketers have 19 different customer acquisition channels at their disposal to drive distribution strategy and revenue growth.

But very few channels will prove effective unless we can cut through the noise and build brand awareness:

Hitting home on what matters most to the customer.

Before you start testing for traction you’ll need to tackle the other two ‘fits’ (language/market and channel/product) by focusing on three things:

  • what your brand is
  • how your brand resonates with your existing audience
  • who your target customer is

All of these are important, but the last one—in particular.

Knowing your customer is one of the most important factors in transitioning to growth.

As Jeremiah Gardner eloquently put it:

“Learning to see your growth efforts through the eyes of your customer is a critical skill every growth marketer should possess.”

But shouldn’t we already be doing this?

Yes! Of course!


It’s obvious in theory, but in practice, the data proves otherwise.

A recent study by IBM showed that almost 80% of consumers surveyed said that brands really don’t know them.

The same study also found that almost 90 percent of marketers agree that personalizing the customer experience is critical to their success.

The divergence is not surprising — personalization and hyper-targeting are very labor intensive and require a lot of data collection.

But what happens if you a few weeks to launch in new cities and don’t have the marketing budget to deploy the most effective market expansion tactics used by Series A & Series B funded startups?

I arrived at a crazy hypothesis to test when I realized that my tests were performing poorly due to poorly constructed segments and a basic understanding of which messages resonated with whom:


There’s a reason I’m sharing these tactics with you today:

I found out what happens. And..

It helped us build brand awareness. Fast.

It is TOUGH to convince people to use your service when you haven’t invested the time in getting to know them.

But if you do, and execute it well…

You can expect some ridiculous results and significant revenue growth if you have product/market fit.

And at the center of it all is your brand and how it’s perceived by your existing customers:

I’ve found that consistency in brand positioning – the way your customers perceive your brand –

Is one of the best ways to not only build brand awareness in new markets

but to also gain credibility in the eyes of prospective customers

and get them to convert.

Keanu Reeves Whoa Meme


When Doorman launched in Chicago in October, we knew there was a need for our service.

And having only been at the company for two weeks, there was a lot of customer data I didn’t know and wouldn’t be able to obtain:

  • Who that person who needed it was
  • How they would respond to certain messaging
  • What voice to utilize when trying to acquire customers
  • Why potential customers would use our service (there are many use cases)

But in those first 90 days, we kept learning about Doorman customers, we kept learning about the Doorman brand, we built up our brand awareness…

and doubled MRR in the process.

We took what we knew about the pain points of our customers in the distinct, homogenous segments in our first market and used them to unify our brand voice and identity across our channels.

We then took a press release from a local media authority that aligned our message, voice, and identity and pushed it out into the world without a noticeable Call-to-Action via Facebook:

Doorman Promoted NYC PR Post

Source: Doorman

The rest, and to paraphrase Rand Fishkin, a little bit of serendipity.

In this post, I’ll cover the steps we took to build this brand awareness campaign and acquire new customers for pennies on the dollar.

You’re about to learn about your customers and understand your brand at scale. Fast.

I want to get you thinking about the following questions and how you can extract the answers to these questions:

  • Why should startups care about their brand identity and positioning early on?
  • How can I use what I discover about my brand and/or customers to use as a starting point for my traction experiments?
  • Where can you inject your brand positioning across channels to improve your traction tests?

If you have product/market fit and need to get to know your customers quickly, don’t panic.

Simply shut out the rest of the world for a bit and continue reading… Or bookmark this article for reading later…

Because we’re diving in deep and getting tactical.

And believe it or not, it may actually (gasp!) be actionable.

Let’s get started!



When it comes time to throw things at the wall to see what sticks,

how often do you think about the impact your brand has on your customer acquisition tactics?

Most startups don’t have the growth marketer equal of an all-state quarterback. More often than not, pursuing traction takes a backseat to developing product.

Which means you often lack data.

Data on the psychographic traits of your customers.

Like knowing what the most frequent Zero Moment of Truth your high value customers experience.

You know, important stuff.


My Moment of Truth

While examining the messaging for the 400+ startups in the on-demand space, (I eyeballed that number, don’t quote me on it) I developed the following hypothesis:

An opportunity existed to differentiate ourselves from the glut of startups using feature and benefits-driven positioning by being able to answer the following questions holistically with our market messaging and brand voice:

  • How do we make the customer feel by using our service?
  • What emotions do customers receive as a result of using our service?
  • What it our value as seen through the eyes of our best customers?
  • What is the nature of our brand? What is our character?

The good news?

Your customers own your brand.

How they feel about your company is how it is perceived.

In other words:

You can get insight into how they feel towards your brand by asking…

Or by getting unsolicited feedback.

Just like the following gentleman from Chicago did, when I was used generic messaging in a paid acquisition channel test

(and sounded like every other on-demand startup from San Francisco)

Brand Criticism Facebook Post

Source: Doorman

Albeit crude, it was just the wake-up call I needed.

Jesse, if you’re reading this:

Thank you for inspiring my hypothesis. You’re the best.



Sherlock Holmes Silhouette

Source: Pixabay

“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.”

Sherlock Holmes

Broadly-targeted customer profiles, leaky conversion funnels, or improperly setup tracking mechanisms on your web properties are just a few of the things that we have to endure when the product/traction balance is not maintained.

You need customer data.

But you may be asking, where do I start?


Short answer: No.

Have you ever googled “buyer persona questions?”

If you haven’t, don’t bother.

Yikes! How many questions do I really need to ask? 100? 150?

The answer: Only a few,

because “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

You’ll need a minimum-viable buyer persona.

Buyer Persona Questions Google Search

Source: Doorman

You do, however, have time to think about what data would be most valuable to your business.

My approach was inspired by Michael Skok’s concept of the Minimum Viable Segment.

The key is to ask the least amount of questions that will yield the greatest impact on your traction tests.

But, you’ll also need to make the data you will need to collect relevant to your business model.

For example:

We have a subscription-based revenue model and utilize the Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR framework. #500Strong

Dave McClure AARRR Framework


So, we asked questions that aligned closely with this model.

Since we were launching in two new cities a few weeks apart from one another, we wanted to focus on understanding how users find us and how they tell others about services they like.


Craft Your Minimum Viable Buyer Persona

In order to build brand awareness we had to ask the following of the customers most familiar with our brand:

How customers discovered us

  • What was your primary reason for trying the
    service for the first time?
  • Where did you first hear about us?

How customers perceive our brand

  • Which terms do you associate with our brand?
  • We’d love to know how our customers describe our service. How do you describe it?

How customers share with their friends

  • Which two social networks are you most active on?
  • How do you recommend a product or service that
    you think a friend would enjoy?
  • How did you describe our service when you first told someone about it? (Language/Market Fit)

Getting answers to these questions gave us more psychographic variables to incorporate into our segmentation for future tests.

Quick note: Each startup will have different gaps in their customer data, so don’t feel obligated to use these exact questions. However, don’t fall prey to greedy marketer syndrome, be sure to only ask for what you need – each additional question decreases the likelihood of the customer completing it. 


You need explicit qualitative data that will inform language/market fit and channel/product fit.

Interviews take too long.

It’s likely that you’ll collect that information using a survey — which means you’ll have to ask for the moon on a stick.

Sending a one-size-fits-all email to your customers for such a big ask is not going to cut it.

Think about it:

Why would someone take time out of their day to help you when you can’t even take the time to write them an email that is relevant and personalized to them?

Multiply that times 50 if you’ll be asking them to take a survey.

Asking a customer to take a survey can be a daunting experience.

Especially when their cumulative responses will save you tens of hours in interviewing time or thousands of dollars from being wasted communicating the wrong message to the wrong audience.


In short: there is no room for error.

Turning a sharp corner on a motorbike

Source: Pixabay

Don’t worry, I have you covered on delivering a highly-personalized ask to your customers.

A friendly reminder of the value you’ve delivered to your customer over time is the best approach.

Doing so requires a bit of creativity and some inspiration from my ‘junk email’ account.


Customer Survey Email Copy Template

Fair warning: My background in analytics and operations. Writing copy is not. Please be kind. Source: Doorman


Ultimate Survey Email Copy Checklist

Outlined below you’ll find either: the logic behind why that question was asked of the customer or what custom data needs to be appended to your email list upload.

Step 1) Ask customers who know your brand for a favor.

Step 2) Personalize the email with their name.

Step 3) Quantify how long they’ve been a customer

Step 4) The phrase bracket should read something like:

  • “about six months ago”
  • “about a year ago.”

Step 5) Quantify the value delivered as a result of your relationship with the customer.

  • We used deliveries – if you received 30 deliveries over the past 5 months, we included it that figure in the email.

Step 6) Set proper expectations: you are asking people to take a survey after all.

  • How long is this survey going to take?
  • What is the survey about?
  • What will you use this information for?

Step 7) Use a CTA button containing the customer’s unique ID in your database.

Step 8) Thank them and sign it as the co-founder.


Pushing Customer Data to Your Survey Tool

Pushing customer data is essential to having a 1-to-1 match for your survey responses.

You’ll want to take the customer’s unique ID housed in your database’s user table and push it to the survey tool using hidden fields.


What to Expect When You Click Send

If you have a high NPS (Net Promoter Score) and put all these ideas into practice, two things you are likely to do:

  • blow some minds
  • actually get people to open the email and take your survey.

Survey Invitation Email with a 45% CTR

Ultimate Email Survey Results

Source: Doorman

Don’t Forget: Email deliverability matters. Run a series of email deliverability and rendering tests using a tool like Litmus. It comes pre-loaded into Campaign Monitor, the email client we use at Doorman.

Every aspect of the email needs to be on point – design included.

It’d be awful to hear about one gaff that caused your email to hit the junk folder.



If you are asking your customers to take a survey, put some personality into the content and care into it’s design. Make it as fun as a survey possibly can be.

It’ll make a huge difference in the response rate.


Tips For Creating an Effective Customer Survey

  • Have 1-to-1 match for each survey response to a customer ID in your database
  • Front-load the survey with your most pressing questions you need answered in the event that the respondent drops off at some point
  • Incorporate logic maps
  • Inform respondents of their progress during the survey
    • Ex. “The longest part of the survey is over! You’re almost home free… five short multiple choice questions left!!!”
  • Reward them for completing the survey

Avoid These When Creating Survey Questions

  • Anchor a response, or in other words: ie. fabricating a bias by presenting answers in a certain manner or order
  • Waste valuable survey real estate asking questions you can answer by analyzing existing data
  • Having more than one free-form response


Get an 89% Completion Rate On Your Customer Survey

Customer Survey with High Completion Rate

89% Completion rate.

I’m becoming a believer of this customer-centricity approach.

After you compile the results, you’ll want to map your findings (with a match such as a VLOOKUP) to every other data point you’d like to incorporate into segmentation.

Latent Class Models or a K-Means clustering algorithm (using R or Excel respectively) will do the trick (I’ll cover this topic in a future blog post at some point).

After you’ve re-segmented your high value customers that know you’re brand,

Take a moment and do one of these!

Brand Building On Oprah's Couch




What We Learned From Doorman Customers

How customers discovered us

  • What was your primary reason for trying the
    service for the first time?
  • 43% were worried about package theft
  • 24% work late and needed evening package delivery
  • 13% purchased items requiring a signature (wine, iphones, etc…)
  • Where did you first hear about us?
    • 30% learned from a friend
    • 17% learned via social media

How customers perceive our brand

  • Which terms do you associate with our brand?
    • 80% said Reliable
    • 52% said Friendly
    • 41% said Innovative
    • Followed by: Cool, Boring, Caring, Stealthy, Snooty, and Useless.
  • We’d love to know how our customers describe our service. How do you describe it?
    • Take a look at our home page, you’ll see the messaging there: front and center.

How customers share with their friends

  • Which two social networks are you most active on?
    • 79% of respondents selected Facebook
    • 40% of respondents selected
  • How do you recommend a product or service that
    you think a friend would enjoy?

Survey-inspired Assumptions Tested And Validated 

We then tested the efficacy of utilizing look-a-like audiences using a segmentation model that included the data captured in the survey vs a look-a-like audience that lacked many of the psychographic variables.

The former outperformed the latter by a magnitude of nearly 7x. 

Some other takeaways we got compelling evidence to support:

  1. Our brand voice needed to reflect our customers’ perception of us.
    1. We needed to have a voice that aligned with our customers’ perception of our brand – one of reliability and friendliness.
    2. Check out Erika Heald’s method for developing a brand voice chart. It’s super helpful for this step.
  2. Double-sided referrals aren’t likely to be effective.
  3. Focus on messaging that addresses their biggest pain-point: worrying about packages being stolen
  4. Our customers learn about new services/products on Facebook



After spending too much money on testing inneffective conversion-focused campaigns and app-install campaigns, we had a hunch that we needed to re-evaluate our approach and focus on educating the customer in Chicago and New York.

Doorman Chicago Facebook Campaign

Source: Doorman

Use a Local PR-Driven Promoted Post On Facebook To Drive Brand Awareness

Outlined below you’ll find the best iteration of the PR-Driven Promoted Post Tactics we tested.

  1. Imagery that immediately get to that “a-ha moment” to establish the context of the post.
  2. Keep It Simple and focused on target market
  3. Explicitly state what problem you solve (avoiding package theft)
  4. Promote a piece from a media outlet with significant clout in your target market.
  5. Boost a post featuring a story that aligns with the pain points you are addressing with your brand messaging and market positioning


Chicago Sign up Conversion Rate

Source: Doorman


 Referral Traffic From Promoted Posts Drive Chicago Signups

One of the most profound things was an incredible average conversion rate we got on the referral traffic. I utilized a piece pitched to DNA Info Chicago and gave the promoted post a facelift to hit the pain points more effectively.

Average weekly Sign Up rate Peaked at 16.67%.

Doorman New York Promoted Post

Source: Doorman

Replicate Chicago’s Acquisition Success in New York City

So we did it again in New York a few weeks later,

employing the same strategy – using a piece our PR team pitched to Brick Underground instead.

The conversion rates for the NYC tests were even higher.

Topping out at an average 26.67% for the week.

Home Page Referral Conversion

Source: Doorman


Some context: Doorman had a good understanding of the demographics of our customers (at the aggregate level) and worked with our PR agency, Antenna Group, to pitch local and national publications that aligned with our audience just before I joined Doorman.


“Make sure you hold the hands of as many customers as it takes

– Aaron Ross, Author of Predictable Revenue

Package Theft Facebook Promoted Post

Source: Doorman

Do Things That Don’t Scale

Growth marketers are knee deep in data for a majority of their day. They should jump at every opportunity they have to get in front of and delight potential customers.

The most important tactic in this set of tactics focused on communicating with potential early adopters.

It was also the best part about running these experiments.

Interacting With Potential Early Adopters

  • Make it personal: include your name in your responses
  • Be thankful to the person sharing on your behalf: Tell them they’re awesome, too
  • Introduce yourself: See if they have any questions about the service/product
  • Be ridiculously helpful: Do your very best to answer any question they may have.
  • Don’t be a stiff: Have a sense of humor – prospective customers aren’t talking to the customer service department at a large company.
  • Follow up: If the conversation trails off, check in a few days later


Final Thoughts

Launching campaigns in new markets that both educate your target market and make them want to use your service isn’t easy. Especially on a shoe-string budget.

However, going back to the fundamentals of knowing your brand and your customer — are your best bet at achieving a good foundation for testing your traction channels.

Although this may seem ludicrous, employing these tactics allowed us to launch GTM campaigns in two cities on a seed stage budget – something others did in the space in Series A or Series B.

It pays to listen to your customer.

I’d love to hear your approaches to combining traction channels and finding something that moves the needle. What methods have you used?


Chris Gadek is Head of Growth & Marketing at Doorman where he is building the next great technology brand. He is obsessed with using the intersection of people, process, technology, and analytics to drive growth.

Connect with him on Twitter @dappermarketer for the latest in growth marketing strategy and tactics or shoot him an email at chris (dot) gadek (at) doorman (dot) co.

How Does Retargeting Work?

Understanding What Retargeting Ads Are And How They Can Work For You.  Want to master and hack the ultimate marketing tool? Show banner ads to your customers… in the Wall Street Journal… like the big guys do? We’ve seen increases in brand searches by 1,046%… Conversion rates jump by +70%… And click-through rates go up by 1,000%….. […]

Understanding What Retargeting Ads Are And How They Can Work For You. 

Want to master and hack the ultimate marketing tool?

Show banner ads to your customers… in the Wall Street Journal… like the big guys do?

We’ve seen increases in brand searches by 1,046%…

Conversion rates jump by +70%…

And click-through rates go up by 1,000%….. Gasp!

I’ll show you how to do the same in just a second, but first…

(you can also join us at a Feb 23rd webinar at 2pm EST)

What is Retargeting?

Ad retargeting is a cookie-based technology that uses a simple JavaScript code to “tag” somebody’s browser, allowing the system to recognize the user. This is used to avoid having to log into a session after the users leave the website, for Amazon to allow the one-click purchase, store your credentials and preferences etc.

How Retargeting Works

Nowadays you get tagged everywhere for all different reasons and it is normal for browsers to store around 50 cookies at any given moment. Ad retargeting uses the same principle. It allows ad publishers to recognize a browser that was tagged by anonymously visiting a site.


 The Origins of Retargeting

DoubleClick, now part of Google, reportedly ran the first ever retargeting campaign for Victoria’s Secrets in the late ’90s. The campaign focused on shopping cart abandonment and reportedly provided a 1,000% lift in click-through rate. The service was appropriately called “Boomerang”.


Because almost nobody kisses at the first date…

Retargeting evolved as a universal tool to target site visitors that didn’t convert. This category represents, on average, 85-98% of those who visit websites. This is because, as human beings, it is normal for us to “think about it”, compare alternatives… and decide later.


How effective is retargeting?

Highly effective! An article published in CMO Magazine compiled 15 mind-blowing stats about retargeting. Some of the data reported shows brand searches lift by 1,046%, conversion rates increasing by +70%, ad click-through rates by x10, all of this after consumers see banner ads after their first visit.


Who are the largest retargeting providers?

The promise of keeping the advertiser “top of mind” as the visitor “thinks about it” is what most retargeting services, like AdRoll, ReTargeter, Criteo and Google Remarketing, are communicating as their value proposition.


How Does Retargeting Work?

Simple… As explained above, an anonymous cookie (or tag) is left behind on site visitors’ browsers. As the former visitor browses the web, the cookie gets recognized by banner ads networks and ads are displayed to all those that have your cookie.

I still don’t get it: can you explain again?

Picture yourself entering a store and leaving without buying anything. Now let’s assume the person that greeted you at the door gives you a tap in the back as you walk out and leaves a “tag” in your back.

As you continue to visit other stores and walk down the street, the advertising display at bus stops and other locations recognize your tag on your back and shows you an ad from the store you just left.


What are the Retargeting Parameters to Watch For?

Retargeting often involves real-time bidding (this is where Amazon normally bids more than anybody else and gets to have their ads shown first), cookie burning (visitors that convert are not shown ads), cookie expiration or frequency caps (no more than x15-20 ads are showed and the cookie expires after 120 days).

Other variables that can help advertisers fine-tune their campaign are geo-fencing (ads are shown only to IPs in certain countries/locations) and the ability to show banner ads to visitors that demonstrated genuine interest for the site (as measured by the time they spent on the site or number of pages visited).


What is the Future of Retargeting?

Retargeting is maturing as a technology and growing more sophisticated. Expect to see massive improvements in these 3 categories:


1. Link retargeting

This is done by placing your retargeting script in a short link. It is used by social media and email marketers when sending users to interesting or viral content (especially when it’s third party content).

All those who click will be tagged by the marketer’s retargeting campaign. Retarget Links (or, for those that don’t have a retargeting campaign AdLinks) pioneered the concept (disclaimer, this is a company that I am running) and used it to successfully promote Traction Conference in 2015 (See this article – #6 – that includes a link retargeting case study)

Using Retargeting Links to Advertise on Facebook


2. CRM retargeting

This is done by exporting your email database to a retargeting platform that is able to match the email addresses to social media accounts (including Gmail) and display them banner ads. Check this AdRoll and Kiehl’s case study.

Understanding Facebook Custom Audience

If you want to go direct to social media providers, Facebook’s feature is called Custom AudienceTailored Audience (on Twitter), Nurture Leads (on LinkedIn) and Customer Match (on Google AdWords).


 3. Email retargeting

This is about tagging those that you send the email to. Naturally, it will only work with web-based email providers like Hotmail (Gmail has reportedly blocked this) so the only option to do email retargeting is to use link retargeting (see above) to take your targets out of the email program and into a web-browser where they are tagged by the campaign.

Email Retargeting


Ad Retargeting Marketing Strategies

Any advice on how to create banner ads?

The best way to grab the attention is to have a face in the ad as the human brain is wired to spot people looking at them. A celebrity, if you can afford one (never put a celebrity on an ad if they haven’t endorsed your ad), is even better. Also make sure the background color stands out from the rest of the site (orange, red, purple).

An ad that grabs the attention is useless if it can’t convey the message in a split second. Short sentences (5 words max) describing the benefit (not the feature) for the target audience is a must. Don’t forget the call to action as well (Learn more, Register, Buy now etc).

Banner Snack and Google Webdesigner are the best tools to make banner ads on your own. For more design tips, see this great 99 design post.

Most popular sizes are 336×280, 300×250, 728×90 and 160×600 pixels (they all need to be under 45kb – this is the most difficult limitation).

Facebook’s size limitation is 1 Mb but text should not cover more than 20% of the area which is not bad as, after all, a picture is worth more than thousand words. Standard ad size is 1,200 x 628 pixels.

Banner Ad Example






Are users annoyed to have ads following them?

If ads get noticed, you are accomplishing your goals. The trick is to make banner ads interesting and attractive. A crisp value proposition, nice graphics and humorous content that, importantly, rotates will keep your target interested and would welcome your ads.

An AdRoit and Toluna survey shows that, retargeted ads are noticed and that the majority of those that view them are neutral. Other studies show that consumer are aware that they have been tagged after a site visit and are not that neutral about it.

Logically speaking, ads targeted to user preference are logically more welcomed than untargeted ones. Also to consider is that most banner ads that are displayed due to a retargeting campaign have an option called AdSense that allows those that are tagged to opt out from campaigns.


I am using AdWords, should I be use retargeting?

It is already difficult to bring prospective customers to a site, so any B2C or B2B business should use retargeting, especially if running an AdWords campaign. As a matter of fact, displaying banner ads is a great way to keep promoting your value proposition weeks after your prospect user left the site.


What is your take on ad blockers?

Banner ads are a $50 billion market and growing +20% per year so it is probably here to stay. Ad Blockers are the result of unscrupulous marketers being too aggressive and ad upload time slowing page rendering but the industry is taking notice and regulating itself.

The general consensus is that ads are part what pays for sites that are free and have high quality and entertaining content or services. It wouldn’t be surprising to see ad-blockers-blockers where this content wouldn’t be displayable if an ad-blocker is being used (Wired online magazine just did it a week ago).


Final Thoughts

Retargeting is a powerful and natural evolution of online advertising. It’s most likely the lowest hanging fruit for any business that has any sort of traffic. Wondering what types of retargeting ads you can run for your business? Check out Derric Haynie’s post on 3 types of retargeting ads that will boost your business.

You are also invited to join the the Feb 23 2016 2PM ET Webinar on the subject.

Author: Serge Salager

CEO of AdLinks link retargeting and Visualping page monitor

Serge is an ad-tech entrepreneur formerly CEO of OneMove Technologies  a Toronto Stock Exchange listed company. He is a Guest columnist in all things marketing at TechCrunch, a former marketer at Procter & Gamble and Harvard MBA. He is a frequent speaker on advanced online marketing subjects.

3 Retargeting Ads That Will Boost Your Business

We already know people are very busy online. They dart around from one thing to another like goldfish lost in a fishbowl.   Heck, you are probably not even reading this right now! And for good reason, you want to get to the important stuff…   And that is why using Retargeting is so powerful. […]

We already know people are very busy online.

They dart around from one thing to another like goldfish lost in a fishbowl.


Heck, you are probably not even reading this right now! And for good reason, you want to get to the important stuff…


And that is why using Retargeting is so powerful. You get busy people to re-engage with your site and your business. So please listen to me when I say:


The number one thing you need to do today, is install your Facebook Website Custom Audience Pixel.


And here is a great article explaining why you need to do it in more detail.


Once you have done that, we can discuss a few simple strategies for sending out retargeting ads to your website visitors. Seriously, go do that now, before reading on.

Alright, good.


In case you are unclear what I am talking about:


RETARGETING is the act of “pixeling,” or tagging, your website visitors in an attempt to send ads to them at a later time.

It is easily the most important part of any online marketing strategy.

Why is retargeting so important?

  1.  These are people that have already expressed clear interest in your business by visiting once or more.
  2.  Most people are not ready to buy from you on the first visit (you don’t get married on the first date).
  3.  They haven’t said no yet.
  4.  They are now more familiar with your business and brand than ever before.


SEGMENTATION: It’s also very important to segment your website traffic appropriately and track if and when users move down your marketing funnel and convert.

For example, You want to AVOID sending them ads for products they have already purchased, or sending them to a blog post they have already read. Every time you don’t segment properly, it cost you ad dollars, and your customers get frustrated with you and leave.

I’m not going to get into the segmentation part in this article, but I just so happened to have written another article explaining how to segment your Facebook Website Custom Audience.


3 Retargeting Ad Types

So now that we agree that retargeting your website visitors is crucial to gaining leads and sales, let’s explore a few specific retargeting ads/campaigns that you should be running towards your warm traffic – people that are aware of your brand.


1. Social Proof

A user visited your website but didn’t buy. They could probably use some real life validation for why to buy your product or service. Create a social proof ad showcasing some of your best clients or testimonials.



Power Tip: A video testimonial ad with a satisfied user giving a genuine testimonial is a retargeting campaign goldmine. It’s completely worth a solid time and money investment to get it done.

Try to get the pain of your user across to the audience, and the relief that came with your solution. Have the user talk about the issues or disbeliefs they had prior to using the product, but the value they found after using it. Don’t oversell, the more “real” it is the better it will work.

If you can’t get a detailed testimonial, or you don’t have a celebrity sponsor, you can pull from Yelp reviews, Facebook reviews, and even emails you have had with your customers (post them anonymously or get permission). This isn’t the most ideal path, but it gets you started.

If you have absolutely no social proof, your job for the next 7 days is to get some – preferably with an image of your customer using your product.


Btw, NEVER falsify or exaggerate social proof.

By providing social proof, you build a significant amount of trust with your audience and validate your product has been tested in the market, and works.


2. Squash All Objections

  • Budget
  • Time
  • Commitment
  • Value
  • Too Complicated
  • Fear of Change
  • Trust
  • Complacency


All of these objections happen over and over again on your website, whether you are aware of it or not. If you know which one seems to be the biggest problem with your product, then you should blog/write/video/podcast/penpal about it.


But the best way to squash an objection is with a video retargeting ad addressing the problem head on. Personally, I prefer to get in front of the camera myself for this one and make it a one-on-one conversation. If you are part of a larger organization, it’s now your job to convince the CEO that he needs to step up and get it done.


“Hey it’s me with X, and I wanted to talk about why you need to start using our product Y today…” (Remember this is to a warm audience that is aware of your product but has not bought it yet, never send this to a cold audience)

This line could be the start of a compelling argument for your product or service. It introduces you as a real person (squashing worries of trust), addresses the urgency, helping to squash complacency, and brings a bit more value to the table.


Image via a great post on FB Ads: Digital


In this ad, Betty Rocker is able to give so much value by providing people with a great smoothie recipe that her viewers can’t help but trust her. She successfully squashed all objections to buying her product.


Remember, when doing video ads on Facebook, you start muted, so add in some words at the beginning and try and get them to turn the sound on.

Super Bonus Tip: You can now put a call to action right inside your Facebook video ad. This is straight gold.


3. Sales Ads (duh)

They have visited the site, but haven’t bought the product yet, a simple sales ad may get them back in the funnel to complete the purchase. You need to showcase the product benefits, provide even more value than before, and still match the copy on the sales page.

Make sure you are hitting a truly warm audience and not just someone who visited one page for 20 seconds (back to the importance of segmentation).

Remember, people aren’t on Facebook to buy, necessarily. And people don’t buy from people they don’t trust.


So establish TRUST first, then hit them with the sales ad and see how it converts.


You would especially want to run this ad to traffic that has already seen the other ads, and since you can pixel users who have watched 3 seconds of a video ad, you could easily target only users who have already seen your social proof ad and squash objections ad with this ad to give that final push.


Let me say that again:

  • Run a video retargeting ad explaining your product more and squashing complaints.
  • Then run a sales ad targeting viewers of the previous ad (that haven’t already bought from you).


Final Thoughts

A couple of quick notes about retargeting ads:

  • You don’t need a lot of money to run them, because they are only going to users who have visited your website already.
  • You need to keep an eye on your “frequency” and make sure you aren’t showing the same ad to the same person 10 times. You can test for what frequency is working for your business. Most of the time, we try to keep it around 3, but sometimes 8 works. Anything more than 10 is either a “NO,” or you have a bad ad with a weak CTA.
  • You can prepare for retargeting ads long before you start running them, so get that pixel up today. You don’t necessarily have to be running them from the second your initial traffic campaigns begin.


If you aren’t retargeting, you are doing it wrong.


That’s it from me. Tell me, do you use retargeting ads? What other retargeting methods have worked for you? Be sure to tell me in the comments section below.