Why you should all be retargeting to your subscribers

Email Marketing
Feb 13
5 min read
It’s a match made in performance marketing heaven: upload your email subscriber list to your ad network and show highly targeted display ads while your subscribers browse content online.
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Traditional digital display advertising has its limitations: it doesn’t convert well, and even if display does drive sales, it can be difficult to attribute conversions to your display ads.

Enter CRM retargeting, the performance-oriented cousin of display advertising. Advertisers have found that if they show just the right ads to just the right subscribers — particularly if those customers have previously engaged with their brand — they can generate high quality traffic that converts.

Simply described, CRM retargeting is the process of showing display or search ads to people who are on your subscriber lists. By segmenting your lists based on behaviour or demographic, you can create multiple campaigns with creative dedicated to attracting and converting those exact customers.

How to make email retargeting work for you

Remarketing is affordable, and it converts. According to Criteo, traditional display ads have a 0.07% clickthrough rate. By comparison, display retargeting ads perform ten times better, with a 0.7% clickthrough rate. Criteo also found that website visitors who are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert.

Those are some pretty powerful numbers.

What have you got to lose by turning your subscriber list into another opportunity to drive conversions?

Done wrong, CRM retargeting can be annoying and frustrating: visitors can feel stalked, or burned out by seeing the same display ads everywhere they go. Done right, it’s a great way to re-engage people who have already shown an interest. Get ready to learn how.

Any brand that does email marketing can use CRM retargeting to develop highly targeted advertising that appears to your subscribers as they browse content online. Facebook, Adwords, Twitter, Adroll and most other big digital advertising networks provide easy tools to show just the right ad to just the right email subscriber wherever he or she goes online.

How does CRM retargeting work?

  1. Export your subscriber list; either based on activity (subscribers who opened, clicked, etc.) or any other criteria you have used to segment your lists.
  2. Upload your email lists to your ad or social network of choice.
  3. Your ad or social network (anonymously) identifies your subscribers using consumer databases, and cookies these users.
  4. Your subscribers see your ads as they browse content online.

Of course, running successful CRM retargeting campaigns involves a lot more than simply uploading your lists. To get a statistically relevant volume of traffic, your lists need to be substantial. Every list you upload should contain at least 1,000 subscribers, and ideally more.

The devil is in the details

In addition to leveraging a customer’s familiarity with your brand, CRM retargeting works because it enables you to deliver highly targeted ad creative to segmented email lists. For example, a list comprised of subscribers who have purchased from you will respond differently, and will require different advertising creative, than subscribers who never purchased.

If you are an ecommerce company, we recommend segmenting your email lists based on:

  • Demographic: Data on your subscribers’ locations, age, gender, interests, etc.
  • Purchase behaviour: Complete or incomplete purchases, repeat buyers, product categories
  • Frequency or dormancy: Frequent buyers, or customers who have dropped out of your funnel
  • Engagement: Leads who have never converted; subscribers who open (or do not) open emails

Each segment requires a unique engagement and creative strategy. This is the key to making CRM retargeting work for your business. Unpack the needs and interests of each of your segments and devise tactics to motivate each segment to return to your website and convert.

A few creative strategies for retargeting ads


Consistency between your email marketing creative, display advertising and landing page content will pique people’s interest and draw them in. If you’re targeting subscribers who have recently opened your emails, make sure your retargeting display creative matches the look, feel and and offer in your marketing email. Think about how you can create a dedicated sequence for active leads that starts with the email, continues with display advertising, and ends at your site.

Target a vertical

If you’re segmenting your email lists based on product verticals, create a list and email creative that targets visitors interested in a popular niche or vertical. Continue the user experience with display advertising that goes deeper into this vertical, with new products, more benefits or opportunities. Then drive visitors to a landing page dedicated to this segment.

Build your campaigns around personas

Break out your email lists based on any demographic information you may have about subscribers that is relevant for your product or service: age, interests, location… and target content accordingly. Develop personas for these subscribers and create emails and display banners that feed into their interests, behaviours and life stages.

Use scarcity and urgency

Draw visitors with last minute deals and time-limited sales. Many people subscribe to newsletters because they’re deal hunting. Hit them with an even better (but time limited) opportunity. They may be highly motivated by fear of missing out on a deal they see in one of your display ads. While this technique is effective, don’t rely on it; subscribers will learn to wait for the deal instead buying when they open your newsletter.

Segment and retarget visitors who didn’t click

What about visitors who don’t open your email? Segment them into their own list. Upload this list into your ad network and roll it out as a unique retargeting campaign with it’s own creative. It’s possible these users never respond to email, but will be receptive to display advertising. Use this segment to test new tactics that, if successful, you can roll out elsewhere.

Think about the user experience

When you’re managing all the nuts and bolts of an email marketing and retargeting display campaign, it’s sometimes difficult to step back and think about how a user will experience your campaign. Don’t rush. Take time to make sure all the creative moving parts sync together.

What worked for you?

We’ve all been retargeted, sometimes successfully, sometimes disastrously. Which campaigns stand out for you? What engages you? What annoys you? We’d love to hear your comments on how retargeting has, or hasn’t, worked for you.

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