6 Ways To Use Facebook Retargeting Ads To Grow Your Business [With Real World Examples]

Dave D   18

Updated on January 29, 2021

“Why isn’t anyone clicking my Facebook ads?” I muttered in the same bitter tone I use to curse my toaster when it burns my bread.

See if you can figure out where I went wrong...

I was sitting on the edge of my seat after finishing reading some amazing success stories of using Facebook ads and I was eager to add a new tool to my “business arsenal.”

Briefly scanning a few “how to” articles gave me all the confidence I needed to jump right in.

“Time to start printing money,” I thought as I hit publish after cranking the audience up to 11...million using Facebook’s audience selection settings...


Audience of 11 million = $11 million, right?

It seemed like as soon as my ads were approved, my budget was spent. The results? Not what I would call successful.

Why were my conversions so low? I had read the how tos, and I did everything they said, yet my ad spends were eating me out of house and home.

Maybe you’ve been in the same situation?

Feeling like you still haven’t found the right “formula” for success with Facebook ads?

In the end, I realized I was approaching Facebook ads like my tall dad gets into small cars - ass-backwards.

As someone who has been there before, I’m here to offer you a little help and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.

Facebook Retargeting: An Easy Win

If you have ever made a facebook ad and thought: “the bigger the audience, the better” you and I can have a mistake pity-party.

Maybe we can get Facebook to pay for the tissues and ice cream, because this is where I went wrong when I started, too…

What has worked much better is to cast a smaller net to a much more targeted audience, and find a successful message BEFORE scaling up.

When you show your ads to a more relevant audience, your ad spend will be lower and your results will be better.

Imagine trying to increase business of a windshield repair shop by passing out fliers.

You could stand on the street and give a flier to everyone who walked by OR you could go to a parking lot and only put fliers on the cars with broken windshields.

In the second scenario you’ll spend much less on fliers AND your results will be better because you’re targeting an audience who needs your service.

The same principle applies for Facebook Ads, and a great way to find a targeted audience is to take advantage of their retargeting functionality.

Retargeting makes sure your ads are only being shown to people who have already visited your website, these are people who know you and have already taken an interested in what you have to say—so your ad spend will be lower and your results will be better than serving your ads to cold traffic.

Today I’m going to show you 6 different ways you can use retargeting to grow your business.

1. Retarget Post Visitors and Offer Them Content Upgrades

"A content upgrade is a complementary piece of information your readers can download in exchange for jumping through a hoop such as sharing the post or giving you his/her email address."

Sometimes, life just gets in the way.

The pizza delivery guy shows up, the new puppy decides to take a massive dump on the carpet, aliens are found on mars, whatever it is that day. Distractions happen, we’ve all been there.

A visitor to your site could have every intention of becoming a subscriber to unlock your content upgrade, but something took their attention elsewhere and they never submitted their email address.

All's not lost.

With Facebook retargeting you can create an ad to target the people who read your blog post but didn’t opt-in to get your content upgrade.

In the ad above, you can see how Digital Marketer attempted to convert a reader who engaged by reading their blog content, but didn’t opt-in to get the content upgrade by using the ad text: “Did life get in the way? You forgot to take advantage of this deal?”

How To Do It:

This is an example of the parameters you could use to get a targeted audience like this when you’re creating your Facebook ad:

When you’re defining your audience for the content upgrade ad you’d create a custom audience of people visiting the specific post(s) where your content upgrade is offered, but not the people who already opted in to get it.

This is how you build an extremely focused audience.

In this example, I’m including anyone who has visited the content upgrade post and excluding everyone who has visited the “Here’s Your Content Upgrade” page. This leaves me with an audience on Facebook who saw the post but didn’t opt-in...yet.

This is just one example of a specific audience you could target. But the possibilities are like my cravings for fresh-out-the-oven, oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies...endless.

2. Retarget Website Visitors to Optimize Lead Generation

Retargeting is a great way to test out different messages and opt-in offers to see what resonates best with the people who are visiting your site. Maybe the reason they didn’t subscribe when they visited the first time is because the opt-in offer wasn’t strong enough.

Using Facebook, you can retarget them and test multiple offers. You can offer them something completely different OR a stronger offer than what’s on your site.

The idea is to see if you can one, get them to convert into a subscriber and two, see what type of offer converts better.

Doing this will give you valuable insights into your customer, allowing you to fine-tune the best opt-in offer and the best messaging to put on your site to increase your subscription rate.

In the example above, the ad on the left is for a mini-course on how to build landing pages smart and quick, while the ad on the right is a cheat sheet with tips on how to grow your email list faster.

How To Do It:

  1. Create a new Facebook ad campaign with both of these ads inside so they are being shown to the same audience
  2. Set up a custom audience to target visitors who have been to your site but haven’t subscribed (shown below in tip #4)
  3. Wait until you get enough relevant data
  4. Decide which is the stronger opt-in offer

3. Retarget Your Most Engaged Customers/Fans

Your die hard fans can play a HUGE part in helping to grow your business. The more opportunity you give them and the easier you make it, the better.

You can use your email marketing system to export a list of your most engaged subscribers (the ones opening your emails is a good metric to filter by) and then import it into Facebook.

How To Do It (With ActiveCampaign):

  1. Go to the contacts menu
  2. Select advanced search after clicking the “Search Contacts” box
  3. Create your search logic. In this example I created filters to show all contacts who have opened any of the last 3 emails sent
  4. Export the list and create a custom audience from it in Facebook.

You can then retarget these visitors with your most valuable/sharable content. This is a great way to increase your reach as your die hard fans are more likely to share, like and comment on the Facebook post.

The Facebook algorithm favors sponsored posts with high engagement by boosting their organic reach. So, you can try and take advantage of this by showing highly shareable content with people who have a higher chance of engaging with it.

4. Retarget Website Visitors For Time Sensitive Offers

Do you have an upcoming webinar? Of course you can email your list to let them know, but a webinar is a powerful way to get in front of your audience and convert one-time visitors into fans, customers and subscribers...

You can leverage the power of retargeting to advertise your webinar to the people who have visited your website but haven’t converted to a subscriber or customer yet.

How To Do It:

This is an example of the parameters you could use to get a targeted audience like this when you’re creating your Facebook ad:

When you’re defining your audience for the webinar ad you’d create a custom audience of people visiting specific web pages but not others.

In this example I’m including anyone who has visited the homepage and excluding everyone who has visited the thank you for subscribing page.

This leaves me with an audience who are interested (they have been to my website) but haven’t converted to a subscriber yet, a perfect webinar audience.

Another idea: maybe the holidays are coming up and you want to offer a special deal to the people who visit your site (and are more likely to buy), like Crazy 8 is doing above by offering a 40% discount on costumes with Halloween just around the corner.

5. Retarget “Hot Leads”

If you have a sales funnel set up, you can use Facebook retargeting to serve ads to extremely interested potential customers. These would be people who have visited your sales pages but didn’t buy, or added products to their cart and then abandoned it.

Here’s an example of ebay using this tactic to serve a very specific ad to someone who’s interested in these bracelets.

Above we see Southwest Airlines serving an extremely specific ad: Flights from Oakland to Columbus. If you had already been looking at a these flights, but hadn’t bought, seeing this ad might be the reminder you needed.

Here we see how Udemy has taken this idea one step further by using retargeting to offer a huge discount to the hot lead to try and get them off the fence and convert them into a paying customer.

6. Retarget Buyers For Upsells

Taking the “hot leads” concept even further, you can use Facebook retargeting to serve upsell type ads to customers who have already bought an entry level product.

A great example of this is here on Thrive Themes. Many of our customers find us because they are looking for a very particular solution to a problem: building better looking content, growing their list faster or because they want to create better landing pages to sell more of their products.

It’s NOT because they are looking for an all-in-one solution for building an online business — which is what Thrive Suite is.

However, we find many of our single-product customers buying another one of our products or upgrading to the entire Thrive Suite when they realize how valuable it is for their online business. (Update: Thrive Themes no longer sells single-products as of 1 February, 2021).

Above is an ad we used to retarget all of our non-Thrive Suite customers to give them a chance to upgrade before an upcoming price increase.

Never Be Like My Tall Dad Getting Into Small Cars Again

When done correctly, Facebook retargeting can be an extremely effective technique for growing your business. I’ve given you 6 ideas with real world examples to start you off, but if you have any questions, or have any examples of other creative ways to use Facebook retargeting, let me know in the comments below!

by Dave D  November 27, 2015


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Leave a Comment

  • Hello Dave,

    Thanks for these amazing tricks.

    I have spent a lot of my money on facebook ads and never get success. The only reason is I was not using Facebook retargeting feature.

    After reading these 6 tricks, I will definitely give facebook ads one more try. This time I’ll promote my landing page to capture more emails.

    Thanks for your wonderful ideas (tricks) 🙂


  • Well-written Dave, and really helpful. I really like how you described a beneficial use and then gave specific steps on how to make it happen. This filled in some gaps in my understanding of Facebook ads. I appreciate how you can go over all the basics again but gave links instead. Brilliant!

  • Nice post Dave. Explained each of the methods is a detailed way and I think anybody wanting to learn about re-targeting on Facebook shouldn’t face a problem at all.

  • Another Thrive post that’s better than a paid WSO…gifted to those wise enough to use the Thrive products.
    Thanks much for the ongoing education.

  • Dave, thank you for the great info. I’m not quite there yet but getting close. I have read quite a bit about doing targeted ads and then using the built in retargeting feature as well. Just great to get more perspectives on it from someone who has been there and done that. Will definitely take advantage of your info.

  • Thank you so much for having a clear post on this topic! I am so grateful for your tips, especially #4! It was not easy finding this information and I’m so happy you have it here!

    • We don’t usually use page boost, so can’t really comment…sorry! Best is to test it for yourself though anyway as we are probably in very different niches 🙂

  • OMG! Dave your picture is amazing you look like Papa Smurf. You’re truly a nerd/geek/dork of note and I love it. The article is really good. I really agree with you Facebook retargeting is probably the most effective way of getting your job done. I wouldn’t waste too much time on other social media profiles, given that they are not nearly as effective and converting as Facebook. However, you should check out the analytics that are possible with other platforms and profiles because the world is a big marketplace of opportunity. I don’t know too much about all the stuff that’s why I turn to the professionals – Treepodia, Adroll and Criteo to get my work done. I’m very happy with what I’ve seen with these video retargeting efforts on Facebook, and my ROI has gone through the roof.

    • Hahaha Papa Smurf! That’s a new one 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article! The world is indeed a big marketplace and while I agree with you, since FB is doing well we haven’t really focused on anything else, but we will!

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