Should Prospecting And Retargeting Be Separated?

When was the last time you received a media RFP that said, “Put together the best overall marketing plan that you can for brand X”? I’ve seen hundreds of RFPs to date and none have asked anything similar.

Instead, media RFPs are extremely specific and focused on addressing a tiny sliver of a brand’s overall marketing strategy. Whether it’s video branding or mobile content or display prospecting, brands are looking for vendors whose solutions perfectly address a very granular problem. This approach makes sense when it comes to the medium of the campaign. You want your content marketing campaign to be powered or run by a company that focuses on content marketing, after all. On the opposite end, you definitely don’t want a content marketing company running your display prospecting campaigns.

If RFPs were focused only on a campaign’s medium, we’d be in a good place. This isn’t the case, however, as each brand is always looking to split a medium into two strategies — prospecting and retargeting. And now that we have two strategies, it’s time for two RFPs. 



Sticking with our content campaign, above, a brand now needs to find a content marketing prospecting vendor and a content marketing retargeting vendor. Is there an opportunity for the same vendor to manage both of these strategies? Definitely. But more often than not, strategy-specific vendors will be selected for each of the campaigns. 

Why is it the case that prospecting and retargeting have become so siloed?  

1. Prospecting and retargeting yield very different ROIs

It’s pretty obvious that retargeting is going to produce better results than prospecting. With retargeting, you’re going after a very small subset of users who have explicitly raised their hands and expressed some interest in your brand. It’s the ideal campaign to run and, arguably, the first true strategy success of programmatic advertising. On the other hand, with prospecting you’re venturing out to find new users — people who may have never even heard of your brand — and trying to convert them into customers. It’s a much more difficult campaign that’s bound to result in a lower ROI given its increased complexity.

2. Vendors have chosen to differentiate on this strategy

Here we have a chicken-or-egg situation. Did brands asking for different prospecting and retargeting strategies cause vendors to specialize in one category or did vendor specialization cause brands to ask? I suspect it’s the latter but, either way, it’s obvious that vendors have chosen to focus on one strategy as a way to differentiate themselves in the market (at least as an initial go-to-market strategy).

All of the above brings us back to the question of whether or not prospecting and retargeting strategies should actually be separated. After all, there’s a good argument to be made that the campaign that’s best positioned to determine whether or not to retarget a user is the campaign that actually drove the user to a site or app.

At the end of the day, your retargeting campaigns are only as good as the number of qualified visitors to your site. If you’re not able to drive visitors to your site, even the best retargeting campaign in the world will eventually die out. Furthermore, given that your great retargeting ROI is actually being subsidized by the cost of prospecting users to your site (a cost that’s generally attributed to a prospecting KPI versus a retargeting KPI), it’s worth examining what your ROI would be if a prospecting vendor was able to at a minimum retarget the users that it drove to your site.

Today, we’re in a world where prospectors pass the targeting baton over to a retargeting vendor the second a user is driven to your site. The baton is being passed over to a campaign that has zero historical context on what drove the user to your site. If you want to maintain a separation between prospecting and retargeting, it’s important to find ways to pass that context efficiently and determine ROI across all of your campaigns — not just by tactic. Alternatively, it might be worth giving your prospecting partners the chance to prove their ability to drive customers from initial contact all the way to conversion without any of the problems inherent in passing the baton.

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