How to Use Facebook Retargeting and Custom Audiences to Drive Sales

How_to_Use_Facebook_Retargeting_and_Custom_Audiences_to_Drive_Sales-02We’re always looking for innovative ways to drive sales.

One simple step which people often overlook is the potential purchasing power of your existing audience. It can be expensive to market to people who know nothing about your product, but less expensive to increase the lifetime value of your existing customers.

When Facebook first released their custom audiences advertising feature, results poured in rapidly. One e-commerce company, as reported at the time by TechCrunch, targeted their email list and recorded a 43 percent increase in sign-up conversion and a 30 percent decrease of their cost-per-lead.

The Washington Post’s advertising arm, SocialCode, also reported a 15 percent lower cost per new fan after using custom audiences.

Using custom audiences and Facebook retargeting to activate people who have previously shown interest in your product is a strategy which works.

Through this article, we’ll give you a practical explanation of automated retargeting using pixels and then look at custom audiences. Beyond retargeting, we’ll cover:

  • Different strategies for generating segmented user lists
  • A host of sneaky tips and tricks for maximizing the potential of the custom audiences feature

Retarget, reactivate, and reap the rewards.

How to use pixels to automate your retargeting

Have you ever checked out a product and browsed their website only to find them staring back at you on Facebook an hour later?

How did they know to advertise to you? How did they know you were interested in their product?

Pixels. That’s why.

What are pixels? In short, pixels are little bits of code you can put in your website which track what users do when they interact with your website or advert. There are two types of pixel worth mentioning here. One is the audience pixel which tracks who visits the website and the other is the conversion pixel which tracks how users have interacted with your website once they get there.

Let’s look at each.

How to create and install a pixel

Our aim is to create a custom facebook audience on the basis of who has visited our website. It’s super simple to do.

Once you have your audience or custom audience defined, you can begin to build lookalike audiences which you can read more about here: Facebook Lookalike Audiences.

First step, go to your ads manager in Facebook. The link is located in the bottom left corner of the page under the heading “Create”. Or you’ll find it at

where to find ad manager facebook retargeting

This should take you to your ads manager where Facebook will ask you what your marketing objective is. You can select whichever option you like, but for this one I’m going to keep it simple and select “Traffic”.

marketing objective facebook retargeting

Once you’ve selected your objective, Facebook will take you to the next page where you can configure your advert. This section allows you to determine the audience, the placement of the ad, the budget, and a few extra features.

When you see the Audience section, click the “Create a Custom Audience” link shown below.

create a custom audience facebook retargeting

You’ll then see the option for tracking website traffic. Once you click it, you will be able to name your pixel and Facebook will then generate it.

track website traffic facebook retargeting

When the code is created, you’ll be given the option to Create Audience or Install Pixel. If you choose Install Pixel you can access the lines of code you’ll need to put into your website. This is where we find the difference between an audience pixel and a conversion pixel – what Facebook refer to as the Event Code.

pixel codes from facebook retargeting

The pixel base code goes into your header tag on your website. Facebook recommend including it just before the end of the tag – directly before “</head>”. This will set the system to track visitors to your website and create a custom audience for you.

How to customize a conversion pixel

The second option, Install event code, allows you to add specific parameters to this tracking. You can create customized snippets of code to install on specific pages of your website. The different event options include:

  • What someone is searching for
  • What content someone has viewed
  • What someone has added to a wishlist
  • Whether someone has gone through to checkout
  • Whether someone has added their payment information
  • Whether someone has made a purchase
  • Whether someone has registered or become a lead.

You can also create custom events if you’re code savvy.

Once you’ve generated your pixel, you have to find somewhere to put it. Where you place a conversion pixel on your website will define what information you’re able to gather. You have two main options:

  1. You can place the pixel in the <script> tags beneath your </head> tag. This will run the script when the page loads. This is good for tracking whether someone has arrived at a thank you page or a specific product.
  2. You can place the pixel in a more dynamic area like a button. If you insert the script into the button then a visitor will be tracked when they click that button rather than when the page loads. This allows you to be more specific with monitoring actions.

Facebook offers you three settings when configuring your event code: Basic, Recommended, and Advanced.

The advanced option allows you to add extra variables and therefore provide greater optimization and more useful data.

Lastly, you can name your audience and finish up!

second pixel created facebook retargeting

Now Facebook will gather an audience for you to target in your adverts. You can simply follow the Facebook process through defining your budget, your text, and images, and then set your advert going.

Real life advanced segmentation strategies

Segmenting your existing or potential customers well in order to effectively target them is an art form.

I’ve made the argument in previous posts that this kind of effective segmentation was one of the key factors behind both the Trump campaign strategy and the Brexit campaign strategy – both of which were successful against all odds.

The three key strategies we’ll mention range from most expensive/difficult to least. From emotional mapping, to purchase monitoring, to content marketing.

How companies segment their audience by emotion

In my last article, I looked at the role of psychometric testing and emotional targeting in political and commercial activities – the science of persuasion. VisualDNA was one of the case studies I used to show how effective emotional targeting can be in advertising.

VisualDNA used free to play online games through facebook and other viral quizzes to build a vast database of people and to learn something about them. Most of these games or quizzes included a psychometric element to them. The goal was to learn who is susceptible to what – using psychological concepts like OCEAN and the Need for Cognition Scale.

ocean science of persuasion

With this knowledge, they were able to provide advertising tailored to individuals’ personalities rather than their particular demographic position. This proved very effective in one of their case studies with a leading health and beauty brand:

Each segment received tailored creative. Because people with high openness are generally more willing to take risks and experiment, the brand sent them a bold, confronting message: “Give two fingers to convention”. At the other end of the spectrum, members of the audience identified as having low extraversion received a softer sell: “Beauty doesn’t have to shout.”

By matching the right creative with the right audience, this leading brand inspired over 1,000 customers to purchase, and boosted ROI by a massive 56 percent compared with a control group.

They create their custom audiences by segmenting via emotional makeup. This is likely a difficult strategy for a bootstrapping startup to employ, but if you’re part of a large company this could be the addition to your strategy you’ll need to boost sales even further.

Targeting different ads at different people works. Check out these two examples given by Neil Patel which show the financial difference regular advert optimization can make. They have different conversion rates, but if emotionally segmented maybe they would score even higher! Who do you think each would be targeted at?

neil patel facebook retargeting

My growing obsession with emotional targeting has reached the point where I feel the need to analyze every advert placed in front of me. Have they used a personality map to focus in on me, and crafted their message in a way I would react to?

Take this advert from the London Review of Books. I’m a writer. I’m British but living abroad. I’m generally frugal online.

london review of books facebook retargeting

Is it suspicious? Maybe, maybe not. And we shouldn’t take one example to be indicative of a whole campaign.

I’ve certainly visited LRB at points, so maybe they’re just retargeting.

However, what about the next advert which comes up in my feed?

latm facebook retargeting

Become a fan and discover all the corners of Latin America!

On the one hand, they’re marketing to me in the wrong language. I think. Unless I spend longer looking at Spanish language adverts as it takes me longer to read them? In which case, Facebook might be sending me Spanish ones for a reason – misinterpreting my abilities as an hispanohablante for genuine interest in products.

On the other hand, the imagery and the sentiment across the two adverts are incredibly similar. Both present a sense of wanderlust and look to be focusing on the O in OCEAN; “Openness: do they enjoy new experiences?”. You could certainly imagine a different advert for the London Review of Books which depicts someone curled up in chair with a good book – the kind of advert which may appeal more to the neurotic rather than the open.

I don’t know. I’m probably just paranoid. Let’s move on.

Sell products to people who have bought those products before

If you’re selling high-end Swiss watches, you may disagree with this approach.

However, for companies who sell either perishable or single-use goods, this is a no-brainer.

The retailer Target is a particularly interesting success story in this regard. They set up a system whereby every customer was given a certain ID and their purchasing was tracked with every detail recorded. This resulted in some surprising outcomes.

Analysts at Target had found that the birth of a child is a very lucrative event. Therefore, being able to predict when this is going to occur would give Target an advantage in marketing to that person and securing their trade. As it turned out, their system worked too well.

target facebook retargeting

Target identified 25 products which, if bought over a certain period of time, highlighted an upcoming birth. These 25 products, importantly, did not include baby clothes or diapers – if the customer is already buying these items then Target has missed the event-moment where a person’s shopping habits become “flexible”.

This resulted in an angry father reaching out to target, annoyed that they’d been sending his daughter adverts for baby related goods. He accused Target of encouraging her to get pregnant. What he didn’t know… she was already pregnant. Target found out before he did.

Analyzing your customers‘ buying history can help inform you as to what they may want to buy in future. It could be Target’s big data approach, or it might be one of their simpler stories: when customers bought swimsuits in April they sent them offers for suntan lotion and weight loss books in June.

This is the kind of technique which any already active company can employ. If you’re an online entity, this is a super easy strategy to use as all of your customers will have a login/user ID of some description. If you’re an offline company, you could set up a membership system or club card which incentivises customers to identify themselves electronically whenever they make a purchase.

Use content marketing to have your customers segment themselves

If you’re running a content marketing strategy, you’re probably offering a couple of bonus free-giveaways.

Maybe you’re offering an ebook to explain something further? Perhaps you’re offering a voucher to give discounts on particular products?

Lots of companies who employ this technique request people leave their email in order to access the prize. This gives you an opportunity. It is also a free opportunity – for you cash-strapped startups out there.

download the ebook facebook retargeting

Say you have products A, B, and C. They’re different enough from each other to warrant distinct adverts for each and also for secondary related products – D, E, and F, for instance.  When you publish content related to product C, you offer access to a voucher for that product. Maybe someone doesn’t go ahead with the purchase, you still have their email.

You can now market to that individual. You can send them adverts for product C, but you can also send them adverts for product F because you know the two products are closely related.

So you end up with 3 lists where each list applies to the primary product and a secondary related product. You can run a strategy like this while spending a minuscule amount.

Sneaky tips which are mostly allowed by Facebook

I’ll just make this clear from the off: I do not advocate you violating Facebook’s terms of service.

This first option merely serves as inspiration and a demonstration of some of the possibilities within Facebook.

How to be specific

If you want to find a person’s unique identifier on Facebook, you can simply go onto their profile and look at their name. For example, Take this URL and add “graph” in front of it: This will show you something like this:

fbtrace id facebook retargeting

That fbtrace_id can be copied and pasted into a spreadsheet. Now you could (but shouldn’t) target that individual directly with adverts.

It’s the kind of despicable thing I could imagine startups doing to get their product in front of tech journalists, for instance. Or, alternatively, a great way to parade your wedding photos in front of your ex, if you’re an equally despicable person.

Exclude previous conversions

When you’re building your custom audience, you have to recognize that Facebook may know more about your audience than you do.

For instance, let’s say that you have a list of emails of people who bought items from your website. You’re now releasing a mobile app. You want to advertise the launch of the app to all those previous users, but the app is only available on iOS. Considering you don’t have a massive budget, you want to exclude all the users on your list who use an Android operating system.

Simply click the “Exclude people” option below and a new search box will appear. You can click “Browse” in this new box for a drop down menu to browse options. There are many variables, so spend some time going through to exclude the groups you feel the need to exclude.

exclude people facebook targeting

Fight back against your email open rates

Are you sending out emails religiously and finding very low open rate?

Then look no further!

Use your email provider to filter this list down to exclude the people who open emails. Once you’ve done this, you can hopefully export that list as a CSV. Then, you can upload this as a custom audience within Facebook and have your adverts pop up on the newsfeeds of people who ignore their emails.

upload custom audience facebook retargeting

Run your marketing with a process

As you’ve probably noticed by now, there are a number of different strategies you can take when configuring your Facebook adverts.

There are also a number of other steps required outside of Facebook if you want to attempt some of these strategies properly.

Trying to juggle multiple campaign styles and approaches can be confusing. At Process Street, we have the mindset that anything which needs doing more than twice requires a well-documented process. Whether you’re creating the process for yourself or building the process to delegate complex workflows, you need to have a system in place.

I’ve included this customizable template below which provides a skeleton structure from which you can plan out your process for creating Facebook ad campaigns. Simply click “Give me this checklist!” and you can add in new steps and edit existing ones to suit the structure of your planned foray into advanced Facebook marketing.

Bring the most out of your marketing potential with Facebook’s retargeting features and its custom audience functionalities.

If you’re advertising without using these tools, you’re throwing money away.

Have you run campaigns with Facebook’s features in the past? What were the results? Let us know your case studies in the comments below and we might follow up with you to find out more!

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Adam Henshall

I manage the content for Process Street and dabble in other projects inc language exchange app Idyoma on the side. Living in Sevilla in the south of Spain, my current hobby is learning Spanish! @adam_h_h on Twitter. Subscribe to my email newsletter here on Substack: Trust The Process. Or come join the conversation on Reddit at r/ProcessManagement.

One Comment

Great article Adam – I’ve started experimenting with FB ads & Clickfunnels, and have been astounded at the difference a background image can make too. Some real “head scratching moments” in terms of why one image waaaay outperforms another. Loved the Target story too, I’d not heard that before!

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