For small or medium-sized business, it’s not always easy to win customers from competitors, especially if your competitors are bigger brands with bigger marketing budgets. But without the big ad budgets, how can you stand out from the crowd?

If you’re like most other businesses, you’re largely focused on getting people to your site in the first place. After all, you can’t sell to someone who doesn’t know who you are. But paid search and SEO are competitive arenas, and if you’re up against big competitors you may end up shelling out a lot of money just to be seen—and what happens next? Here’s where one powerful digital tool, retargeting, can help.

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Retargeting is the practice of serving ads to people who have previously engaged with you online, and it can help you capitalize on search traffic, get more out of your ad budgets, and look bigger than you are online.

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a form of targeted display advertising that lets companies focus their ads exclusively on people who have already engaged with them online. Though you can serve retargeting ads to people who have taken a variety of different actions (like opening an email or searching for keywords), the most common form of retargeting, site retargeting, serves ads to people who have visited your site but left without making a purchase.

Site retargeting is effective for most marketers because it focuses exclusively on people who have recently visited your website. Your site visitors know who you are and are probably interested in your product or service. Often, all it takes is a few reminders turn an interested prospect into a valuable customer. That’s what retargeting does—provides those reminders.

Look Bigger Than You Are

The Internet is often hailed as a great equalizer–a channel for unknown artists, musicians, and authors to spread the word about their creations and for start-ups and small businesses to disrupt big industries or compete against established players. Retargeting is a great example of that equalizing power in action.

By serving ads exclusively to people who have already visited your site, you can serve more ads to your most valuable prospects, meaning they’ll see your brand everywhere. Retargeting gives your prospects the impression that you’re buying ads all over the web (just be sure not to overdo it). Not only does this repetition improve brand recall, it can make you look bigger than you are, helping you build credibility and giving you an even footing with your larger competitors.

For consumers who aren’t familiar with this tactic, retargeting makes it seem like you spend way more on advertising than you actually do, which makes your company seem as if it’s bigger than it really is. Even if your audience does realize they’re receiving targeted advertisements, they’ll still be seeing your brand everywhere, solidifying recall and awareness. People trust the familiar, and retargeting can help turn your company into a familiar (and therefore trusted) brand.

Capitalize on Existing Traffic and Boost ROI

In addition to helping you look bigger than you are, retargeting helps you get more for your money and more out of your other ad campaigns. By focusing on those most likely to buy, retargeting leads to more sales than many other forms of advertising because it focuses on convincing people who are already considering making a purchase.

But not only is retargeting a high-ROI channel, it assists the marketing tactics you’re probably already using. For example, if much of your marketing strategy revolves around paid search or SEO, retargeting is the perfect addition. You’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to get the right people to your site, but a single visit almost never results in a sale or a lifelong customer. Retargeting helps you get more out of the investments you’ve already made to drive traffic to your site.

If you’re a smaller business with large competitors, retargeting can help you look bigger than the competition while getting more for your budget. There are many different providers, ranging from self-service dashboards to full-service or managed solutions. Every provider is different, but with the right research you can certainly find the one that fits your needs and budget.

About the Author

Caroline Watts is a marketing manager at ReTargeter, a full-service display provider specializing in retargeting and audience targeting. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.