You’re shopping for boots online and you’re not quite ready to buy, so you leave Zappos and visit a seemingly unrelated site, and those boots you were considering just walk up and park themselves in an ad next to the article you’re reading. It’s called retargeting and its time on earth is limited.

The next big thing is pretargeting.

Criteo, AdChoices (from Yahoo) and AdRoll are the biggest purveyors of retargeted ads. The creepy practice of retargeting, where products follow you around mercilessly for days, has an accompanying ick factor that means it’s doomed as a sales tactic. Chasing shoppers around the internet using third party cookies to remind them of items they probably don’t want is only so effective. That’s why the future belongs to the next generation of advertising.

Why is pretargeting next? Instead of capturing your customers after they click, you capture them before they click. Before they click on your competitor’s website.

Content marketing and pretargeting go hand in hand. There are several variations on the pretargeting theme, but the idea is to proactively find your customer (before she finds you).

Ideally, you achieve that visibility by predicting and then talking about the very things your customer seeks. When you know what your customers’ problems are, you can use credible, relevant content to help them solve their problems more quickly.

Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm works hand in hand with pretargeting theory. Because Hummingbird is designed to respond with answers to natural language queries, not just parrot back search requests in results, a dialogue opens up. For example, I recently wondered if anyone out there was seeking assistance by typing in the question, “How can I fix my content marketing?” The search results directed me to marketing blogs that answer the question, rather than direct quotes of the question on websites.

Businesses that want to take full advantage of Hummingbird should be generating keyword rich content that answers consumer questions. Pretargeting companies make a science of that predictive process, using search and behavioral patterns to locate customers.

French pretargeting startup Ezakus just raised 4.7 million euros and is looking to expand operations to London and New York. Ezakus’ secret sauce is to find internet users wherever they are on the web and bring them to relevant clients. By determining the profile of customers most likely to purchase from you by researching the history of your recent buyers, Ezakus then finds shoppers who look at lot like your buyers.

If you’re a small to medium sized business lacking a multimillion dollar advertising budget, you don’t need data and metrics to do effective pretargeting. What you need to do is listen. Do your research. Find out what your current and prospective customers want. And write about it.