Event Retargeting: Campaigns to Boost Attendance


We’ve all had this happen. You’re browsing an ecommerce site. Maybe you linger on a product, maybe you actually put it in your cart. But you don’t pull the trigger, and the item remains unpurchased. Then, just a day or two later, you’re perusing another site, perhaps reading a news story, when you glance at a banner ad and see that its featuring the very product you neglected to buy.

You have just been retargeted.

Retargeting works by placing a cookie on a visitor’s computer. It’s this little bit of information that enables sites to direct targeted ads specific to one person when he or she visits other sites.

Retargeting can be a powerful tool in an event professional’s hands – and it is one that is extremely underutilized. Even when it is used, it’s frequently poorly executed. The reason?  Most people do not optimize their campaigns effectively.

Segment Your Visitors

This first step in any successful retargeting campaign is to segment your audience. Because not every visitor to your site is interested in an event for the same reason, it is essential to group like-minded people together.

Set up your event website with ways to gather information about your visitors. It may be as simple as placing everyone who visited the exhibitors page into an “interested in the exhibitors” group. Or, you could include a simple survey with questions like, “Why are you interested in attending?” “Why would you like to exhibit?” and a series of radio button answers. Next, you should be able to go into the metadata and sift through URLs to segment these visitors into appropriate groups.

Photo Credit: Nolan Media Group

Build a Targeted Ad Campaign

Now that you have this essential information – audiences grouped by what appeals to them – it’s time to create ads that speak directly to a specific segment.

Here are a few options:

Ramp Up to the Event

The time between when you announce your event and when you throw open the doors offers a wide variety of opportunities for promotion. There are several significant milestones that can serve as a reason to reach out to your target audience, including (just to name a few):

  • Save the date

  • Early-bird registration

  • Start of registration

  • Speaker announcements

  • Session topics

  • Exhibitor listings

  • Last-chance registration

Each of these moments is a great reason to tap that interested person on the shoulder and offer them a reminder about your event.

An Abandoned Cart

This is the classic retargeting campaign – so classic I used it as my opening example.

While your event website doesn’t have the typical ecommerce shopping cart, it does have a registration page. Anyone who lands on that page is clearly interested in your event, but for whatever reason, they did not pull the trigger. This is not uncommon. Many people who visit a registration page do not register on their first visit. However, the fact that they stopped by that page is reason enough to give them a gentle nudge every now and then.

Just like that banner ad reminding you of a lingering purchase, seeing your event pop up might be all someone needs to return and register or put it on the calendar to talk to the boss.


Photo Credit: Mainstreethost Pinterest

Ensure Arrivals

This is especially helpful for free events. When there is no cost associated with registration securing sign ups is not the problem. Its ensuring attendance that’s the bigger challenge. How can you encourage people to actually show up on the day of the event?

One way is to get them to make a series of commitments leading up to the event. Promoting a discount on hotel rooms is one way. People who have secured a room are much more likely to make the trip. Another idea is to provide the opportunity to attend sessions with limited availability, like speaker Q&As for a small audience, an on-site only raffle or giveaway, or a cocktail hour with a VIP. You could also promote the availability of an event app. Not only is that a strong sign of interest, it’s a great way to continue to communicate with potential attendees.


Geofencing gives you the ability to be hyper precise about the people you target in a specific area. It creates a virtual boundary around an area, and only people who are in or enter that area see the notification. Geofencing is great to use with your event app because you can send notifications to people in a specific area about a speaker that’s about to go on or an exhibitor that’s about to run a promotion.

When it comes to event retargeting, geofencing lets you lock in on a very specific audience. For example, if there is an event that would appeal to a similar audience as yours, you can put a geofence around the event’s location to remind or notify those in attendance that your event is coming up.

Activate the Locals

Somewhat along the same lines as geofencing is an oft overlooked audience for events: the locals. People who live in the same area as your event have less motivation to arrive the day of. They don’t have to travel, not significantly, anyway. They are likely not booking a room. If they paid for registration, they may not mind eating the cost, and if the event is free they have even less of a reason to attend.

It’s up to you to remind them of everything your event has to offer. Again, maybe offer discounts or specials geared toward the local audience. Getting this crowd motivated to show up could lead to a significant boost to your attendance numbers.

Photo Credit: Propellant Media

Test Incentives

This article has mentioned a number of possible incentives you could offer to encourage attendance. The trick is to not get complacent with these offers. Just like your audience is segmented, so too are the things that will trigger their interest.

If one offer didn’t work, wait a beat and try another. Discounts for new attendees, buy-one-get-one offers, limited-time events; it may take a couple of tries to find the one benefit that will turn a “maybe” into a “yes.”

Uncover the Time and Day When Interest is at its Peak

Just like you never want to send a marketing email on a Monday, there will be times and days when potential attendees are more likely to respond to your retargeting ads. Comb through the data you’ve collected on your website visitors and find the peaks times of visits. Those are indications of when your audience may be most responsive. However, that’s only an assumption.

Run one test based on that data. Then try a second group (and a third, etc.) using different days and times. Now compare that data.

Also, you will need to do this analysis for every subset of people you want to reach. It is possible that the hours to reach attendees differs from the times to reach exhibitors which differs from the days to reach sponsors, etc.

Used effectively, retargeting is an impactful way to reach an audience that may be on the fence about an event and encourage attendance. For more thoughts on retargeting tactics and tips for establishing the perfect event, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.