Retargeting: The Event Pro’s Hidden Weapon


There is an extremely powerful tool that should be in every event marketer’s toolbox, which, to date, remains exceptionally underutilized: retargeting campaigns.

A retargeting campaign is the ability for you to display ads to anyone who has engaged online with your brand. If that doesn’t sound that powerful to you, here’s how retargeting would work in the real world. Someone walks into a shop, browses for about 15 minutes, then leaves. After leaving the store, he or she heads to a doctor appointment. Every billboard passed features one of the products picked up, with an emphasis on the ones held for the longest time. Then, while waiting to see the doctor, he or she reads an article in a magazine and the ads along the side are for those same products.

That’s retargeting. Subtle reminders of products or services after people have already expressed an interest in the recent past. It is similar to nurturing a sales lead. Most leads do not convert into an immediate sale. There is usually a lag time between initial interest and conversion.

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 websites.

It is also possible to utilize retargeting to reach out to contacts that already exist in a database. Event planners have a wealth of useful data on hand, and a retargeting campaign is an effective method of nudging past attendees who may have fallen off the map or potential sponsors with reminders that a deadline is approaching.


Photo Credit: Tom Okarma

Getting Ready to Retarget

There are several internet technologies that make retargeting possible. The first is the cookie. Cookies are pieces of code that web servers use to put information on someone’s browser. An example is a website that remembers your password. Cookies have been used since the internet was in its infancy.

Next are pixel tags (also known as 1×1 pixels, web bugs, or, simply, pixels). Pixel tags are transparent and typically the size of a single pixel. Whenever a visitor drops by your website, the pixel tag adds a cookie to their browser. Then, when that visitor leaves for other sites, the cookie notifies your retargeting provider when and where to deliver your ads.

There are several options for retargeting providers, such as Google AdSense, Facebook Ads, AdRoll, ReTargeter, Feathr, and Perfect Audience, to name only a very few. Each of these are slightly different, so you should let your marketing strategy dictate which you use.

Each of these can also be integrated with your event management platform. Along with your other promotional efforts, monitoring your retargeting efforts will allow you to maintain a bird’s eye view of the entire event marketing. Additionally, as you can imagine, tracking the success of your retargeting efforts can get complicated, so having all the data situated in a single software platform will make it easier to understand and report on the progress of your campaign.

Launching the Campaign

Not every visitor to your site is interested in an event for the same reason: some may want to register, others are interested in sponsoring, etc. For retargeting to be most effective, it is essential to segment your visitors.

Start by setting up your event website with ways to gather information about your visitors. It may be as simple as including 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. Or, you could place everyone who visited the exhibitor’s page into an “interested in the exhibitors” group.

The next step is to go into the metadata and sift through URLs to section these visitors into appropriate groups. Now that you have this essential information, it is time to create ads that speak directly to each specific segment.

For example, maybe you’ve noticed a lot of visitors who land on your registration page but, for whatever reason, they don’t sign up. This is not uncommon. Many people who visit a registration page do not commit on the first visit. Still, anyone who lands on that page is clearly interested in your event, and the fact that they stopped by is reason enough to give them a gentle reminder to return. Seeing your event pop up in an ad might be all someone needs to return and register.


Photo Credit: Daily Post

In addition, 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.

Making the Most of Your Ads

When you’re constructing your retargeting ads, think of them as you would any marketing creation. Getting the ad in front of your audience is only half the battle, now you need to capture their attention.

Creativity is key. Anyone who has spent time on the internet knows that ads are not in short supply. To stand apart from the tumult, you need to bring your A game: grab their attention, and they’re much more likely to click your ad.

That being said, you can’t sacrifice content for creativity. You have to have something behind the message. The intent is to encourage the viewer to head back to your site – that message can’t get lost. That’s why it is essential to have a clear and concise call to action (CTA). If the registration window is closing for your event – say it. “Time is running out! Click here to register.”

You also need to include pertinent information about your event: dates, location, etc. The more you can do to remind folks what attracted them to your site in the first place, the better.

Additional Retargeting Options

As mentioned above, site retargeting (while likely the most common) isn’t the only option. Event pros can use the massive collection of data at their fingertips to reach out to formulate an email campaign where anyone who opens the email will see your retargeting ads. This way, you keep your event in their thoughts without inundating them with emails.

Although, there’s an option where someone doesn’t even need to open an email. With CRM retargeting, all you need is an email (or even a snail mail) address to include someone in a retargeting campaign.

There’s even the possibility to retarget someone who has never visited your event’s website. It’s called search retargeting. The way it works is you define a list of keywords that are relevant to your event, and anyone whose web searches include one or more of the words will also see ads for your event.

Retargeting is an effective tool that is only now gaining traction in the event’s industry. For more information about your retargeting options or for help constructing a campaign, give Event Architecture a call at 972.323.9433.