Trade shows and conferences are fantastic opportunities to spread awareness about your brand and network with like-minded people, but it’s difficult for any one vendor to stand out amidst the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other companies. Short of spending thousands of dollars on a premium sponsorship or an exhibitor booth, you’ll have to rely on on-the-ground hustle and the strength of your existing network in order to make a meaningful impact at a large event.

Thankfully, creating event-specific targeted advertisements has never been easier. By leveraging tactics from search engine marketing, social media advertising and retargeting, you can build substantial buzz around your brand ahead of an event and increase your mindshare within your industry sector, all on a reasonable budget.

1. SEM

One-size-fits all advertising may have been appropriate in the age of direct mail and mass marketing, but these days specificity is king. Here are three strategies for associating your brand with a trade show using search engine marketing:

  1. Chase the long-tail. Choosing long-tail keywords related to trade shows and events lets you to put your message in front of a relevant audience at relatively cheap CPC rates. For an extra edge, include qualifying terms like dates and cities (i.e. “SXSW 2012”) to make sure that you’re capturing the most relevant traffic possible while also providing you with a positioning boost thanks to the reduced competition for those keywords.
  2. Tailor your creatives. To ensure maximum resonance, supplement your long-tail keywords with ad copy specific to the event you’re targeting. Not only will your ads be more likely to grab somebody’s attention as they’re searching for information about the event, but it will also lower your CPC thanks to the alignment between your targeted keywords and your ad copy.
  3. Get Personal. If there are specific individuals or brands you’d like to reach out to at the trade show, you can take the extra step of catering to them specifically through the magic of dynamic keyword insertion. Through dynamic keyword insertion, your ad copy will be modified automatically depending on the keywords that people are searching for, allowing you to achieve the ultimate level of advertising customization. As Dale Carnegie said, there’s no sweeter sound in the world than one’s own name.

2. Social Media

Nowadays, almost every major trade show worth its salt has its own Twitter hashtag, and these discussions streams can be every bit as lively and fascinating as the events themselves. You can insert your messages into the conversational stream through Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, which let you target your tweets to specific hashtags. Instead of a strictly sales-oriented message, aim to write something that is useful, thought-provoking, and likely to be quoted and shared by others. While a single visible tweet may not have much effect, a chain reaction of mentions and re-tweets certainly can.

For more precise advertising, consider using LinkedIn Ads. LinkedIn gives you the option of targeting your ads to specific companies, industries and even people with certain job titles. If you know ahead of time who you’d like to connect with at a trade show, LinkedIn ads may be a good strategy for getting on their radar and spreading awareness before the event.

3. Display Ads

Despite their relative age, displays ads are still the most effective way to get your brand image seen across the web. However, broadcasting your banner across the web indiscriminately is unlikely to yield many benefits for your trade show marketing campaign. Here are two approaches to display advertising that will enable you to focus your banners on the audiences that matter the most:

  1. Targeted Ad Buys. Purchase ad space on high-traffic websites within your industry, such as key blogs and information portals, to reach the most relevant audience available. If possible, look to purchase ads directly on the trade show’s website, which is the next best thing to buying a booth at the event, and costs only a fraction of the price.
  2. Retargeting. Getting noticed isn’t enough—people have to remember your brand too if you’re looking to make a substantial impact in the marketplace. Retargeting (also known as remarketing) is well-suited for this purpose because it provides a method for you to serve ads specifically to people who have engaged with your company in the past, either by visiting your website, opening one of your e-mails, or engaging with your brand on via social media. These people will continue to see your ads as they browse the web, and as a result they will remember your brand and be encouraged to return to your site. You can leverage this functionality for trade show marketing by designing custom ad creatives just for the event. That way, anybody who visits your site or opens your e-mail will be reminded of your participation in the upcoming trade show, establishing some good context and buzz ahead of the event itself.

Mixing & Matching is Key

Marketing for trade shows is tricky because there is often no single channel or platform that is guaranteed to earn you significant exposure. That’s why it’s helpful to create a diverse media plan well in advance of the event, and to target your ads to the audiences who are most likely to care about your message. Through diversification and customization, you can boost brand awareness within your industry and build the kind of buzz that will ensure you’ll get the most out of your participation in the trade show.

This post is from Hafez Adel, Director of Marketing at ReTargeter, a self-serve advertising solution that provides retargeting to brands of all sizes.