Robin Lokerman, group president of MCI, unlocks the seven keys for expanding your international meeting successfully in new markets
As associations continue to expand and grow globally, meetings become a key strategy for organisations to open and penetrate international markets, especially the emerging ones which show a huge thirst for latest content offered through multiple products and services.
Meeting revenues mainly come from two sources – participants and industry partners in terms of sponsors and exhibitors. However, with more and more meetings taking place, content being made available in digital forms and through various online portals, and shrinking travel budgets, it becomes extremely important that associations have the right strategy behind their meetings when expanding in international markets, especially when they are new markets.
Here are the seven key areas to look into when planning international meetings:
- Content: While working in international markets, organisations need to ensure their content is more locally relevant. Having the same content might not be a successful strategy as it might not address the needs of the local audience. A good strategy will include customisation of content or having content presented with local relevance and connections so that participants find it most useful and wish to attend the meeting.
- Marketing and promotion: One of the major challenges faced by many associations when expanding into new markets is developing a locally relevant marketing and promotion strategy. From print marketing to social media, each industry and market responds differently and it is crucial to understand the triggers of that market before launching the strategy. One way to do this is to connect and discuss with counterpart organisations, local suppliers or, at times, even international members.
- Pricing strategy: While most markets can adapt and work with a consistent and similar pricing strategy, there are certain countries where organisations need be careful in defining the sponsorship/exhibitor values and registration prices. It is essential to look into this at the start when working on the event plan. If there are reasons for having lower prices, then the event costs have to be managed accordingly to ensure financial objectives are met and there is no last-minute compromise.
- Stakeholder involvement and support: No meetings are successful in international markets if the local/regional stakeholders are not sufficiently engaged. They need to be involved in defining content, pricing strategy and in gathering the right support from local authorities and industry. This will not only help in bringing in direct revenues but also in assisting in elevating the meeting brand that eventually will attract more participants, leading to increased revenues.
- Audience engagement: Having the potential participant engaged right from pre-event is the best way to ensure they attend the meeting. Audiences today can be engaged in developing content. For example, they can choose event speakers through voting. Social media and digital tools also help connect them and form a community, so today it is very easy to have your audiences engaged at a reasonable cost. These communities can then be used to generate revenues by connecting industry partners to them in various forms post-event to start an industry conversation.
- Partner involvement: When working in international markets, having a local on-the-ground partner helps associations to address local challenges. Costs are reduced through better contracts, and knowledgeable management of local stakeholders and partners. These could be conference organisers and/or destination management companies who can also provide insights into the marketing mix and local market relevance.
- Value-added services: A lot of organisations do not pay attention to the value-added services desired by participants. Services like offering accommodation, industry meetings or offsite activities do influence the decision of a participant to attend the meeting.
Based in Singapore, Robin Lokerman is responsible for the strategic and business development of MCI’s services to association and government markets. He is a member of the INCON Executive Committee and a regular guest speaker at international business events.