It’s the lesson US-based meeting planners have been hearing over and over again: your organization needs a global strategy. As new business opportunities arise in emerging markets, it’s clear that the future of face-to-face attendance for associations relies on reaching professionals in new places. At Convening Leaders 2015, Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE, CEO, The Association for Operations Management, highlighted that organizations are asking their meeting planners to devise global strategies
“We’re looking for cultural sensitivity,” Eshkenazi said. “What works here does not work across the globe. Working across time zones is a critical part of success.”
As more meeting professionals work to connect with new audiences, the BestCities Global Alliance of 12 leading CVBs is focused on helping them overcome the challenges of navigating the global business environment. If you’re looking for a deeper dive into the issues, be sure to check out the Global Hub Open Mic on Monday, January 11 at Convening Leaders where Jonas Wilstrup, Convention Director, Wonderful Copenhagen Convention & Visitors Bureau, will help you adjust your approach based on the region and country. For now, use these five tips to update your international strategy.
1) Start from scratch.
Thinking of using a US marketing plan to help shape promotional efforts on a new continent? Think again.
“This is where multinational companies go wrong,” Bharat Thakrar, head of Nairobi-based African-based marketing agency Scangroup, told The Financial Times. “They come with their global brand positioning and they want to cut and paste. They think everybody looks the same, but just having black models is no longer enough. It’s like putting a Thai, a Chinese and an Indian in the same Asia ad. People can recognize themselves.”
Meeting planners will want to get serious about customizing their marketing materials to attendees throughout Africa, too. As hoteliers like Marriott focus on developing new properties across the continent, there is huge potential for meetings.
2) Adjust your English.
Color or colour? Program or programme? Center or centre? The answers depend on who you’re trying to reach. If your message is going to someone in Houston or Chicago, the American spelling will suffice. However, if the message is intended for someone in Vancouver, Edinburgh or Melbourne, you’ll want to turn off the default American auto-correct function. While it’s a small adjustment, the properly used spelling will let prospective attendees know your organization is making a stronger effort to speak their language.
3) Be smart about social.
In the US, Facebook and Twitter are the most dominant social media platforms, and organizations dedicate time and resources to build these communities. Around the world, though, audiences may not be fans and followers of these services.
“Benchmark against their everyday lives — not conferences,” Karen Melbourne, CEO of the Melbourne Convention Bureau and Chair of BestCities, says. “What are the regional touch points, and what are the social media platforms they are using to communicate with their friends and colleagues?”
For example, in Singapore, 46 percent of the population is active on WhatsApp compared with just 15 percent on Twitter. Other applications such as Line and WeChat are also rising in popularity in Asia.
4) Think of each attendee as a relationship — not another registration number.
While your meeting marketing department may be accustomed to sending mass emails, a personal touch can go a long way with a global audience. “For relationship-based cultures, such as India, Brazil and Italy, a follow-up phone call after an initial email invitation would be welcome and appreciated,” Cynthia Deranges, president of LemonLime Consulting, said in a recent interview with Convene.
5) Count on your CVB partner.
Understanding cultural norms and outlining a marketing plan for a new audience requires a lot of work. Rather than going it alone, meeting planners should turn to the CVBs in their host destinations for advice on what will resonate with attendees throughout the region. “The CVB is the go-to resource for navigating the complexities of communication,” Michelle Crowley, Director, Global Development, PCMA, says. “Trust the on-the-ground experts who are already familiar with the audience you’re hoping will come to your meeting.”
This educational article was brought to you by BestCities, the first convention bureau alliance. With 12 destinations around the world, each member of the BestCities network is committed to the highest level of service and works to make planning programs simple and successful. A unique data exchange process connects staff across six continents to share information smoothly. If you are interested in learning how BestCites can help you plan better meetings and create lasting legacies, click here to get in touch with the team. Be sure to check out what your colleagues are saying about BestCities, too.