International travel is coming back—even if it is taking longer than we would like. As vaccination rates climb and many countries ease travel restrictions, now is the ideal time to get serious about reengaging global attendees. To make the most of this year’s opportunities and ensure a steady return of international participation in 2022, consider the following.
Ride the Tide
In times of flux, it’s better to ride the waves rather than paddle the boat. This isn’t the year to be aggressive with your international marketing efforts but to be agile and informed. Consider a two-pronged approach that allows you to seize opportunities as they arise and borders open—but commit to the long game of continuing to engage and grow your global audience with online content to set your 2022 event up for maximum success. Currently, with international travel picking up from Canada and Mexico, it makes sense to invest in targeted tactics in those countries to drive live event registrations. As vaccination rates continue to rise across many European markets, you’ll gain credibility by continuing to deliver general show updates, best practices for travel and useful industry content. When travel becomes feasible in the upcoming weeks and months, your event is on their radar, and they’ll trust you to help guide them through the details.
Recognize Travel is Top-of-Mind
COVID variants are likely to battle the vaccination rates in international headlines for months to come. Rather than ignore the elephant in the room, speak directly to safety concerns and travel hurdles facing your international attendees, and be proactive by providing them with helpful resources they need to plan a successful trip. It’s also important to remember international visitors have always been more likely to plan leisure travel alongside their business travel to U.S. trade events—and that’s never been more appealing than after being denied that privilege. If location-based marketing is not already part of your mix, now is the time to integrate it and encourage your international attendees to dream big by sharing local points of interest. Recently, insights firm, Global Web Index, surveyed decision-makers to share what will motivate them to hit the road when business travel safely resumes. Not surprisingly, respondents highly ranked the chance to explore new places.
Lead with Loyalists
Before the pandemic, international marketing investments were largely focused on generating net new attendance. However, if this is a rebuilding year, then lead with a “loyalists first” mindset. Now’s the perfect time to incentivize loyal international attendees with special VIP treatment and high-quality extras to signal you are not just marketing to the masses but are invested in their return to your live event. Consider going above and beyond by providing them with highly personalized communications and dedicated customer service to help them make a thoughtful decision about travel and plan a productive and successful show experience.
Put Content at the Center of Building Back
Consider that some of your global audience won’t make it to your event. What can you deliver to them today that will impact their decision to choose your event next year? Leverage online or on-demand content you may have produced over the last year, then continue to think strategically. Consider a 365-content strategy for your audiences in select target countries or develop exclusive content with an international partner who will be invested in promotion and help you reach new audiences. Across the board last year, virtual education was a hit, while virtual marketplaces fell flat. Over the last year, the mindset has shifted from “online content is a supplement” to “online content has a purpose.” Determine your purpose. And then decide how you can make that happen with high-value content that will keep your international prospects engaged—and that much more committed to make the journey to your event in 2022.
A version of this article originally appeared in PCMA Convene.