If CVB websites were automobiles, this year’s models would be described as faster, easier to maneuver, more streamlined and designed for different types of drivers.
Take, for example, the website of the Pinehurst Southern Pines Aberdeen, N.C., Area CVB. Before a recent remake, it was “static,” said director of sales Beverly Stewart. Now, like a shiny sports car, fresh off the assembly line, “it lives, it breathes, it moves,” she said.
Like automakers, CVBs looked to their end users as they redesigned their websites. Among those audiences were meeting professionals.
The Alexandria, Va., CVA created a focus group made up of association, government, corporate, third-party and independent planners.
“It was a mixture of very seasoned pros as well as some who were newer to the industry,” said Lorraine Lloyd, chief operating officer, who spearheaded the website remake.
The group met with bureau staff once a month for about five months and discussed planners’ perceptions of Alexandria, how the bureau’s staff could help them and which website features were of value.
Stewart, too, turned to meeting planner clients for suggestions.
“I asked planners I’m very close to to give me thoughts on our online request for proposal [RFP],” she said. “One thing they kept repeating was ‘Please keep it simple. We can work out the details later.’”
Because the Scottsdale, Ariz., CVB does a number of meeting planner familiarization trips, it had several opportunities to poll planners as it redid its website.
“We’d do mini focus groups with meeting planners 30 to 45 minutes before or after the FAM for those who wanted to help us out,” said Josh Kenzer, online marketing manager.
The informal talks produced valuable feedback.
“The biggest thing we learned is that when they are traveling, meeting planners are using tablets more than we thought and that printed material is of less and less value to them,” Kenzer said. “What they said kind of underscored what we had suspected.”
Planner comments were kept in mind; on the priority list for the Scottsdale redo was a website that would work well across all platforms.
The Alexandria CVA heard similar comments from its focus group regarding brochures.
It had a gorgeous printed event planner, but “people don’t want to keep those things anymore,” said Lloyd. The bureau’s new website features an online meeting planner’s guide.
“The beauty of it is that each section is downloadable as a PDF,” said Lloyd. “So, if planners want, they can just download the restaurant section, for example.”
After the Pinehurst area’s new website was completed, Stewart asked clients for feedback.
“I sent the link to a lot of different planners and asked them, ‘What is missing? What do you like and dislike?’”
Several noticed that the site’s transportation section was missing, a glitch caused by a change in Web design companies in the middle of the redesign.
“We will be adding that transportation information,” said Stewart.