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Website Success

Industry surveys show that 95 percent of meeting planners are familiar with convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs). That’s heartening. Hopefully many of them also use the services of a CVB.

When Small Market Meetings was launched in 2000, meeting planners didn’t seem to be as clued in to CVBs; back then, too, CVBs didn’t offer as many services for meetings as they do now. They’ve elevated their profiles quite a bit, partly through improved websites equipped with helpful information and handy tools like online requests for proposals.

Having a robust website can elevate a small CVB, putting it on the same footing as peers with larger staffs and budgets.

I was reminded of the power of a good website when I came across the Beaumont, Texas, CVB’s website the other day

Beaumont isn’t a big place; about 120,000 people live in the city 90 miles east of Houston, near the Louisiana border. Its CVB is also small, with three people devoted to meeting sales and services. But because the website has valuable, well-organized, enjoyable-to-read information and is easy to navigate, I left it after 15 minutes feeling like a semi-expert on the city and knowing exactly whom I should call or email if I needed more information.

The Beaumont site covers all the usual bases in clear-cut sections about meeting facilities, off-site venues, meeting services, meeting tools, staff, the city, community resources and others. It also has some nice extras, like a stack of maps, a how-to-plan-a-convention brochure and links to local suppliers like caterers and audiovisual and transportation companies.

Even corporate planners, who, studies show, are least likely to use a CVB, could benefit from a tour of the Beaumont site. They often need a private space for a nice group dinner. That’s easily found on Beaumont’s site, as those restaurants are wisely broken out into a separate category. Each restaurant and its space are described in detail, and a locator map quickly shows exactly where that restaurant is in relation to hotels or event spaces. It’s a whole lot quicker and easier than checking out individual restaurant websites, although there are links to those sites as well. Or, if planners need to add a little zing to an evening event, they can read about the Beaumont Museum dinearound, a progressive dinner that takes in three of the city’s 19 museums and spices things up with Cajun food and crawdads.

The website manages to supply details in a way that’s not overwhelming. So not only did I come away with emails and phone numbers for sales director Freddie Willard, sales manager Rebecca Woodland and servicing manager Susan Jackson, but I would recognize them immediately thanks to photos, know where they went to school and which professional organizations they are members of, what their job responsibilities include and what each loves about Beaumont. In a quick Q&A section, each shares tips about their city: favorite time of year, where they like to eat, favorite meeting venues and what they do in their free time.

Beaumont’s not the only small city that’s doing an outsize job communicating through its website. Maybe it’s easier for a place that’s small to know what it is all about and to communicate its differences with enthusiasm. I don’t know. But I will point this out: Beaumont and other towns like it are providing just what meeting planners want from CVBs. Research has shown that planners want CVBs to demonstrate “destination expertise.” So, kudos, Beaumont! Your website nails it.