New Tools to Win Association Meetings

Skift Take

The ICCA Association Database is getting a major upgrade via a partnership with Simpleview. It promises to make life easier for destinations keen to bid on international association meetings.

Securing association meetings is important for destination management organizations (DMOs). Association meetings have the potential to drive significant economic impact. They can enhance a city’s reputation, leave a lasting legacy, and even help build a competitive advantage. Association meetings are also much more predictable compared to corporate meetings, meaning destinations can confidently fill their convention calendars years in advance.

One of the main ways decisions search for association meetings is through the ICCA Association Database. This database contains data on 220,000 meetings, including 20,000 regularly occurring international association meetings for at least 50 participants that rotate between at least three countries. It is widely recognized as the most valuable and tangible member benefit of the International Conference and Convention Associations (ICCA).

An Aging Asset

The database is undoubtedly a valuable asset but also an aging one. ICCA themselves admit the database is an amalgamation of several separate systems that each require dedicated maintenance and development. Simpleview, a Tucson-based event technology company, announced a strategic partnership with ICCA in November 2021 to redevelop the ICCA Association Database as well as ICCA’s website and member portal.

The partnership with Simpleview brings all the systems together in what ICCA calls a much more sustainable, sensible, and effective solution. “We are confident this will ensure that the ICCA database will be solid for the years to come and greatly benefit our members,” said ICCA CEO Senthil Gopinath.

Simpleview is a software, digital marketing and data analytics company that supports destinations, convention bureaus, tourism boards and venues. Their main offering is a platform that blends content management systems (CMS) powering websites and customer relationship management (CRM) that manages business event proposal requests.

Simpleview president Rich Reasons held a seat on the ICCA Board of Directors for six years until stepping down in October 2019. He knows the association inside out. “They had great assets. They had this association meeting database that was incredibly powerful, and the motivation for lots of people to join the association. Wasn’t easy to use. It wasn’t elegant. It was nearly impossible to scale based on the way that it was built and developed,” said Reasons.

Digital Transformation

After stepping off the board, he proposed an ambitious digital transformation plan. “I don’t think any association in the world has ever tried to tackle all of that stuff at once. But we’ve done that routinely with our customers,” said Reasons.

One long overdue feature coming soon is a notification system that alerts members of new meetings compatible with their offerings. Members can save alerts based on meeting profile criteria ranging from the meeting size to the topic of the meeting. “We want to make it easy for any sales representative or any director to be able to navigate the platform and automate reports,” said Reasons.

Connecting the Dots

While ICCA members use the ICCA Association Database to research association events, Destinations International (DI) members use MINT+. This joint venture with Simpleview is a North America-focused database of historical data and information on future convention bookings. Both systems are a shared deposit of information on past meetings based on input from members. They will soon share the same backend, powered by Simpleview.

Simpleview is keen to expand outside North America, where they power most DMO websites. “We own the North American market and we probably have three percent of the rest of world,” said Reasons.

Simpleview is confident that DMOs using the new ICCA Association database will benefit from an integrated platform and become clients. “We wanted to build a platform that was really robust and scalable, but also had hooks into our own CRM because we see that as a way for us to potentially grow our business outside of North America,” said Reasons.

Reasons’ message to DMOs is clear: “Don’t go out and reinvent yourself on Salesforce or a Sitecore or some other platform because everything that we do and we invest in and we build over time is all built with the DMO in mind.”

Beyond Association Meetings

While association meetings are key pieces of business for destinations and venues, however, this is a fine and specific market. The ICCA Association database does not capture any meetings outside its specific criteria. Through implementing a global data standard, Simpleview believes that data on many more meetings could be captured using crowdsourcing and data scraping. “With our platform in place, we’ll be able to look at other types of opportunities […] I can see corporate, I could see government, I could see eSports and special events,” said Reasons.

Simpleview has become the standard for DMO data in North America. It believes it can do the same for the rest of the world through its partnership with ICCA. It’s also keen to work with more convention centers and venues that have similar business needs.

ICCA will be announcing a range of technology-focused updates at IMEX Frankfurt 2023. It is updating its website and member portals to make navigating, using, and understanding easier. It is also updating its member directory and creating a platform for member-to-member communication. 

“ICCA is a trusted voice with a global reach and reputation. We want to reiterate our commitment to being the ‘go-to’ industry advocates. Our new website will help us fulfill this responsibility,” said Gopinath.