Have you ever asked your team, “Are we creating more work for ourselves by staying married to our current processes?” Explore St. Louis did, and we decided enough was enough. It was time to change. Change can be difficult, but after 20-plus years with a system that no longer served our needs and business process, it was time to move on and try something different. 

Explore St. Louis is a destination marketing organization (DMO) and convention & visitors commission (CVC) that entirely facilitates its own convention center. We needed a solution to connect our sales leads and our convention center events. Investing in Simpleview and VenueOps by Ungerboeck was the solution to our problem. 

During our implementation phase of the project, Ungerboeck merged with EventBooking, allowing us to stay with Ungerboeck while also moving off the previous EBMS CRM platform that we were on for years. At the inception of this collaboration, Simpleview and EventBooking worked together to create the VenueOps Lead Integration. 

Explore St. Louis launched Simpleview CRM in May 2021 and then launched VenueOps in July 2021. From August through December, we tested the integration, our processes in DEV, and pushed the integration to production in both systems at the start of the new year. During that first week of launch, we ran into a couple of obstacles. 

At first, the integration was not working at all, but the world keeps spinning, and leads needed to be entered and updated in Simpleview CRM. We discovered that when leads were being updated in CRM, they were being duplicated in VenueOps even though they already had an event affiliated with that lead. Our team had to re-book the newly created integrated leads so the data could be linked together. This was a small blip in the grand picture of how well launching the integration went. 

There was a misconception that the initial implementation of the integration would automatically connect our historic leads and events together. Neither system could match leads and events by their names because different departments named them differently. On the sales side, you would name the lead by what is on the RFP, while on the booking and event side, you would name the event by what is on the contract. Neither system could match leads and events by dates because there might have been different room night dates. While there also might be different move-in/move-out dates for the event. There was no sequential code that we could use to connect the lead and event together.

Here are some answers to questions you might have: 

How does the VenueOps lead integration function? 

The API syncs Simpleview meeting sales leads in CRM with the VenueOps by Ungerboeck platform. As the VenueOps inquiry becomes a booked event, the status of its lead also changes in Simpleview CRM.

What are key characteristics that allow the integration to function?

In Simpleview CRM, there needs to be a prospect lead status that has a lead status type of “none/custom,” and it is marked “yes” to use that status for VenueOps. This notifies each system that an integration lead needs to be created. To validate that the initial step of the integration has been successful, you confirm a VenueOps lead ID has been created under lead information. A highlighted feature that integration offers is that you can link your event revenues from VenueOps to Simpleview. 

Since Explore St. Louis manages the America’s Center, the integration allows us to create dynamic financial reports that capture not only room revenue projected but actual event revenue as well. With this feature we can create robust economic impact reports to share with our stakeholders.

What data is integrated between both systems? 

If you create a new lead without an existing account in Simpleview CRM, basic fields will transfer over to VenueOps. There are three buckets of data that are extracted from Simpleview CRM and transferred to VenueOps. The data categories include account, contact, and lead information. Examples of Simpleview CRM account fields that transfer to VenueOps include account ID, account name, account email, market segment, and address. What the integration doesn’t do is remit changes from VenueOps to Simpleview CRM; it is a one-way data exchange. If an account’s address needs to be updated, you must update the data in Simpleview CRM to properly reflect in VenueOps.

Now that we have been using the integration for a few months, we are finding different needs and wants for enhancements. Both systems do an excellent job of finding different ways to be more efficient. In Simpleview CRM, you have the option to clone a lead, and in VenueOps, you have the option to copy an event. 

  • A strong “need” for our contracts and scheduling team is having an easier way to rebook space from a meeting sales lead that was cloned in the CRM
  • A “want” for our team would be a way to sync our documents in both systems

VenueOps recently came out with an enhancement to organize your documents by category, which you can also do in Simpleview CRM. This would be convenient for users who are looking for different documents and do not want to jump from one system to another, unsure where to look.

Overall, this experience has been monumental for Explore St. Louis. We took an opportunity to make real change and turned it into an iconic moment for our organization. Explore St. Louis’ story embodies a glimmer of hope for all organizations that want to improve their process. If we never took the chance to embrace change, who knows where we would be today? 

We are taking advantage of the endless opportunities technology has to offer and can confidently say we have utilized one of the most dynamic applications in our industry and pioneered a new product integration. There are still many opportunities for improvement and growth, but I am proud of the grit we have displayed these past couple of years. I am excited for what the future has in store for us and other organizations that are interested in the VenueOps by Ungerboeck lead integration.