Teresa Anderson, President/CEO
Brown County Convention
and Visitors Bureau
by Rachel Perry
The Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is the envy of similar organizations throughout Indiana. “We want to make our CVB just like yours,” other CVB Directors admiringly tell CVB President Teresa Anderson. But building a viable organization with strong support from local merchants and grant dollars from the state tourism industry does not happen overnight.
Mrs. Anderson, who took the job of the county CVB leader in 1986, has spearheaded its growth into a busy office requiring four full-time and three to five part-time employees. She is the third President since the 1984 creation of Convention and Visitor Bureaus in several counties, supported by local hotel and motel taxes.
The Bureaus are primarily in the business of collaborative marketing of their respective counties as tourist destinations (preferably overnight). Since the undisputed principal source of income for Brown County is tourism, our CVB has a few built-in triumphs along with considerable challenges. Marketing is not simply a matter of throwing money at advertising venues. In order to get maximum results for dollars spent, the county businesses need to know whom their visitors are and whom they wish to attract.
Formal marketing studies and resulting “positioning of the product” (how to make our county a more desirable destination) play a large part in guiding the CVB staff in their work. “One of the most useful studies we did was a “visitor profile study” in the late 1990s,” Mrs. Anderson said. “We conducted visitor interviews in a variety of sites during all four seasons of the year to find out where they were coming from and what their preferences were. We discovered that a large percentage of our visitors are “repeat visitors” (77%); that 63% of them are older than 45; that the average group travel size is 3.8 people; and that they primarily enjoy shopping and visiting Brown County State Park.” Perhaps it’s no surprise that the two major activities of visitors to our county are shopping and eating.
A more recent “destination audit” was conducted to determine where Brown County fits as a visitor destination, strategically and statistically—a snapshot of what Brown County is now. “With the audit we had professional secret shoppers who came and stayed in our inns, ate in our restaurants, and shopped—all the while doing assessments,” Mrs. Anderson explained. “We got the message back that our visitor servicing was average to poor. You can greet a visitor as they walk in the door or you can simply continue reading a magazine. One thing that we initiated immediately was hospitality and customer service training. The problem is getting people to take advantage of it.” (This year the first half-day training session will take place on May 9 and it is offered every Thursday morning in May.)
“To attract visitors who will spend money, we must have the product to attract them,” Mrs. Anderson declared. “To have the product to attract them means a lot of things. Maybe we need to pick up the cigarette butts, wash the windows, sweep the sidewalks. We’ve got some things to deal with. We’ve got some community pride issues.”
“We get to re-invent ourselves. This is a living breathing viable community. We make our livings here, work here, raise our families here, go to church here. A lot of people don’t think of this as a community. The influx of visitors is our base of economic development that allows us to sustain ourselves. We still need to have the things that the visitors are looking for—they are attracted to the active village and authentic heritage of the area.”
In the past year the Brown County CVB has placed more emphasis on the artistic heritage of the county. “Interest in the artists has experienced a resurgence and the current artists are more interested in marketing themselves,” Mrs. Anderson revealed. “The Waldron Gallery is a good example. If you walk past in the dead of winter, Wayne Waldron is always there and always open.”
“I’ve also learned from Jim Lawrence (Lawrence Family Glass Blowers). He often stays open on Friday nights, even though he doesn’t sell very much at that time. He says, ‘I consider Friday nights a commercial. A person comes in on Friday night and they’re just browsing. But they come back on Saturday and they don’t just buy one thing. By the time they come back on Saturday, they’ve thought about it and they’re ready to buy.’”
A self-admitted “hands on” administrator, Teresa Anderson knows the importance of creating a clear vision for the staff and community to follow. “Finding the time to strategically think is very difficult,” she admitted. “The important things that are really going to make a difference to the destination, to the organization, to you as an administrator, have to be well thought out. And until you can put the time aside to think things through (how to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’), you’re doing yourself and the organization a disservice. That’s the hardest part.”
“One thing that helps is meeting with other people who do what I do,” she continued. “So I’ve made it a priority to go to educational conferences where other CVB Directors are. The Board has always been very supportive in allowing me to have this in the budget so I can go and learn. And that’s gotten the organization further along. If I don’t go anywhere else, my mind doesn’t go anywhere else either.”
Mrs. Anderson’s enthusiasm for her job extends to the home front. Her husband, Don, who is the Director of Professional Development at Purdue University, also works as a consultant to help with strategic planning for organizations like Convention and Visitor Bureaus.
Although she is passionate about gardening, Teresa Anderson does not have a lot of discretionary time to devote to her ‘green thumb.’ She admits, “I am so dedicated to my job that I’m missing the reason people live in Brown County!”
To reach the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau, call 800-753-3255 or visit the web page <www.browncounty.com>