This Marketing Team’s performance and contributions are outstanding because they showed unwavering strength and out-of-the-box thinking to help the Company respond and recover from the abrupt and damaging ripple effects that COVID-19 created across the travel industry. Not only did this Team experience a sudden and devastating 90% reduction in taskforce, at the same time the Company was merging three separate organizations into one. The expectation for any department to continue operations with a skeleton crew while combining three marketing teams into one is unfathomable – it should not have worked. But it did, and it thrived. Through three critical maneuvers by this Marketing Team, they managed to unify the entire organization, and today are outperforming pre-COVID performance by +27% and drive over 6,600 new travel bookings each month from their campaigns alone.
With the emergence of COVID, in less than a week the Marketing Team lost much of the department due to reductions in force, including key leadership officials. With 34 team members short and thousands of inbound calls from concerned travelers demanding refunds and cancellations, this Team had to think fast and nimble. With only a handful of veteran team members remaining, it was critical to preserve the business’ revenue streams and address the sudden influx of member calls, all while COVID was still very new, uncharted territory for the entire travel community. The first move this Marketing Team made was to restructure everyone’s role and responsibilities.
Each person was re-categorized by their core strength. Some team members where operationally inclined so they could support the sales floor with proper marketing outreach to consumers and re-direct inbound calls into the appropriate queues to help separate customer service calls from new sales calls. Some team members had powerful copywriting skills and could position consumer emails in an informational and non-alarming way. Others with more technical skills fueled the entire Team by transitioning nearly 100% of marketing activities to automated and dynamic, streamlining previously 7 peoples’ roles into fully automated processes on autopilot. By restructuring the Marketing division, this Team creatively anchored into each person’s unique strength.
The Marketing Team’s second move was creating a new, four-phased Customer Journey to mirror how retail consumers psychologically respond to traumatic events like a pandemic through an alert, respond, recover, and prepare phase. By following these specific phases, the Team could better navigate the kinds of communications consumers needed. Six months and 8.6 million emails later, the metrics showed promise. Consumers remained engaged and service calls stabilized. The phased methodology had created very specific, relevant, and timely communications for consumers and organized the entire company.
The third and most powerful decision this Team made was to transition nearly 100% of their product marketing efforts to be automated, dynamically coded, and personalized to each consumer. That required the Marketing Team to manually transition or create over 6,000 new campaigns. The beauty of personalized and automated campaigns is they are behavior-based, powered by an intelligence to “listen” for a consumer searching a hotel in Miami, Florida, and trigger a Miami specific email. Or, a consumer who is searching for a 2022 Alaska cruise to get an automated email (that feels personalized) about Alaska’s jaw-dropping sights and ports-of-call. These marketing emails encouraged travel in a difficult market, fueling a profound impact on the business’ performance. Email open rates increased from an average of 14% up to 60%! Click rates increased from 7% to nearly 35%. The numbers were unheard of. The Company realized the power of automated and personalized marketing as the Team created this new infrastructure to identify consumers who want to travel (or book future travel) during a pandemic. With a +27% YOY increase in marketing-attributable bookings, this small but mighty Team is continually humbled by their accomplishments.
No one has experienced a pandemic – there is no rulebook. This Marketing Team took on the responsibility to lead their company into recovery while navigating their personal and professional lives. As they discovered a new, remote work-from-home environment and navigated having young kids in the background on many strategic video calls, this team was brought closer together; a true testament to their strength, that has allowed them to perform better than pre-COVID times.
Now with over 20 team members across the U.S., Mexico, and even Australia, this Marketing Team is focused on growing and scaling. From recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding their fresh Team, they look forward to deeper digital automation, SMS text messaging and chat-functionalities which will evolve their already sophisticated approach to a personalized member experience and new bookings.