Our Secret Sauce: Marketing Stack for Explosive Growth

Let’s get this out of the way before we dive into tools…

Technology can’t make up for bad marketing.

Marketing can’t make up for a bad product.

The tools that the team at TravelPerk is using to grow a billion dollar business (to be) work because TravelPerk has hit on a massive $1.3 trillion dollar problem.

This is not a use-this-tool-and-make-a-billion-dollars post. This is a how-to-combine-people-and-tools-to-solve-problems manifesto.

What makes a marketer’s job easy

For a marketer, it’s fun to work with real pain. To not manufacture the pain, or convince someone that your product will make their lives 0.05% better. When TravelPerk won the The Next Web 2017 Scale competition, I asked the audience, “Who here likes how their company books and manages business travel?”

Out of a room of 2,000 people, only one person raised their hand, and I think he might have been messing with me.

That's me on stage on TNW last year. Wish I hadn't missed that hairdresser appointment before the event :)

With our product, we don’t have to work hard to get people to understand why they need it, because business travel is super painful.

Booking business travel the old way sucks!
  • Business travel as a whole is a 1.2 trillion dollar industry that is largely stuck in 80s and 90s legacy solutions
  • Business travelers typically hate having to use their corporate ordained tool or travel agency
  • Business travelers break with policy just to book for themselves on sites like Kayak and Booking.com
  • Travel policies are difficult to enforce
  • Office managers, travel managers, and assistants have to manually keep track of traveler data and preferences
  • Managers and assistants have to provide support to business travelers at all hours of the day (even nights and weekends) in case of cancellation or delay
  • The finance team gets too many invoices from many different sources
  • The finance team doesn’t have immediately visibility into travel spend

I could go on and on about the problems with business travel as it is now, but I’ll stop there. You get the point. It’s painful for everybody involved.

Because our solution deals with real pain points that business travelers and others can really feel, we don’t need some magic tool, hack, or funnel to compensate for anything.

Instead we focus our tools on helping us get our message out there and stay on top of what business travelers really want. The tools we use and the data we analyze power the whole machine of making business travelers happy.

A relatively small company like us (one that’s trying to create a movement) needs to be able to sustain exceptional sales and marketing growth with a limited team and budget.

On a recent episode of the Stack and Flow podcast, I gave insight into the stack that has helped us achieve success so far.

Needless to say we are experimenting like crazy and if I were to write this same article a year from today, it would look totally different.

(If/when I do, I’ll insert a link here to the update.)

Experimenting is everything. Here are some current experiments that have really stuck and made an impact!

My teammates always on the hunt for new problems to solve

Automating advocacy for consumer grade CX

The strategy

We are more focused on getting reviews than probably any other tech company. We are so focused on getting reviews, you would think we were some ecommerce company or an Amazon seller.

Why reviews?

The business traveler is at the heart of everything we do and everything that we promise to a company or enterprise.

A business cannot automate travel policy compliance if their travelers do not like the tool. A business cannot save money by taking advantage of our integrations with low cost carriers if their travelers won’t login and use the tool.

Everything we’re able to offer is centered around travelers and admins and finance teams actually wanting to use the tool. So for us, reviews are everything.

During a sales call, our team can literally point people to our reviews versus old legacy tools and the difference is pretty striking. Pages and pages of positive reviews say more than we ever could say about consumer grade CX, consumer grade inventory, ease of booking, excellent 24/7 trip support, etc. etc.

Travelers love us, and we love to show that off. We do that by automating our requests for reviews on sites like Capterra and G2Crowd. It’s been incredibly successful.

Reviews are the new forefront for b2b software SEO. The keyphrase “best corporate travel management software” pulls up review sites as the top organic results:

So, how do we get more reviews? We automate requests for reviews from our top Net Promoter Scores.

The Net Promoter System is a wonderful metric that virtually every SaaS company uses. It’s simple and helps easily transform words into measurable data and trends.

We monitor the responses we get on a regular basis. They literally show up on TV screens in our office. Plus, we include our NPS results in our OKRs.

NPS lets us easily identify the users who would recommend us, so we send them an email (automatically) asking for a review.

Reviews are the ultimate sales enablement tool.

When everyone else is competing on minor feature differences and claiming to have something you don’t, we stand out for actual, measurable value and customer satisfaction.

Today’s market is more transparent than ever. We’re embracing that and making full use of that visibility.

The stack

  • Promoter.io to get feedback in-app using the Net Promoter System.
  • Advocate.ly to automate requests for reviews from the users who say they’re likely to recommend us to a friend with Promoter.io.
  • G2Crowd for the ability to invite customers to review us, and to get insights on who visited our profile and collect direct leads from forms.

Doing list building right

The strategy

Before I go any further, promise me that you’ll never buy a list.

Our marketing team is committed to delivering our sales team highly qualified leads by putting quality into the top of the funnel.

In all cases, from cold email prospecting to media buying, I would rather do smaller numbers and be very careful and thorough. Yes, it’s more work, but it leads to higher immediate conversions and better success for the sales team.

Before we send over leads to sales, we go over each of them manually to qualify them. My team is incentivized in every way to do quality work.

Who wants to sort through junk? No one.

This is why we don’t buy lists and we aren’t lazy when making them.

We use different tools and processes to come up with super rich lists for cold email prospecting and media targeting. It’s a combination of setting parameters, using scraping tools, and doing enrichment research to come up with a list worth using. I’ve also talked about this on this episode of Stack and Flow.

The stack

LinkedIn for searching company data that fits our parameters.

Clearbit for enriching data and getting accurate employee counts, email addresses, and more.

ZeroBounce for bounce-checking emails to get a no bounce rate in our campaigns.

PersistIQ for sending outbound emails.

Intercom and Autopilot for adding the leads to the right nurturing journey within the right context.

**Outsourced freelancers. Beyond the stack, we are relying on freelancers whom we find via Upwork and invest a lot in nurturing and building a long time work relationship with to get superior results. If you really want to build a great list, this human touch is paramount. More about that in the podcast.

Nailing the customer journey starting with content

The strategy

Just like with our outbound marketing, with our inbound marketing and all types of content, we go for quality over quantity. Whatever the industry standards are for open rates, conversion rates, etc., we set our bar far higher.

Why? We don’t want to piss people off. We’re on a mission to make business travelers happy, after all.

The stack

Salesforce is our hub and is at the core of everything. All the travel data links to Salesforce too, so we can give personalized recommendations based on travel spend.

Autopilot for email marketing and customer journeys.

Intercom for messaging and chat.

Unbounce for landing pages that are easy to build and easy to test.

Referral Saasquatch to power our really successful referral program (our users get $50 every time the company they refer books a trip up to $600.)

Hootsuite for social scheduling and with features to let us test and optimize.

Typeform to send customer surveys and find out what our customers really want.

Automating customer engagement and being "future-ready"

The future strategy

As new competitors keep entering the business travel industry, we focus on showing that we’re future ready. We’re going to be around, and we’re a really safe bet.

Contrary to what everyone thinks, showing future readiness is not about slapping the world AI somewhere on your website.

Future readiness requires doubling down on solving the real problems in the industry.

For us, one of the biggest is self-booking. Rather than try to build some fancy gimmick, we make sure that we’re integrated with every major booking tool and that travelers enjoy the experience.

We want to stay on top of their needs by communicating with them every step of the way.

Ideally, one day, we’d like to be able to have a support person call a traveler and say, “Your flight has been delayed,” and to have the whole process automated.

We want to combine all the different channels and be able to communicate with travelers along their journey, via SMS or WhatsApp or call or email or Slack — whatever they want — to always be there for them in the most helpful way possible during their trip.

All of this needs to play in harmony with our ongoing customer communication and lead nurturing so we can provide everything from thought leadership to “your flight gate has changed,” all without ever being annoying.

We want our notifications to be smooth, intuitive, and incredibly valuable. And for our marketing to be truly cross-channel and treat each person as an individual.

We’re not going to show future readiness by just focusing on new hyped-up technology. We’re going to show it by integrating all our communication channels, focusing on solving the real problems, and going above and beyond for travelers.

The future stack

(Your New Startup) to stay ahead of customer engagement. We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of automating really great customer journeys.

This is probably the biggest pain point for most businesses, and I’m not convinced that any one tool does this particularly well yet. Maybe you’ve got the solution to fix it. If you do, tell me.

Let’s talk marketing stacks. Am I missing out on anything good? Comment with your favorite marketing tools, things you use now and things you’re looking for.

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