In the age of TripAdvisor, Expedia and other self-service travel sites, most millennials and other young people have never worked with a travel agent to plan a vacation. For Travel Leaders Group, whose business relies, in part, on commissions from its network of travel agencies, this presented an enormous challenge. But they had an incredibly valuable asset to leverage: the Vacation.com web domain. Working with ANNUITAS, Travel Leaders Group transformed their “million-dollar URL” into an engine for sustainable business success.
Having worked with ANNUITAS before, I knew it was possible to truly connect lead to revenue and, in the process, provide better experiences for our prospects and customers. - Asmita Singh, VP Marketing & Demand Analytics, Travel Leaders Group
Challenge: Creating a Better Destination for the Travel Buyer’s Journey
When people go online to research a trip, they’re not necessarily looking for a travel agent but rather a travel experience. What they found on Vacation.com didn’t relate to their motivations and needs around travel. The site functionality focused on connecting consumers with travel agents. This was a missed opportunity for engaging prospects in the early stages of vacation planning or those who might ask, “Why would I ever need a travel agent?”
In addition, Travel Leaders Group didn’t control the sales channel, and there was no accountability for contacting leads or converting them to revenue. Instead of sending leads over to travel agencies and losing sight of when, how—or even whether—they were followed up on and closed, Travel Leaders Group wanted visibility into the entire buying cycle and to understand which marketing investments were working and which were not.
Travel Leaders Group wanted to repurpose Vacation.com from a travel agent directory into a leisure travel content destination. In the age of online booking, they needed to introduce a new generation to the value of working with a travel agent—and bust a few myths along the way. It wasn’t just about building a better revenue model; it was about building relationships with lifelong customers. They also wanted to take a page from the B2B modern marketing playbook and build a more automated, accountable demand generation process.
Solution: Travel Marketing 2.0: From Transactions to Trackable Experience
Travel Leaders Group worked with ANNUITAS to transform Vacation.com into a more automated, accountable engine for demand. Unlike tactical, transactional campaigns, ANNUITAS Perpetual Demand Generation® (PDG) is a strategic, always-on approach, which enables you to orchestrate and optimize every element of customer engagement throughout the buying cycle.
Because honeymoons and destination weddings are a big-ticket, considered purchase, we started by developing a PDG program around that segment. After conducting extensive research into the journey couples take in planning their events, we created a comprehensive content strategy to support them every step of the way. By focusing on why people travel and the questions they have throughout the travel-planning process, the new website helps prospects make informed choices and, ultimately, connect with the perfect travel agent to help book their plans.
PDG also accounts for the people, process and technology that power a successful demand generation engine. The ANNUITAS Demand ProcessSM bridges silos and establishes a framework for lead management and handoffs, focusing on quality over quantity of leads and ensuring that only qualified “hand-raisers” get passed to travel agents. Sales can now see what a lead has done before they pick up the phone. And Marketing can see how those leads are contributing to pipeline and revenue.
Travel Leaders Group’s new technology stack, which stitches together multiple best-practice platforms, provides a robust foundation. Vacation.com is built on the Sitecore Experience Platform, which works with Marketo’s marketing automation platform to nurture couples through every stage of their buyer’s journey. The website serves up content that matches a prospect’s interest, while automated nurture streams help keep Vacation.com top of mind. Couples get the information they need to make a decision, and Travel Leaders Group has full visibility into how an individual engages with Vacation.com over time.
Travel Leaders Group’s ‘Honeymoon and Destination Weddings’ segment is now generating 58% more leads than all other vacation segments combined.
Results: Increasing Revenue and Building a Foundation for the Future
Travel Leaders Group has been able to not only provide the kind of digital experience that consumers expect, but also to deliver higher quality leads to travel agencies. Lead conversion rates exceed industry benchmarks, and the honeymoon and destination wedding segment is generating 58% more leads than all other vacation segments combined.
“Travel Leaders Group is now leaning into optimization, learning from each step and building on the new demand generation competency,” says Lee Anne Wimberly, VP Strategy at ANNUITAS. “That’s where the magic happens.” The company is already applying the PDG approach to their B2B program. Next up are nurture programs to support additional travel segments. By providing a foundational platform that allows Travel Leaders Group to grow for the future, PDG is not only enabling travel marketing 2.0, but also Travel Leaders Group 2.0.
About Travel Leaders Group
As one of North America’s largest travel agency companies, Travel Leaders Group delivers a high-touch, personal level of travel expertise to leisure and corporate clients through an extensive network of company-owned, franchised and affiliated travel agencies throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other international locales. Our team of leaders–from our expert agents to our executives––are dedicated to delivering the best travel experience.
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