CFO World

How sales and marketing aligned to grow a luxury travel business to US$200 million in revenue

Inspirato marketing leader and VP share the marketing platform-fuelled approach to personalising the luxury travel experience

Inspirato has taken the experience economy and literally built a business from it. 

Personalised customer experience is vital for most businesses today, but nowhere is it more important than in luxury travel. In this space, not only is personalised experience nice to have, it’s a must – right down to members’ birthdays, anniversaries, when they like to tee off, and what food they like in their fridges before they even arrive.

Inspirato manages, staffs and maintains a collection of the world's most exclusive luxury vacation homes. However, this is more than an AirBnB, Inspirato is in the business of travel experiences; carefully crafted experiences where all details taken care of. Members enjoy access to a portfolio of stunning vacation homes, unforgettable experiences, and exclusive privileges, along with dedicated, personalised attention. 

All this requires a dedication to data – from sourcing a lead through to final conversion and then ongoing care, Inspirato is unapologetically targeted and personalised. 

“We believe we are the leading hospitality company in the world as it pertains to spending time with people you care about the most. Our luxury portfolio around the world is worth around US$1 billion, and is maintained by staff to offer a consistent experience,” vice-president of Inspirato, Dain Rasmussen, told CMO at Salesforce Connections. "All the properties have similar feels in terms of services offered, to full amenity access when you arrive as well. We also offer high end experiential travel."

For example, Inspirato has a members-only destination club with a network of luxury villas stretching from Aspen to Tuscany. The group uses the Salesforce platform to provide highly personalised service to individual members and corporate customers as well as access to a Signature Collection of luxury homes, experiences, and VIP offerings around the world. 

Inspirato initially tapped Sales Cloud to manage sales of individual and family memberships, and a business product designed for corporate incentives or executive benefits. It's using the technology to follow prospects through the entire sales cycle, from initial inquiry through closing. The luxury travel group has since adopted Salesforce products such as the Saleforce1 Mobile App, Pardot, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud.

Aligning sales and marketing

However, it's sales and marketing being closely aligned and working from the same page that makes all the difference. 

“It’s not possible to grow business profitably without sales and marketing being aligned,” vice-president of marketing for Inspirato, Michael Flanagan, told CMO. “You can grow business inefficiently or by blunt force or throw money at it, sure. However, we’ve found a way to do it profitably, and produce a lot of margin for the company to invest in more experiences, and in homes for members, as well as to continue to innovate around technology and invest in people. That’s the key; the alignment allows us to do it profitably. 

“We work closely to leverage Marketing Cloud, Sales Cloud and Pardot, which facilitate us being aligned. We’ve used Sales Cloud and Service Cloud since 2011, and Marketing Cloud and Pardot since 2015. I don’t know how we would operate without it, it’s big reason we’ve had such success."

The proof is in how customers see Inspirato delivering on its brand promise. Flanagan noted Inspirato has an NPS of +68, and a retention rate of 85 per cent. The group has also experienced impressive growth goals since its inception. In four years, it's grown employee headcount from 50 to 550 people, and revenue is up to US$200 million.

Every stage of the marketing and sales journey is highly targeted and highly organised.

“When we think about acquisition marketing, we focus on which households are a good fit for our product and these are who we are going to pursue with marketing spend. So we use a lot of of data science upfront to determine who to target,” Flanagan explained. 

“In terms of data, you can use weak assets or medium assets, but we’ve found what works for us is looking at all the data out there, finding data scientists who are agnostic, and looking at it all to determine what part of the population reflects out best customers. We use that set of criteria to feed into our model. In this way, we can diligently understand the 8-15 per cent of the population we are going to spend on."

The emphasis is on permission-based marketing, Flanagan continued, and every prospect comes through a registration site. The sales team reaches out from there.

"We have a set of tasks that happen within the first two weeks, to ensure speed to lead. We want to market and sell in the same way we deliver our member experience," he said. "People are busy, and they deserve a timely response, within two hours in some cases. We want to be persistent, but on the right side of persistence. 

“Then, we use a simplified version of the SiriusDecision model for sales stages for lead status and opportunity status, to determine where they are in the sales journey. We think about some as a marketing-qualified lead, or there may be people in our database who have not responded, so we use information to qualify those people, then use labels to see how likely someone is to convert."

The next step is a sales accepted lead, with lead status as active, or pooled back to marketing to re-engage. This allows Inspirato to communicate with leads based on preference and where they sit in the journey, Flanagan said.

Up next: Inspirato details its data-driven and metrics-led marketing approach

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The marketing approach

In terms of marketing, Inspirato focuses on channels it can track. It serves personalised content, and uses the Marketing Cloud’s predictive intelligence tool to leverage behaviour of customers within interactions to target personalised content and emails. 

“Email marketing, social media and Google search are all important for us, and we have recently invested in national TV advertising, for both the brand growth, and direct response," Flanagan said. "We are looking to grow the media mix in more digital channels, and are excited to expand our mix into channels we don’t even know about yet."

Metrics of success include NPS and cost per acquisition. "We track cost per lead as well, particularly cost per quality lead. Early on, we know the likelihood of converting on quality leads to membership. Plus, we are always looking at movement through the sales funnels. 

“We are constantly trying to innovate, change, and move directions. We know pretty quickly when something’s not working.” 

More recently, Inspirato rolled out Service Cloud to personal vacation advisors, who help club members plan their vacations, as well as to the company’s on-site destination concierges, who take care of members once they are in-residence. Customer data is unified in one place, so it’s easy for Inspirato employees to get the information they need, while a customised UI and integrated telephony means they can get the information fast. 

Inspirato also uses Salesforce Chatter to help employees easily share information and collaborate to better serve members.  

In the future, Inspirato plans to add Chatter Communities, so club members can participate in conversations with their personal vacation advisors and destination concierges about vacation specifics. The company also plans to develop mobile apps with the Salesforce Platform that will let members plan trips and modify details from anywhere.

Vanessa Mitchell travelled to Connections as a guest of Salesforce. 

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