Dozens of leaders within Boston’s marketing and advertising world bared the wintry weather Monday morning and headed to the Microsoft NERD Center for another session of The Ad Club’s CMO Breakfast. Chasing the chill with coffee and quiche, marketers mingled and munched before taking a seat to hear the story of TripAdvisor’s engagement strategy from none other than the travel company’s talented CMO Barbara Messing.
The company, which receives on average 80 contributions added every minute, earned $750 million in annual revenue in 2012. Starting from a cramped space above a Needham pizza shop, TripAdvisor has seen tremendous scale over the past 13 years, growing into a 2,000-person company with brand-new global headquarters based in Needham. The continued growth, said the CMO, is largely on account of the company’s commitment to keeping a startup, “speed wins” and “80 percent perfection” culture.
Said Messing to BostInno:
It’s been an amazing ride, we’ve been so successful because we haven’t lost the pizza shop-ethos, which is launch quickly, focus on building great products, focus on speed and have the same sort of rigor everyday that we would have if we were an unprofitable company of 30 people. It’s really the mindset that people bring everyday.
We circled up with Messing to gather her marketing tips for young companies looking to give their brands an extra boost:
Understand Your Value Proposition
“Know how your brand is differentiated and what you offer to consumers,” said the CMO.
For TripAdvisor, the company’s biggest differentiator is its community. In order to facilitate the rapport between its users and the site, the company has woven its appreciation of users into the product itself. To recognize contributors, TripAdvisor provided users widgets on their profiles based on how many reviews they contribute and how often they rate various posts as helpful. To stay top of mind, the company also sends out emails with personalized stats to reviewers, showing them their respective impacts on the community members, such as how often their reviews were read in a month.
As always, the proof is in the data. Since adding this method of gamification to boost identification with the TripAdvisor community, that company has seen a 400 percent increase in contributions.
“Our community is our lifeblood, and without them we’re just another platform,” noted Messing.
Hone In On Your Messaging
“Have all your messaging on your website, email and social reflect what your brand is about to consumers,” imparted Messing. The travel site, for example, rallies their brand around the TripAdvisor owl, a symbol that also encapsulates the values and beliefs at the heart of its product. The owl is, of course, representative of wisdom, which translates into the power of crowdsourcing travel advice from users for TripAdvisor. “One person sharing their point of view is great, but it’s still one persons point of view,” said Messing.
Make Engagement Easy
“Give users a way to engage with the brand,” suggested the CMO. The more open doors between the consumer and the company, the better, for both customer experience and for the refining of a startup’s product or service and its marketing plan. “You’re going to learn from how they contribute content, make comments and want to use the brand,” said Messing.
TripAdvisor, for example, leverages Facebook’s social networks on its site to add even more value to its lists of travel suggestions and tips. When a user syncs her Facebook account with TripAdvisor, she can pick out the reviews that her social network connections have contributed, thus giving the platform an even more personal feel.
“People love wisdom of crowds, but also love seeing their friend layered on top of that,” shared Messing.
Keep Your Head Up
When a founder is dedicating their time to refining his or her product, it might be easy to let market awareness and industry movements fall to the wayside. “Don’t get too internally focused,” warns Messing. It’s important to stay aware of what’s happening in the industry in order to stay one step ahead of competitors, as well as the consumer.