April 16, 2020

"If There's No Wind, Row." TripActions CMO Meagen Eisenberg on How Executives Can Navigate Uncertain Waters

Meira McFarquhar
Meira McFarquhar

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Before COVID-19, Meagen had her Q2 go-to-market strategy all figured out.

The TripActions sales team was growing, and the marketing team planned to focus efforts on well-diversified outreach through paid search, community building, and using a Sending Platform for direct mail marketing.

In addition, conference season was quickly approaching, and field marketing event plans were well underway. The team had a line up of regional events, as well as scheduled appearances in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, and more.

Like most marketing teams, a huge part of their Q2 plan involved in-person events. Fifty percent of their team’s budget was allocated towards events because of the incredible opportunities they provide to connect with customers on a human level, build relationships with prospects, and accelerate deals across the finish line. In fact, Meagen gathers that about 80-90% of all TripActions deals are influenced by events and in-person meetings, while she estimates that 10-20% of interactions at events source direct pipeline.

So the team was ready for a successful quarter.

But then the pandemic hit.

Shifting Budgets = Shifting Course

At the drop of a dime, roughly 50% of the marketing operating budget was cut. Meagen quickly reconsidered her entire Q2 strategy. People would no longer be using corporate travel  (which their software facilitates), so her team immediately focused on what customers needed most from them right now: answers.

TripActions’s call volume went up by 700%. People had urgent questions and needed immediate help with their travel plans.TripActions trained all employees to help reschedule and cancel travel via their solution.

Customers also needed reassurance and continuity, so the product marketing and content teams shifted their messaging. They also worked long days to update their social media and rewrite their sales deck and pitches, all email nurture programs, all Outreach sequences, and their entire website.

Right before travel restrictions, TripActions also launched a corporate card with the intention of customers using it for travel expenses. Now, the card is now positioned as a way for customers to handle their remote employee expenses (monitors, technology, etc.)

If There’s No Wind, Row

In times like these, Meagen says business leaders need to preserve cash and make really smart decisions (including some tough calls) so that you can sustain through this period.

“I think it’s what’s necessary to survive as a company, especially in the startup world. We have to work harder than we’ve ever worked before,” Meagen said. “There’s a latin proper that says, ‘If there’s no wind, row.’”

We are certainly in uncharted territory on icey, stagnant waters. A lot of business activity has frozen, but Meagen’s team has decided to row. Here are some of the initiatives they’ve launched to fill their brand and demand generation gaps in the first half of 2020:

  1. Create Community: With so many customers in need of information, TripActions launched a standing community (in 48 hours!) to offer support and answers to their most frequently asked questions. They keep their community conversations lively by regularly posting in it, and designating influencers to drive conversations. Check out the community here!
  2. Be Your Customer’s Partner: TripActions became a trusted resource by bringing CFOs together every week to talk strategy, cash preservation, loan programs, and more. They also hosted HR office hours to discuss enabling remote work, navigating layoffs, and employee support.
  3. Surprise and Delight: Even though you can no longer meet customers and prospects in real life, Meagen says companies can still surprise and delight them by delivering coffee or lunch during webinars or sending them fun swag they may have received at an in-person event.
  4. Launch a Learning Center: TripActions is launching an “academy” to educate travel managers on new best practices, certifying executive assistants, and more.
  5. Develop Creative Campaigns. TripActions launched their “Pass the Plane” challenge, which encouraged people to build and decorate paper airplanes, and share a video of them throwing the planes on social media, just to lift the travel industry’s spirit. The goal here was not solely to generate pipeline, but more to reestablish human connections and demonstrate how we’re all in this together.

Where Are We Headed?

There are lots of unknowns in our future; we’re creating the map as we sail. Maybe events of the future won’t look how we remember them. Maybe corporate travel or business deals will never operate the same way. But whatever happens, Meagen said, keep testing. Keep researching ways to build relationships and drive value.

Keep rowing.

Listen here for the rest of Meagen’s story in this on-demand webinar with Sendoso Chief Marketing Officer Dan Frohnen.

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