Think your company is too small for an annual meeting? Think again!

If you’ve been in the workforce for more than a year, there’s a good chance you have attended an annual company meeting. Typically, this means a face-to-face event where everyone from the company (or a certain team/department  for larger organizations) gets together to discuss last year’s progress and plan/set goals for the year ahead. 

In today’s working environment, as more and more employees work remotely, the importance of in-person meetings is increasingly important, not only to reinforce your company’s culture and employee engagement, but for team building and bonding among remote employees. 

It’s interesting speaking to people about annual company meetings. I’ve spoken to individuals who say, “My company is far too small for an in-person meeting. We Slack/talk to each other all day every day anyway!” Others have taken issue with the expense – “We just don’t have it in the budget right now.” 

At Dots & Lines, we could use both excuses, but we’ve held an in-person annual company meeting since year one. Why do we feel so strongly about this? Here are a few reasons we’ve found beneficial in holding annual company meetings, no matter the size of your company:

Increase your team’s engagement and satisfaction. 

As humans we are all wired differently; some of us are talkers, some of us are action based, and some of us just want to be in the room, taking it all in. Understanding the differences among your employees also means understanding the different nuances to celebrating, brainstorming, and growing with each individual. Quality talent needs to feel appreciated and respected by their company. Investing in team meetings, whether annual or more frequent, shows your team that you value their contributions and can help bolster an employee’s confidence, moral and drive.

Review your company purpose.

Holding an annual company meeting at the end of the year allows everyone to focus on what your company means to them, and to explore the company’s values, its culture, with one another in person. In a perfect world, everyone would know and live out their company’s core values on a daily basis. In today’s modern environment of information overload, however, it’s important to have a discussion with your employees to make sure everyone is on the same page in what they are collectively working towards. After all, multiple studies have suggested that employees place greater value on completing work with meaning than a higher salary without a mission they can get behind.

Set your goals and develop a game plan to achieve them.

Sharing what your company’s goals, ambitions and future plans are for the next year is, for most organizations, the main reason for having annual meetings. Holding an annual meeting allows everyone to discuss their ideas and have input in the goals for the company, including what they want to see changed, expanded, or improved in the next year. Discussing this face-to-face puts your team on the same page for a great start to the new year. 

Take a moment to recognize your hard work.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday work, you forget to stop, take a look around, and recognize the good things your company or department has achieved over the past quarter or year. I know I have been guilty of “finding” impressive documents in my files that I later remember I myself created! Needless to say, an annual company meeting is a great time to not only recognize collective successes but celebrate individual accomplishments. 

Enjoy each other’s company!

Last but certainly not least, introducing new team members, or discussing new projects and clients/customers in person is so much more meaningful than through cyber communication. Having new additions meet veteran team members face-to-face allows everyone to get a feel for who they are working with on a daily basis, and allows them to work better together on team projects, proposals and engagements. 


If your company is small and you don’t think it is “worth it” to get together at least once a year for an annual meeting, I hope you’ll reconsider. It’s an investment that not only has the potential for significant positive returns in impacting employee engagement and retention (reducing turnover costs), but is our team has found incredibly beneficial.

Attracting the Next Generation of Corporate Travel Executives

Recently, a few interactions I had made me think about how we are attracting the next generation of corporate travel professionals to our industry. The first was a discussion at GBTA with an industry colleague who talked about their interaction with college students looking to enter the hospitality industry. According to this person, the vast majority of students aren’t aware of the corporate travel sector as a potential career path; instead, most students interested in travel/tourism are focused solely on the leisure sector.

The second instance was during the interview process our team recently conducted in hiring for a new employee. It’s been a really exciting time in our company as we’ve expanded a lot over the past year. One thing that seemed to be commonplace among those we interviewed, however, was the lack of awareness of the corporate travel industry as a career path. Although pretty much everyone agreed it sounded cool (it is cool!), before the interview it was pretty rare anyone had conducted a corporate travel focused job search.

Both of these experiences led me to wonder, “What are we doing as an industry to attract and foster the next generation of corporate travel executives and leaders?” 

I’ve had personal experience with a few programs but decided to do a little research to compile a more comprehensive list. That being said, there are some I may have left out. Please drop us a line if you have more and I’ll add them as I’m able!

Here’s a short synopsis of what’s out there for young professionals or those who are new to the industry:

GBTA Ladders
Full disclosure: this is a program that’s near and dear to my heart as I’ve been involved since 2016. Ladders is a unique team mentor program that offers GBTA members an opportunity to not only expand their professional development within the travel and meetings and events industry but gain true lifelong colleagues and friends. GBTA Ladders is a group of managed travel’s emerging industry leaders joining together for the dual purpose of: mentorship, education and collaboration; and leveraging collective talents to help shape the next generation and the evolution of the industry. Learn more here.

WINiT 1:1 Mentoring Program
I have also participated in this program, which has greatly expanded since my involvement. WINiT 1:1 Mentoring is a self-service program for Mentors and Mentees across all categories and locations in the travel, meeting, event and exhibition industries and is open to women and men. Both Mentors and Mentees can ‘hand pick’ their selection based on a quick match questionnaire. Learn more here.

Phocuswright Young Leaders Summit
Each year, Phocuswright brings together the industry’s best and brightest travel leaders aged 35 and under to be part of an elite group of Phocuswright Conference participants. This elite program is a launching pad for the next generation of travel luminaries to connect, debate and collaborate. Check out the eligibility requirements and find more information here.

SITE Young Leaders Conference (prior to IMEX America)
The SITE Young Leaders program prior to IMEX America presents an opportunity to meet young professionals from around the world and gather to learn, energize and focus on both personal and career goals. This opportunity is focused on those interested in, or within the first five years of, pursuing a career in the incentive industry. Learn more here.

ACTE Around the World Traineeship and Development Programs
The ACTE Around the World Traineeship Program is open to soon-to-be college graduates and recent college graduates looking to dive into the world of Corporate Travel Management through a six-week comprehensive training experience that develops future professionals for careers in the global business travel industry. The Around the World Development Program is open to business travel professionals looking to gain one-of-a-kind, hands-on immersion training focused exclusively on how corporate travel is practiced and managed in one or more distinct regions of the world. Learn more about both programs, including FAQs, here.

Professional Certifications
Like many other industries, managed travel has a few commonly recognized professional certifications. Two are available through GBTA, the GTP® (that stands for Global Travel Professional) and GLP® (Global Leadership Professional). There are others that are more specific to certain verticals, for example, the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation from MPI. Depending on your reporting structure there are certifications outside of travel that may be of value, such as the CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) for procurement specialists.

All in all, there are a lot of great opportunities available for young professionals or those new to travel, but the first hurdle we still need to overcome is a lack of awareness. It’s up to us to be ambassadors for our industry, to communicate not only the opportunities available today, but the potential offered for a long and full career in the space. 

How can you help?
Reach out to local universities and high schools in your area. Offer to come in and give a short lecture, or (if you are feeling ambitious) offer to develop a course. Take every opportunity to talk to young people you encounter in your everyday life about your career. Make sure you are making an effort to talk to young people in your organization and imparting advice to them before you retire (young people, make sure you’re actively reaching out to more senior peers in your organization as well – it’s a two-way street!).

The reality is, our industry is an aging one. If those of us in the industry today want a say in the direction it takes and who’s at the helm, we need to be active participants. 

Did I inadvertently overlook any great opportunities? If so, please drop us a line!

Marketing and public relations specialist Lauren Holmes joins Atlanta-based consultancy Dots & Lines as a consultant

ATLANTA August 5, 2019 – Marketing and public relations specialist Lauren Holmes will be joining Atlanta-based consultancy Dots & Lines as a consultant, effective immediately. Holmes brings B2B and B2C marketing expertise as well as a focus on international PR for many company types to current and future Dots & Lines clients.

“Lauren’s background and professional experience truly speak for themselves,” said Katharine Williams, President of Dots & Lines. “We’ve recently experienced increased demand for public relations services and are thrilled to have Lauren join our team to contribute to our continued success and growth in this area.”

An influential communicator, Lauren Holmes has more than 20 years of global marketing and communications experience. Before joining Atlanta-based real estate consultancy Trimont in 2017, she served as an independent marketing and communications specialist partnering with clients in various industries including commercial real estate, talent management, and hospitality.

Prior to Trimont, she served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Advito, the global consulting arm of BCD Travel, where she spearheaded a global brand transformation project. She conducted similar work at TravelClick, where she oversaw the global public relations efforts in addition to the brand transformation following two major company acquisitions. She began her career in public relations and marketing roles at the corporate office for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, later serving as the Director of Public Relations for the company’s flagship resort in Naples, Fla.

“I am excited to return to the corporate travel industry and work closely with such a talented group of individuals in this new role with Dots & Lines,” said Holmes. “The client list they have developed and the type of work they are doing made the decision to join forces easy. I am looking forward to returning ‘home’ to my friends and former colleagues in the business travel space.”

About Dots & Lines
Dots & Lines LLC is an independent marketing consultancy that provides services including marketing strategy, public relations, brand management, and event marketing, among others, to clients. Dots & Lines is part of The Nina & Pinta Group, a global international network serving clients in the managed travel and technology space. For more information about Dots & Lines and its services, visit DotsandLinesConsulting.com.

Dots and Lines Consultant Stan Berteloot to Advise Princeton University Entrepreneurs

Princeton University Keller center elab berteloot

Stan Berteloot, Consultant at Dots & Lines, was recently selected to advise the 2019 eLab Cohort at Princeton University, an accelerator program that provides students with the tools and resources they need to develop and launch their startup ventures.

“I am humbled to have the chance to work with such a creative and dynamic group of young entrepreneurs,” said Berteloot. “Advising students whose origins are as diverse as their startup ideas is a pure intellectual joy.”

Especially notable among the projects Berteloot is advising are:

  • Invictis Technologies, a portable automatic intravenous injection device that allows quick and reliable intravenous access for anyone at any time, in any place.
  • Uproot, a financial solution giving military families the ability to create wealth through homeownership by turning every duty station into an investment for their long-term financial security.
  • Reclaim Energy, a turbine system that utilizes the energy of outflowing water from the industries that consistently waste the most water: wastewater treatment plants, paper mills, and aquariums.

“In a sense, these young entrepreneurs aren’t too different from our Dots and Lines clients,” said Berteloot. “They are passionate about their products, but their primary area of expertise may not be in the marketing and communications space. That’s where I can help, by lending my expertise to build upon their business models, recurring revenue, operating costs, and cost of acquisition projections with a go to market strategy, including market segmentation.”

Berteloot also advises the student entrepreneurs to start building their online community early and to implement a basic lead acquisition solution and a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

“Marketing and sales are too often an afterthought when you are focused on launching your product,” said Berteloot. “It can, however, be challenging to grow your business and increase sales without a well-defined marketing and communications strategy.”

For more information about the eLab and the 2019 Cohort visit  https://kellercenter.princeton.edu/create/elab-summer-accelerator/teams/2019.

About Dots & Lines

Dots & Lines LLC is an independent marketing consultancy that provides services including marketing strategy, public relations, brand management, and event marketing, among others, to clients. The company is part of the recently announced global network, The Nina & Pinta Group, comprised of Dots & Lines, Nina & Pinta, a strategic consulting and training company specializing in travel procurement, sales effectiveness, operations, and technology solutions, and Topaz International, the global leader in corporate travel audits. For more information about Dots & Lines and its services, visit DotsandLinesConsulting.com.

Dots & Lines, Former GoldSpring Consulting Marketing-Related Product Line, Announces Spin-Off

Former GoldSpring Consulting Marketing-Related Product Line

Winston-Salem, N.C. – April 2, 2018 – GoldSpring Consulting LLC, an independent travel management consultancy, today announced that its partners have unanimously approved a plan to spin-off the company’s Dots & Lines product line.

Launched in July of last year, Dots & Lines provides marketing consulting services including marketing strategy, public relations, brand management, and event marketing. Effective April 1, Dots & Lines will operate as a separate limited liability company based in Atlanta, Ga.

Following the transaction resulting in two separate, privately held companies, GoldSpring will be led by partners Will Tate and Neil Hammond. Former Dots & Lines product line director Katharine Williams will serve as the new company’s president, and former GoldSpring partner Mark Williams will serve as its CFO on a part-time basis.

“I am very excited about the opportunities for both GoldSpring Consulting and Dots & Lines in the completion of this agreement,” said Mark Williams, Dots & Lines CFO. “The spin-off will allow each company to concentrate on their respective areas of expertise and take full advantage of future growth opportunities. I look forward to continuing to work with Katharine and expanding the Dots & Lines business.”

Neil Hammond, GoldSpring partner, stated, “Will Tate and I wish to thank Mark and Katharine for their enormous contribution to the success of GoldSpring. We are proud to have been involved in the spin-off of a new woman-led business serving our industry.”

Dots & Lines will continue to serve current clients, including Tripbam, Tramada Systems, and Lumo (formerly flightsayer) in supporting their marketing, communications, and event management strategies.

“I am extremely pleased to continue working with Katharine, and would highly recommend Dots & Lines to other organizations seeking expertise and support in the marketing and communications sectors,” said Steve Reynolds, Founder and CEO of Tripbam, Inc. “As a long-time supporter of entrepreneurs, particularly within the managed travel space, I am looking forward to seeing Dots & Lines grow and develop as a company.”

About Katharine Williams
Prior to being named president of Dots & Lines, Katharine served as product line director of the division. She joined GoldSpring Consulting on a full-time basis in 2015 to oversee all marketing, promotions, and corporate communications for the company. Previous to GoldSpring, Katharine worked in sports marketing and communications with professional and collegiate teams, as well as large-scale special events. Katharine currently serves as the Co-Chair of the GBTA Ladders Media & Communications committee and was a member of the winning Ladders team in 2017. She is a current member of WINiT, where she previously served as a member of the Conference & Event Planning Committee and as a WINiT mentee from 2016 to 2017. She earned both her undergraduate degree (2009) and MBA (2015) from Wake Forest University.

About Mark Williams
Mark Williams, CFO for Dots & Lines, previously served as a partner with GoldSpring Consulting with responsibility for operations as well as sales, client delivery, and administration. Prior to starting GoldSpring in January 2014, Mark was a Principal at Advito, the consulting division of BCD Travel. Previous roles include work in the Business Transformation Outsourcing practice at IBM where he was responsible for client-facing activities of the travel practice, including the development and implementation of strategic sourcing. Mark began working in the travel industry in the late 1980s with WorldTravel Partners, followed by 10 years as the Director of Travel for Price Waterhouse and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Prior to his work in travel management, Mark worked for Price Waterhouse in the tax practice where he was responsible for federal and state income tax planning for major corporate and individual clients. He began his career in the front office of the Atlanta Braves where he was responsible for various accounting functions in the baseball operation. Mark is a Certified Public Accountant, has a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy from Wake Forest University, a Master of Taxation degree from Georgia State University, and is a former president of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE).

About Dots & Lines
Dots & Lines LLC is an independent marketing consultancy that provides services including marketing strategy, public relations, brand management, and event marketing, among others, to clients. For more information about Dots & Lines and its services, please visit DotsandLinesConsulting.com.

About GoldSpring Consulting
GoldSpring Consulting is an independent consultancy that provides services to support all aspects of managed travel programs, including software solutions to analyze and benchmark programs. GoldSpring’s industry-leading team of experts offers extensive experience and custom solutions to optimize clients’ travel programs. For more information about GoldSpring Consulting and its services, please visit the company website at GoldSpringConsulting.com.

Contacts
Melissa Ashworth
Marketing Manager
GoldSpring Consulting LLC

Katharine Williams
President
Dots & Lines LLC

Visual Communications Expert Bill Bond Joins Atlanta-Based Consultancy Dots & Lines

Billy Ray

ATLANTA – May 13, 2019 – Experienced travel industry consultant Bill Bond will join boutique marketing and communications consultancy Dots & Lines, effective immediately. Bill will continue to be based out of Raleigh, N.C. and will work on a variety of projects, as well as bring new offerings to current and potential clients, in his new role as a consultant.

“We are so pleased to be expanding our team with another talented industry expert,” said Katharine Williams, President of Dots & Lines. “Our client base, offerings, and demand for services are growing quickly, and Bill’s experience, marketing background, and overall skill set are the perfect complement to our already diverse team. We are very excited about the talent Bill will provide to our current and future clients and we look forward to working with him.”

Bill’s background includes over 20 years of marketing and business development within the corporate travel industry, as well as over 10 years of experience in the hotel industry. Prior to joining Dots & Lines, Bill was the Director of Global Marketing and Sales Support for Radius Travel, one of the industry’s largest networks of global travel agencies. He also previously worked as a Director of Marketing for BCD Travel. Bill is a creative force with extensive experience in visual communications as well as sales proposal strategies. Bill graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management and a Bachelor of Arts in English.

“I am excited to begin this next chapter in my career,” said Bill. “Dots & Lines is making waves in the business travel space and I am looking forward to be a part of it. I am thrilled to bring my skills and services to current and future clients and help the company expand their footprint as well as their offerings.”

About Dots & Lines
Dots & Lines LLC is an independent marketing consultancy that provides services including marketing strategy, public relations, brand management, and event marketing, among others, to clients. The company is part of the recently announced global network, The Nina & Pinta Group, comprised of Dots & Lines, Nina & Pinta, a strategic consulting and training company specializing in travel procurement, sales effectiveness, operations, and technology solutions, and Topaz International, the global leader in corporate travel audits. For more information about Dots & Lines and its services, visit DotsandLinesConsulting.com.

Marketing and Business Travel Expert Stan Berteloot Joins U.S.-Based Consultancy Dots & Lines

Stan

Addition of Berteloot Strengthens Company Offerings and Broadens Its Reach to Better Serve Clients

ATLANTA – October 4, 2018 – Marketing and business travel industry expert Stan Berteloot will join boutique marketing and communications consultancy Dots & Lines as a consultant, effective immediately.

Berteloot brings over 25 years of marketing, communication, and business development experience to the Dots & Lines team, along with a passion for driving growth and creating compelling stories for clients in challenging B2B environments.

“Stan comes to us with a wealth of cross-cultural marketing expertise,” said Katharine Williams, President of Dots & Lines. “He thinks in terms of KPI and ROI, bringing an executive level, analytics-focused perspective to our team. We are very excited to have him on board and look forward to helping current and future clients grow their business with the joint offerings we are able to provide.”

Berteloot will continue to serve as Fractional CMO for VisaHQ, the leading passport and visa online application platform, in his role with Dots & Lines. Prior to VisaHQ, Berteloot led the marketing efforts for KDS, a leading cloud-based B2B travel & expense management solution, now part of American Express Global Business Travel. He has also served as ACTE EMEA Director and is a founding member of GBTA France. Stan graduated with a BA in Journalism from The University of Maryland

“The travel industry is a fascinating vertical for marketers,” said Stan Berteloot. “Although it increasingly depends on digital platforms for its distribution, it is one of the few markets that delivers face-to-face, intimate experiences. As part of the Dots & Lines team, I am excited to deliver the full range of marketing services companies in our industry need to succeed.

About Dots & Lines
Dots & Lines LLC is an independent marketing consultancy that provides services including marketing strategy, public relations, brand management, and event marketing, among others, to clients. The company is part of the recently announced global network, The Nina & Pinta Group, comprised of Dots & Lines, Nina & Pinta, a strategic consulting and training company specializing in travel procurement, sales effectiveness, operations, and technology solutions, and Topaz International, the global leader in corporate travel audits. For more information about Dots & Lines and its services, visit DotsandLinesConsulting.com.

The Millennial Business Traveler: Preferences and Trends

The Millennial Business Traveler

Despite some trepidation over the rise of the Millennial business traveler, our industry will unquestionably change as this group advances in their careers and steadily overtakes the majority of business travel in the next five to ten years. What can companies expect? Although Millennials’ business travel habits and preferences differ in many ways from those of Baby Boomers and Generation X, forward-looking companies have an opportunity to preemptively craft strategies that take into consideration the coming changes. With that in mind, here are five trends to expect in the coming year, and beyond:

  1. Millennials Embrace Business Travel
    Despite their rapid adoption of technology (more on that later), this generation places a high value on face-to-face meetings. In fact, Millennials are almost twice as likely to want to travel more for business than Baby Boomers (45 percent to 26 percent, respectively), and a strong majority believes technology can never replace face-to-face meetings to get business done. I admit I’m in total agreement on this one. Although I love to email, text, Snapchat and Instagram just as much as my Millennial peers, nothing beats an in-person meeting. And although videoconferencing technology has made great strides in the past few years, anyone who has conducted an interview or had a meeting using it can likely attest that we’re nowhere close to the face-to-face experience… at least, not yet.

  2. Technology Adoption is Rapid
    No surprise here – Millennials have grown up with technologies that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies and are comfortable with rapidly adopting all the latest and greatest. For program success, travel managers must remain up to date on emerging trends and innovations, and evaluate if and how they could be successfully incorporated into the program. Soliciting regular feedback from travelers can highlight differences in opinions between Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Generation X, and can provide opportunities for suggestions for any new technologies.

    Millennials are also more likely to use online social networks to ask for advice or connect with friends while traveling. I had this happen on a vacation not too long ago. I posted a photo of the beautiful landscape on Instagram, and received a message from a stranger traveling in the same area asking about the condition of the hiking trails (some were closed at the time). Along the same line, Millennials are also more likely to value online reviews – eight in ten 18-30 year olds worldwide consider travel reviews to be “very important” or “somewhat important.”Finally, Millennials are more likely to use multiple devices to book a trip – perhaps reading reviews on an iPad before bed, researching prices in an app on the way to work, and making the final purchase on a laptop at the office. Continual education about the “why” behind the managed travel process will become increasingly important as the ways in which Millennial travelers are able to make bookings expands.

    Although it can seem difficult at times to keep up on all the new developments in this area, rapid adoption of technology is not going away. It seems every time I speak to anyone under the age of 18 there is a new app or social network that I didn’t know about. My generation may be known for our tech acumen and rapid acceptance of change, but we will need to continue to be so as the next generation (one that never knew a world without the Internet), enters the business world.

    That said, rapid adoption means most Millennials are comfortable with change, such as the introduction of a new online booking tool or virtual card… as long as it works well. The group is also more likely to broadcast displeasure; 18-30 year old business travelers are the likeliest to post a negative review online. Therefore, it is advisable to beta test any new technology with a sample population – preferably one that includes a mix of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.

  3. Value Trumps Cost
    Millennials are used to weighing many factors before making a decision. We have come of age in a world where there are 4,233 results in a search for “lightbulbs” on Amazon, and each bulb has 500 – 1,000 reviews. The same can be said for business travel selections.Which is better – a mid-tier hotel room at $200 or an upper upscale one discounted from $400 to $250? How close is each to the office? Do I need to rent a car? Or could I take public transportation? Uber/Lyft? Which property has the better reviews online? Do I get loyalty points from my favorite chain at one versus the other? Although Millennials are more likely to spend more while traveling for business than they would for leisure, as compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers, they are also more receptive to alternative options that could save companies money, such as an eclectic independent hotel versus a major chain.

  4. Bleisure is a Thing
    Millennials are much more comfortable mixing business and leisure travel. Why? It may be partly due to the demographics of the group. According to a Pew Research Center report, 26% of Millennials are married, compared to 36% of Generation X and 48% of Baby Boomers at the same age, perhaps allowing for more business trips that extend into a personal vacation. The upside? This trend could save companies money by traveling during off-peak times and increasing employee satisfaction (reducing turnover).

  5. Homogeneity is Out
    Millennials make up the most diverse generation in American history. They are more interested in traveling internationally, for both business and leisure, than the generations before them, and they are more interested in global cultural experiences. The high value placed on these experiences carries over into other aspects of life, including income (Millennials would rather make $40,000 at a job they find interesting than $100,000 at a job they found boring) and travel preferences (they value hotel amenities such as stylish interiors, free Wi-Fi, social space, and shared workspaces, among others). That being said, Millennials typically display higher brand loyalty than their counterparts, and are relatively more concerned with getting reward miles or points than non-Millennials, which could drive the group to choose their favorite brands.

Although many reports present Millennial business travel preferences and habits as negatives for corporate travel programs, with the proper marketing, branding, and communication strategies in place to engage this generation, these trends can be turned into valuable opportunities for forward-thinking companies.

As noted above, Millennials identify with brands more personally and emotionally than do older generations, viewing them as extensions of their own values and status. With the right approach in place, companies can create internal brand affinity among Millennial business travelers, leading to a successful travel program for the next five to ten years, and beyond.

Sources:

What’s the Best Way to Communicate with Your Travelers?

Communicate with Your Travelers

Good question! It’s one that comes up a lot in the corporate travel industry; after all, you can have an exceptional program in place, but if your communication tactics to your target audience miss the mark, all of that hard work can fall short of expectations. So, what’s the answer? It depends on several factors, such as your corporate culture, audience behaviors, and tools at your disposal, among others, but there are some standard best practices we’ve outlined below. Enjoy!

  • Meet them on their home turf. Is your audience active on social media? Do you have an internal company communications portal they use? Do they read and comment on your blog? Is signage by the water cooler the way to go? Or is in person communication/training what really resonates? Wherever your travelers are getting their information today, that’s where you need to be. With the advent of social media, the general population is no longer actively searching out information (or, if they are, it tends to be for a specific question and needs to be easily accessible… as in, the top 5 search results) they are looking for it to be pushed to them.

  • Go easy on email. Just because today’s workforce generally expects information to be pushed to them, this does not mean that travelers are looking for a heavy-handed email marketing campaign. Information shared needs to be relevant to the traveler, or it will be ignored, or worse, marked as spam or unsubscribed from. Hone in on relevant information by doing some email campaign testing, or ask your audience to make selections on the type and frequency of emails through your email marketing system. Diligently protect this communication tool for only the most urgent, relevant communications, and utilize other tools (social media, blogs, internal portals) to distribute everyday updates. By doing so, you’re doing some of the filtering for your travelers, and are almost guaranteed an uptick in open rates.

    Let technology lend a hand. Do you have a recurring list of commonly asked questions? Utilize “canned response” email templates to easily, quickly, and thoroughly answer them… and then point your audience in the right direction for more information. This will help ease your daily email overload as well as remind your audience about where to find additional resources. On the social media front, there are several scheduling tools that can help organize posts throughout the week. And if you find you’re better talking through a blog post, or find it faster than typing, check out dictation tools that can convert your spoken word into text (it takes some getting used to, but can be a lifesaver). This is an area that is always changing and growing, so keeping up to date on advancements and continually learning is key.

  • Craft a message that sticks. I completely understand that communicating travel policy can be a drag… but it doesn’t have to be! Maybe you are naturally a charismatic, energetic, hilarious individual, and if you are, my hat is off to you. For the rest of us, however, cracking jokes that make you the life of new employee orientation may not be in your comfort zone – and that’s ok! Tell a story, share a funny video or image, or lean on other resources, or people, at your disposal to help you communicate your message and make it resonate.

  • Think about medium. Video, audio, images or text? We recommend a strategy that combines all four. Do some initial testing to see what resonates with your audience, then utilize the results to drive your content creation moving forward. Continual testing is key in crafting an effective, agile communication roadmap that can remain relevant as inevitable changes occur over time.

And there you have it – we hope you’ve enjoyed some of our best practices to communicate with your target audience, whether that be travelers, new hires, executives or others. Are there any other tactics you’ve found effective? We want to hear about them! Please send us a message or comment below or via our social media channels, and if you’re looking to improve your communications strategies, feel free to contact our team at Dots & Lines here. We’re an energetic, creative team dedicated to helping our clients achieve their objectives through effective marketing strategy, communications, and branding solutions.

Travel Technology Versus Mother Nature

Travel Technology

If you’ve traveled by air over the past few weeks anywhere from northern Florida to Maine, it’s likely you experienced a delay or cancellation due to weather. Between the “bomb cyclone” that grounded over 4,000 flights in a single day and the recent unusual snow in Atlanta that brought TSA operations to a crawl, 2018 has already seen plenty of travel disruptions due to Mother Nature.

In the managed travel realm, the impact goes beyond traveler inconvenience. Meetings are missed and productivity is lost as travelers wait in long lines and hold for hours to find new flights. Costs go up when they are grounded and need additional hotel nights. The good news is, technology is making a positive impact. Freebird and Flightsayer are among the new services meant to improve the travel experience and help businesspeople make their meetings. The emergence of these players is not happening at the expense of traditional travel management companies. Rather, collaboration between them means a better situation for all.

“TMCs are not going anywhere anytime soon,” said Freebird CEO Ethan Bernstein. “Corporations are going to continue to rely on them for travel services including negotiated rates, customer service and support, and duty of care, among others. The mindset for travel technology providers should be, ‘How can we enable TMCs to provide tech that matters to travelers?’”

Heading to the Global Business Travel Association convention in Boston last year, one of our partners used the Freebird free trial. After a flight cancellation on the day the conference kicked off, our partner (somewhat forgetting he had signed up for the free trial), was resigned to waiting in the long line forming at the airline customer service counter when he received a text message from Freebird. He was offered a selection of new flights to get him to Boston. With a few clicks he had selected a new flight on a different airline set to arrive just 45 minutes after his original flight. He was even upgraded to first class.

Because Freebird covers last-minute, one-way tickets users need, airlines realize additional revenue. Bernstein, though, noted that about half of Freebird users in need of rebooking use the same airline with which they originally booked. That’s because Freebird’s fast response time lets them bypass airline customer service lines.

According to the company, its “first-time reply” to users during the early January snowstorm on the East Coast was seven minutes compared with airline phone hold times of more than two hours.

In addition to paying for a new ticket on a different airline, if that’s what the user selects, Freebird refunds the cost of the original ticket once a waiver is issued. During the January storm, impacted users on average saved $1,369, according to the company.

GoldSpring partner Mark Williams called the outcome positive for TMCs as well as travelers because it lessens call volumes during disruptions. It also means travel managers deal with less noise while better serving road warriors and senior executives.

In another example of travel technology coming to the rescue, Flightsayer saved my trip to moderate a panel at the GBTA Nebraska-Iowa chapter meeting this last month. Flightsayer sends users up-to-the-minute predictions on flight disruptions.

The weather forecast did not look promising the night before my trip, which had me connecting through Charlotte, an airport that rarely experiences snow. After signing up for the Flightsayer free trial, I started receiving updates on my flights. When I went to bed, the probability of a delay was a six (out of 10). When I woke up the next morning, I received an email that it was now at an eight.

I called the airline, which honored my travel waiver and rebooked me on a slightly later flight with a layover in Dallas, allowing me to skirt the weather. Turns out, my original flight to Charlotte was cancelled.

Had I not used Flightsayer, I likely would have missed my meeting.

We predict these types of money- and time-saving services will only gain more traction as more efficiencies are realized through artificial intelligence and voice-activated technologies.

GoldSpring partner Will Tate foresees AI handling cancellations and rebookings, and contacting related parties with changes – with all steps in the process cascading throughout the traveler’s calendar. “All the information is already digitized,” he said, “so the logical next step is application.”