Best Practices for Visual Storytelling

When I was a kid, my favorite bedtime story of all time was “What Was I Scared Of?” from Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches and Other Stories.  More than 50 years have passed, and I can still recite almost the entire story verbatim. Why is that? I’ll admit that the story is compelling with a classic Seuss moral ending (the tale of an unnamed character who frequently encounters an animated pair of empty pale-green pants in spooky places), but how does it stay so fresh in my mind? Why do I remember this story above all others from any other time in my life? What can I quote from my years at college? And why is it that I cannot remember half of what I read just this morning?

My answer: visuals. We tend to remember things better when they’re compounded with meaningful and memorable images. Graphics have been around much longer than the written word – the earliest cave drawings were about 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, while the earliest forms of writing didn’t come until around 3,500 BCE. We instinctively know visuals add more potency than pure text.

In the field of marketing and communications, one of our jobs is to craft compelling stories that promote the value of our clients’ products and services. We could do that with just words and allow the readers to imagine the rest, but adding visuals helps us to compound our message and make our stories more memorable. We tend to remember about 10 percent of what we hear, 20 percent of what we read, 30 percent of what we see, and 60-70 percent of what we see and hear.  So, a good bedtime story.

For the past few years (25 give or take), I have been earning my living by helping clients with visual storytelling. It used to be called “writing presentations,” but the terminology has evolved into “visual storytelling,” which makes sense – we’re helping to create an unforgettable narrative with a beginning, a middle and end told mostly through pictures.

Visual storytelling is my vocation and my passion – however; it doesn’t come naturally to many. The following are a few pieces of advice to help you tell your stories.

#1 Craft a story.

Your audience will know if you’ve thrown in a bunch of random slides thinking that they’ll explain what you’re talking about. As a presenter, your job is to tell a story – and every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end – bring your audience along as if you’re taking them on a journey.

Additionally, a good story requires some form of conflict – if not, then there’s a journey, but no tale. In marketing, conflict explains why the product is relevant – what problem is being solved? What makes it interesting? The climax is the solution: the product or service being sold. The story’s resolution then becomes the campaign’s call to action.

Once you’ve written your story, it’s then time to choose imagery which directly reflects the message. This way, the audience finds it easy to see how points are interlinked, thus intensifying your message, ensuring people remember what you’ve said. Those pale green pants again.

#2 Tell the tale.

It’s classic – and I’m amazed that you still see it out there – a presentation that is nothing but a written narrative for the speaker to read directly to their audience. Who the heck wants to sit there and be read to, especially if you can read 100 times faster than that odious “reader.”

To me, a great slide has the viewer perplexed when they first look at it – “what does that mean?” When the presenter explains it through their story arc, the slide will resonate even more. Your script and your slides are two different things – by combining them, you can captivate and engage your audience by telling them the story.

#3 Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse.

A good thing to remember is that the presentation has been created for the audience, not for the speaker. It’s there to help deliver the message, reminding you of what to say, not saying it for you. You want to offer something compelling, not boring your audience to death by reading through the slide. Nor do you want to confuse them by being unprepared and not being able to provide enough explanation.

A good storyteller captivates the audience verbally as their minds follow along by looking at the visuals. But, all of those bullet points are gone! What am I going to read? How am I going to know what to say?

The only way to do this is through practice. Practice. Practice.

We tend to equate spontaneity with honesty – and only when you’re free of the reliance on a script or notes can you begin to feel (and sound) spontaneous. If you know the subject inside and out, you’ll have the confidence to add details or examples that will help the presentation sound more off the cuff (and unrehearsed).

Interested in learning more about how Dots & Lines helps our clients tell their stories? Click here or email info@dotsandlinesconsulting.com.

New Kid on the Block: A Gen Zer takes on the Corporate Travel Industry

The latest entrants into the workforce are now part of Generation Z. Like other generations before it, debate over the exact date range that accurately identifies Gen Z reigns. Many sources quote the mid-1990s to early 2000s for the birth years that constitute Gen Z, while others push the starting date back to 1997. I was born in 1995, so technically I could be a Millennial or a Gen Z… but given that I have no memories of Y2K or living without the Internet, I feel I fall firmly in the Gen Z category.

Given that the corporate travel industry has been widely recognized as one made up predominantly of Baby Boomers, being the “new kid on the block” has presented some interesting challenges. So, without further ado, here are some of my impressions, recommendations and advice for others in my age range looking to get into this amazing industry:

“Wait, so what do you do?”

I was lucky enough to be exposed to the travel industry early; I held two internships with a mega TMC (travel management company, or essentially a really large travel agency) during my time in college. I really enjoyed my experience and was eager to back into the corporate travel industry after graduating.

Presently, my biggest hurdle is describing to friends, family, and other young professionals what exactly it is that I do. I have found that the corporate travel industry is one that your average young adult doesn’t even knows exists. The closest I have gotten to a fellow young professional understanding what corporate travel is was when they recognized a major player in the space, in this case, SAP Concur.

Corporate travel is much than an OBT (online booking tool) or expense report! I will say, however, it’s understandable; most young professionals don’t have the job requirements or status that necessitates travel for their job. Even if they are lucky enough to travel for work, they then have no concept of the technology, contracts, people, companies and other factors that go into making each trip happen.

Why is that? Why do most of the recent college graduates have little or no experience, knowledge, or even awareness about this $1.4 trillion industry.

This industry has a lot to offer with amazing benefits you cannot easily find elsewhere, including a supportive, close-knit global, the opportunity to travel for work early in your career, a need for younger and newer talent to take over roles currently held by retiring Baby Boomers, and an exciting, innovative field that often promotes from within.

Fish out of water

Let me be clear; once you get your foot into the door in this industry, it is no cakewalk. I have found a few difficulties entering this niche trade. As a consultant, I need to understand the entire travel process from the traveler perspective, from booking to submitting expenses. Additionally, I need to be familiar with the companies, services, technologies, and other offerings that enable each trip to take place.

Full disclosure: it took me almost six months before I was semi-confident that I understood all of the acronyms correctly.

Because of its close-knit nature, I’ve found the business travel industry can be somewhat hesitant of newcomers (and, it seems, especially young ones!). For every warm welcome I received, I had someone doubting my skills and abilities.

Granted, I am sure this happens in every industry for every young professional. What I do believe to be different, however, is that those who were welcoming showed me just how amazing this industry could be. Many of the industry veterans have worked together for years. Even across competitor lines, everyone is friendly and most likely worked together previously.

As a 24-year-old, I feel privileged to have experienced industry leaders value my presence, opinion, and my skills. I’ve had successes with clients on a range of projects, as well as a few low points that taught me great lessons. I can honestly say that after my first full year in the corporate travel industry, I feel like I am officially part of the gang.

A few tips for those wanting to work in this industry

  1. Be patient with yourself.
    Like I mentioned earlier, this business is complicated, layered, and full of lingo that is hard to pick up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or clarification.

  2. Seek out a mentor.
    I was lucky enough to work with a great boss that not only developed my marketing and PR skills, but took time to teach me about different companies, technologies, industry leaders, and all the basics I needed to succeed early on. Having the support of someone more experienced not only speeds up your successful entry into the industry but opens many doors to you as a young professional.

  3. Read the news.
    There are many travel trade publications with daily newsletters. Subscribe to them and read them! Initially, you may not understand 50% of the information, but you will slowly understand more and more. It’s easy to get “in the weeds” in your particular vertical; don’t limit yourself to one area of expertise at the risk of limiting your future impact and career growth.

  4. Have confidence in yourself.
    No one is looking for another wallflower. Introduce yourself to people you want to meet, ask to take on new projects, develop new skills, and don’t be shy about offering your opinion on a project. Be proud of yourself and what you have to offer.

  5. Be a generalist.
    Corporate travel is a small industry in regard to personnel; companies tend to promote and hire from within because of the time it takes to understand and learn the intricacies of this business.  It’s ok to have specialties or areas of knowledge that are deeper than others (in fact, it’s a good thing!), but there is a real strength in being well equipped to speak knowledgeably on the many different aspects of travel.

Again, this is a great industry that has impressive technology, innovation, and best of all… great people. They hold diversity in high regard, and the work culture is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I have been lucky to work with a group of talented and smart individuals at such an early age and can’t recommend my chosen field enough. I look forward to setting my goals higher in year 2!

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!

5 things not to say to a travel journalist

tips for press interview

Disclaimer: As an ex-journalist, I may be slightly biased…

Journalists aren’t influencers or publicists. They are paid to ask difficult questions and to fact-check. In recent years the profession has gone through many changes, resulting in more pressure on fewer journalists to produce more stories. Publications have folded, while others have flourished online.

Despite blogs and social media providing free content, people continue to turn to the press for verified information. A story written in a trusted publication continues to carry much more weight than a thinly veiled advertisement or article based on questionable information.

All that said, public relations is crucial for companies in the travel industry.

Unfortunately, not everyone respects the profession. Sometimes, executives and marketers view reporters only as generators of “free advertising.”

As PR professionals, our job is to guide our clients in finding the best angles to pitch their stories to the press and to help the media understand the news element and value of our clients’ announcements.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when conducting a press interview.

1. “Did you receive my press release?”

Chances are that, yes, your press release is buried among a hundred others in the reporter’s inbox. Journalists are working under pressure with stressful deadlines. Asking questions like this will only put you in a bad light. If your release has value for the publication it will be sorted and you will be contacted. If you’ve developed a proper PR strategy, you’ll already know the best ways (email, social media, phone, text messaging, etc.) to reach reporters working on the topics that affect your organization. If you don’t, get to know the reporter and his or her preferences. Above all, learn to pitch your news so that it stands out.

2. “When can you publish my press release?”

Remember that most journalists won’t take your word on face value. They won’t publish a story with a single source. Your press release might be published as a short brief on its own. If your story calls for a proper article, reporters will conduct interviews and contact other sources. Journalists rarely have a say on when a story might be released. It is for the editor to decide based on other news. What might seem urgent for you will probably be much less critical for the news editor.

3. Don’t say “No comment.”

If you do, be ready for the journalist to start digging. If you believe you might one day be in an awkward position, prepare for it in advance. Other people will be happy to provide comments so do your job and control the discussion.

4. “Are you speaking to my competitors?”

As we’ve seen above, good journalists aren’t publishing single-source stories. Chances are the reporter you are speaking with has or will reach-out to competitors so don’t bother mentioning it. However, you can build trust by offering sources to beef-up the story. Clients using your products are always appreciated, as are independent consultants or renowned experts. The journalist will welcome saving time on research and will probably return the favor.

5. “Let me check your story before you publish it.”

Each publication has its internal policy about this issue. As a rule of thumb, news media are free to publish what they want. They don’t have to let you review their story or even your quotes.
Expect not to approve the story before it goes to press; this is why you must be extremely careful during the interview. Make sure to speak clearly. Never use jargon and double check that the reporter understood you. Not everyone is an expert in your field. It might be the first story the reporter writes about your industry. Reformulate complex issues and offer to send additional information by email. Use this opportunity to rephrase essential facts. Pay attention to the reporter’s note taking. Pause when needed to let the journalist catch-up.

I could go on forever about the do’s and don’ts of PR. The best way to conduct an interview is to come prepared and to be honest and empathic. The best interviews are discussions between trusting professionals.

Learn about the journalist and the publication. What is the reporter usually writing about? Who are his or her readers? Keep this in mind to craft your message and find the right angle for the interview. Remember that journalists work on deadline be ready to give impromptu interviews when called. If you aren’t prepared to answer their questions, they will find someone else.

Contact us to learn more about our media training workshop.

This is How Inbound Marketing Can Make the Sales Process More Efficient for Travel Companies

inbound marketing

On a recent flight to San Francisco, I was seated next to a very outgoing, talkative man. The guy works in sales for a B2B software procurement company. Of course, before long we were talking shop.

Mike told me that despite all the efforts of his marketing department he was still cold calling on most days. The leads he got from marketing were poorly qualified, he complained. He preferred to trust his intuition to identify valuable prospects.

I have met many Mikes, and I fear that traditional marketing techniques are responsible for the mistrust that sometimes exists between sales and marketing teams.

Heads of sales in the travel Industry are sometimes hesitant to use digital marketing techniques to handle and nurture leads.

In order to grow, however, I believe that there is no way around it. Inbound marketing matches today’s buying cycle. We all know that before buying any goods or services, we like to do a little bit of research. We read reviews, speak to friends, and, when possible, we want to try the product. At Dots and Lines the inbound marketing process we implement for our clients helps them close more deals quicker.

Inbound marketing is about creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business.

How? You attract prospects and customers to your website and blog through relevant and helpful content. Once they arrive, you engage with them using conversational tools like email and chat and by promising continued value. And finally, you delight them by continuing to act as an empathetic advisor and expert.

Unlike outbound marketing, with inbound marketing you don’t need to fight for your potential customers’ attention. By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal customers, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.

The travel industry is competitive and sales teams have ambitious quarterly quotas. Sales can’t survive relying on cold calling and nurturing prospects on their own over long sales cycles. I find this stat interesting:

Up to 70% of product information is found online, not through sales reps. (Hubspot)

This is why, with inbound marketing, salespeople can focus on closing deals with well-qualified leads ready to be sold to. They are more successful because they manage their time better.

Interested in learning more about how our team at Dots and Lines can help you implement a successful inbound marketing strategy? Check out this post on optimizing your website to understand one of the first steps to take.

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.