Inside Travel Group engaged Watertight Marketing to undertake a Marketing Team Alignment, Benchmark and Plan, and then have gone on to apply the results

“The Watertight Marketing Team Alignment and Benchmark did two powerful jobs for us simultaneously. Firstly it got our Marketing, Sales and Client Service far more closely aligned with one another, and Management, in the ongoing drive to deliver way more than the sum of their parts. And secondly it provided the most comprehensive benchmark of where we were at with our marketing, what to focus on next, and how to do that. This included leveraging from our entire staff, not only the value of their creative insights and ideas, but also a new level of confidence to grab stuff and drive it forward” Simon King, Director – Inside Travel Group


After three years teaching English in Japan, Simon King and Alastair Donnelly wanted to give others the chance to experience and discover a part of the world they had both fallen in love with. So once back in the UK in 2000, they decided to start a travel company. Fast forward to the end of 2017 and in that year 10,000 delighted traveller customers took advantage of Inside Travel Group’s (ITG) unique tailored itineraries, small group tours and exclusive cultural experiences.

To get to this point ITG were clearly doing a whole lot of things right, including in their marketing activities. And the Watertight Marketing team had been providing consulting project services from 2014 to help achieve these results.


The challenge…

Simon explains “We realised that to scale to the next level, with a stretch target to increase our bookings by 50% to 15,000 by the end of 2019, we needed to make another big step-change up as a company. We knew that to achieve this was going to require sales, marketing and client service aligned as a unified well-oiled revenue generating engine whilst not sacrificing any of the expertise, passion and human touch that we were known for by our customers.”

‘Aligned’ is the key word here. The commercial benefits of internally aligned management, sales, marketing and client service teams are huge. Tightly aligned organisations on average achieve around 25% faster revenue and profit growth, 35% higher customer retention rates and 65% better deal closure.

Misalignment on the other hand is seriously costly. It leads to not getting the most out of peoples’ talents and strengths, poor accountability and distrust, a lack of teamwork and open communication which results in conflict, poor problem solving and decision and overall disengagement. This all results in inconsistent service to clients and prospects.

So alignment for ITG was about ensuring that Marketing, Sales and Client Service were one collaborative and creative whole in sync with management on how to achieve their ambitious sales targets in the right way that delighted clients.

The other top priority was to get down to a whole new level of benchmarking detail on current marketing strengths and weaknesses and to then use this to generate a refreshed actionable strategy and plan packed with new ideas to get ITG from where they were, to where they wanted to be.

How Watertight helped

A consultative pre-engagement fact-find by Watertight Marketing firmly established that a Benchmark and Team Alignment project, bespoked to the needs of ITG, was what was required.

Watertight Marketing’s Director of Consulting Simon Bottle explains “Marketing when done best, is a team sport across a business. And so in a Team Alignment and Benchmark engagement, we widen out the process to not only gather input from management, marketing, sales and client service but also the other departments too. The more participants the better because, outside of the marketing department, there is always a wealth of constructive feedback on current efforts, ideas, and ‘voice of the customer’ perspectives that are often only held back by a lack of confidence in how to express them. This enables us to help align not only the customer facing roles, but the whole company in the effort whilst at the same time harnessing the maximum amount of valuable creativity possible.”

To mine this gold, Watertight Marketing use a proprietary web-based process, bespoked to each client, that embeds succinct video training on each of the Watertight Marketing Leaks into a research survey which polls from all participants their quantitative scores out of ten plus qualitative opinion and ideas on how the company is performing against each leak.

At ITG, this immediately demystified marketing and enabled everyone, regardless of any previous marketing understanding, to participate.

This visual displays simulated results for “Acme Ltd” – it is not the Inside Travel Group data/results! Each circle shows how many staff selected each leak score between one and ten.

Simon K continues: “Watertight Marketing took the huge amount of resulting data and distilled it into a wide range of intuitively understandable and genuinely useful insights.. The power of the process is epitomised by one of the visuals produced shown above, that not only provided a snapshot of our entire marketing from all our people, but also posed all the right questions we needed to resolve to get aligned and to step things up. Watertight Marketing then workshopped our people through these questions, layering in the qualitative survey results, to produce the answers we needed to do that.”

The questions raised included:

  • Why does the wisdom of the crowd think ITG are performing best and worst on certain leaks?
  • What is causing the greatest and smallest spread of opinion from harshest to most complimentary on the different leaks?
  • Are the lowest and highest scores outliers based on a lack of understanding or do they have a point based on taking a different and interesting perspective that ITG have not considered?
  • How do the scores differ by department and what does that tell ITG?
  • And what about scores by length of tenure at the company?

There are a number of factors that individually or in combination are typically at play including:

  • Areas for development in strategy, tactics and execution that require attention
  • Inter and cross team dynamics
  • Whether everyone is 100% clear on the vision
  • Communications challenges and any lack of a shared language
  • Pockets of individual excellence not being leveraged effectively enough
  • And dare we say it – a dollop of politics occasionally (as there always is even in the world beating companies)

Simon K observes “In our case, it became clear that the biggest challenge holding our marketing back was the lack of a shared language. Before this project, we didn’t have that and it affected our ability to work collaboratively on idea generation and problem solving and make the most of the revenue generating potential we knew was there. After the Team Alignment engagement, it was so much easier to get to a consensus on how to maximise sales opportunities and fix issues, through having conversations where everyone understood one another.”

And the other million dollar question…

Simon K goes on to say: “The beauty of this process was that developing the shared language and alignment we wanted, was built into the achievement of our other top priority – a 360 degree assessment of current marketing performance from our entire staff, the people that know our business and our customers best.”

The analysed qualitative feedback, organised by leak and then sub-categorised by theme/tactic, provided an extensive library of suggestions for improvement and new ideas. The end result was a roadmap across all Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks™, on what to do more of, what to stop doing, what to improve and what to invest time in exploring.

In the research survey, workshops and the final report, the Watertight Marketing recommendations of best practices that were prioritised from the many ideas to deal with the top leaks were:

Leak 5: No Critical Approval – “We identified that our Group Tours offering was confusing and the website was struggling to help customers and travel agents to find the right tour for them. As a specialist operator, we want to offer lots of different tours but presenting them clearly was a challenge. So, following the Watertight sessions, we decided to produce a ‘Group Tours Buyer’s Guide’ to walk travel agents through the different choices when discussing our group tours with their clients. Since introducing and distributing the buyer’s guide, our travel agent group tour bookings have increased year on year by 25%.”

Leak 2: Poor On-Boarding –“Clearly identifying that ‘poor on-boarding’ was a priority leak for us directed our marketing investment towards a new marketing automation system which we have now rolled out. The aim here is to provide a series of automated trip countdown email communications to ensure that the extended gap between booking and travelling is filled with the requisite quality communications, and metaphorical hugs.”

The future…

ITG achieved their target of 15,000 customer bookings for 2019. But the value of the Watertight Team Alignment and Benchmark engagement has stretched beyond its contribution to IGT’s shorter term commercial objectives.

Simon K summarises it this way: “A printed copy of the Watertight Marketing Team Alignment and Benchmark engagement report has been on my desk permanently since I received it well over a year ago because we refer to it all the time as a guiding light for our ongoing marketing decisions”.

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