PerfectStay has been our customer for several years. A French start-up specializing in B2B travel solutions, we asked Romain Roy, VP Marketing & Trading at PerfectStay, to answer a few questions for us about his vision of CRM and share with us some tips for improving your CRM practices.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
Of course. I’ve been working in the digital world, and more precisely in e-travel, for almost twelve years now. I’ve had two quite different experiences, but always in the travel sector: first, a very corporate experience at lastminute.com, a B2C site present all over the world, and a second experience oriented towards start-ups at PerfectStay, still in the travel industry but with a B2B2C model, somewhat different from the first.
What is your role as VP Marketing & Trading at PerfectStay?
At PerfectStay, my role is a little broader than just a marketing role, but my goal is fairly simple: to meet the revenue and margin goals we have for the year for all of our partners. It’s a very macro goal.
To do this, I have my hands in a few different pots. Marketing is one of them, encompassing the acquisition, conversion, activation, and retention strategies. I also manage part of our product development to continuously optimize our platforms, and be as effective as possible. Finally, I have a strong relationship with our Production team because at the heart of what we do is the product we sell. We have to make sure that we offer a service that is in line with what our future customers are looking for.
What are the habits you start your work day with?
I always start my day the same way, with a latte and a review of all the numbers from the day before. I always take ten to fifteen minutes to look at the performance of the previous day in terms of traffic, conversions, revenue, and margin. It’s a little habit I’ve developed that allows me to start my day off right. We have pretty comprehensive Business Intelligence so we have access to a lot of reports, data – that’s what feeds us all and is really part of PerfectStay’s DNA.
Is there a best practice you’d like to share that you’ve implemented recently that has had a positive impact on your work?
I think the crisis we’ve had over the past couple of years with Covid has allowed me to pay more attention to overreaction. Sometimes we tend to overreact when faced with a lot of data. This can have its advantages, to have a clear vision of the state of your business, but it can also have disadvantages.
One of these disadvantages is overreaction. We tend to take immediate action when we see that a KPI is not going in the right direction. For example, on a day when the traffic drops, I will immediately try to understand why I don’t have enough traffic and implement actions. If my conversion rate drops, I will look for the reasons and take action. I think the crisis has exacerbated this trend for many. I myself was very much in overreaction mode earlier on. Lately, I’ve been taking it easy, telling myself that I shouldn’t overreact, that things can happen from one day to the next. The crisis has helped me to take a step back from overreaction, and that’s very positive. The most important thing is to sit down, to dig deeper into your analysis, to see if the problem is structural, and to avoid overreacting.
Has anyone ever given you advice that you would like to share today?
I was given a lot of advice at the beginning of my career, but I think one of the most interesting pieces of advice was to start by understanding and mastering the operational side of things before wanting to climb up the ladder. When you’re young, you want to grow very quickly, to take on responsibilities. But I think that you are better off when you have had to manage, control, master, and develop the operational side of things at some point. This allows you to gain perspective by understanding the challenges of your team, and I think it can make everyone a better manager. You have to start by “doing” before “getting things done.”
On the other hand, do you remember any bad advice you were given that you shouldn’t have followed?
When I started in marketing, I was focused on two things: ROI and performance. This could sometimes create rivalry with the brand teams, who were more focused on consideration. I had the impression that they were relying on a rather simplistic logic of buying visibility. On our side, we were much more challenged on the ROI part and I thought that my job was the job that would allow my company to make volume. I think this was a mistake and I am even more aware of it today: these are two aspects of the business that totally complement each other.
It’s much more complicated to do performance without having a brand that has a certain awareness. Today, I advocate working on consideration, investing in image, because this has an impact on the entire value chain and on all the acquisition levers that are performance-based. I have several examples today that show that working on a beautiful brand with a good reputation greatly helps improve our KPIs.
In the end, you have to have a global strategy, consider the image as much as the performance levers, in order to have the best results.
Do you have any examples of books, blogs, or personalities that influence you? Things that you follow and that help you in your vision of your job?
There is a book that changed a lot of things about my perception and what I wanted to do: “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel, which explains disruptive innovation and how to create value.
Why did it have an impact on me? Because my first experience was in a rather corporate company called lastminute.com, where I was able to learn a lot. I started as an intern, I ended up as Marketing Director, but I had the impression that I wasn’t creating anything. I was reapplying patterns, strategies that were already in place and I was applying them again, to make sure they continued to perform and work. The day I read this book, I asked myself if I was capable of starting from scratch and creating something with my own hands, a product, a marketing strategy from scratch, and making it perform.
That’s when the four founders of PerfectStay approached me with a start-up idea. There was everything to build on the marketing side. It happened at a time when I was asking myself all these questions and I decided to take this risk and build everything. We started from scratch, there was nothing. We were thinking about our value proposition, about the marketing strategy we would put in place behind it. I started with this “zero” and we managed to get to “one” with PerfectStay. Then we made it to 100 and we’re still looking forward…
This book made me question a lot of things and allowed me to make a big decision: to go from a big company to a start-up. Today, I would do it again without hesitation.
What would you say will be the main marketing challenges of the next few years?
For me, we all have a bit of the same main challenge, and that is the management of personal data. I’m talking about personal data management in a very broad way.
I think there’s another challenge that you’re familiar with at Tinyclues, and that’s the Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) on Apple iOS 15, which has had a huge impact on how we track our KPIs on the activation side and on the email side. This measure prevents us from having a good vision of our opening rates. Today, many triggers, both in marketing activation and in segmentation, are linked to opening. This is something that forces us to look at things in new ways, by following new KPIs, by adapting our segmentations and our marketing triggers.
Cookie consent has also had quite an impact on the way we track our audiences following the implementation of the GDPR.
These things are a lot of little bumps in the road, but I like to say that it doesn’t stop us from moving forward. However, I think we still have a few years to go.
We know that 2024 is the end of the third-party cookie on Google Chrome. This has already been the case for some time on Safari and Mozilla. But Google Chrome represents more than 70% of our audience, so it will have a very significant impact.
It’s important to anticipate all of this and I think that today all of our partners are doing this and will allow us to continue to track our performance and adapt our investments according to this performance. We are moving in the right direction. It’s true that, after having micro-tracked all of our users, we have to go back to three or four years ago, to a time when we were a little more blind and had more macro strategies. It may sound strange, but it’s necessary to think about it. It’s one of the big issues for 2022 and beyond.
Do you have an example of a marketing failure in your career? If so, how did you bounce back?
I have one, although it’s not really a failure. When I joined PerfectStay, we were a very small team, we started with five people, we did everything ourselves.
One of the keys to our marketing strategy at PerfectStay is to build membership bases. You have to be registered on our platforms via an email address and a password to discover our trips. We then activate these members via our email strategy to get them to convert.
With one of our main partners, we had started to create a database of members that was quite large, we set up our activation strategy with a fairly large volume of weekly emails. We work on flash sales, so we send a lot of emails and when we prepare our emails, we have a proof of concept that goes out before we place our segment and schedule the campaign for the next day.
Unfortunately, I didn’t hit the Test button, but I did hit the Send button for all the products, even though they weren’t out yet at that time. The email was sent to hundreds of thousands of people while 50% of the content was still missing. We were forced to send an apology email and rescheduled this campaign when all products were available.
Is there a question you always ask in a recruitment interview and, if so, what is it?
I always ask the same question at the end of the interview: What is your greatest source of pride, whether professional or personal? This question allows us to really understand the personality of the person in front of us, to identify if this person is passionate. I find it’s a question that always leads to interesting discussions with the candidate. I need everyone to have a top personality at PerfectStay. We have a lot at stake in the structure and everyone has to be moving in the same direction. That always requires a personality that matches the personality of PerfectStay and the team.