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How to Sell a Surprise: 3 Tips From Pack Up + Go

This “surprise travel” brand reveals clients' destinations on the morning of their departure. The catch? Preparing their audience to pack up and go wherever they’re sent.

Pack Up + Go gives people the chance to have the vacation, adventure, or staycation of their dreams—and does all the planning for them. But their best feature is also perhaps the most daunting: Their clients don’t find out where they’re going until the morning of the trip.

When it came to selling people on their “surprise travel” model, the Pack Up + Go team knew they had their work cut out for them. Whether potential users were drawn to their offering out of an aversion to planning, too many other to-dos, or because they love surprises, they almost always had follow-up questions.

So Pack Up + Go created a marketing strategy that would answer these questions before their potential clients could even ask them—while also building their brand. Since, they’ve sent around 35,000 travelers on about 16,000 trips to 313 destinations. Here’s what worked for Pack Up + Go.

1. Use customer-generated content to build trust and show off what you sell.

“The biggest hurdle is once people are interested, letting them know that they do have some control, even though they aren’t giving up on that end result of the surprise,” says Corinne Hogge, Director of Marketing at Pack Up + Go.

Clients start by filling out a survey with some basic parameters—like how far they want to travel and by what means, what kind of place they’d like to go, what types of things they’d like to do, and their budget. Based on those answers, the team at Pack Up + Go creates an individualized itinerary and books it.

“As a marketing team, obviously we want to focus on the fun part of the trip, [which] is the surprise and that feeling of not having to do the planning and having the buildup ahead of the trip,” she says. “There’s also this other facet, which is educating customers on how it works and [that] it’s not random—you do get to fill out a pre-trip survey, where you tell us about your interests and can tell us your time restrictions and your travel history.”

From the beginning, it’s been important for founder and CEO Lillian Rafson and her team to both ensure and document that they provide their travelers with the experiences they’re looking for. That’s why she followed up with the first Pack Up + Go clients. When one of them responded with a joyful photo of herself with the sign saying, “You’re going to Washington DC, oh yeah!” Lillian shared it on social media, and it quickly started generating traction.

Now, user-generated content like this is a core element of their marketing strategy. It demonstrates that their offering is tested and loved. And it helps them reach new prospects.

“It’s the pinnacle of the Pack Up + Go experience,” Lillian says. “It’s a fun concept that makes our everyday travelers influencers among their community as well. Everybody wants to know where they’re going, so it’s exciting for them to be able to share on social.”

2. Segment your audience and target your marketing messages.

Because their service has been so well received and clients love sharing their experiences, the marketing team has a lot of content to work with. They use Mailchimp to share that content through email marketing.

“We have a really engaged audience that wants to learn more about Pack Up + Go,” says Digital Marketing Manager Amelia Johnson. “They’re also really excited about reading different traveler reviews and seeing where other people went on their Pack Up + Go trip.”

The key to best disseminating those reviews is segmentation. That way their audience learns what else is possible with Pack Up + Go.

“What we’re doing right now is different segmented lists, targeting past travelers that have gone on Pack Up + Go trips and giving them more information about what other types of trips Pack Up + Go offers—plane and train trips, road trips, vacations, and outdoors trips,” Amelia says. “Just because you did a Pack Up + Go plane trip doesn’t mean that you can’t experience another type of trip where you’re driving to your destination and staying in a campsite.”

They also use Mailchimp automations to send targeted messages. Travelers who have just booked a trip are sent an automated campaign about Pack Up + Go’s Peace of Mind travel insurance. Not only is it good for Pack Up + Go’s clients to receive relevant messages, it’s also good for the company.

“We have absolutely seen that be successful for us, resulting in people actually adding Peace of Mind to their trip,” Corinne says.

Segmentation was also vital to help keep the business afloat and clients happy during the initial outbreak of COVID-19. It allowed Pack Up + Go to send targeted emails, notifying travelers about how they were planning future trips, as well as what to do if their trip was on hold.

Segmentation works best with well-managed audience data. Not only does the marketing team at Pack Up + Go put what they know about client activity to work, they also segment disengaged users. Then they either reengage them with a campaign to win back their attention, or they eventually remove them from their audience. This strategy helps keep their engagement ROIs (like open rate) on target and their audience happy.

3. Foster a community of fans.

When it comes to keeping travelers engaged, the Pack Up + Go team takes an important extra step.

“The traditional conversion funnel is awareness, consideration, conversion—and then I like to say that we reopen it to community,” says Lillian.

They offer a monthly newsletter called “Arrivals and Departures,” in which travelers can see where other people have been. They also host a private Facebook group called Packed Up + Went, in which Pack Up + Go travelers can interact with one another and the team. “​​We ask questions; they share pictures and insights. It’s a really wonderful, sweet community,” she says.

Their business thrives on this kind of connection.

“Repeat travelers make up 18.23% of all trips. We have an additional 21.71% of trips that were referred by a friend or family member who went on a trip. And then an additional 11.38% who heard about it from a friend or family member who hasn’t yet traveled with us, but they were still referred,” Lillian says. “So all in all, over half of our trips are coming from either repeat travelers or are referred by past travelers.”

To keep that energy building, they launched a traveler referral program called Cloud 9 Club, which incentivizes more sharing of their service in return for discounted trips and merchandise, as well as other special VIP opportunities.

The most important step? Get started

As their business continues to evolve, Lillian and her team aren’t afraid to experiment. In fact, that’s how they get better at what they do. And that attitude guides their growth and helps them keep moving.

“The marketing team loves the phrase ‘test and learn,’” she says. “Try something out, learn from it. You can always adapt; nothing is set in stone. But if you don’t get started, you’re never going to know.”

Published: August 29, 2022

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