SandHill.com’s “Growth Players” showcases the strategies and best practices of an established and successful software provider. This week, EveryMundo founder and CEO Anton Diego details how his team built performance marketing technology for the airline industry.
SandHill.com: How did EveryMundo identify the Big Data opportunity for airlines?
EveryMundo CEO Anton Diego: We started working with airlines as clients of our digital marketing agency in 2010. At the time, we worked with a variety of different customers in several vertical industries. As an agency, our focus was international multi lingual marketing but the more we worked with our airline clients, we grew to better understand the complex problems of the industry.
The pricing of a particular airfare is extremely dynamic. When you search for a ticket, say Miami to San Francisco, you will get a different price today than the one you get tomorrow. Add to that, the international component of currency volatility, and you get another layer of complexity. So when airlines try to advertise a price for a particular flight, it is much more difficult to do compared to advertising for a static product like an iPhone case, for example.
We realized many airlines were not able to advertise in a dynamic way so their promotions were not rich enough to appeal to customers or compete with online travel agencies (OTAs). The OTAs have the advantage of an exclusively online operation, which makes them very savvy about data processing, pricing, email promotions, display ads and paid search on desktops and mobile devices.
We began to build a marketing infrastructure for airlines to help them compete with OTAs. We wanted to enable airlines to run a campaign with access to dynamic fares and a landing page for every flight from Point A to Point B. By 2013, we had generated so much interest and added so many airline customers to our business, we decided to focus exclusively on airlines. The result was the launch of our platform, airTRFX, a white-label performance marketing solution for airlines. It provides an Amazon-like landing page for each product sold, complete with a description of the product, photos, reviews in every language for every device.
SandHill.com: What has been the upside for airlines?
Diego: Today, we have twenty airline customers. Our clients account for more than 20 percent of the 3.3 billion passengers who fly worldwide every year. We have a massive Big Data infrastructure to hold route price, availability, currency fluctuation data.
Our systems allow the airlines to own their own customer. When OTAs sell a ticket, they take ownership of the customer. By helping airlines sell direct, we empower them to “own” their own customers and realize the incremental revenue/value from “owning” the customer over time. On average, our airline clients typically grow their direct customer base by 10 percent. We also grow their revenue: the airline doesn’t have to pay commission to an OTA – usually 4-6 percent of the cost of the ticket – big money for a small margin business.
SandHill.com: How does EveryMundo work its airline clients to keep the solution relevant and successful?
Diego: Obviously, customers of a business-to-business solution know their businesses best and know what they want to incorporate into any technical system. At EveryMundo, we rely on our customer engagement manager to collect daily feedback on our system and the latest wants and needs of our customers. The challenge is to keep track of what functionality is most needed/used and what is least needed/used.
Many times, we have multiple clients requesting the same capabilities. One example of this is the global promotion interface currently in production. Our clients have local offices all over the world and it was difficult for them to keep track of what each outpost was doing so that there could be a cohesive global marketing plan.
Even though multiple airlines requested this functionality, each one managed the information differently internally. So we worked together with all our clients to find a common denominator in terms of what was needed. We got them to agree to the specs and we are now in the process of building it – and it will be a big part of our platform going forward for all customers. By alleviating this pain point, we gained another selling point for airTRFX.
SandHill.com: What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Diego: We are fully self-funded so my biggest challenge as a CEO/founder is balancing the needs of our customers and the timing to scale our deliverables. Every piece that is added to our solution must “deliver.” Because we control our own growth and don’t use outside investors to grow, we need to forecast revenue before it comes in. We are getting smarter about how we can accelerate our growth without pain or outside backing.
We are also advocates for more reasonable immigration policies to help us find the best talent in the world and bring it to the U.S. I’m an immigrant myself and immigrants are a major part of the fabric of Miami where we are based. We have found incredible talent in Latin America – in Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia and other countries – and are extremely thankful that our talent pool has not been limited to date. As a result, 68 percent of our team is from another country. The diversity creates a beautiful and innovative working environment.
SandHill.com: What best practices for developing big data vertical solutions can you recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Diego: When we launched, we had a monolithic system – everything was interconnected – and it worked for quite a while. But as we added more airline clients, we found it harder and harder to accommodate each company’s individual issues. Our megasystem became incredibly tangled.
We realized we needed to reengineer the entire platform. Now our system is a combination of reactive microservices. Because it is now built of tiny modules, if one fails, the rest continue to run and the failed module would be resuscitated by the system.
If I had to do it over, as a self-funded venture, I would do it the same way. When you begin building a platform, it is much cheaper to build a monolithic one. But when you need to truly scale, you need to move to reactive microsystems to scale faster, deliver faster and reduce system and storage costs. The monolithic system allowed us to prove our concept and grow to a point where we could afford to reengineer.
SandHill.com: What have you learned about marketing to a legacy vertical that you could share with other software makers approaching vertical industries?
Diego: Case studies and word-of-mouth are huge selling points – obviously. We have positioned ourselves as thought leaders at conferences and spend a lot of time networking in the industry. It is good to have a big customer or two under your belt to make the biggest impact with new customers.
At the end of the day, there are only 300 airline companies that we care about. And there are only a few people in each potential client who has the authority to sign a contract with us. That means our entire universe of customers is only about 1,500 people. We know exactly where they all are and what they do so we can pinpoint communications – that’s the advantage.
The disadvantage is that every interaction with a potential customer is extremely precious. There are very few of these people so we must add value with each communication so that they will continue to pay attention to us as a business partner. We’ve only got a few “shots” – and there are no “do-overs.” EveryMundo specializes in getting our interactions with key decision makers right the first time.
Anton Diego is CEO of EveryMundo.