When one of the nation’s leading incentive planning firms felt the full impact of the recession two years ago, the company responded boldly by reinventing itself.
ZipSetGo.com, an online community for meeting and incentive planners and travelers, is the product of this lemons-to-lemonade tale.
The company behind it: Excellence in Motivation of Dayton, Ohio.
Planner personalities attract following
Here’s the cool part. When Excellence in Motivation launched ZipSetGo late in 2009, several veteran planners were assigned to staff it fulltime.
Today, three of those planners have become known as the GoGirls. They are the faces and personalities of ZipSetGo.com.
Readership at ZipSetGo.com has grown as the three women have gained recognition as the GoGirls.
The GoGirls each have extensive meeting planning experience. They are: April Mescher, vice president, sales and alliances, and Rachel Wolery and Sara Beth Garner, both of whom have the title of World Traveler.
Repurposing a business
Andrea O’Carroll, director of strategy and operations for ZipSetGo.com and an unofficial GoGirl, explained the genesis of ZipSetGo.
“We all worked for Excellence in Motivation,” she told Travel Market Report. “When the economy crashed, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we use what we have?’ We have all this knowledge and experience. How can we repurpose that and target it for the two-thirds of companies who don’t buy from incentive companies but try to do it themselves?”
Planners and travel addicts welcome
The idea behind ZipSetGo was to aggregate essential information in one place. The site was originally targeted at meeting and incentive planners, but now welcomes travel “addicts” as well.
The site’s goal is to enhance the experiences of planners and travelers by providing information on destinations, program itineraries and managing group travel. The mantra: “We’re here to help make life easier – every step of the way.”
ZipSetGo.com is updated daily and features strong input from readers.
Website highlights include: downloadable itineraries (for varied budgets); detailed destination information; blogs from the traveling GoGirls; and social media tools that facilitate communication between planners and travelers.
Soon to come is merchandise for in-room gifts – those goodies placed in the hotel rooms of incentive trip winners and other group participants.
One of the most successful outgrowths of ZipSetGo is “Travelers’ Night In,” a 90-minute weekly Twitter session conducted by the GoGirls on a selected theme. One question is tweeted every 10 minutes, and participants respond with information and questions. (Conducted Thursdays at 3 p.m., EST)
Travelers’ Night In “has picked up crazy momentum,” O’Carroll said.
It has picked up so much momentum that late last year a major travel public relations company flew the GoGirls to a luxury all-inclusive resort on the Rivera Maya to conduct their Travelers’ Night In from the resort.
A 120-page book also has been compiled called “Travelers’ Night In: A ZipSetGo.com Phenomenon.” It features Tweets, useful tips and photos from Travelers’ Night In sessions on adventure travel, the “worst of travel,” “foodie travel” and more.
Evolution of an idea
When it started in 2009, the ZipSetGo site operated on a paid subscription basis. It offered readers 250 aggregated data points – including weather, currency exchange.
The subscription model was dropped last summer. The parent company “believed the site needed a fulltime focus and wanted to give it more emphasis,” O’Carroll explained.
O’Carroll said the decision to expand the site’s target audience beyond meeting planners to include travelers was made because of strong readership outside the planning field. “We decided that all the content for planners was good for travel addicts as well, and that adds luster to the site for advertisers.”
Looking ahead, O’Carroll said, “This was born out of tough times, but now things have picked up, and eventually people buying group travel will look for new ways to do business. We hope to adapt to them by creating new apps and social media tools.”