Jacqueline Ulrich is the newly-appointed CCO of travel tech startup Smartvel, which uses AI to provide real-time destination content for travellers.
We caught up with her to find out more about her new appointment, her goals and favourite tools, how she came to work at Smartvel, and which travel campaigns have most impressed her recently.
Hi, Jacqueline. Please describe your job: What do you do?
Jacqueline Ulrich: As the newly-appointed CCO of Smartvel, my main objective is to get the word out in the marketplace about our unique experiential content one-stop-shop.
That entails setting up the structure for Smartvel’s commercial team as well as our partners to ensure that we have a global multi-sector reach. A lot of time is spent reaching out to the drivers of digital transformation within the travel industry (and even others); after all, in a startup environment, even top management drive sales.
A very rewarding part of the job includes building and coaching a fantastic sales & marketing team, and I can only say that Smartvel truly has brilliant people.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Jacqueline Ulrich: I report directly to the CEO and am part of the ExCom (Executive Committee) of Smartvel.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Jacqueline Ulrich: In this kind of organization you need a very “hands on” approach, and not be afraid of picking up the phone and reaching out. Passion for what we do, enthusiasm and drive to inspire and resilience to see things through and not get discouraged. A healthy dose of fearlessness is also recommended…
Tell us about a typical working day…
Jacqueline Ulrich: If there is such a thing as a typical day, it can include virtual meetings with our partners in different geographical areas, from Sydney to Argentina to discuss pipeline, customer value messages and pending contracts that require my input.
There will also be preparation for trade fairs, such as Aviation Festival, where we host one of the round tables, and analysis of new marketing material with my sales & marketing team.
Together with my CEO I typically sit down briefly almost daily to discuss important partnership opportunities that arise that may increase our global footprint with the likes of Amadeus, PwC, Mastercard, etc.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Jacqueline Ulrich: There are many things to love about this job: The global reach, the cross-sector capability of our solution, and the fact that it is such an actual subject – customer loyalty and the increased digital engagement that is required. I love the startup tempo, the enthusiasm that everyone brings to the table and the amazing team, and the fact that I get to talk with customers personally.
What sucks? Nothing really sucks, but what can be somewhat frustrating is that not all potential customers understand the ease of implementing a solution like ours, and that it is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Jacqueline Ulrich: As CCO you can imagine that my main goal is to achieve an important growth in turnover by the company. Being a startup, a consolidated one, but still a startup with VC investment, the goals are extremely high.
We do not have the infrastructure of a large multinational, so I have to make sure that we are a proactive and productive set of individuals working together as a team in order to be successful.
My goals also include opening new revenue streams from sectors that may not be evident at first. We are now going well beyond travel companies to offer our solutions. The sales cycles are longer than what people expect, and it’s all about timing, so we need a healthy pipeline funnel to make sure we meet all our quarterly targets.
Our KPIs are based on milestones achieved in different stages of the pipeline, but are ultimately measured by our MRR at the end of each fiscal period. On top of that, we also measure the amount of qualified leads generated from our marketing campaigns and how they convert, as well as how the end user interacts with Smartvel, so that we can improve the product every day.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Jacqueline Ulrich: I had never worked with Hubspot, our CRM, before and I must say I am a huge fan. Our team and partners use it effectively to log and monitor activity.
We also use Slack, and Trello is a must for our content team.
How did you end up at Smartvel, and where might you go from here?
Jacqueline Ulrich: It’s one of those things that can be called destiny. I had just finished a course on Digital Transformation, where I basically hit a “reset” button and tuned into the startup “blitzscaling” mentality and was also coming out of a non-compete by a previous travel tech company.
I met Iñigo, our CEO, via Linkedin and common contacts, and found that we had very similar backgrounds. I think we just clicked and understood that together we could achieve great things. I have great respect for what Iñigo has created, the sacrifice and passion that he has put into Smartvel.
Having just arrived at Smartvel, it’s difficult to see or say where I may go from here because I am fully immersed in making this company a global success. There’s a lot to do and many opportunities for Smartvel, and I am looking forward to being part of its future.
Which travel campaigns or experiences have impressed you lately?
Jacqueline Ulrich: Visit Australia obviously invested a huge amount of money in their SuperBowl ad with Chris Hemsworth, but it really takes you out on an adventure. I think the ones that focus on making you want to experience what they show you are the ones I find most effective. I also enjoyed Québec Original’s Blind Tourist campaign – who wouldn’t want to go? And, maybe due to my Scandinavian roots, I really enjoyed the Visit Sweden AirBnB listing.
— QuébecOriginal (@TourismQuebec) April 5, 2016
Do you have any advice for marketers starting to use machine-learning powered software?
Jacqueline Ulrich: I would suggest that anyone starting to use machine learning software in the travel sector should start with smaller bite-sized projects, use an agile methodology with continuous testing and results and not attempt to take on a full-blown scope from the start.
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