Insights

Building a Go-to-Market Strategy for Airline Partner Marketing

The Problem


A major carrier wanted to maximize the value of its frequent flyer program by diversifying and expanding its roster of partners. A significant impediment was that the majority of income came from one partner: the co-branded credit card provider. Most of the remaining income came from a predictable and fairly constant set of travel industry partners, mostly hotels and rental car companies.

The Solution


ZS started by conducting partner interviews and secondary-data analysis to determine the main drivers of value for these partners. The value for partners came from a combination of access to marketing assets (e.g., e-mails to a high-value population of consumers) and access to the loyalty program’s “currency” (miles).

We then built a revenue potential analysis for hundreds of prospective partners across 10-plus industry sectors. This highlighted the revenue potential and needs for potential partners outside the traditional travel-related sectors. This analysis was encapsulated in a new, easy-to-understand segmentation.

Next, ZS worked with the partner sales team to determine what was needed to unlock the opportunity in the new industry sectors. This led to the development of new offer packages based on the prospective partner’s marketing objectives and fit with the loyalty program population. 

Finally, ZS helped design a new sales strategy to implement the work, including structuring the partner sales team, defining a new selling methodology and creating sales territories that focused on the areas of highest new revenue potential.

The Results


  • Redefined job descriptions and hired new talent for a majority of sales positions
  • Significantly increased overall market coverage—ranging from 15 to 20% per region—using the same sales force budget
  • Increased penetration of key verticals through additional dedicated resources in high-opportunity markets
  • Won several new partnership agreements leading to first-year incremental sales growth of nearly 20%