About Butterfield & Robinson

In 1966, George Butterfield, Martha Butterfield (née Robinson) and her brother Sidney Robinson took some students to Europe for a bike trip. Their idea was to spend each day biking to places they’d discovered on earlier travels, then go out for a great dinner and a bottle of wine. It must have been one hell of a trip, because today Butterfield & Robinson offers more than 100 exhilarating trips all over the world.


As the marketing tactics and budget shift at Butterfield & Robinson (B&R) towards digital channels and more opportunities for personalization, so has the need to invest in solutions that allow them to understand and engage each customer on a more personalized basis, from marketing outreach to lead qualification to custom offerings. Trip designers at B&R use wealth intelligence daily to enhance their ability to custom-craft personalized travel experiences.

Butterfield & Robinson was founded in 1966 by George Butterfield and Sidney Robinson, two up-and-coming attorneys who were more interested in traveling the world than in practicing law. Initially focused on serving the student travel market, they found a sweet spot and launched a successful travel brand. As their clients, the students of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, have grown up, become professional, successful and affluent, the B&R brand has done the same. They are now one of the world’s premier providers of luxury active travel experiences. While one of the first packages offered was biking in France, the palette has expanded to include experiences of all types across the world. The market served has expanded as well, changing from 100% American, to 75% American, 10% Brazilian, 10% Canadian, and the remaining 5% other nationalities.

Norman Howe is the President of Butterfield and Robinson, and like the co-founders, began his career in law. Quickly discovering a passion for traveling, he had the good fortune to meet Robinson through the legal community, and soon signed on as a guide for B&R. He’s been associated with the firm for 18 years and has been President since 2010.

The Challenge

Like many travel operators, B&R has relied on traditional marketing channels, including direct mail, word of mouth and events. “Historically, we’ve relied on direct mail, producing a beautiful, inspirational, and sensual brochure that extended and communicated our brand,” says Howe. “And quite frankly, that worked for many years.” Word of mouth advertising remains their biggest source of customer acquisition, and is supplemented by events. “We have a high touch approach to engaging our client base and reaching new ones,” notes Howe. New York and California are the biggest source of customers, so they frequently host events, either at public venues like restaurants or clubs, or at the private homes of their most enthusiastic customers. The experiential travel business is highly personality driven, explains Howe, so filling a room with travelers and their friends and family is a great way to connect or deepen existing relationships.

But like many businesses, B&R is finding that digital is becoming increasingly important. The website is more important than the annual brochure, once the cornerstone of their marketing. Email is becoming more important than direct mail. Even events are evolving into the digital realm. “We need to be in front of people as they are looking for us,” states Howe. In fact, the marketing budget at Butterfield & Robinson has shifted over the past 5+ years. While 60% of the budget used to be directed to print, that portion has shrunk to 25% to 30% today. In the meantime, digital has grown to 30% or 40% of the budget. B&R is shifting more of its budget towards marketing intelligence, including marketing automation and data and analytic services such as that provided by WealthEngine.

Butterfield & Robinson focuses on two distinct types of business, the “published side,” in which travelers sign up for published trips with set itineraries, and the “private side,” where travelers book custom trips for private groups of 2 to 200 travelers. For some time, B&R had been considering how best to manage and nurture their lead pipeline. The private side of the business was growing, and Howe wanted to uncover where these leads were coming from, where to find more of them, and importantly, how to quickly qualify them. “The private side requires lots of resources against each opportunity, so it’s important to be able to quickly differentiate between real potential customers and those who are just kicking the tires,” he explains.

The Solution

When Howe learned about WealthEngine, he realized it was potentially a valuable source of intelligence to help qualify leads. The first hurdle in the qualification process is, ‘Can they afford our service?’ and knowing their affluence immediately addresses that challenge. In order to meet this need, B&R subscribes to the online research service, FindWealth 8, offered by WealthEngine. This integrates directly with their CRM, so when a potential client calls, whether they are in the database or not, the B&R trip designer can immediately access a full profile of the caller, including wealth, lifestyle, interest and demographic data.

Wealth data was what attracted B&R to the research tool, but Howe makes clear that having access to other information has been invaluable. When a private trip is requested, that trip is crafted to meet the needs and interests of the travelers. “The more we know, the more we can design the best trip,” notes Howe. It’s been very helpful for trip designers at B&R to know if a potential client is interested in a certain type of charity, or sits on a nonprofit board. “If a caller sits on the board of an art museum, we can include access to an artist or galleries in our trip proposal, and give them a compelling reason to choose Butterfield & Robinson.”

WE EngageSM

Butterfield & Robinson uses WealthEngine’s WE Engage to personalize, customize and prioritize their marketing and sales activities. WE Engage is an actionable and affordable package including:

  • Data: Trip designer’s access full research profiles in real-time in order to customize interactions with leads and clients.
  • Modeling: B&R’s prospect and client base is profiled and segmented, highlighting high potential client and business opportunities.
  • Prospecting: Based on the attributes of B&R’s best customers, a lookalike prospect list is developed. An optional email campaign can be managed and tracked by WealthEngine.

In addition to giving trip designers access to FindWealth 8, Howe has begun proactively screening all new website leads - those who request information - on a daily basis against WealthEngine’s platform. WealthEngine returns the list of potential clients with data and ratings appended, and Howe distributes this list to trip designers. This allows the calls to be personalized, customized and prioritized.

Lastly, Butterfield & Robinson used WealthEngine’s data and analytic services to profile their top customers. Howe explains, “Our customers give us access to them as individuals in a very intimate way. Traveling together, you get an extraordinary insight into what kind of people they are. So we have an understanding of them, but we haven’t been great at capturing or using that information.” WealthEngine’s profiles mirrored much of their anecdotal understanding, and have provided a useful way to segment travelers. It also turned up some surprises that have effectively improved their experiential travel offerings.

The Results

One very successful initiative resulting from the profiling was the recognition that many of their clients were golfers. B&R had not offered any trips around golf, but added the “Augusta Masters Golf” trip in response, and have been pleasantly surprised that it has become a best seller. “That one trip has more than paid for the investment in WealthEngine,” says Howe, explaining the powerful ROI of data and analytics.

The profiling also allowed them to acquire a custom prospect list - consisting of individuals who meet wealth and demographic criteria and most closely resemble their top customer profile. They have tested the list with both direct mail and email. While these outreaches were for the purpose of brand building and did not include a specific offer (making them hard to quantify), the results were promising. They will likely test them again in the near future with a quantifiable offer.

“We’ve been extremely happy with WealthEngine,” says Howe. “We knew it would be helpful to have the wealth information to help us qualify leads in real time. But the unexpected bonus is gaining the granular level of insight that enables us to build trips to fit who our prospects are as people. It gives us the ability to craft custom offerings. That’s why I’ve built WealthEngine into our daily lives.”

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