Wouter Blok

VP Growth Marketing
"Travellers seek new experiences, a key trend for effective marketing to address current needs."
Wouter Blok is VP Growth Marketing at GetYourGuide, the platform where travellers can book experiences, activities and guided tours. We talk to Wouter about his role in GetYourGuide’s rapid growth.
Wouter, have you ever booked a tour through GetYourGuide yourself?
‘Yes, I went to the McLaren factory in England with my 16-year-old boy. He’s a massive Formula One fan. Seeing the whole factory line, and waving at Zach Brown and Oscar Piastri… It was unforgettable. This was one of GetYourGuide’s more exclusive original experiences, but these are available to everyone.’

GetYourGuide does a lot more than just guided tours nowadays; does it still do what it says on the tin?
‘Indeed, but the thing is, we're a market leader in Europe. Changing a brand from a marketing perspective, involves changing a domain, SEO rankings, all these things...
So, for the moment we’re happy with the brand name.’

GetYourGuide has grown considerably in recent years. How can you, as a marketer, contribute to this?
‘Rather than trying to change customer behaviour, it’s much easier to swim with the current. There is already a consumer trend that goes from ownership and purchasing stuff, towards experiencing unforgettable things. This trend is only increasing and we are part of that. People travel because they want to taste something new, to see world wonders, experience new cultures and people. As a marketing department, it's very important that you tap into the insights of what people need at that moment. And they need to have it on their mobile phone all the time. Most of our suppliers, the creators of these wonderful experiences, do not know how to bring that experience across. That's where we help them. We built the platform where they can leverage our innovation, and also connect with travellers globally – wherever they are.’
How is that different from TripAdvisor?
‘TripAdvisor purchased one of our competitors, called Viator. What we do differently is that we actually operate full funnel campaigns. So not only have we grown through performance marketing, but we're also building the household brand in the travel activity space. We want to define this category because it doesn't even have an owner yet. There are no travel brands in the Top 50 of most famous brands in the world. That’s where we want to be.’

When prepping one’s trip, GetYourGuide is always in the top search results. Is GetYourGuide addicted to Google?
‘Let’s say we're really good business partners with Google. In the earlier years, they definitely helped a lot with our growth and we're really thankful. And Google is still a massive platform for us, as we’re building our brand with YouTube and DV360. Globally there can be only a few travel brands that could switch off Google and say that they're still fine. We bid the amount we want to bid and we get positive ROI from it.’

Apart from Google, what's the strategy behind GetYourGuide?
‘Phase one was finding relevant travel partners that would work with us on commission. I’d say, this is a hotel booking for family; let's give them Disneyland Paris. Or, this is a business traveller; let's give him a SIM card and an airport transfer. All that was segmented in an email. And it was astonishing to see the traction of this. The open rate was so much higher than any of the other emails I sent out. So, it was obvious that this is the reason that people are traveling. Phase two was about the growth flywheel. If you tap into the queries that people type into Google, you see exactly where the demand is. And then you go out and source that supply, those specific destinations. It’s very much data-driven, based on actual demand happening in the market. Once you have the supply, you can actually buy or rank on the traffic. When you have more traffic, then you can do more A/B testing, get the conversion rate up, and that allows you to get more suppliers on board.’
How big is the market for guided tours and other experiences?
‘The Experiences market in 2024 will be 1.6 trillion dollars. And the cool part is that currently only 30 percent is happening online. So, 70 percent is still booked on site.’

That explains the lines at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam…
‘It's such a waste of time. You're only there for a couple of days, and then you stand in a freaking line for three hours. I don't get it. You can easily buy a skip the line ticket. It's also helpful for the attraction because it can then spread the crowds more easily.’

You're responsible for growth. Why growth marketing?
‘It used to be called performance marketing, but that is more about: you put one euro in, and you want to get more than one euro out. In growth marketing, it's not always just about the return on ad spend, it's also about investing in technology that will bring ROI. For instance, search engine optimization is also about collaborating very closely with product and engineering teams in order to build products at scale. We build a lot of technology around Meta and Google in order for it to be more relevant to our customers. We also collaborate closely with the marketing analytics team and the creative studio. All of that combined is called growth marketing. It's a very matrixed organization where you have cross-functional teams that can work very autonomously.’

How do you ensure that your tour guides are happy?
‘You need to make sure that they get the right number of travellers and that they can make the most of their time. You must be a good partner and listen to their demands. We have teams all over the world that sit very closely to all our suppliers. We build the products that they need. This is an industry where many of our suppliers don't even have a website. The ratings then ensure that people get a wonderful experience. Similar to Uber, where you can rate the driver.’
As a growth marketer, what's on your KPI dashboard?
‘Top line growth, as in net revenue. And efficiency, as in return on ad spend. These two go together because we don't want to go into profitable shrinking. We want to grow into profitability and that makes those two metrics very important. Some investments have a longer payback time. But when they do pay back, they're very efficient. For instance, search engine optimization. Others have an instant impact, like search engine marketing. You need to continuously pressure-test your investments. You can try to switch it off, and then see how much it hurts. This is called incrementality testing. We do it across all of our channels. We make sure we understand what exactly is the incremental return on the investment we make.’  

Anything else on your KPI dashboard?
‘There are many more. We are a platform where you need to take into account cancellation rates as well. Throughout the funnel the KPI’s vary. Because my teams actually spend and employ the most channels across brand and performance, we have to monitor those metrics in the lower funnel. The conversion campaigns are all about ROAS and the immediate revenue. If you go higher up in the funnel, then it's more about audience size and what are we paying for an extra person aware? That's more on the brand side. Customer satisfaction is also something we take into account in our weekly business review. And that metric is owned by my colleague on the care side.’

A lot seems to revolve around maths…
‘If it were just a matter of maths, then you’d only mathematicians see in marketing departments. But yes, it is very important to be able to understand analytics. I had physics in school because I wanted to become a pilot, but I'm also interested in psychology and I speak my languages. I’d like to say I’m a whole brain person, neither left or right. Getting back to maths, you can build a fantastic growth engine for traffic. You can buy traffic at exactly the efficiencies you want and scale that across the globe. But you need to put it somewhere where it appeals.’
So, you need creativity, intuition, your gut feeling?
‘Absolutely. You need deep user research to make sure that you understand, in order to become a category leader. Who are the customers and what do they need? And how do I build products that actually serve those needs? How do I create a message that appeals to them? How do I become part of their consideration set? Those things are not done by mathematicians.’

Is growing a brand the same as making more money?
‘Growing a brand is a fantastic rollercoaster. It’s a journey that you go on with a team of A players. You build an extremely deep connection with people and you get to know each other through the highs and the troughs. You must also have a good look in the mirror when you’re under pressure. How do you fare? All of that is growing a brand. And yeah, you hear lots of success stories, but sometimes tears are shed.’

You're scaling extremely fast. What is more difficult: to scale from one to 20 million tickets sold, or from 50 to 100 million?
‘They each have their separate challenges. In the first phase you have to be more creative because you don't have the bigger budgets. You need to pick one tactic to really be the best at. For Uber and Airbnb, that was peer to peer sharing. For GetYourGuide it was more the growth flywheel around paid search. Always find the channel that you can excel in. After that, it's about the investment portfolio. It's about understanding what media mix you need per market to actually achieve your goals.
And that's where the complexity comes in because if you're a global company, you need to adjust to lots of markets with all of their tiny differences.’
Do you have an internal enemy or an external competitor that you want to beat?
Complacency is the internal enemy. As for the external ones, the beauty of all the platform data is that you know exactly who this is per market. Yes, we have bogeys that we're after. They vary per market but our main global bogey is Tripadvisor Viator.’

What should be the ratio between performance marketing and brand-based marketing?
‘There are so many books written about this. You’ll probably end up at somewhere around 60-40 percent, but it depends on the phase you're in. Did it make sense to put everything on brand early on? And does it make sense to put everything on growth right now? I think it's a mix. If you have the right measurement around it, with some kind of fractional attribution system at one end, and at the other end a media mix model, then they challenge each other. And you can challenge yourself and your marketeers by putting a lot of experiments in the market. That way you come to the ideal mix for that market, given your top line goals and your efficiency goals.’

What was your last aha moment?
‘We've measured that the impact from collaborations with creators are outpacing the success of most other brand channels. This was wow… I think we've hit gold here!  GetYourGuide probably has the largest community of travel creators, influencers globally. Leveraging that for the benefit of our travellers is where we have a massive USP.’
In which previous job did you learn the most about yourself and about marketing?
‘I worked in a call centre first, selling everything from underwear to lotteries. There, I really learned to listen to people, understand what they need, and how you can present something they want. After two years, my sales knowledge allowed me to co-found a search engine agency. And that was my entry into online marketing. Careers are so nonlinear. After each time you fall flat on your face, you must get up and try something new. This way, you find out what it is that makes you, you. In my case it is being very explorative and curious, and wanting to tinker with a lot of stuff, especially with all the new technologies in online marketing.’

What inspires you most?
’My wife, with whom I have four children. She’s a purser with KLM, I work in Berlin, so we both travel a lot. This means that our communication needs to be very strong.
There are also many colleagues that truly inspire me. In our culture trust is very important. When a project went south horribly, they had the safety to go on a stage and talk about that without feeling they’d failed. By sharing this, everyone can learn from it.’

Do you organize fuck up Tuesdays?
’When something sizable went south, we share this in a larger forum. In general, we go through all the hypotheses and all the test results, and not only the positive ones are shared. You can learn from both positive and negative ones.’

Finally, please complete this sentence for us: Marketers could be three times more creative. If they...
‘…would work closely together with a very diverse team. Go beyond your own channel, your own ethnicity and convictions. Make sure your team is as diverse as possible and creativity will follow.’
About Wouter Blok
Wouter Blok is VP Growth Marketing at GetYourGuide. He originally trained to become a pilot with KLM. Later, he joined several startups before moving on to Google, Coolblue, and Sprint in various growth and marketing roles. Wouter joined GetYourGuide in 2019.

About GetYourGuide
Founded in 2009, GetYourGuide is the European platform where travellers can discover and book travel experiences, such as activities and guided tours. It developed standardized criteria for how to best run a tour. The company was founded in 2009 in Zurich and is available in 24 languages. In October 2023 it reported over 120 million tickets sold. GetYourGuide is headquartered in Berlin.
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