Simon Mawdsley tells us about different tools they use to market Grand Prix Grand Tours.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Grand Prix Grand Tours.
Simon Mawdsley: I founded Grand Prix Grand Tours with my co-director, Jay Chauhan, around 5 years ago. We were both working for IT Consulting companies and found ourselves working together on a project at a bank in London. A friendship was formed, and the rest, as they say, is history. We were both entrepreneurial but perhaps hadn’t quite found the idea that was going to set us on our start-up journey. Having dabbled in property and a few other ventures that didn’t really go anywhere, we found ourselves on an organized tour to the Italian Grand Prix and thought, “we can organize this better.” So we formed Grand Prix Grand Tours as a one-stop shop to allow guests to see a Grand Prix and have all the headaches taken out of the weekend. It turned out that this is something people want, and the company is going from strength to strength.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Simon Mawdsley: Knowing when to stop looking at your emails is a useful trick; otherwise, you’re never present. We constantly checked Google Analytics to see how many visitors we had to the site or reply to customer emails at midnight when we started the company. I think that is a valuable attitude when starting a business, but once that business reaches a certain level of maturity, it simply isn’t possible to continue at that level of intensity, or you will burn out. Unless it’s a day/weekend when we have clients going to an event, I make sure I don’t check my phone after leaving the office. I also delegate as much as possible to our sales team. This means that I’m kicking a ball around the garden with my son after his dinner, rather than being present in the house but not in any meaningful way with my family. It’s a difficult transition but a valuable one.
How does Grand Prix Grand Tours market its product/services online?
Simon Mawdsley: Primarily through organic search. We invested heavily in our website and have slowly climbed the Google rankings. Now we are really seeing a return on that investment. We have also recently instructed an SEO agency to handle email marketing, as this is an area where we have not been especially active. Given the volume of traffic we get to our website, we are hopeful that this will be an area that will yield a significant uplift in bookings. We also use Google PPC to augment our organic/email traffic. Google Ads is a fantastic tool that gives you very quick results with the ability to attribute those results to your ad spend. You can also turn your ads OFF, which is pretty handy if you’re heading away for a week, something you cannot do with organic search…but if your organic search is so strong that you want to turn it off, then you’re doing something right!
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Simon Mawdsley: Google Analytics to understand traffic day-to-day, but we also use Moz to know where we are relative to our competitors. If you understand a bit about SEO, this will also give you an insight into where you need to improve. However, the most valuable tool is the UK-based SEO agency we use. Instructing an agency to handle certain aspects of your business will never be cheap; the results they have achieved for us are far in excess of what we could have done ourselves.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Simon Mawdsley: There is no hiring policy as such, as our primary requirement for our team is sales. Therefore we have little interest in qualifications, as you don’t need a degree to pick up the phone, ask questions, be polite, and get back to people quickly. Our primary focus is therefore working ethic and attitude. If you can demonstrate that you want to progress and help drive the business forward, there is a place for you on our team. As a young business, employee retention is not a big problem for us, but we believe in rewarding staff well, financially and in terms of the perks. There aren’t too many businesses where an all-expenses-paid trip to a Grand Prix is a possibility.
How are you funding your growth?
Simon Mawdsley: Through our own funds. I re-mortgaged my house, and my business partner sold his car. We didn’t require a big investment to build our website or gain traction, but we did need funding to manage the cashflow implications of taking on an increasing number of customers.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Simon Mawdsley: I won’t list my competitors as they’re fairly easy to find using a simple google search. In terms of how we plan to stay in the game, this isn’t rocket science, and we’re a travel business. Treat your customers well, deliver a good product that is fairly priced, and meets their needs, and the rest should take care of itself. We are also constantly looking at other avenues we can diversify into as there is no guarantee that there isn’t another pandemic, war, or worse, waiting around the corner. It’s being prepared for the unknow-unknowns that means we have a business in another 10 years’ time.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Simon Mawdsley: 2020 & 2021 were challenging years for the travel industry, and we were no exception. With all 2020 bookings canceled, we believed that 2021 would be better. While it was, there was still a big risk of canceled events, and we, therefore, had to cancel customers’ bookings. We were approached by a lady who wanted to book the Hungarian Grand Prix for her 12-year-old son, who had just had a kidney transplant. It’s times like that where you really feel the pressure. We weren’t just dealing with a regular customer, but one with a weakened immune system that had gone through 6 months of misery and who needed something to look forward to. Making that work within the bounds of our standard products wasn’t going to be possible, and we also had restrictions on guests arriving in Hungary until a few weeks before the event itself. So we pulled out all the stops and arranged private transfers to the circuit and front row seats, and even managed to get an upgrade to a hospitality unit that was far more comfortable than a regular grandstand. The day after they returned, I got a call from his mum to say how much he enjoyed himself and how helpful we had been at Grand Prix Grand Tours. It’s times like that when you realize that we’re in business to (hopefully) add a little bit of joy to people’s life.
Your final thoughts?
Simon Mawdsley: The one thing that has transformed our business is google organic search. We’re high in the rankings because we have put a huge amount of effort into our business for about 4 years. We have completely rebuilt the site twice. We have a huge amount of valuable/useful content, and we instructed experienced UK-based professionals to advise us. In hindsight, we could have done things quicker or more efficiently, but there are no shortcuts to getting it right.