Travelpayouts Blog

Meet our team: Natalia Belova, account manager

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Natalia, who is responsible for tours and accommodations verticals, is a real travel junkie. When Travelpayouts offered her the job, she was traveling somewhere in Vietnam. Natalia told us about promoting advertisers, new marketing tools, the plurality of opinions at Travelpayouts, her adventures in the United States, and some travel dreams that might surprise even the most experienced travelers.

Before Travelpayouts

  • I have a degree in Foreign Languages and Area Studies from Lomonosov Moscow State University and a Master’s in Media Management from the Higher School of Economics.
  • Several years ago I went to Massachusetts to sell ice cream with the Work and Travel Program however I was immediately promoted to hostess due to my knowledge of English. This was the most desirable role for students since it provided us with a great chance to practice English on a daily basis. Our earnings allowed my friend and I to travel across the United States. We planned a very eventful trip, but the money was only enough for the tickets and excursions. For accommodations, we decided to try couch surfing. Everything worked out and we managed to fulfill our dreams of seeing Niagara Falls, flying over Grand Canyon in a helicopter, going canoeing in Maine, and hanging out at NY bars using someone else’s ID (I was under 21 at the time). This trip changed my priorities and led me to the professional goals I have today: developing travel products that help others have unforgettable experiences, just like the one I had with CouchSurfing.
  • Frankly, I always felt attracted to the travel field. In my second year of university, my classmates and I went to the Solovetsky Islands (north of Russia)  to shoot a film. I enjoyed creating projects that could inspire others to travel, so I decided I would become a travel film producer at whatever cost. The funny thing is, it only took me a few months to attain my goal! We made pilot programs for the television channel “Poehali”, which will finally be released soon.
  • Before Travelpayouts, I was running special projects at a travel journal. I wanted to expand my skills in digital marketing, so I applied for a job opening at Travelpayouts. While waiting for the answer, which took a while, I went on vacation to Phu Quok, where I finally got a test task from Tanya Buyanova. I immediately went to my hotel room to read about affiliate marketing instead of going to the beach.

My role at Travelpayouts

  • At Travelpayouts, we give webmasters a chance to monetize travel content projects and help grow travel services. Both things have always inspired me. Together with other account managers, we determine the competitive advantages of our advertisers, identify a target audience, launch promotions and recruit new affiliates.
  • When friends ask me about my job, I tell them that I do digital marketing. Many people in Russia have heard of Aviasales, the largest Russian travel metasearch engine, so they start asking other questions about the company’s benefits, great situative marketing and funny emails. Since this is not what I am responsible for I usually have to tell them more about Travelpayouts and how affiliate marketing works.
  • At Travelpayouts I am responsible for accommodation and tours verticals. I used to think that it was not a good idea to divide verticals among account managers because when different people run transfer, tours or activities verticals this boosts competition in the team and helps accumulate a variety of opinions and ideas for promotion. I was afraid that if each account manager had worked only with a specific type of advertisers, we would soon run out of ideas and start to fall back on a specific pattern, which is not beneficial to anyone. Now I must say that it was my big mistake. Such a division makes you grow as a professional in a specific field, moreover your ideas become even more creative since you go deeper and know all the small details and peculiarities of the services that you work with.
  • I personally use some of the services that I advertise. For example, I love the Russian service “Tripster”. In 2016, I was planning a trip to Baikal and it was hard to think through all the logistics on my own, so I used Tripster. Back then, the service was more like a blog featuring advice from locals. I also like Hostelworld, an ambitious international brand and one of our new advertisers. Honestly, I prefer hostels because of their unique, international atmosphere.
  • I don’t have any so-called “blue-eyed boys” among advertisers, but I love their products, fast replies, and commitment in general 🙂 This makes our work easier and more efficient. 

Work environment

  • Specific advertisers are typically assigned to account managers based on the vertical that they lead and on their current workload. 
  • Every advertiser is an independent project and my task is to find the best marketing strategy for each one. The other part of my job is building successful relationships with our partners and, of course, improving numbers. 
  • We have a pool of standard marketing channels: email newsletters, social media, blog, webinars, paid social ads, news section and targeted dashboard promos. With our brand new user dashboard we got even more tools that can be used without anyone else’s help.
  • We are cultivating new affiliate relationships by manually hunting for travel webmasters, meaning that we search for blogs with relevant content for certain advertisers and offer to connect their owners with certain brands. We target both current and potential affiliates. When choosing the resources, we mainly use a web analytics service called SimilarWeb.
  • I love our team environment, everybody is keen on learning and helping others to grow. Every month somebody takes a specific topic and organizes a small workshop for different teams. It can be about affiliate hunting tools and best practices, or main players on the market or a geo research. For example, last month I made one about working with PPC Advertising platforms and fraud detection while our business development managers did a marvelous competitors research. Not only is this great for your education and outlook, but also for your presentation skills.
  • Without a doubt, there is competition among advertisers, and Travelpayouts is yet another marketplace to compete on. It’s vital to respond adequately to feedback from affiliates. If a product is not user-friendly and has weak UX\UI and features, affiliate marketing won’t draw many profits. Instead of trying to push weak products and services, we help companies make enhancements.
  • We try to avoid taking on local advertisers, but instead focus on global services with worldwide geo-targeting and high demand. Frequently, our experience helps us understand how competitive a brand is. We appreciate when the integration process is fast and easy.
  • Affiliates must know that when connecting with a new advertiser, we don’t rush to collect statistics and try to wait for their first booking. There is no need to worry, as we do not lose any bookings.
  • Right now, we are dividing huge affiliates among account managers because such projects usually require technical help and personal assistance. For example, advice on how to use White Label, why a certain tab isn’t operational, or what a good conversion rate would be.
  • As other networks sometimes do, we encounter fraud. However, now, we have our own inhouse solution that helps us to bolt out bad traffic if it occurs, and make sure our advertisers pay for honest bookings only.
  • I am very proud of our team. This quarter we are working on mobile integrations with our advertisers. Everybody knows what a huge part of bookings is made through mobile apps or mobile web nowadays. We just cannot lose them, which is why we have made this project a priority and are doing all our best to finish the first integrations by the end of this quarter.

About colleagues 

  • During my first two weeks at Travelpayouts, the company asked me to come to St. Petersburg to get acquainted with the team. Meeting the team in person was very important and everyone appeared to be quite friendly. I remember that the weather was nasty in contrast to a warm atmosphere inside the office. I was returning home on a Sapsan high-speed express train and I was the only passenger who got dinner. It turned out that our HR Manager, Christina, made sure I wasn’t hungry after my day of work. It only takes minor things for a company to show they care. My grandmother still believes that I am a big boss in the company.
  • A big advantage at Travelpayouts is that you set tasks for yourself, which gives you more responsibility.
  • I always tell my team that our interaction mirrors that of a healthy couple: you can just sit and talk quietly, offer solutions, and fix everything. Every iteration is followed by a retrospective meeting, in which we discuss our successes and failures. Travelpayouts is currently at a stage when we all work on business processes together, engage in thoughtful decisions, and allow anyone to express their point of view and influence the outcome.
  • Last year, we moved into a new office at the White Square. I always say that the White Square is my favorite spot in Moscow and bring my foreign friends there as it has its own special vibe. If you have not heard yet, we have an open terrace with beer taps in our office. So please come and see us after 7 p.m.! Taps, by the way, are not only located on the terrace:

About achievements 

  • Anyone with a degree in human sciences is afraid of lacking hands-on “hard skills.” I feel inspired because it seems like I am growing these “hard skills” at Travelpayouts. I now know the basics of html and can write or fix code (almost) all on my own. I remember writing my first code in St. Petersburg, which made me very excited and proud. I even told all my friends from IT about it. However, the next day, Andrey Novoselov told me that I had broken everything and helped me fix the code. I think I am less of a code breaker now.

Things I’d like to improve on

  • I want to grow my technical expertise. To do this, I read a lot, watch online lectures, and ask tons of questions. 
  • I have just started falling for numbers. In the digital realm, everything comes down to numbers. I think it is great that all activities can be expressed in numbers, which helps me understand what works and what doesn’t. I am currently learning to work with data volumes and use them to implement our marketing ideas. Several months ago I completed Analyze Data with SQL от Codecademy course and now can be independent in some small queries, analyzing data and identifying travel trends.
  • I keep learning new languages, and right now, I’m improving my Spanish to be able to focus on new markets in the future.

About motivation

  • I can definitely say that I am working at my dream job. I was sharing my dream with my friends and family long before I got this job. The atmosphere created by the team makes you feel proud of the product and incentivizes you to develop it even further. My background is in international relations, so I feel that it is my responsibility to promote Travelpayouts on the international market.
  • I’ve never felt depressed as a professional. I am always eager to study and learn more. For example, getting a master’s degree at the Higher School of Economics was a difficult experience that left me with no free evenings at all for two years. But there was no time for depression! When learning, I enjoy the feeling of growing and having the opportunity to apply my new knowledge at work. I believe that it is essential to find a source of inspiration that will inspire you as you work. 
  • Bigger goals and challenging tasks always motivate me too. This year I was invited as a visiting lecturer to my alma mater. I had four groups of students and lectures all day long every Saturday. This is the rhythm of life that makes me feel comfortable. Even if it is too rapid, the experience you get is invaluable.

Let’s get personal

  • I love changing my activities, so sometimes I write travel articles as a freelance author for magazines such as National Geographic Traveler or Business Traveller especially after a really great trip.
  • If aliens come one day and ask where to go to get a better understanding of the human race, I will advise them to stay in Moscow for a while and then travel across Russia.
  • With every year, my travel wish list becomes more and more expensive. It now includes going diving in Australia, as well as visiting Chile and the bizarre island Socotra (not far from Yemen).
  • I think that traveling to the United States changed me a lot. I couldn’t find accommodations for a long time, so I texted a few locals through the Couchsurfing app. One guy replied and offered for me to stay with his mother (not just for a week or two, but for an entire four months). By the end, they had become my second family. That is a great example of kindness, as the person who helped me out did not even know me when we first spoke. It is incredible to feel that someone halfway around the world cares about you.
  • Among the books I’ve read recently, one of my favorites was “Theatre” by Somerset Maugham. I rarely ever read non-fiction.
  • I sing more than I dance, but at a corporate party, I would play:
    • Woodkid – I love you
    • Zaz – La radio qui chante
    • Train – Drive by

Further plans

  • In ten years, I see myself continuing to be ambitious, being adored by my family, and living near the sea or an ocean (who knows).