Rethinking Housing Solutions for Traveling Workers at a Critical Moment
As nurses continue to be called to the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 and emergency workers rush to quell new natural disasters, the need to temporarily house traveling heroes has become increasingly critical.
Travelers Haven, a company that offers furnished temporary homes for nomadic workers, realized they had a chance to solidify their unique identity as a provider of completely customizable housing for workforce professionals. So to enable their vision, they created a new category: workforce housing on-demand.
As it turns out, a new category calls for a new leader. Enter Lauren Linzer, director of category design and sales operations at Travelers Haven. As the company evolves its brand messaging and refines its new category, Linzer will be spearheading their marketing projects, PR strategies and much more.
According to Linzer, workforce housing on-demand isn’t merely a powerful solution for traveling workers. It’s also helped set the organization apart from others in the corporate housing and travel tech sectors.
“We aren’t a vacation rental company or short-term, furnished rental provider, nor are we a tech platform or marketplace,” Linzer said. “The way we source inventory on-demand is uniquely ours, so we found it necessary to shift the focus and take a big step in defining a new category.”
As Travelers Haven rolls out its workforce housing solution, Linzer is tasked with realizing the company’s prominence in the accommodations space. It’s a complex role, but it’s one she thinks will potentially transform the future of the organization.
“I hope it defines our business as something new, as it’s time for us to stand on our own,” Linzer said.
Built In Colorado caught up with Linzer to learn more about her new role and the impact of workforce housing on-demand.
Tell me more about the company’s new workforce housing on-demand category.
Workforce housing on-demand is a service that provides housing anywhere in the country tailored to clients’ specific needs. There is a massive housing gap for large sectors of the economy. Those in need of workforce housing are forced to search tirelessly while putting in extra to set up and manage accommodations. We take this work away from the customer and create a clean process, which involves consolidating contacts and billing. Additionally, we remove the need for customers to search for housing and instead offer them a smaller, carefully-curated collection of options. Ultimately, we do all of this by blending together tech resources with a hardworking, creative team of people.
When category design was first introduced to us in Kevin Maney’s book Play Bigger, we realized that categories are built by marketing the problem, not the solution. Maney, who worked with our company to help design our category, follows the idea that “categories solve a problem people didn’t know there was a solution for or a problem they didn’t even know they had.” This is challenging and goes a bit against the grain of what traditional company strategy is. Most like to lead with their logo and solution. At Travelers Haven, we lead with the problem.
What type of work do you handle in your position with Travelers Haven?
My role is a multifaceted one. As we transition our team to adopting a new perspective about the role our company plays in the world, I will be playing the part of “category cop.” I make sure each team is keeping the new category at the forefront of their priorities, goals and everyday tasks as we shift the paradigm away from older ways of thinking. I also oversee the creation of our marketing projects, PR strategy and sales team material in addition to planning “lightning strikes,” which are events designed to create awareness around the category.
I’m always thinking about defining the creative ways our new category is impacting the world, solving problems for our prospective clients and how we as an organization can successfully operationalize our value proposition in the best way possible.
Tell me more about the “lightning strikes” and sales strategy you’ll be dealing with in your role. What types of events will you be spearheading, and what do you think that sales strategy will look like?
We are still piecing together our “lightning strike” plan as we watch what unfolds in the world around housing and infrastructure. We consider different conferences or other relevant organized events, but these are still touch-and-go as the pandemic continues. For now, we’re relying on many forms of PR. There are so many interesting stories in the media today that are relevant to our world. Our hope is to provide valuable insight, whether it be about the housing market, the new infrastructure bill or the pandemic.
Once the category is fully rolled out, do you anticipate that your role will evolve?
As the category matures and we complete big projects surrounding it, I will be using an ongoing marketing and sales approach. My role will certainly transform over time. I’m still very involved in sales leadership and operations, so if it ends up weaving back to that, I’m open to it.
Even big “category kings” — companies that have successfully defined and then dominated a new category — still have to keep reinventing their persona and focus. Building a category is an ongoing, companywide effort. It starts with buy-in from our internal team, but we’ll constantly be working to promote category awareness with existing clients, new customers and industry influencers.
There’s so much space to be inventive and bold.”
Tell me more about the significant changes being made to the company’s brand, messaging and perception.
It’s all up for re-evaluation. We are unpacking the language we use, as well as our look, feel and logo in an effort to make sure we are aligned with our new brand. That’s a big part of the work I am doing in my role. We have to change the hearts and minds of our associates to see the bigger picture.
For example, after we launched the category internally, I had each associate on every team boil down our category description into their own words and deliver them as elevator pitches. The result was amazing, and we got a bunch of great new ideas by learning how the associates digested it. These ideas are now posted in our office lobby.
A TRUE TEAM EFFORT
What excites you the most about your role and the new category, and how do you think both will bolster Travelers Haven’s prominence in the accommodations space?
It’s incredibly exciting to lead the charge in defining a new space in the world of accommodations. I get to activate the creative side of my brain to accomplish tasks. There’s so much space to be inventive and bold. Our ultimate goal is to become a category king, which research shows takes 76 percent of the category economics. And to do, so we not only need to define our new category within the accommodations space, but actually get the chance to dominate it as a force.