In early 2003, I had a great job at Northwest Airlines, managing partnerships for their award winning WorldPerks program. I worked with a great team of people and loved what I did. I had finished my MBA from the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN in the summer of 2002. And my wife had just given birth to our first child in November 2002. Life was great, if not hectic.
I was privileged to work with some of the best loyalty marketers on the planet. My primary WorldPerks partner was U.S. Bank, which issued the WorldPerks Visa, and I handled a $200 million book of business for this partner alone. And since U.S. Bank was such a behemoth, I was able to develop co-partnerships with all the other partner categories, including car rental, hotels, communications, and the WorldPerks Mall.
My Pet Project, my passion, the WorldPerks Mall. The WorldPerks Mall gave me the opportunity to work with merchants in all categories, and gave WorldPerks Members the ability to earn miles by doing the things they did every day. I built partnerships with hundreds of “non-traditional” merchants in categories like department stores, clothing, electronics and toys. And then there were services that allowed Members to earn points…
MilesAbove was WorldPerk’s answer to small regional merchants who wanted to play in the mileage game. You’re a plumber? Give miles for Members using your service. Own a Co-op? Give miles to your patrons for their business. We had three “no go” categories: alcohol, fur, and auto racing. Other than that, partner development was fair game.
Originally managed by Carlson Marketing Group, MilesAbove proved too expensive to have an outside vendor manage it’s partner development. I brought it in-house, and automated the purchase of miles for companies wanting to play. An unintended benefit allowed Members looking to “round-out” their accounts to buy miles. The best professional development benefit was having the privilege of working with people from one of Mark Lacek’s companies, MilePoint, to build the first ever Buy Miles engine. We sold $1 million dollars in miles in the first 6 months after revamping MilesAbove. Carlson, a trusted marketing partner, was instrumental in process and collateral development. It was a team firing all pistons, and a high point of my tenure at NWA.
All of the merchant partnerships we built required a form of payment, which brings me full circle. WorldPerks Visa was an “anchor store”. It’s what every other partnership revolved around. My team and I loved building co-partnerships and finding creative ways to allow Members to earn miles without ever having to get on a plane.
Life was great. I loved my job, and the people I worked with were among the brightest and most creative I had ever met. I was having fun with my young family, traveling wherever and whenever we wanted.
“Marry me, fly for free.” My wife still reminds me of the promise I made to her.