Start-up Geneva airport transfer company makes £17.6m ($24.4m) with 19X ROI Google Ads over ten years and sells to an international operator
Enter — Expand — Exit
In 2006, Alpybus, a new airport transfer service, was founded in Geneva to provide ski transfers from the GVA airport to the Chamonix Valley area, with around fifty ski resorts.
They used Google Ads to launch their airport transfer service, but after seeing no results and return on their investment for the first two years, all they could see was the money going out, and their campaigns were a cost center.
This meant that it was impossible to reduce wasted ad spend, and to optimize, manage and scale their campaigns to grow their business.
The ROI Audit™ revealed that they were not tracking seat bookings or revenue values, and as soon as this problem was resolved, they started to see spectacular success within just a few weeks.
With ever-growing market demand, they then grew their business by 15X over the next ten years, with a return on Google Ads spend of 19.44X (1,944%).
They became so successful they were able to buy out two of their main competitors, grow their fleet, hire more people, and run unlimited budgets on Google Ads in thirty-three countries worldwide, to outsell and outspend their rivals.
In 2018 they were acquired by an international travel operator – possibly the dream of many business owners. In peak season January 2019, they had their first ever $1m month.
NB. This case study is in UK GBP currency. As of writing, £1.00 GBP = $1.38 USD
The ski transfer business is obviously very seasonal, with winter seeing peak demand. The graphs show the bookings, with January the busiest month. The peaks show how the marketplace grew and bookings increased every year for ten years running, with consistent cost per booking and Google Ads ROI.
556 seat bookings
£50,040 GBP revenue ($69,277 USD)
8,324 seat bookings
£752,850 GBP revenue ($1,042,125 USD)
15X business growth 2009 — 2019
Start-up to selling the company in ten years
I first discovered David Rothwell’s Google Ads services in 2008. We operate shared and private airport transfers from Geneva to ski resorts in the Alps.
Google Ads is difficult and confusing and we needed to make sure the cost per conversion accurately meets our business goals. The biggest challenge for us is that transport fixed and running costs are very high with fuel, buses, tolls, driving staff, admin staff and the short winter seasons. We needed to maximise everything in the winter to see the whole year through.
What made us decide to use David’s service was good testimonials from other companies and a long introductory telephone chat. David quickly understood our business model, and is extremely fast to respond and change things according to our needs.
Over the last ten years, we have grown our business by 15X, with a consistent Return on Investment (ROI) of almost 20X from our Google Ads campaigns. We have bought out two of our local competitors, and we sold our company to an international transport operator, thanks to David and Google Ads.
The goal of the campaigns was simple – fill the minibuses, all day, every day, as often as possible, for the right booking price. No service business wants an empty calendar or seat. When you’re selling your time, all you want to do is show up and serve your customer, having already been booked and paid.
Place to place transfers have many “buying keywords”, such as airport names and designations, places, area names, modes of transport, solo or group and so on. These do not change, only grow, develop, and expand over time.
I consulted in depth with the client to know exactly how their business operates, where customers come from, how to target them, how to avoid the wrong ones, the routes they booked and the revenue they created, how much bookings should cost to acquire, and how to eliminate wasted ad spend.
Because tourists flock to Switzerland to ski from all over the world every winter, we reached them by running over a thousand campaigns in thirty-three countries, with unlimited daily budgets. All the existing campaigns had to be replaced with correctly targeted ones using specific route-related destinations, locations, and modes of transfer.
As fast as they were getting bookings and filling their capacity, they were acquiring more vehicles to service them, growing their capacity and business every year for ten years running.
You have just 60 minutes to sell your stuff to well-targeted visitors who are looking for you. SEO rankings can take weeks or months. It’s called “opportunity cost”. You don’t have that time.
From first seeing the ad (first impression) to making the booking (conversion), over 34% of visitors did this in one hour or less.
Because they knew their numbers, capacity, average seat booking values, and operations so well, they could outspend and outsell their competitors, and they were able to buy two of them out.
Ultimately, rather than create a new service, when an international transport operator wanted to enter the lucrative Swiss ski transfer marketplace, they simply acquired the most successful one.
I carried on supporting them after acquisition, and subsequently they deployed their own in-house team to take over fully.
This has happened with six of my top twenty clients since 2005, and is the natural evolution of a successful company. I published my last book “Clicks to Money” on Amazon to tell this case study in a light-hearted, fictional setting.
Although many businesses including travel, transfers, hospitality, and leisure (including this one) have been badly affected, nevertheless the fundamentals in money, business, campaigns, tracking and targeting in this case study remain as true and as important as ever for any business who can still trade online.