Mark Herbert is president and CEO of Incentive Solutions (www.incentivesolutions.com). He has more than 30 years of experience overseeing business operations within the incentives industry, including managing $60 million of incentive travel programs. He spearheads the development of the most innovative channel incentive technology to optimize the planning and fulfillment of incentive programs and meetings. Incentive Solutions currently manages more than 220 programs, many of which are in the insurance industry. Mark Herbert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to incentive travel, the trip is the fun part. The trip is the reward. And while it’s important to stick the landing and to put together a great itinerary for your participants, ultimately most of your ROI occurs before you leave on the trip. The trip is the carrot on the string, but the real value for the company will be generated by the actions your insurance agents and brokers take to earn that reward.
Furthermore, being able to present a verifiable ROI gives meaning to the trip itself. It solidifies the feeling of accomplishment your participants seek for earning the reward when they can see exactly how their actions positively impacted company goals.
With that in mind, here are several steps you can take throughout the planning process to maximize the ROI of your incentive travel program:
5 Essential Steps
1. It’s important to ask the right questions before you plan your event. Doing so will ensure that you are able to structure your incentive travel program in a way that aligns with company goals.
Firstly, why are you offering an incentive travel trip? The more specific the goal, the more equipped you will be to achieve it. The difference between a vacation and an incentive travel trip is its purpose. A vacation is a cost. An incentive travel program is an investment. If it’s on the company dime, it’s imperative that you can account for exactly why that money was spent and what was accomplished by doing so.
For example, if the goal is to increase sales, the structure of your incentive travel program might look different than it would if the objective is to retain top sales talent.
Secondly, who are you trying to influence? It is crucial to determine where in the organization the motivational and competitive benefits of an incentive travel program can be applied to best achieve the company’s goals. Do you want to target brokerage agencies or independent agents? Which group has the most impact on the specific areas you are trying to improve?
Finally, you need to ask, what metrics should you use to track program success?
By answering these questions, you will be able to effectively tailor an incentive program that achieves meaningful results for the company.
2. Enhance the competitive aspects of your incentive program. Now that you’re moving in the right direction and understand what the company is trying to accomplish with an incentive travel program, it’s time to figure out how to maximize its effectiveness. For some of the participants, the trip might be motivation enough, but part of running a successful organization is recognizing that different people respond to different motivators.
Depending on the size of the organization, you might consider using tiered travel rewards to recognize top performers and to create a sense of friendly in-house competition. One of the key differentiators between travel incentives and cash commission is that you can discuss and post about a trip in a way that you cannot with cash commissions. Offering higher-end locales for top performers enhances the status aspect of incentive travel, while still presenting achievable goals for middling performers.
Speaking of status, meeting planners and insurance agents can be a competitive bunch. Using leaderboards and recognition platforms that update in real-time boosts productivity across the board. The trip itself might be months away, but these kinds of competitive platforms offer immediate and consistent engagement with your incentive program.
3. Track data. Once you’ve identified your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), it’s essential that you track those metrics. Tracking the right data allows you to prove program success on the back-end and just as importantly provide a layer of accountability throughout the lifetime of your incentive program.
If you aren’t making progress toward the goals you originally set out to achieve, it’s better to find that out sooner rather than later. That way you can make the necessary adjustments and hold the right people in the organization accountable. By the same token, if you are making progress, you can provide guided encouragement and recognition to keep things moving in the right direction.
4. Market your incentive program. Engagement is everything. An incentive travel program is only as effective as the participation of the professionals you are hoping to motivate. As previously mentioned, interactive competitive elements and recognition platforms are one way to boost engagement. But combine those with an effective marketing strategy, and your incentive travel program will consistently stay top-of-mind with your target audience.
Consider ways to engage your incentive program participants in an interactive manner, such as through an email campaign, tangible point certificates or even by integrating your incentive platforms with your employee portal. You may also consider offering your target audience a mobile app from where they can interface with your incentive platform and track their progress in real time.
5. Offer a phenomenal travel experience. Now that you have a clear idea of strategy, it’s time to end things with a bang. This is where site placement and event planning come to the forefront. You have to make sure to choose a travel destination that will motivate your target audience and make them feel like all of the effort they put in to earn the reward was worth it. You also want to give them something to talk about! Word-of-mouth and positive exposure through means like social media postings are excellent ways to promote your incentive travel program in the years to come – and the best part is that they don’t require any sustained effort or additional costs on your end.
You may also want to consider making your incentive travel trip a themed event. This helps to differentiate one year’s reward from the next and is also useful in promoting your incentive travel program in the stages before the trip. Additionally, you can align these themes with what will most resonate with your target audience. For instance, we have had clients do a contemporary music festival-themed event for a group of millennial-aged software developers and a golf-themed travel event for a slightly more middle-aged demographic. This is the type of thing your participants will talk about in the months to come, generating buzz for future travel events.
Beyond that, capitalize on the opportunity by branding your brochures and travel itineraries with company logos and design themes. An incentive travel trip has the potential to generate a lot of positive emotions that are long-lasting and impactful — it’s important to anchor those emotions firmly to your company.
As you can see, a little bit of structure and strategic planning goes a long way. By following these five steps, you will be positioning the company to achieve the maximum ROI from your incentive travel program. Even better, once you have implemented this kind of approach and have built out the necessary structure, it becomes an integral part of the incentive travel program that requires very little maintenance from year to year. I&FMM.