Incentive Travel: The Five Keys to Success

Although we have written volumes about the value of travel incentives, it is important to remember how many business objectives and return on investment initiatives are actually achieved when these programs are implemented correctly. Incentive travel is vital to maximizing relationships and profitability with your three key audiences: customers, channel sales affiliates, and employees. Increased customer loyalty, higher sales revenues and reduced employee turnover are the three prominent goals that travel incentives can achieve for you.

Executing a successful program however is extremely difficult. Melissa Van Dyke, President of the Incentive Research Foundation, has drawn on 20 years of expertise and feedback from industry executives to compile five keys to success for incentive travel programs in a recent issue of The Meeting Magazines.

1. Communication is key

When asked about what could lead a program to fail, the most common response was substandard communication efforts. This has been our experience as well. Too often marketing the program effectively and allocating a proper budget to do so takes a low priority in the overall travel incentive program budget. Poor timing, an already stretched budget and mundane emails to promote a program are all recipes for disaster. Many companies incorrectly expect a few text-heavy emails devoid of enthusiasm or exciting imagery to suffice.

Communication must be a top priority, not an afterthought, to properly motivate and achieve incremental performance and participant buy in. Understanding the exact steps the participants must take to receive the trip, their progress and standings in relation to others and how close they are to ultimately winning the prize need to be clearly communicated as the program progresses. Crystal clear communication is only the beginning however.

These communication pieces must also be inspiring and eye-catching. The communication channels must vary to catch the attention of even the most mobile sales person. The majority of the world has an attention deficit disorder in this age of instant gratification, social media and information overload. It is imperative to break through with compelling graphics, crafty language, strategic deployment and proper communication medium selection.

2. Visible management is a must

Management must ensure that their best producers feel like their efforts are recognized, appreciated, and valued. Top performers don’t typically expect or crave a formal award ceremony, but they are appreciative when managers show up onsite at events and interact with them in meaningful ways.

3. Culture is crucial

The program should be a direct reflection of your corporate culture. Just as the branding and marketing collateral of your company should fit the values of your organization, so should the incentive travel programs. A young, conservative company’s trip should differ greatly from that of a conservative firm comprised of older individuals.

4. Fairness is fundamental

To properly motivate participants, rules should be easy to understand and perceived as fair. The way the brain processes perceived unfairness is similar to the way it reacts to a threat to one’s life. Your contest should be challenging, yet fair and clearly communicated.

5. Lead with location

The biggest draw of your incentive travel program will be the location, plain and simple. Selecting a destination that resonates with your target audience is crucial. Emphasizing the great qualities of your destination should be obvious, but many fail to realize that this is aspect of the trip that speaks to participants the loudest. While management speaks in dollars and cents, participants have their eyes on the prize and respond to visual imagery and descriptive language about the destination.