More than Just Sand at the Beach: Using Incentive Trips to Grow Your Business

January 25, 2017 - 0 Comments

The prospect of getting away from it all in a tropical location is something I look forward to each year. There is almost nothing better than enjoying the sand and sea while relaxing on the beach with a cold drink in hand. So I’m very motivated to work hard so that I can afford to take our annual vacation to Mexico. Those months of anticipation leading up to the trip add to the excitement and make the long hours invested at work worthwhile.

Many businesses recognize the allure of a well-earned vacation. They’ve harnessed the power of anticipation and use it to motivate through incentive trips. As of 2015, 46% of U.S businesses used incentive travel and spent over $22.5 billion on those trips (M&C, 2015). More impressive is the fact that 100% of “best-in-class” businesses (those with the highest level of customer retention and sales growth) offer incentive trips to reward for end of year sales (Aberdeen Research, 2015). These incentive trips can be offered to employees, sales people, vendors, partners or really any group that you want to motivate.

So you may ask,“Why incentive trips? Why not just give out bonuses or cash?”  Well, for one, those businesses who give out non-cash incentives have three times higher revenue growth than average (Aberdeen Research, 2015). I’m sure this correlation hasn’t been overlooked by those best-in-class businesses referenced above.

Secondly, sales incentive trips offer an experience that simply receiving a gift or cash cannot provide. A well-designed incentive trip creates memories that last for a very long time and hopefully, goodwill with the recipient.  This builds a greater sense of loyalty which translates into the long-term growth, also referenced above.

Third, incentive trips offer excellent opportunities to get in touch with your employees, sales people, customers or other recipient groups. Company management should build quality time into the agenda to listen to feedback, gather ideas, and gain new insights about the business. This feedback can be invaluable and is an added benefit of incentive trips.

Lastly, incentive trips are designed to be fun! Spending a week with someone new who has shared interests and is motived by many of the same things as you, is both personally and professionally rewarding. The relationships built while on incentive trips can lead to long-term opportunities from both a business and personal standpoint.

The key to planning a successful incentive trip is just that – planning. Well-designed incentive trips are usually planned months in advance, if not years. Many companies make it a practice to book upcoming incentive trips two to five years out. And unless you are in the travel industry, refer to the professionals. Working with a reputable event planning company is the best way to leverage their relationships with hotels, excursion companies and other travel professionals.  This allows for maximum pricing discounts and often preferred treatment. They can also provide staffing resources to help run the event on your behalf. So although you will pay a fee to use a professional planning company, the negotiation power and overall professionalism of your event will pay off in spades.

While designing your incentive trip, keep the preferences of your award recipients in mind. Designing a night-club event every night might work for a millennial crowd, but more mature attendees might prefer a Broadway show. Getting input and recommendations from your potential attendee group during the design phase will help ensure the optimal experience.

In 2017, there are exciting trends in the incentive trip industry. Mobile apps are being used more and more by meeting planners. These mobile apps do more than just allow groups to operate in a paperless environment. They can allow collaboration between attendees, provide agenda and attire information, even offer ad hoc surveys during the event to gauge the attendee experience in real time. This allows a new layer of event intelligence.

Another trend in incentive trips is building flexibility into the agenda. Providing options for excursions and allowing for free time add to the attendee experience. Now that people can work anytime, anywhere, attending an incentive trip doesn’t have to mean all work stops. And providing options for excursions can help increase satisfaction for diverse groups with varied interests.

Winner’s Circle is an annual sales incentive trip for our Partner Plus Partners. Each year, we plan three different incentive trips to reward our fastest-growing midmarket-focused partners. In 2016, these trips were held in Honolulu, Seychelles and Miami, where we honored top partner sales representatives. Not only did partners enjoy top-rated hotels, restaurants and excursions but they had the chance to network with Cisco executives and other top sales people from around the world. Partner reps who attended unanimously said they would work harder just to earn the chance to return next year. And they are in for amazing experiences as we are holding the FY17 Winners Circle events in Cape Town, Athens and Cabo San Lucas. Will YOU be at one of those events? For more information on the FY17 Winner’s Circle, please visit the Winner’s Circle Website.

So whether you are looking motivate employees, customers, partners or sales teams, incentive trips may be the answer you need. Not only will the anticipation of dipping their toes in the sand help to move the needle for the attendees, but as managers and hosts of the event, you’ll gain just as much from the experience. Good Selling!

What is the best incentive trip you’ve ever been on and what made it so special? Please let me know in the comments section below.

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