As a meeting planner, your co-workers most certainly think your gig is glamourous. Hallway conversations tend to center around, “where are you headed next?” “how many stamps in your passport?”, or “how was Maui?” They never ask, “hey, how many salespeople hit their goal?”, or “looks like you had a great turnout at the conference.” And planners know that’s what drives success.
The most important part of planning an incentive trip isn’t where you go, it’s why you’re going and how you get there. Too often when designing an incentive program, executives want to start with the wow factor. And while that is important, planning a really successful incentive program should always start by figuring out why you’re spending all that money in the first place.
A survey by the Incentive Research Foundation [theirf.org] indicates that growing sales and profitability are, unsurprisingly, the key reasons. They are followed by building relationships with employees, increasing productivity, and employee engagement.
Goal-setting Program objectives should run deeper than just, “we want to boost sales.” They should reinforce a broader strategy. One important part of that is targeting the goals correctly. It’s not enough to just say we want to increase sales, or profitability. Be specific. For example:
- Do you want to get channel partners to favor your product line over a competitor’s?
- If you want to boost sales, do you have a new model or a more lucrative line you want your salespeople to push particularly hard?
- Are you trying to build a better long-term relationship with independent dealers as much as you want to sell more?
These goals should be kept at the front of the planner’s mind throughout the planning process, and should inform every decision that is made.
If it’s a meeting, are you gathering to share information, excite the team, or get the salespeople behind a new strategy that requires them to change the way they’ve always done things?
Rule-setting Once you’ve figured out the why, you have to go about designing program rules that reinforce that goal.
- Are you taking a set number such as the top five percent, which means a fixed budget?
- Is the incentive program self-liquidating, so everyone who meets their quota gets to go?
- Are your goals more ambiguous, like showing the appreciation needed to keep your top performers happy, or building your brand to attract new dealers?
Defining and motivating your audience Another important factor is creating a program that does more than just focus on the “A” players, that 10 percent of your sales people that account for a large percent of your sales. An incentive program that pushes the program participants who make up the “B” players by even a little bit will have a profound impact.
Prove and improve Measurement can prove the program’s value and improve the design going forward. While research from the IRF shows that nearly three-quarters of buyers believe their programs are meeting their objectives, only one in four actually tries to measure their return on investment (ROI) or return on objective (ROO) to know if it really is. And fewer than half think those measurements even have any value.
Potential realized Business isn’t business without people meeting people. That’s where meetings, conferences and incentives come in. And those events are only as successful as the work a talented planner puts into them.