Put your brand into it!

Incentive travel is a true relationship builder according to new US-based research.

New research from the US Incentive Research Foundation confirms channel partners who earn incentive travel believe improved relationships are the most important outcome from incentive travel programs. The three most affirmed statements in ‘Channel Incentive Travel’ a case study conducted by the University of Central Florida and Castleton State College, were:

  • Incentive trips offer me an opportunity to get to know top leadership in the sponsoring company.
  • Incentive trips are a great way to meet other dealers and learn from them.
  • One of the greatest benefits for participating in an incentive trip is building relationships with the manufacturer and other dealers.

For those funding incentive travel, this has to be very good news. The same study confirmed the top priority from the client perspective is growing the business. It’s therefore reassuring that attendees want not only to reap rewards but also to form closer connections and further improve business outcomes. This is especially important when earners expect to be rewarded with a travel experience they could not readily access for themselves, often resulting in a high price tag!
The desire by attendees for close networking and links to senior executives does, however, put hosts on notice. As leaders, they must leave no stone unturned to connect and partner with their business advocates when delivering the reward – no free rides here!
However, the other pivotal relationship that must be built is with the brand. The brand is at the core of the business, the facilitator of good business and great outcomes, the connection between head office and its channels. It represents the club to which you all belong, the centre of loyalty and purpose. This works well if the brand is expressed through useful, focussed market messages that are easy to translate and express to dealers and through them to customers. It works even better when aligned strong messages guide the incentive program from launch through to fulfilment.
Whether we are overt about it or not, what we seek in our incentive travel programs is conversion to ‘true believer’ status. We’re out to engage and enchant at every opportunity with the cumulative effect of a baptism in your brand.
Consider for a moment how much effort your organisation put into that last amazing piece of revolutionary design based on in-depth customer insights; that organisational overhaul to embed a values system; those customer philosophies; the exceptional ingredients in your products.
Every business that is surviving and thriving post-GFC has invested time and attention in honing a point of difference. Although it doesn’t always seem immediately obvious how to weave this into an incentive program – there is always a way.
For elite brands that draw crowds just by flashing their logo, you need to find ways to surprise; even delight the most jaded.
A Telco client wished to extend the cutting edge excellence at the core of its brand into incentive travel and relationship building. Together we asked all participating couples to answer introductory, informal questions and distributed photo-bios on iPads prior to the trip. Attendees received blue-tooth devices on arrival, through which daily program activities were announced. They also took part in a ‘peer dating’ event using mobile apps to connect with others at distinctive meeting points within a cityscape of cutting edge architecture. Fun!
A major health brand found a way to express employees as the heartbeat of the company, by demonstrating how each team member plays a significant role in consumer outcomes. Products are created, breakthrough treatments are developed and people directly benefit, therefore a strong global reputation is built and maintained. Prior to a dinner with partners, we presented powerful videos that conveyed “because of us… this was how the story ended.”
A new client is committed to reinforcing what the brand represents. Together we’re designing a complete program around botanical, organic, pure, prime ingredients. Everything in a two-day travel experience is constructed to reflect the exquisite and the natural. The destination is pristine and elite, to resonate perfectly with the brand.
When your participants leave at the conclusion of your travel program, in addition to giving them an amazing trip, make sure they understand precisely what gives your business the edge over its competitors and be certain they have better relationships in place to grow their business.
Hallelujah! Your brand is reborn.

Sue Jackson is the executive chairman of Solterbeck.
Visit www.solterbeck.com for further details.