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Incentive Programs: A travel product or new media?

 

Nigel Gaunt.

 

Incentive, Conference and Event Society Asia Pacific’s (ICESAP) president Nigel Gaunt believes that incentive travel agencies need to be better structured and equipped in order to keep marketing spend within the business events space.

You can define the rationale for a customer’s investment into an incentive travel program as you can define the rationale for a customer’s investment in an incentive travel program as one or more of the following;

  • Rewarding past performance as determined by meeting or exceeding targets set
  • Recognising individuals, teams, departments or territories
  • Communicating a company’s future goals and strategies
  • Facilitating company leadership getting closer to top performing employees or channel partners
  • Meeting or exceeding a competitor’s incentive travel program offering

Considering the above, one must consider some trips offer a great reward experience, but fail to measure up when it comes to being a platform for recognition or important business communications.

Today, you can view a customer’s investment in an incentive travel program in the same way you can view any of their other sales and marketing expenditure: purely a return on investment decision based on commercial outcomes. So those who are involved from the agency and supplier side need to be more aware of the client’s overall requirements and how they justify the spend by comparison to other forms of Sales and Marketing expenditure.

My view is that incentive travel agencies offering travel reward programs need to know more about the sales and marketing rationale for a program. This is easily achieved at the discovery phase of taking a client brief to understand the underlying rationale for the proposed program.  Focusing on the commercial considerations is important to winning and retaining a satisfied client. Once the commercial considerations are fully understood the agency travel fulfilment team can get down to delivering a great trip experience for participants and hosts alike.

In light of the above, there is a strong argument for agencies to develop an account management team who work with sales people to win business and ensure a client brief is fully understood before handing it on to the travel team concentrating their efforts with the trip’s program attributes, logistics and the costs. This division of responsibilities between account management and fulfilment of an incentive trip makes for a strong agency structure more able to fend off other marketing agencies offering the same client an alternative solution in digital, advertising or other media.

The bottom line is this: our incentive travel agencies today are not only competing with each other, they are competing with sophisticated agencies vying for the same client’s marketing dollar. To compete we definitely need to be better structured and equipped. All types of Business Events growth has definitely come at the expense of other forms of marketing spend, we need to keep that marketing spend in the Business Events space.

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