Opinion: Incentives have an identity crisis

Mercedes Ibbett from EVT Incentive Marketing pens a column on why the incentive market's lack of identity will be the undoing of it.
Mercedes Ibbett

Words by Mercedes Ibbett, managing director, EVT Incentive Marketing

Ask a group of people what incentives are and you’ll get different answers. Is it a bonus? Is it a consumer loyalty program?

Or is it a structured and targeted sales or reward and recognition program that achieves real results
for organisations and can truly impact behaviours in business for the better of all involved? (Hint: it’s
the last one!)

Then there’s incentive travel, which really is the one that gets the most attention but can often be
viewed as a junket and questioned on the ROI.

There is an obvious disconnect about why incentive travel is a productive business tool to reward top
performers and build loyalty.

Incentive travel is part of the Australian business events industry, but it often gets packaged together
with all the other types of business events, including conferences, conventions, public or trade shows,
exhibitions, corporate retreats, study tours and training programs.

I think we may have a bit of an identity crisis going on.

And in my opinion, there is a real risk that our lack of identity will be the undoing of us.

To be able to deliver incentive programs and successful rewards including group incentive trips
and events is a niche skill set. We are specialists in creating business strategies to achieve goals; data
and reporting; communication; engagement; as well as budgeting and structuring incentive trips.

We touch on so many industries – marketing, technology, data and reporting, reward and
merchandise, logistics, delivery, events and travel – but in a unique package that makes us specialists.

There are incentive bodies in the market that are trying to formalise the incentive travel industry and
I applaud their efforts. However, we are still seeing most of the focus purely on the delivery of incentive travel, when there is much more to the picture.

With no real formal education programs, we are running the risk of no standardised operations, lack
of new talent and an ever-decreasing profile. It is our role in the incentive industry to help it grow and get the recognition it deserves.

We must reposition ourselves and find our place in the Australian market, which I believe can be achieved through:

  • Promoting and educating on what real programs and incentive providers should be delivering
  • Creating research and studies within Australia, so we can use real data to promote the positive
    results of doing it right
  • Forming a real concept of what the size of the incentive market is here – maybe then we’ll get
    some focus and investment locally
  • Harnessing young talent and opportunities for the younger generation to be exposed to the industry

So what can you do? As an agency; offer internships, hire young talent and invest time in
training them on the job.

From a national level, it would be great to see tertiary education institutions create subjects and courses around incentive marketing and incentive travel to help us create our next, educated
generation in the industry.

With an industry as dynamic, data driven and important as the incentive industry, we have to look
to and plan for the future to keep it alive!

This article originally appeared in the November issue of Spice Magazine. Subscribe here.

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