Is Your Travel Incentive Program Fit to Fly?

Use a B2B travel incentive program to meet your customer and sales performance goals.

In Engage Magazine issue 1, we listed our top 15 recommendations for B2B points-based incentive and reward programs (Part 1). Business pain points can be reduced by offering incentives to change target audience behaviour.

In this article we turn our focus to the different ways and crucial elements for the set up of non-points-based incentives, like travel based incentives, leader boards, and reward programs.

Due to the global pandemic, travel has been on hold for the past 2 years. However, now borders are reopening, travel incentives are once more emerging as the preferred option for reward and incentive programs.

If you don’t already have a B2B travel incentive process in place, here are two reasons to get started:

  1. Now the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble has re-opened consumers will be once more reaching for their travel reward cards.
  2. In more program designs, your reward members must hit their targets to qualify for travel incentives, which is a great boost for sales for the coming year.

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How we approach travel incentives and events

Got questions about how to make your B2B incentive & loyalty travel incentive program design –“Fit to Fly”?

Below, we have described our 15 most important steps when designing a successful incentive travel program.

Our list covers both the strategic and design elements of successful travel incentive programs. Some argue that the destination, inclusions, events, experiences, and logistics are the most important part of a travel incentive design. However we at 212F respectfully disagree!

Having a realistic and achievable program design is critical to incentive program success, and should . . .

  1. involve how you will communicate with your target audience throughout the program
  2. how your target audience will engage with your program, and
  3. how to track the success of your travel incentive program over time and budget

Failure to include these items in your travel and reward program could lead to it being mistaken for a luxury expense instead of a viable solution to a business pain point.

Having a “solve our pain” philosophy is fundamental to 212F’s strategic approach to travel incentive design and marketing. In the list below, we have not listed our recommendations in any particular order. As every business is different, some of our points may not be relevant to your unique business need or industry. Consider this list as a guide to where opportunities or potential barriers may exist within your own travel reward design.

Using a leaderboard or target structure for your travel incentive program

Using a leader board or target structure may seem automatic when designing a travel incentive program. However, using them will focus recognition and reward around sales processes.

Top performers, who have contributed the most, will love being recognized for their effort. A leaderboard structure will help you manage budget and group sizes by determining and identifying the top ranking winners. This will in turn incentivize others to generate more revenue for your business.

Incentives work hand in hand with performance.  Reward program participants who achieve stretch goals with VIP access or special treatment.

Knowing who your evangelist customers are will help you focus your attention on your biggest customers. Offer additional value for their loyalty and repeat business with extra networking, rewards, or personal development opportunities. A travel event or incentive can offer all of these, be they incentive, study tour, or executive education.

Set targets for success

Targets drive new and innovative travel incentive design. However, setting a target that increases by 10% year on year is the lazy way to design a travel incentive. It does not allow for nuances in your sales cycles or target audience personalisation.

Things to consider:

  • Can year on year trading be sustained
  • Do we have the majority of share of wallet
  • Should we review the returns each customer type brings to our business
  • What is the potential for growth in current market conditions

Offering target personalisation will drive higher B2B travel incentive performance and greater success to resolve productivity pain points for your business.

Targets stop you from rewarding underperformance. Sales-based targets are often set at a level to fund the travel cost within the target itself. This way incoming revenue covers the outgoing costs of the travel incentive.

If your travel reward program is based on sales-based targets then success = growth.

Qualification benchmarks to drive business outcomes

When designing targets, look beyond simple sales figures. Set sales goals to unlock additional bonus rewards or trip inclusions if your target audience achieves key product family volume targets. Support your overarching sales goals by adding additional participant rewards when they reach value-add targets in additional areas of focus.

If you want to change behaviour that is not directly linked to sales rep performance, consider adding eligibility criteria. Qualification benchmarks will help drive business outcomes when you cannot define an incentive cost. Designing a target that awards sales success via eligibility criteria will influence behaviour and remove financial pain points across the board.

Stretch sales goals by including leading behaviours or sales KPIs into your travel incentive design.

For sales teams focus on calls to proposals to deals to calculate the actual sales value of the product or service.

Our message for target setting:

  • focus on the changes you want, but keep it simple
  • Don’t over complicate how the program works or what participants have to do to achieve in the program
  • Simplicity is vital for both you as a business and your reward program participants to reach the objectives

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Common Pitfalls When Budgeting your Travel Incentive Program

Fixed vs Open Budget

When developing your event model strategy, it is essential to consider your incentive budget before everything else

Fixed budgets give certainty to all aspects of the travel incentive program. A fixed budget will offer limited places or tickets. It will capture all known elements, but result in lost revenue or failure of the program.

A fixed budget allows for a set group size. But be aware once all places are filled participants could “switch off” and move to the next incentive program. This can result in potential lost revenue affecting the ROI of the travel incentive program.

Your reward program participants work their butt off to achieve their targets. To miss out on a place due to limited numbers will erode their willingness to participate next year. This will affect your sales revenue and share of wallet in the longer term.

Open budgets allow any number of the target audience to earn a place on a travel incentive trip. The cost of the program is usually built into the target. So, when a participant reaches the target they are also funding their own ticket. An open budget allows anyone to succeed, potentially increasing the success of the program and ROI.

Open or variable budgets do not place a cap on success. They continue to incentivize participants to sell more right up to the date of departure. It can also increase sales in subsequent years as participants who did not achieve their target try harder with each cycle.

An Open budget poses challenges around arranging the travel and event logistics, as flights and hotels have limits. So, it is always important to factor this into the program design before launching an open budget travel incentive.

Bottom line, for those who prefer absolute control there can be nothing worse than an open budget. But for those focused on results and outcomes, this is the dream budget!

There is no right or wrong budget type. Ask members open-ended questions to learn what they prefer. This will ensure your strategic event model is implemented correctly, both can result in huge success.

Control your budget

Those with travel incentive experience know budget control is critical to the design of a travel-based reward. Compared to other rewards, travel incentives and events require the highest budget to execute. To deliver a ROI, everyone needs defendable costs and quotes from the outset. These determine the target setting and overall experiences you can include in a trip.

Therefore, it’s crucial you choose vendors that offer no surprises or ongoing costs, which should begin at the RFP process.

RFPs that focus on costs can often experience budget creep as you go through the project. Vendors will trim a few things to provide a budget that matches the RFP. Trimming the offer does not necessarily mean these items are missed. They often sneak back in as padding or additional costs creating budget creep.

The longer the travel incentive design, the more likely extra charges will come into play. This will have a long-term effect on your overall ROI.

Take the time to ensure your brief and RFP includes executables, costs, and services. Nobody likes surprises during reconciliation.

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Is it OK to miss out this year?

A fear when implementing travel incentives is whether you can skip a year if there are challenges within the business. And it comes down to this: how will your participants feel if the expected travel incentive is not available?

This answer goes back to the strategic event model and creating a travel incentive program brand. Take the time to build a value proposition program brand and reputation that will keep your brand front and centre.

If things have changed, have a conversation with your participants. If you’ve designed your program well, the incentive brand should be a partnership of doing business with your brand. Not an expectation of a destination. This gives you the flexibility to change rewards as you see fit, while building confidence that the replacement holds similar value.

COVID-19 recently made it necessary for almost every travel incentive program to close down. Switching to a new offer using a brand promise at this time can be extremely valuable.

Second Tier Rewards

If you have limited places, lean into the program brand and offer second tier rewards as part of the overall proposition. These could be more cost-effective options, such as merchandise rewards or branded cash or debit/credit cards. Allowing participants to choose the reward that means the most to them is what we call a connected offer.

Whatever you do, don’t delay notifying participants they have won the reward. Distribute rewards for the incentive program as close to the desired behaviour change as reasonably possible. If you wait too long, the motivation for continued success will fade.

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Remove Risk by partnering with an agency

Identifying risks in your travel reward program is a big responsibility. Today’s practice of prioritising dollar value can encourage your team to cut corners. When it comes to managing risk, going direct to third party suppliers could erode your safety net for the whole event.

Specialised agencies have built strong knowledge and expertise that will give you access to their buying power and negotiation agreements. Their team has also built strong relationships with local and international suppliers, to offer better inclusions for your travel program. Their focus on the travel and event industry will give you more security than building your own incentive by going direct. Plus, agencies have COVID-safety plans and experience in risk management solutions.

Remember, it is only when something goes wrong, that an agency like 212F will demonstrate their true value.

Full-service travel incentive agencies provide multi-destination services and have the capability to relocate events and guests at short notice. This is worth its weight in gold during an emergency. Incentive agencies have direct access to key suppliers at the destination. They can leverage this to make sure your group is the first to receive boarding passes home in an emergency.

So there it is, our Top 15 recommendations to consider when designing your next travel based incentive program. We’ve based our guide on 25 years’ design and execution experience. We focus on local and international travel incentives within the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Get in touch with our Event Partners today to plan your next incentive!

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