A happy man with surfboards Your most energetic, most helpful rep could be here. (Credit: Incentive Solutions)

Incentive travel is a powerful tool that life insurance distribution companies can use to improve their sales metrics and provide higher quality service to their clients. However, in order for your incentive travel program to be a sustainable, long-term solution, it’s important to plan your event in a way that generates excitement and makes your insurance agents feel like their efforts were worth it.

Successful incentive travel programs market themselves. Selecting destinations and themes that your agents can get excited about generates buzz and maximizes participation. Following through by providing a thoughtful, memorable incentive travel experience will create positive word-of-mouth opportunities that will make next year’s incentive travel promotion even more successful.

Not sure where to start? Here are five simple steps to follow to plan and execute a successful and memorable incentive travel trip.

1. Audience Analysis

In order to effectively motivate your insurance agents, you have to understand what makes them tick. For instance, if your incentive travel program is targeted toward top-performing independent agents, a trip to Cancun might not be all that compelling. In fact, a top-performing agent might receive dozens of such offers every year. In this case, you might need to spring for a more exclusive destination. However, for a group of middle-tier captive agents, a trip to Cancun with all of their friends from the office might be the trip of a lifetime!

Demographics are another consideration to take into account. What is the average age of the agents that are participating in your incentive travel program? For a younger group of insurance agents, a Woodstock-themed event might not resonate with them. But a modern EDM festival themed event might be just the ticket.

2. Identifying Objectives

While incentive travel is a lot of fun, it’s also an important opportunity to promote the long-term goals of your brokerage by capitalizing on the positive emotions of the trip. Is your goal to retain top captive talent? Build brand loyalty with independent agents?

(Related: How to Use Incentive Programs to Improve Product Knowledge and Speed)

Identifying one or two specific goals will help you plan an itinerary and strike the right balance of fun and business.

3. Selecting Theme and Destination

Analyzing your audience and identifying your objective will help you select a destination and start designing a theme. For example, if your goal is to build brand loyalty with a group of super high-performing independent agents, you would want to choose a destination that seems more exclusive and luxurious, such as Tahiti. But you also want to make sure the resort you pick has conference rooms available where you can educate your agents on your brand.

Selecting a theme for your event makes the prize specific and desirable. If I told you the reward for meeting your performance metrics was a trip to Hawaii, your image of that trip might be a little bit vague. But if I told you that the reward was a luau-themed event at a resort on the beach, complete with fire dancers, volcano tours, a traditional pig roast, and optional surf lessons, you can picture yourself there. Choosing an effective theme makes your incentive travel rewards feel more immediate and makes it easier to promote your program.

4. Building the Itinerary

Time is limited, so it’s important to structure your incentive travel event for maximum value. You’ll want to provide a balance of planned activities and free time, personal time and professional time, and create events around exciting set pieces that tie in with your theme and create the chance for shared experiences. Doing so will ensure your agents enjoy their reward, while your brokerage is able to achieve its objectives and build important relationship capital.

5. Repackaging This Year’s Event for Future Marketing

As you’re planning your event, start thinking about how you can repackage content from this year’s trip to make subsequent trips even more successful. If you can show the agents who didn’t qualify for this year’s trip what they missed out on, they will be motivated to put in the extra effort to make sure they’re included next year. For the agents who did attend, you’ll want to remind them what a great time they had, so that they will be inspired to keep up their high levels of performance.

You might consider passing out souvenirs to the attendees, which they can display on their desks, or designing branded and destination appropriate t-shirts for the occasion. You can include details of the events in your next internal newsletter or create a poster to hang up in the office. Additionally, this sort of collateral can be used for enticing potential hires. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for an insurance brokerage with a phenomenal incentive travel program?

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Mark Herbert (Photo: Incentive Solutions)Mark Herbert is president and chief executive officer of Incentive Solutions. He has managed about $60 million in incentive travel awards.