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Infuse Strategy into your Incentive Travel Program

Aug 15, 2016

While all travel incentives are designed to reward top performers, some are better than others. The difference isn’t about the size of budget ... it's how the budget is allocated – and the strategy behind it.

When it comes to planning a travel incentive program, event planners have the same basic list of basic requirements: a destination, a suitable property, transportation plan, welcome reception, activities, and food and beverage. However, the best planners understand that these pieces form the basic plotline of a much more thrilling story. Travel incentive programs are most effective when the storyline resonates to the extent that the attendees, whether employees or sales people, cherish the experience and use it to fuel their future performance.

Weaving a compelling story requires planners to be masters of the human experience; the science of behavioral economics helps us understand how our emotion can have a profound impact on our behavior. And the best event planners behavioral economics to inform strategic decisions for their travel programs.

As you plan your next incentive trip, amp up your strategy by using the principles of behavioral economics listed below.

Vividness refers the idea that people tend to remember things more easily when they are highly graphic or dramatic. Something that is particularly stunning or striking makes for an experience that becomes deeply rooted with positive lasting effects.

How to apply: When you think through the aspects of an event, consider all possible senses. Meals shouldn’t just taste good, they should look good. Décor shouldn’t be filler; it should boldly reinforce a message. Consider incorporating scent and other special touches to bring your entire experience to life.

Why it’s important: A vivid event is a memorable event and a memorable event is effective. Participants who remember the experience well will benefit from greater enthusiasm even as time passes. These detailed memories fuel enthusiasm for months and years beyond.

Idiosyncratic fit refers to the idea that everyone feels a sense of individuality and we appreciate when others recognize that we are unique. In fact, when we feel that we’ve been recognized as an individual, we are more likely to become personally invested and enjoy the experience.

How to apply: Offer choice whenever possible. Instead of putting an identical gift in every room, set up a gifting station where participants can “shop” for their gift based on style, size, color, etc. The same goes for activities; give participants several options so they can spend time doing exactly what they want.

Why it’s important: It doesn’t matter how incredible your event is if your participants don’t feel a personal connection. Giving opportunities to choose encourages them to fully engage in the process. Choice honors the individual which is a hallmark of a quality incentive program.

On the other end of the spectrum, many participants experience what is called the tyranny of choice which refers to the idea that people tend to get overwhelmed when they are offered too many options. To combat this pitfall, wise planners leverage choice architecture which is the idea that choices can be carefully selected and presented in a way that makes it easier and more satisfying for participants to make a decision.

How to apply: when planning for elective activities focus on putting together a thoughtful list of a few choices with simple and straightforward descriptions. Even if your destination or venue offers dozens of activity options, it’s better to pare it down to a few good options that fit your audience really well.

Why it’s important: elective activities should be inherently fun and easy – not stressful and time consuming! When faced with too many choices and too much detail, your participants will waste time agonizing over their options and increasing the risk that they will wish they had selected one of the other options instead.

Re-consumption refers to the concept that it is possible for someone to relive an experience over and over whenever they are reminded of it. Each time the experience is remembered the same emotions and positive effects come into play and reinforce the person’s original state of mind.

How to apply: participants can experience re-consumption when they have a good reminder of the experience. Consider gifts that are a direct reminder of the experience. The gifts could relate to the destination of a trip or the theme of the incentive program.

Why it’s important: The success of any program is built on whether the audience successfully received a message. It’s better yet if the message lives on long after the event is over. When participants are able to mentally revisit the experience, you are maximizing the investment.

The dopamine effect is the result of a chemical reaction that produces a rush in the brain after something good happens. As human beings, once we experience this rewarding feeling we become motivated to experience it again.

How to apply: Broadly speaking, the dopamine effect can come into play nearly any time you provide a positive and exciting experience for your participants. To capitalize on this principle, provide opportunities for sweeping views and thrilling excursions.

Why it’s important: It’s common knowledge that participants should enjoy their experience, but the dopamine effect can actually impact the psychology of participants. Once a participant experiences a rush in the brain, the positive memory is sealed with powerful motivation to achieve it again. The difference between a “nice” trip and a “wow” experience can have a huge impact on future performance.

When armed with an understanding of behavioral economics, planners can maximize the impact of a travel incentive program. If your goal is to increase effectiveness without increasing budget, you may want to consider re-allocating your dollars to areas that will resonate with your inherently emotional audience.

Build an incentive travel program today.

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