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Top 10 To-Dos Incentives, Club Trips, & Meetings in 2020

As we slide into the new decade, we hear more from prospects and clients asking, “what do we need to do to make our (incentives, club trip, or meeting) better in 2020?” While every program has different needs and goals, we want to share the trends and research that stood out the most in 2019 and continue to influence decision-making in 2020. In preparation for our January 29 webinar, the brightest at Brightspot put their heads together to create this list of top 10 to-dos in 2020 to make programs shine.

1. Widen Reach vs. Exclusivity

Incentive program managers often ask us “is it better to reward our top performers or focus on those in the middle of the pack?” In a 2019 study by the Incentive Research Foundation on what Top Performing Companies Do Differently With Incentives and Rewards, it was found that the programs with higher ROI were widening their reach instead of focusing on exclusivity.

Where “exclusivity” is rewarding the top 10% of your sales team with an incentive trip, “reach” would be adding in 2nd-tier opportunities to win smaller awards, such as gift cards or merchandise, allowing more team members to be rewarded. Rewarding top achievers with bigger and better rewards used to be the standard; however, there is a shift in the incentives industry for the new decade. Now, we look to “motivate the middle” to boost those ~60% of team members that may need that little push to influence a boost in performance. Top achievers will still need a grand prize to strive for, but save a chunk of the budget for those next-tier awards that will reach more people.

top 10 to-dos in 2020 in incentives2. Keep It Simple

There is one tried-and-true best practice of incentive programs: keep it simple! Complex program rules and metrics can add interesting angles in certain situations, but simplicity is often the best policy to communicate with participants effectively.

In the age of overfilled email inboxes and shorter attention spans, it’s important to recognize that a clear and concise message will cut through the clutter better than anything else. Make sure program rules are laid out succinctly rather than looking like a terms and conditions document. “You do X, you get Y” is the ultimate summation, and it’s the job of the program’s manager to focus participants on that throughout the spiff. Simple communication is the most effective and will keep teams interested and drastically improves results.

incentive to-dos in 2020, keep it simple with Steve Jobs Mantra3. Gift Cards: Better Sourcing & Controls

Gift cards continue to grow as a popular incentive award option, but it was found that almost 70% of program managers are sourcing gift cards at retail stores. That’s a lot of trips to Kroger and Walgreens – resulting in lost productivity and inefficiency! Not to mention, it’s difficult to avoid slippage when there’s a stack of gift cards stuffed in a manager’s desk. Theft is a small concern compared to merely over-ordering or forgetting about them entirely during the program.

Hiring an incentive agency or gift card distributor to help source gift cards (and e-gift cards that grow in popularity) will improve costs, free up valuable work hours, reduce shipping costs to remote workers, and allow for better accounting of where each gift card ends up.

4. Get Meetings More Money

Through a 20-year trend in RevPAR (revenue per available room), hotel costs keep growing while many corporate decision-makers try to hold the line on meeting costs. Without budget adjustments, meetings will shrink and become less impactful over time. To offset this trend of rising RevPAR, there is an opportunity for global companies to take meetings internationally where the opposite has been true. South America, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East have seen a decline in RevPAR and provide a budget-conscious chance to ‘WOW’ attendees with a unique destination at a high-tier property.

5. Start Hotel Sourcing Sooner

Most lead times have grown to 12-18 months in advance of a large meeting or incentive trip due to the collective increase in travel for leisure, business, and groups. But there’s a dilemma when it comes to corporate decision making, especially in public companies where they live on a quarter-to-quarter mindset. Getting sign off on hotel sourcing outside of a budget cycle is difficult, but the earlier the process can start, the more hotel availability rises, and room rate falls.

6. Enhance Attendee Experiences

88% of Millennial business travelers now say job-related travel affects job satisfaction, which explains the rapid growth in “bleisure” travel. Younger business travelers are adding additional leisure time onto their trip to explore the destination after the meeting ends, making hot spots like Austin, TX, or Nashville, TN attractive for meetings with Millennial audiences. New experience trends like designing unique mixed seating setups, creating more meaningful discussions and audience interaction, and the ‘festivalization’ of meetings are all attributed to improved engagement. Planners are now devoting more time to creating experiences than mere logistics.

top meeting to-do in 2020: enhance attendee experience7. Re-Focus on Soft Power Benefits

From the Incentive Travel Industry Index by SITE, IRF, and FICP, ‘soft power’ is beating ‘hard dollars’ in overall benefits from incentive travel. Looking at the blue bars below, the ‘soft power’ of improved engagement, better relationship-building, and improved retention is rising reasons for companies’ incentive trips. With that in mind, it’s important to focus on those benefits of relationship-building and retention of top talent by driving that message in communication campaigns and thoughtful usage of personalization within the program itself. Creating a VIP experience for participants is becoming more important than ever, and hiring an incentive travel agency can be a big step in the right direction.

8. Get More Trip Budget & Cut Costs

Hotel, F&B, and airfare costs are growing, and thankfully, incentive travel budgets are also growing, but not as fast in most cases. Pulling back on program length has become a more common cost-cutting measure, which is a painful decision, especially considering the focus on creating more memorable trips packed with authentic activities and unique events. Incentive travel planners will either need to find more budget or cut costs by utilizing destinations that are not on everyone’s radar.

9. Go Farther

With rising hotel room costs in North America, incentive trip planners are going farther with their programs to reduce hotel costs, as well as broaden their horizons to excite participants. This is especially true with Western Europe, Canada, Southeast Asia, and Oceania have the largest net increases by respondents compared to 2019 trips. Brightspot client programs confirm the data, and more importantly, prove the interest from clients in taking their group incentive travel programs to new destinations.

10. Second is First

Taking an incentive trip farther from the US is a great way to find good deals and new experiences, and it’s more likely that “second-tier” destinations should be the first ones considered to get the biggest bang for your buck. Ireland, Croatia, Portugal, and Greece are all fantastic examples of desirable incentive travel spots that can help stretch a budget to its full potential. Take a look at our list of top 20 incentive travel destinations for fresh ideas on where to explore without upsetting the Finance department!

unique destinations to go further with your budget in 2020

Michael Pisterzi

Author Michael Pisterzi

Marketing Manager | Tech-centric marketer with a dedication to relationship marketing in the incentives & events industry.

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