In the incentive industry, it’s pretty much a given that incentive travel rewards are powerful motivators—so powerful, in fact, that incentive travel rewards are moving beyond the sales and channel space and into other parts of the organization where great accomplishments deserve great recognition.
Maybe this is the time when we should take another look at how we measure the success of incentive travel rewards. Yes, ROI is a critical measure and one that should be included in all programs. And, yes, return on objectives (ROO) holds tremendous value when we’ve clearly defined expected outcomes; this is especially true when incentive travel is combined with training.
But there’s a valuable soft measure that doesn’t get the attention it should when we talk about incentive travel rewards. That measure is return on experience (ROE) and it offers insight into the longer lasting impact of incentive travel. Looking at return on experience requires that we take the long view, something we say we should do in business, but often don’t.
Capturing ROE at the destination
When a travel incentive program is used to drive sales, it’s generally the top five percent (plus or minus) who capture the reward. They are a highly driven group and it’s been my experience that these top performers value the recognition the travel award brings as much as the award itself.
In their drive to excel, this group has acquired considerable knowledge, but does your program tap into that knowledge? If the agenda at the award destination combines with a meeting (a trend that’s increasing), certainly this is a perfect opportunity to let your attendees share knowledge. However, if no meeting is planned, you can do this informally by creating opportunities where your top sales people spend unstructured time with your key executives. Top performers love to talk about what has made them successful, and it can be shared with the entire sales force after the event. A lot of “boots-on-the-ground knowledge” has been exchanged on the golf course or over drinks.
ROE as part of the campaign
Return on experience doesn’t have to be limited to the actual travel event. The “experience” materializes during the campaign leading to the reward. A well-constructed program triggers many ways that middle and low performers can improve and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment as they contribute to organizational goals.
Sometimes the long-term goal can seem just plain out of sight for less-than-stellar performers. Motivating the middle is a critical component of every rewards and recognition program. It’s this middle group—usually 60 percent of your sales team—who can dig deeper and elevate their efforts and bring value to your organization if your incentive program includes short sprints along the way.
Sprint goals can include: the number of new accounts brought in, the volume of products sold, or the average dollar value of orders during a set time frame. This sharpens focus and opens more opportunities for success and immediate recognition (which is why announcing these interim successes on your sales site leaderboard is also important).
Extend the experience, extend the return
No one achieves outstanding success entirely on their own. Even though many of your most successful sales and channel partners often have a strong sense of entrepreneurialism, their success comes from great support. A certain way to generate a positive return on experience is to let your winners reward a member of their “support system” with a trip. What a great way to inspire a sales engineer or an account manager.
Other opportunities for extending the return on experience are by including sales team members who weren’t at the top, but who excelled. This might be the person who showed the greatest growth in sales year-over-year or the “rookie of the year.” The opportunities to extend the experience—and the return on that experience—are many.
Concrete measures are always necessary, but we should never ignore the side of our business that can’t always be quantified numerically. A positive experience can be a powerful motivator and while it’s difficult to put our finger on, we know that evoking emotion is priceless.
Rick Blabolil is a founding trustee of the Incentive Research Foundation and has been involved with the travel council of the Incentive Marketing Association for more than 30 years.