by Alex Palmer | March 30, 2020
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Credit: UnitoneVector/gettingimages

Incentive professionals place a high priority on selecting trips and gifts that will have the greatest impact on participants. But the rewards themselves are only part of the story. Enticing a sales person with a trip to the Caribbean, a coveted watch or a simple gift card might miss the mark if the messaging is not spot on.

"A secret programme is not a successful programme," says Richelle Taylor, VP of strategic marketing, incentives and recognition for performance-improvement organisation, One10. "You want participants to get excited before the programme launches - create a buzz."

The following tips will keep the programme top of mind with participants and ensure it generates the maximum impact.

Reach out in more ways than one
"In this day and age of constant communication, people are inundated with marketing, so you must be sure to provide programme communications in a variety of ways to reach your audience/demographic," said Ms Taylor.

For example, a client in the agricultural industry mailed printed materials to product distributors, announcing the launch of the programme website where participants could get product information and earn rewards for sales.

One10 replicated the mailing in digital communications and email blasts to further encourage enrolment, but the printed version helped cut through the clutter of email inboxes.

Mr Cord Himelstein, VP of marketing and communications for Halo Recognition, agreed: "There are several types of workforces and work environments out there, and it may take multiple channels to reach everyone, which is where a marketing plan can help immensely."

Ultra-customise your messaging
Target your message as much as possible, both to the programme and to the individual. Marketing materials should be specific to the organisation and the programme it is promoting. To generate excitement for a telecom client that launched a call centre referral programme, One10's team designed pop-up banners and posters that were displayed in the call centre, letting employees see their progress toward the goal.

"What is the voice of the client? What do employees expect to hear, and how do they want to hear it?" asks Ms Kate Bek, content strategist for BCD Meetings and Events, who oversees communication campaigns for the company's incentives.

BCD meets with clients to identify business goals from the start, building out a custom communications plan based on the attendees' personas, business goals, and factors such as how people tend to consume information, their locations, languages and so on.

It is important to give participants frequent updates on their progress, and to share success stories to keep managers and peers engaged.

"No employee really feels valued by messages that refer to them as 'valued employee' or other generic titles," said Mr Himelstein, "Some customisation is necessary to make the marketing effective."

Remember: The trip is not the goal
The trip is important, but it is not the end game. "You shouldn't even source a destination until you've mapped it back to your business objectives," said Ms Bek.

While the reward is bound to be played up in marketing materials, it should not be the sole focus. "Every piece of an incentive programme is part of an overall attendee journey," she said.