As event planners, most of us focus on three specifics when developing a travel incentive program:

  1. What is the budget?
  2. Who is eligible to participate?
  3. Who qualifies to actually earn the reward?

These are all very important questions to answer, but there is a fourth question most event planners leave out of the planning process: How can we successfully market this program to our employees?

Why is marketing to your employees – AKA your ‘internal customers’ – so important? Because when you don’t, you have the same people earning the travel rewards each year, year after year after year. Now, it’s great that a small group of people is killing it with sales each year. But imagine how much company sales would shoot up if 60%, 70%, or even 80% of your sales force was vying for those top spots instead of the same 20%.

The #1 secret to having a successful travel incentive program is hands down, better internal communication.


How Planners Can Use Better Communication to Improve their Incentive Travel Programs (and Increase Sales at the Same Time!):

Keep it Short and Sweet

One of the first rules of effective communication is to parse your messaging down to only what is absolutely necessary. Don’t feel you need to share all of the nitty-gritty details of the program with every single participant. Some people are drawn to the fine print and others pretend it’s not there.

What your team really needs to know is, why you’re implementing the program. Maybe you’re looking to beat your biggest industry competitor this year. Maybe you’re trying to improve your overall global competitiveness. Whatever the reason, this is important information to share.

Similarly, be sure to communicate the metric goal of your program. As an example, do you want to increase sales of your main product by 6% over the next 365 days? Be sure to be very clear and have measurable outcomes outlined for the program.

Use a Theme

Themes aren’t just for big corporate events – they can and should be used for your internal incentive programs as well. Themes are like rallying cries – good ones are anyway. This will help you to instantly engage your sales team and get them motivated!

Just remember to make sure your theme ties back to your program’s objectives and keep the theme short and to the point.

Go BIG with the Announcement

If you don’t really kick off your program, you’re going to have the same 20% of people participate. You want to really share this news in a BIG, BOLD, and EXCITING way.

You may want to make a live announcement about your program during an important internal gathering, such as one of your national sales meetings. Also, consider using video – such as a sizzle reel – to showcase highlights of the program. Definitely highlight your incentive travel destination.

You may also want to interview your past winners for the video and get them to share their experiences. This will definitely drive excitement among your team.

And finally, make a big show of your destination reveal. You could hold off on the reveal for a couple of weeks and have clues throughout (teaser communications), getting people to guess where they’re going. And finally, be sure to have clear messaging from your key executives that highlight their commitment to the program.

Make Sure Your Marketing Stands Out

I mentioned a bit earlier that your sales team members should be thought of as your “internal customers.” You’ve really got to market to them to get them to buy into this program.

One of the best ways we have found to get our marketing messages to stand out to sales teams is to go old school and use snail mailings instead of emails. We’re all bombarded each and every day with digital sales messages. At this point, we’ve all learned to tune them out.

But most of us don’t get much snail mail anymore. Heck, we don’t even get bills if we’ve gone “paperless.” There is still something nice about getting a piece of tangible mail, and your program participants will really appreciate it.

Some would even suggest that tangible, dimensional mailings will help get your employees emotionally invested in the program. Our logical minds may relate to all things digital, but the human heart is a bit more old-fashioned and responds to good ol’ analog messaging!

But Also Use a Variety of Channels

We absolutely think you should experiment with mailers, but it’s also important to use a variety of channels to deliver your messaging. Different people respond to different channels, and different channels offer different communication benefits.

We recommend our clients experiment with the following channels to see what works best:

  • Apps
  • Branded items
  • Brochures
  • Letters
  • Postcards
  • Emails
  • Videos
  • Monthly newsletters
  • Text messages
  • Webinars

Give Them a Dopamine Hit

A study found that top producers have higher levels of dopamine in areas of the brain associated with reward and motivation. “Slackers”, on the other hand, have high levels of dopamine in the emotion/risk perception areas.

How can you leverage this bit of science? By keeping the conversation going throughout the program. Use push notifications to cheer participants on, helping them to reach that next goal. This releases dopamine into the right sections of the brain.

Ask for Feedback

If you haven’t been focusing on a content marketing strategy for internal customers, you will be learning as you go, and that’s okay. Just be sure to ask for feedback so you know what is working and what isn’t.

Consider using surveys to get a clear picture of what forms of messaging inspire and motivate your team. Be sure to analyze your metrics to see what channels worked best. What were your email open rates as opposed to your snail-mailers? What were your click-through rates on your push notifications?

Collecting and analyzing this data will help you to refine your communications moving forward. 

Budgeting for Communication

As a general rule, you should plan on spending 10 – 15% of your program budget on internal communication. Again, improved consistent communication is going to dramatically increase the success of your incentive program, so don’t skimp.


The Wrap

Effective internal communication is critical for a successful travel incentive program. Without a well-developed strategy, you’re apt to get the same old 20% of your sales team buying in, leaving a lot of money on the table.

If you’re new to a purposeful internal communication strategy, you’ll want to definitely keep your messaging clear and simple, use a motivation theme for your program, have a big announcement, use a variety of channels including snail mail, encourage your team throughout the program, giving them that dopamine hit, ask for feedback, and plan on spending 10-15% of your program’s budget on communication.

And if you need any help with your incentive travel program, just give us a shout. We help planners choose the absolute best destinations for their teams and also get the best deals on hotels and airfare.


Corporate Event Management
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