The Incentive Research Foundation held its 14th Annual Incentive Invitational over the weekend and, in conjunction, released results of a new study focused on the ways companies in various industries manage and measure the success of their incentive programs. Its major conclusion: There’s a disconnect between the soft goals companies cite as the purposes of their programs (building customer loyalty and trust, and networking, for example) and the way they measure the success of those programs—by increases in incremental sales/profits.

This reveals an opportunity “for incentive providers to prove their value by showing that it is possible to develop programs to both engage audiences and help reach business goals,” said Rodger Stotz, the IRF’s chief research officer.

The report analyzed data from 926 respondents in six industries that historically have used incentive travel: electronic computer/component manufacturing, pharmaceutical preparations/manufacturing, new car dealers, telecommunications resellers, commercial banking, and insurance agencies and brokerages. Participants were asked about their use of outside incentive companies and, as a group, 78 percent of respondents reported that they don’t outsource incentive design, logistics, or measurement at all. Respondents in the insurance industry were the most likely to work with an outside company (27 percent), followed by pharmaceutical industry respondents (25 percent). Commercial bankers were least likely to use an outside company to help with incentive, with only 13 percent or respondents hiring incentive firms.

Management of incentive programs does not rest with any one department in any of these industries. Half of the potential buyers fall within the predictable categories of sales and marketing, operations, and human resources, while the other half worked in field services/support (28 percent), product design/management (8 percent), and other service management roles (8 percent).

Download the entire survey at

—Barbara Scofidio