If I found one consistent theme as I walked the floor of the Motivation Show in late September, it was choice. Never have so many products been designed with so many options — so winners can pick what motivates them the most.

At the top of the list is a new survey tool, rolled out at the show by Maritz Inc., that could have enormous implications for the group travel industry. Companies can use the Web-based survey to ask employees which program attributes (trip length, hotel type, destination, activities, etc.) would make them work harder to achieve a trip. What's so interesting is that companies can ask all their salespeople — not just the ones who win every year — and then break out the responses based on demographics.

The premise of incentive travel has always been that a single travel experience that surpasses what winners could create on their own is the ultimate motivator. Yet Maritz' clients using this survey tool are finding that different trips motivate different types of people — and some of these companies have decided to do two or three trips in the future.

Another clever concept that caught my eye packages people's dream experiences — everything from hot-air ballooning to driving a NASCAR car — in a slick box with a silver ribbon that is delivered to your top customers or salespeople along with a personalized message. Dozens of other debit cards and gift certificate services also use as their selling point the hundreds of options they offer.

On the last day of the show, I sat on a panel with Cliff Wilcox, compensation specialist, U.S. Postal Service, who said that choice was a key determinant for him when he buys awards for postal employees. With people scattered around the country, many in rural locations, he needs awards that everyone can redeem no matter where they live. He is also realizing that demographics and sociographics have a huge influence on what gets people excited about incentives.

As winners grow more diverse — and the divide between generations becomes more pronounced — choice in both travel and merchandise incentives will become the way to drive results.

Barbara Scofidio

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