OneAmerica finds out what producers really want in an incentive.
Conventional wisdom, when it comes to incentive conferences, says that a slew of senior executives must attend to mingle and bond with producers. But for OneAmerica Financial Partners, Indianapolis, research turned that wisdom on its head.
More than time with senior executives, with whom they interact throughout the year, at OneAmerica “high-end producers want time with the CEO,” says the company's CMO, Brian Lauber. “So we now give producers intimate time with Dayton Molendorp. They have breakfast with him, we move him around during dine-arounds, and we have town-hall meetings.”
These and other changes were a result of a review of OneAmerica's incentive programs that began in late 2005 and led to selection of St. Louis-based Maritz as the company's meeting-management partner. That relationship helped OneAmerica to improve consistency and cost savings, but Lauber also wanted know if the company was doing the best possible job of motivating producers.
To answer that question, OneAmerica used Travel Insight, Maritz's research tool. OneAmerica had surveyed attendees in the past, but never with the sophisticated analysis of Travel Insight. (See box.) “Our approach is based on predictive modeling, which is a type of analysis based on how people make decisions,” explains Chris Gaia, vice president of marketing at Maritz Travel, who worked closely with Lauber throughout the process. “We survey the entire channel, not just the people who have already earned a trip.” Survey results can be segmented, so you can see, for example, what scores highest with producers who have never attended an incentive program.
Understanding producers' needs adds a critical voice to traditional incentive-conference discussions, says Gaia. “You have the execs in a room, you have a budget, you have lots of different ways you can spend it,” he says. “What's missing are all the people who are going to decide whether to try to achieve your goal.”
Getting the straight dope on producer opinions liberated One-America's decision-making. “We used to assume and debate about what people wanted,” Lauber says. “Now we have hard data on which to base our decisions. I can go to the CEO with facts — I am now neutral. That's important in mergers where people may be stuck in traditional programs.”
In addition to learning from the research that producers want time with the CEO, Lauber discovered other basics about his audience: “The message was, ‘Give me choices, but I might decide to do none of them,’” Lauber says. “These people work really hard. They want downtime. They want a landing area, but they don't want an agenda forced on them.”
Use of the tool is ongoing. “Right now the younger generation wants family-focused conferences, while the older generation wants to go with their spouses to Europe and stay in a five-star hotel,” Lauber says. “We'll have to keep surveying, because things change.”
How Travel Insight Works
Maritz's research tool, Travel Insight, presents respondents with an array of conference elements in different combinations — length of trip, whether guests are hosted, location, etc. — and asks them to weigh their relative importance. Respondents go through a series of screens, choosing the incentive travel program design they prefer and weighing it against other program designs. An analysis of the results brings into focus a picture of the most motivating program. Importantly, the Maritz tool is designed to survey all previous and potential attendees.
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