A creative, targeted, well-executed promotional campaign can turn a trip into an incentive to perform. Here are 10 tips for power-packed promotions.
1. Gear mailings to the participants: their demographics, travel experience, and expectations. For example, for dealers or distributors who have traveled the world, there's more allure in exclusivity (such as taking over their own castle) than in going to an exotic destination. But for independent sales representatives who receive mailings for three or four different incentive programs, frequent notices and promotional materials would be most important; it could take several mailings just to catch their attention.
2. Make the kickoff mailing crackle with excitement. In the case of an incentive, the kickoff mailing sets the tone for the entire program. A teaser gift that plays off a unique aspect of the destination is one way to start. Planning a program to Vienna? Who wouldn't open a box of Austrian chocolates? Or, for an incentive trip to the Orient, you could translate the names of potential qualifiers into Chinese, make Asian stamps, and mail them out with ink pads.
3. Remember: Timing is everything. For an incentive, it is suggested that planners kick off the program nine months out with a mailing and teaser gift. One to three follow-up mailings are recommended to build excitement. For international conferences, frequency is important. A second mailing can increase the response rate by as much as 50 percent.
4. Effective doesn't mean expensive. Most incentive organizers spend between 5 percent and 10 percent of their budgets on promotion--but materials are available for far less. National tourist offices and international convention and visitors bureaus provide brochures, maps, posters, and visitors guides free or for a small fee. They also supply shell brochures, which can be printed with the company or association's name and logo. Another popular promotional tool: Send a videotape of the destination.
5. Use airmail and international postmarks to build excitement. The CVB or NTO can fill special requests for local mailings of postcards, or even send a personal letter from a local dignitary.
6. Make registration material internationally friendly. Include space for country name as well as enough space for country and city codes for international phone and fax numbers. Designate an official language for the conference, and provide information on translation services. Inquire about attendee requirements, from handicapped accessibility to special meals.
7. Shower them with details about the destination. Mailings should brief participants on everything they need to know about the country, including both practical information and suggestions for things to do. Start with visa or passport requirements, information about processing times and fees, and any necessary inoculations. Include information on the weather at that time of year; time differences from the United States; language (some planners include a list of common words and phrases and their translations, or even a pocket-sized dictionary); currency (exchange rate, where to get the best rates); local business hours; value-added tax and how to get refunds (where applicable); cultural taboos and traditions, including any restrictions on public dress; gift-giving protocol; tipping; and any other laws or regulations that attendees should know about.
Also include health and safety details: Is the water drinkable? Should they stay away from certain foods? Are pickpockets a problem? What is the political climate?
8. Fill them in as much as possible on the trip itself. Accompany the tickets in the final mailing with complimentary coupons, luggage tags, and transfer information. Also, outline all expenses the company will cover (tips, for example). Along with the itinerary, include any information on spouse tours, child care, and appropriate dress. Give specific suggestions for making the traveler more comfortable, such as "Dress in layers" or "Comfortable walking shoes are recommended."
9. Play up the hotel. Include a fact sheet on the hotel with its address, phone, and fax, as well as facilities (health spa, business center, restaurants), in-room amenities, and local electrical current and whether the hotel has converters. If the hotel or resort is the destination, include brochures and discounts for hotel attractions.
10. Add general travel information for overseas trips. For example, include handy hints for packing (as well as how many bags guests will be allowed), information on travel insurance (and whether they should obtain it), and tips for combating jet lag.