MSI Insurance used to let its incentive rewards promote themselves. With offshore destinations like Hawaii, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten waiting at the end of its 12-month qualification period, agents didn't need reminders of where they were headed.

But when the company booked Tucson for its March 1996 incentive trip, Jim Melchior, agency sales director, decided something might be needed to keep agents fired up. "It's my belief that producers are looking for variety in their incentive trips," he says. "But with a switch to a continental destination, the site needed to be brought to the forefront more aggressively."

With a relatively modest budget, Corporate Communications, with the help of several other departments, put together a campaign for the second half of the qualification year to keep producers motivated down the home stretch. The promotion earned MSI an Award of Excellence from the Life Communicators Association and kudos from its sales force. "The agents loved it," says Stephanie Josephs, corporate communications specialist. "The teasers got a lot of compliments. The promotions kept reminding agents that Tucson is a fun place to go. They had a feel for the site before they got there."

If you've created a successful promotion, why not share it with your peers? Call Editor Susan Hatch at (508) 768-7720, or send materials to Insurance Conference Planner, 60 Main Street, Maynard, MA 01754.

Company: MSI Insurance Companies, Arden Hills, MN

Event: 1996 Sales Championship/Agency Elite Conference

Sites: Sheraton El Conquistador Resort and Country Club, Tucson, AZ

Dates: Sales Championship, March 20 to 24, 1996; Agency Elite, March 18 to 24, 1996

Qualification Period: January 1, 1995 through December 31, 1995

Qualifiers: 29 Sales Champions and seven Elite

Total Attendees: 88, including agents, guests, and home-office staff

Theme: Recognition Roundup

Design: All design and printing was done in-house, led by Art Director Sue Sawyer and Print Shop Manager Corky Jechorek. Sawyer worked with Stephanie Josephs, corporate communications specialist, to come up with promotional items and art elements to support the theme.

Promotion Budget: $4,000 covered all costs except postage

Savings Ideas: Clip art--inexpensive and royalty-free--was found for the central cowboy image, as well as the chili pepper, cactus, and cowboy boot used inside the booklet and elsewhere. Because the company has a manageable-size sales force, clerical staff was enlisted for folding and stuffing rather than hiring an outside company.

Departments Involved: Corporate Communications, Graphic Services, Purchasing, Agency Sales

Planner Comment: "In-house writing, designing, and printing is our number-one money-savings tactic," says Stephanie Josephs, corporate communications specialist. "If we had to work with outside companies for those services, we'd have paid a lot more for this promotion."

After the December kickoff, these Tucson postcards, mailed in July and August, were the first teasers sent. Notes on the back from the CEO and senior vice president reminded agents to "Hit the trail to success" and "Keep those sales sizzling." MSI, which had an outside incentive company handle the purchasing, printing, and mailing of the postcards, paid a total of $453 for two 350-piece mailings.

At the Agency Area Communications Meeting in December 1994--the traditional kickoff for the annual incentive program--the 250-person MSI agency force had coasters and a bottle of hot sauce awaiting them in the meeting room. The "Double Pine Ranch" is a play on the company logo (which features two pine trees) as well as the corporate cafeteria, Twin Pines Cafe, where agents were served a southwestern luncheon as part of the kickoff theme. Including printing, MSI paid $2.70 for each set of coasters and $3.85 for each bottle of hot sauce.

The company newsletter, Success Extra, typically is printed in green and black, but for the year-long Tucson promotion, the publication's colors were changed to red and black. The promotional icons--cowboy, cactus, chili pepper, and cowboy boot-- appeared on every issue.

The launch brochure, with information on qualification requirements and the incentive destination, was given to MSI's producers at the December kickoff. To save on art costs, the bandanna motif was scanned directly from a real bandanna.

The strains of Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and other country stars were the final pre-trip promotional treat for each of the 36 agents who qualified for the trip to Tucson. Including custom labels, MSI paid $7.70 each for a 50-cassette order.

Written, designed, and assembled in-house, this self-mailer unfolded to reveal a list of 18 things to do with an MSI Recognition Roundup bandanna, plus the bandanna itself. Best suggestion: Use the bandanna to wave good-bye to the agents who didn't qualify for the sales championship. MSI paid $2.18 a piece for the bandannas, including the cost of having them printed with the Recognition Roundup logo.