Our third exclusive Agent Preference Survey offers agent input on the most important incentive program decisions you make: where to go and what to do when you get there.
Why aren't you booking Australia? For the third time, the Land Down Under ranked as insurance agents' most-desired international incentive destination--and by an even wider margin than in our last survey. Meeting planners concerned about how long it takes to get to Australia should note that "flight time to destination," while ranked as an important factor in a participant's enjoyment of an incentive trip, nonetheless was considered less important than guest rooms, meals, recreational facilities, hotel service, and airline service.
A fascination with Australia is but one of the past results confirmed by our third Agent Preference Survey. Other findings have been contradicted, while we've also added a couple of new questions this time around--for example, do attendees want kids along? (Respondents were almost evenly split: About a third do, about a third don't, and about a third don't care.)
California Dreamin' Asked to choose their favorite domestic destinations, agents were most likely to pick sunny spots, as in our two previous surveys. California, Florida, Hawaii, and Arizona take the top four spots this year, as they did in 1996, with California leapfrogging over the Sunshine State for this year's top position. New to the top ten is Washington state, in at number eight, and dropping out of the top ten this year is Texas, ranked 13th.
As mentioned, Australia solidified its number-one position in the international rankings, which otherwise showed some new contenders, partly because of new choices we presented to respondents.
In previous surveys, Great Britain was offered as one of the international choices. Agents ranked the isles third in 1996. For the current survey, we offered these separate choices: England, Scotland, and Ireland. All three made the top ten. England came in at number four; Scotland was ranked seventh; and Ireland came in at number ten.
As in 1996, the Caribbean was the second-most-popular international destination this year. France, ranked number six last time, moved up to the third position. Bermuda, the Bahamas, Italy, and Germany all returned to the top ten this year, while New Zealand dropped from seventh to eleventh and Austria moved down from number ten to the 17th spot.
Fun or Folly? We said it after our 1996 survey, but we'll say it again: Think twice about "beach Olympics." Asked to choose their four favorite activities from a list of 24 possible incentive program events, agents put beach Olympics dead last (tied with tennis). On the other hand, there may be some latent adventurers among your group, so don't discount deep-sea fishing or white-water rafting as recreational options. Both activities were chosen by almost one-third of respondents as one of the four activities they'd participate in if offered the chance. (Careful, though. Women put deep-sea fishing way down at number 13.) Topping the activities list was a decidedly less adventurous activity, golf, selected by 44 percent of respondents; and a typical itinerary component, sightseeing, was chosen by 34 percent.
What Women Want One thing we'll say about the agents you motivate--they're doers! We sent out 1,300 surveys and received 478 usable responses--a remarkable 37 percent response rate, our best ever. The male/female breakdown is the same as in our last survey (86 percent male, 14 percent female). We thought you'd like to know how women's responses compare to the overall results on a couple of key questions.
On activities: If you've got female qualifiers, give them time to book facials and massages. Women agents put spa treatments second only to sightseeing as the activity they'd be most likely to choose during an incentive program. Golf, which was ranked number one overall and number one by male agents, came in at number 12 among women agents. Still, don't discount golf's increasing popularity. Its number-one position this year represents a dramatic leap from the fifth spot in 1996. More evidence of the Tiger Woods effect: Respondents chose "golf resort" as the third-most-desired type of property for an incentive trip, up one spot over its previous position.
Men and women do agree on some activities: Both groups put sightseeing, white-water rafting, and snorkeling in the top six.
More interesting, when asked to rank four types of incentive rewards--cash, merchandise, individual travel, and group travel--on their motivational effectiveness, male and female agents showed a pretty dramatic split. Women put cash last, while for men cash was number one. Women rated group travel most effective, followed by merchandise, individual travel, and cash. Men put cash first, followed by group travel, individual travel, and merchandise.
What Makes the Biggest Impression? In addition to asking agents about their itinerary preferences, we also asked them to prioritize the elements of a trip. In other words, what is most important to their enjoyment of an incentive program? As they did last year, guest rooms and meals took the top two spots with almost equal ratings. (And most qualifiers want those nice guest rooms at beach resorts, again agents' top-rated type of property.)
Some other interesting findings: Airline service is more important to agents than the time it takes to get to a destination. And though the whole purpose of an incentive trip is to recognize agents' achievements, "recognition event" came in last in order of importance.
Kids: Love 'em or Leave 'em? As for the prospect of sharing an incentive travel experience with kids, most attendees want the option to bring them along or they say it makes no difference if kids are invited or not. One respondent suggested a minimum age requirement. Look out for the significant segment--30 percent--of respondents that prefers an adults-only experience. Some of them feel pretty strongly about it. One respondent wrote, "No! No! No!" next to the question.
If You Could Ask 1,000 Agents One Question . . . We've added a few new questions to our agent survey this year, but we're interested in knowing what you want to hear from this group of top-producing respondents. Please write, fax, or e-mail your suggestions and we'll consider incorporating them into our next survey.
Send to: Alison Hall 60 Main Street Maynard, MA 01754 Fax: (978) 579-5927
How This Survey Was Conducted The survey, designed by the staff of Insurance Conference Planner and reviewed by insurance industry planning professionals, was mailed to 1,300 top-producing life insurance agents around the country. We compiled the mailing list with the help of five insurance companies, each of which contributed from 100 to 300 names of producers who regularly qualify for their incentive travel programs.
We thank the following companies for their support: Kansas City Life, The Franklin, National Life of Vermont, Safeco Corporation, and Sun Life of Canada. We received 478 useable responses--a 37 percent response rate. Research Results of Fitchburg, MA tabulated the results.
Two new survey questions asked agents how they feel about upscale adventure travel. To give them an idea of what we mean by "upscale adventure," we offered some examples: biking through French wine country, heli-skiing in Canada, a multi-day rafting trip on the Colorado River, and hiking in Switzerland. These are just examples, of course. No doubt as many colorful brochures land on your desks as on ours, advertising all manner of eco-tours and "soft" adventure trips around the world.
In fact, you might get the most interesting adventure travel ideas from your own attendees, more than four out of five of whom said an upscale adventure travel experience would appeal to them. We asked respondents to suggest their own upscale adventure ideas, and more than 50 of them did. The response that cropped up the most: an African safari, suggested by 12 agents. Others got a lot more creative. How about gold mining in Alaska? Riding Harley-Davidsons across Europe? Or houseboating on Lake Powell in Arizona and Utah?
Variations on the fishing theme (Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, South America) were mentioned by nine agents; and seven agents suggested trips revolving around snorkeling, scuba diving, or surfing. Other suggestions: horseback riding through Ireland, mule riding in the Grand Canyon, and white-water kayaking. Some respondents chose adventurous destinations (China, the Nile, the Australian Outback), while others had a unique reading of the question: One agent's idea for adventure travel was "a limo through wine country."
* The vast majority of agents report that their companies hold educational sessions during incentive meetings, even a few more than in our last survey (up to 95 percent from 92 percent in 1996).
As for the speakers who address them during those or other sessions, this year's respondents prefer motivational pre-
senters, as did agents in 1996. However, our last survey's
number-two topic, sales and marketing, takes a back seat this year to two topics that have more to do with an agent's personal well-being than his or her business acumen. Humor took the second spot, followed by "personal and professional balance."
"The insurance industry" again occupies the sixth spot--only ten percent of respondents chose it as the speaker topic they most prefer.
Insurance agents are a stable bunch. We found the exact same male/female breakdown and nearly the same age breakdown as in our last survey, two years ago. Slightly fewer agents are between 40 years old and 49 years old this time around, while slightly more are between 50 and 59 years of age. Exactly the same portion (12 percent) are 60 years old or older.
Again, we've surveyed an extremely well-traveled group of achievers. More than nine out of ten have attended an incentive program during the past 18 months. Far more remarkable: As in our previous survey, half of all respondents has attended ten or more incentive trips. It's easy to see why a meeting planner's greatest challenge is to continue to impress these perennial qualifiers.
* More agents than in our last survey (45 percent this year versus 39 percent in 1996) said it was "unlikely" that a compelling incentive trip would motivate them to sell one product in preference to another to qualify for that trip. Emphasis on compliance has peaked over the past two years, perhaps accounting for the jump in agents who do not report an outside influence on selling decisions.
Still, most agents (57 percent) consider incentive travel to be "highly effective" as a motivator while 40 percent consider it "somewhat effective." Only three percent believe incentive travel is "ineffective." As for the effect of "1099-ing" agents for the value of an incentive program, either they're getting used to it or it's another part of a new spirit of compliance. In our last survey, more than one-third of the respondents said that if an incentive trip were considered income to them, it would affect their efforts to qualify. This year, fewer than one-fifth felt that way.