There's been so much buzz about business travel cutbacks and the challenges of flying after September 11 that it's natural to assume your top producers may be reluctant to travel. Not true, according to the more than 300 producers who filled out our exclusive survey in December 2001. While three-quarters of all respondents said they had some concerns about their travel safety and security, the vast majority were nonetheless undaunted about taking an incentive trip and had no intentions of changing their travel plans.

That's the good news. But in another survey finding, qualifiers were evenly split over whether they would prefer cash or a trip as an incentive reward. The lesson: You'll need to make your incentive meetings more compelling than ever to play a significant role in producer retention and motivation. To do that, read on. Our survey results tell you how to reach producers with exactly what they want.

READY TO GO

If you're thinking of canceling incentive programs based on producers' fear of flying post-9/11, survey results suggest you think again. Despite safety concerns, producers are not afraid to travel — implying that some post-9/11 travel cutbacks could be due less to qualifier qualms than to corporate cost-cutting. A whopping 86 percent of all respondents said that they were willing to travel for an incentive program in the first six months of 2002, and only 15 percent expected to alter or reconsider their incentive travel plans during that time period. The older and more well-traveled producers were the most enthusiastic about traveling: 90 percent of respondents over 40 versus 77 percent of respondents under 40 were ready and willing to take an incentive trip.

However, another finding revealed that more respondents were ready to resume flying domestically than internationally post-9/11: 53 percent were not at all reluctant to take to the skies over the United States, 42 percent were somewhat or slightly reluctant, and only 5 percent were extremely reluctant. Interestingly, not one producer in the 40- to 49-year-old age group, which represented 32 percent of all respondents, was extremely reluctant to fly domestically.

The prospect of flying internationally was more daunting. But even though 23 percent of all respondents — including 17 percent from ages 40 to 49 — were extremely reluctant to resume flying internationally, a solid majority of 56 percent were not at all or just slightly reluctant.

Travel Plans

Do you expect to alter your incentive travel plans for the first six months of 2002?

Yes 15%
No 82%


KEEP ME SAFE

Not surprisingly, safety is a top travel concern. Three-quarters of all respondents were extremely or somewhat concerned about their travel safety and security, and only 11 percent were not at all concerned. The more well-traveled, the greater the concern: 45 percent of producers who travel more than once a year said they were “extremely concerned,” compared to 35 percent of those who travel less than once a year.

If you're considering adding more on-site security to your meetings, you're on the right track to keeping attendees happy and allaying their safety concerns. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they would feel more comfortable about travel if increased security was provided during the incentive program.

Of the 15 percent minority of respondents who expected to alter their short-term incentive travel plans, several said they would drive or “travel on the ground” rather than fly. Others said that changes in their travel plans would depend on world affairs.

Increased Security

Would more security during the incentive program make you feel more comfortable?

Yes 63%
No 16%
Not sure 19%


FUN IN THE SUN

Sun and surf is the hands-down choice if you want to please producers with what they like best. As it has for the last two surveys, “beach resort” handily beat out all other types of properties as agents' number one choice, although fewer respondents over the age of 50 chose beach resorts than younger producers.

Mountain resorts came in second as a preferred property, but were chosen by only 38 percent of respondents over 50 compared to 52 percent of respondents younger than 50. Cruise ships ranked third, chosen most often as a preferred incentive facility by producers who traveled less than once a year (53 percent).

Warm weather destinations reign. The top four domestic destinations were consistent with our last agent survey (conducted two years ago): California, Florida, Hawaii, and Arizona. Post-9/11 fallout was the likely cause of New York slipping from its former spot as number four to number six, tying with Nevada. Colorado ranked number five.

On the international front, producers also want sun and surf: As in our last survey, the Caribbean/Bahamas was the hands-down top pick — although fewer older, more well-traveled producers picked the tropical climes than the under-40 set who attended incentive programs once a year or less. The second choice for international destinations was Australia/New Zealand, followed by Western Europe and Bermuda.

The strong preference for beach resorts doesn't necessarily mean your producers want to do nothing but soak up the sun: More than three-quarters said that they liked the idea of an upscale adventure travel program. So you might want to alternate luxury seaside resorts with hiking in New Zealand or taking a barefoot sailboat cruise in the Caribbean.

PICK THE RIGHT SPOT

If your qualifiers are independent brokers or sales reps who qualify for more than one incentive program, what is the primary factor that leads them to choose one company's incentive program over another's? For 57 percent of our respondents in this category, the meeting destination outshone all other options as the deciding factor.

No other factor came close. But a respectable 13 percent chose the reputation of the company's meetings, up 2 percent from our last survey — and of the top-tier producers who attend more than one incentive a year, 17 percent chose the reputation of the company's meetings as the most important factor they consider. The timing of the trip was chosen by 12 percent of all respondents in this category.

Preferred Incentive Property

  1. Beach resort
  2. Mountain resort
  3. Cruise ship
  4. Golf resort
  5. Gaming hotel
  6. Large downtown hotel


EDUCATION AND INSPIRATION

What do producers want from an incentive program? In part, to learn something and get emotionally recharged.

More than three-quarters of respondents said that a high-quality business/educational program was an extremely important or somewhat important element of an incentive trip. They are also looking to learn from speakers: “Sales techniques” was chosen as the third-most-popular speaker topic, and “marketing techniques” was fourth on the list.

But the events of 9/11 didn't inspire much interest in such topical subjects as “world affairs” and “safety/security issues.” Instead, “inspiration/motivation” topped the list of preferred speaker topics, especially with the 40- to 49-year-old age group (74 percent) and producers who travel more than once a year (75 percent). Humor ranked number two, suggesting that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Also of interest, “work-life balance,” a new category this year, ranked fifth as a preferred speaker topic.

Top Five Speaker Topics

  1. Inspiration/motivation
  2. Humor
  3. Sales techniques
  4. Marketing techniques
  5. Work/life balance


PAMPER ME

There's also no doubt that producers want to be pampered.

As in past surveys, city/sightseeing tours was the activity picked by the greatest numbers of producers when asked what types of activities they want offered during an incentive trip. What's new is that spa treatments came in second, up from number five on the activities list two years ago, and number nine four years ago — even beating out golf as a preferred activity! It's not just women who crave pampering and revitalization: 80 percent of all survey respondents are male. Golf ranked number three as the activity of choice, chosen most often by producers under the age of 40. Another finding revealed that 82 percent of your producers are interested in upscale adventure travel.

We also asked producers to rank factors that most affected their enjoyment of an incentive trip, from extremely important to not at all important. The top factor (4.6 on a 5-point scale), quality of meals, was closely followed by quality of hotel service (4.5); quality of guest rooms (4.3); and recreational facilities and airline service (tied at 4.2). Close behind them were flight time to destination (3.9) and in-room amenities (3.5), which tied with interesting theme events. Even the lowest-rated item on the list, the importance of a recognition/awards event, got a 3.2 ranking.

THUMBS-UP FOR TRAVEL AND CASH

Survey results confirm the effectiveness of a group incentive travel program: 88 percent of all respondents said it was an extremely or somewhat effective motivator, and only 11 percent said it was somewhat ineffective or not at all effective. More producers in the under-40-year-old age group (91 percent) found it an extremely or somewhat effective motivator than those 40 to 49 (86 percent) or those over 50 (87 percent).

But survey results also suggest that to truly motivate producers, it's crucial to tailor trips to what they want. In another question, nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) said that cash was their preferred incentive reward. This is consistent with past survey results, but something to watch for as the agent pool gets younger: Those under the age of 40 were the most highly motivated by cash (63 percent). The other half of respondents (49 percent) chose travel as their preferred incentive reward, with group travel getting the nod from 29 percent and individual travel from 20 percent. This is a change from our last agent survey two years ago, when individual travel was the preferred reward — suggesting that group camaraderie has become more important to your producers in these uncertain times.

Group travel was chosen most often as the preferred reward by those in the 50-plus age group (36 percent) and those who go on incentive trips more than once a year (35 percent). There was virtually no interest in merchandise as an incentive reward.

Group Travel

How effective is group incentive travel as a motivator?

Extremely important 38%
Somewhat important 51%
Somewhat unimportant 7%
Not at all important 3%


TIME OFF WITH PARTNERS

What drives producers to work hard enough to qualify for incentive trips? This year, the lure of an “all-expenses-paid vacation” was greater than ever: 87 percent said it was the number one factor that motivates them to qualify, versus 80 percent in our last survey. The appeal of a free vacation rated highest — 93 percent — with the 40- to 49-year-old age group.

Including partners on incentive trips is a big motivational factor for producers. Many respondents took the time to write in comments about the importance of spending time with their spouse.

Professional relationships and continuing education are also important motivational factors. “Camaraderie with fellow attendees” was the number two factor that motivated producers to qualify for incentive conferences, checked off by 52 percent of all respondents. Camaraderie was most important with the older and well-traveled producers: 66 percent of those who attend incentive conferences more than once a year and 58 percent of respondents over the age of 50 checked it as a motivating factor. It was followed by “visibility within the company,” selected by 49 percent of all respondents, and “to build relationships with home office executives,” selected by 41 percent.

Producers are divided about bringing the kids along. Asked if they wanted the option to bring children, 38 percent of all respondents said yes, 31 percent said no, and 30 percent said it makes no difference.

Top Five Motivators

Why do you attend incentive conferences?

  1. Paid vacation
  2. Camaraderie with fellow attendees
  3. Visibility within the company
  4. Build relationships with home office execs
  5. Educational opportunities


ONLINE REGISTRATION

We know from past surveys that the vast majority of producers have access to the Internet. But while online registration has become more common for corporate meetings in general, it is less common in the insurance industry. Just 16 percent of respondents have registered for incentive meetings by e-mail or at a Web site: Surprisingly, the percentage is highest for the 40- to 49-year-olds (18 percent) and lowest for those under 40 (14 percent).

Still, there seems to be a slow trend toward online registration: In our last survey two years ago, only 10 percent of respondents said they had ever registered online for an incentive meeting. And in other survey results this year, even though 83 percent of producers have never registered online, 33 percent said they would prefer it. While fewer of the youngest producers have experienced online registration, a hefty 40 percent of them expressed a desire to skip the paperwork and register by e-mail or at a Web site.

RESPONDENT PROFILE

Seventy-two percent of our respondents described themselves as career agents, 15 percent as independent brokers, and the rest wrote in titles ranging from district manager to sales rep. Many are seasoned professionals: 17 percent have attended 20 or more incentive conferences in their careers, 26 percent have attended 10 to 19, 11 percent have attended four to six, and 27 percent have attended one to three.

We also asked how often respondents usually attended an incentive program and found that 21 percent participated in incentive programs twice a year and 52 percent participated once a year; the remainder less frequently.

Your producers are getting younger: Twenty-nine percent were under the age of 40, compared to 21 percent on our last survey, and 8 percent were under 30. The largest pool of respondents, 32 percent, were in the 40- to 49-year-old age group, followed by 31 percent age 50 to 59, and 9 percent age 60 or older.

Female agents are also becoming more prominent in the insurance industry: 20 percent of our respondents this year were women, compared to 14 percent two years ago. Thirty-eight percent of them were under the age of 40, 38 percent were age 40 to 49, and 24 percent were over 50.

Age

Under 30 8%
30-39 21%
40-49 32%
50-59 31%
60 or older 9%


SURVEY METHODOLOGY

Our 2001 Incentive Trip Preference Study, designed by the staff of Insurance Conference Planner and our research arm, the Primedia Business Marketing Research Department, was mailed to 1,200 top producers in November and December 2001. Our primary research objective was to investigate incentive trip preferences, to determine incentive travel habits, and to examine travel safety and security concerns in the wake of the terrorist acts on September 11. We compiled the mailing list with the help of seven insurance companies located across the U.S., each of which contributed the names and addresses of producers who regularly qualify for their incentive travel programs.

Your producers clearly want to share their thoughts with you — we received 303 usable responses, a very respectable 26 percent response rate. The results were tabulated by the Primedia Business Marketing Research Department in Stamford, Conn.

Incentive Trips in Your Career

10 or more 43%
7-9 11%
4-6 18%
1-3 27%