It'll be no surprise to readers of Financial & Insurance Meetings, but THE INSURANCE AND FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY is out in front when it comes to measuring the success of incentive programs. Also not surprising: You're doing it all in-house. Still, even the meeting pros in our industry need to work on ways to measure the “soft” goals of incentive programs, such as maintaining producer loyalty and trust, and building new relationships.

Incentive users in the insurance industry are not only the biggest spenders (23 percent had an incentive travel budget of $1 million or more in 2008), but the most evolved in how they measure the success of their programs, says a new study from The Incentive Research Foundation, New York. The study analyzed data from 926 respondents in six industries that historically have used incentive travel: electronic computer/component manufacturing, pharmaceutical preparations/manufacturing, new car dealers, telecommunications resellers, commercial banking, and insurance agencies and brokerages.

The data was collected before the government bailout of financial services companies and banks began last fall and before companies began massive cancellations of meetings and incentives. Nonetheless, the banking sector reported a 33 percent decrease in their incentive travel budgets for 2008, the largest decrease across the vertical sectors. Similarly, the insurance agency/brokerage category reported a 34 percent decrease in their motivational meeting budgets for 2008.

The insurance and telecommunications sectors are the most sophisticated in the way they measure return on investment, with roughly two-thirds of the insurance respondents saying they rely on total incremental improvement of sales/profits over incentive program objectives or on total number of participants who achieved their objectives, vs. tools such as post-meeting surveys.

But there may be a disconnect between the goals insurance companies cite for their programs and how they measure those programs. Asked what their most important goals are, respondents said, “to build employee loyalty/trust,” “to maintain existing relationships,” and “to start new relationships” — all soft objectives — followed by “to increase sales.”

While most of the other vertical markets surveyed use outside incentive firms, the majority of insurance programs are planned in-house. A full 94 percent of insurance industry respondents said they do not outsource because their in-house resources “have more than enough ability to perform this planning without outside assistance.”

Outsourcing also appears to be relegated to the travel portion of the program. Asked if they use incentive companies to consult on all aspects of program design, only 27 percent of the insurance industry respondents said yes, vs. 60 percent in the electronics industry and 50 percent in automotive. Find the full report at www.theirf.org.

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