September 28, 2016
Corporate incentive travel—companies rewarding their employees for performance with travel to a place they might never be able to afford on their own—is a win-win (yep, I said that) for companies and employees. The company wins with more sales, client retention, or valued employees that stay longer and employees get recognition, a deeper dive into the culture of the company (who doesn’t want to mambo with the CFO?), and a sense of accomplishment. But successful incentive travel programs require constant monitoring.
Here’s how to figure out whether your program is a hit or a miss:
For many companies, a corporate incentive travel program has to fund itself. In other words, the cost of the program, including maintenance, coordination, internal marketing, etc. can’t be more than the revenue contributed (like a bump in sales, for example) by the program earners.
One way to make sure it doesn’t, is to keep your eye on whether the costs budgeted come in at or below the amount of revenue earned. “At or under budget” is good. “Above budget” can be bad or at least a reason to take a closer look at the program.
When earners fail to qualify for incentive travel benefits because the bar for qualification is set too high, an incentive program can actually erode company culture, be a disincentive for employees (it’s too hard so why try?), and fail to bring in the revenue you need to cover program costs.
Making sure the number of qualifiers, as a percentage of those eligible is a “healthy” figure can help the program thrive. The percentage will vary from company to company, but start looking at percentages that represent a funded program first, then decide your level of tolerance for anything below that.
It’s true. When you’re earners are on the beach with a margarita in hand waiting for the massage table to open up, they’re probably going to give you high marks for the incentive trip you’ve sent them on. If that isn’t the case, you’ve got a problem.
Ask trip participants to evaluate the trip from various perspectives: overall experience, education, quality of team building activities, impact of social responsibility activity, extent to which respondent will attempt to qualify in future years, destination, accommodations, etc.
Look for scores lower than average to see whether the program is a fail or you just need to buy more margaritas.
Corporate incentive travel programs can help support an organization’s culture. But to do that, companies need to know if program participants are really engaged with the destination and other earners.
One way to do that is to use a mobile app for the trip and monitor specific data points: number of times users access onsite agenda, number of messages attendees send to each other, use of geo-location features, or number of game participants/goals reached. Lots of activity is a good sign. When you see low engagement numbers, start asking questions.
One of the main reasons to offer corporate incentive travel is to boost employee performance in key areas that are important to the company—both tangible things (sales, profit, retention, tenure) and intangibles (volunteerism, new program development, teamwork, community impact).
To make sure that your corporate incentive travel program is working, you’ve got to put numbers–sales revenue, client retention numbers, or instances of community engagement, for instance–on your goals. Then decide whether they are high enough to justify your program.
There are lots of ways that companies can recognize, reward, and motivate employees. For example, while younger employees may respond to incentive travel, older ones may just want cash. So, it’s important that companies continuously measure returns against investments in an incentive travel benefits program to ensure that it’s the best use of company resources.
Make a calculation, like for every dollar spent on incentive travel, the company gets X number of dollars, media mentions, carbon offsets (you decide) in return. The lower the number, the more reason to put your dollars elsewhere.
Not every company has the internal resources or the size to implement an incentive travel program. It’s expensive and requires year-round management. But if you do use incentive travel to meet company objectives–whatever they are–you need to think about the types of numbers to follow to make sure the program is working, employees are happy, and the needle is moving in whatever direction you want it to move.
September 26, 2016
If you’re new to IMEX America in Las Vegas–a top industry event for corporate, association or agency planners–it can be somewhat overwhelming the first time you attend. So many connections to make, so much vendor research to do and tons of educational sessions and power-networking events to boot!
We bet you’ll want to full advantage of spending 4 days in one of the most entertaining cities in the world, so check out our top 8 recommendations on what to do, where to eat, and how to get the most out of this incredible industry event.
At IMEX America
Tip #1: Book appointments in advance
As an appointment-driven show, if you’re attending as buyer and don’t book appointments, you’ll find yourself standing around waiting to talk to vendors who are already fully booked. The appointment booking portal is open, so don’t waste any time! Book Now!
Tip #2: Wear comfortable shoes & pace yourself
The trade-show floor alone is at least a 30-minute walk end-to-end, so you’ll need to opt for your comfortable shoes or your feet will be killing you by the end of the day! Also don’t forget to bring what you need with you for the day because it’s a long hike back to your hotel room.
Tip #3: Be a sponge at Smart Monday
Every year, MPI hosts a full day of educational sessions and it’s absolutely worth your time to check them out. Jonathan Bradshaw’s keynote —Meetology: the fascinating science powering interpersonal communication –is sure to deliver useful insights. But we’re also excited for Courtney Stanley’s presentation on How to implement event technology at your next meeting . She’s a great speaker and not-to-be-missed!
We’re excited to catch Jon Bradshaw’s keynote on Meetology!
How to Rock the After-Hours
Tip #4: Block off the evening for industry parties
MPI puts on a great event called Rendez-Vous held at the amazing Drai’s NightLife venue. This wild night usually ends up as a who’s who of the events industry, so don’t miss it!
Tip #5: Eat at least once at the Wicked Spoon Buffet
This restaurant has won awards for having the best buffet (and dessert buffet) in Las Vegas. It’s great if you’re going out with a larger group of people, as it has enough variety to offer something for everyone.
Tip #6: Take an evening stroll to the Fountains of Bellagio
If you’ve never been to Las Vegas, this iconic music, light and water show is absolutely worth experiencing in person. With shows running throughout the afternoon and evening, we know you’ll find time to squeeze this in while you’re in town.
Tip #7: Learn how to play simple craps
Snake eyes! Skinny Dugan! Jimmy Hicks! It just isn’t Vegas without a bit of casino action. Brush up with this awesome how-to guide and you’ll be ready to get your craps game on in the after-hours.
If you Have Time to Explore Out-of-Town
Tip #8: Hike on over to the Grand Canyon
You can get to the Grand Canyon by bus, helicopter, or airplane, and once you’re there, there are a variety of exciting adventures to experience. You can take a relaxing cruise down the Colorado River or if you’d like to get your heart racing, you can take a stroll on the Grand Canyon SkyWalk. Whitewater rafting and SUV tours are also available. And Grand Canyon Lodges is a great place to stay if you have a few extra days.
September 22, 2016
Research shows that the top reason association members don’t renew their memberships is a lack of engagement with the organization. So, it’s not surprising to learn that increasing member engagement is the top goal for the majority of associations. Every organization has an association membership marketing plan, but getting the word out at the exact time a member is most receptive can be a challenge. A member engagement funnel can be an effective way to drive association members toward engagement and, ultimately, retention, but you need to deliver information where and when they’re likely to listen. It’s a bit of a dance really.
Take A Page From Marketing And Sales
Many marketers visualize the process of nurturing prospective customers from the point of thinking about making a purchase to actually making a purchase as a marketing and sales funnel. At every stage of the funnel, they employ different communication channels and messages with the objective of driving prospects to the next level. Nurturing engagement is not unlike nurturing marketing and sales. A funnel representing the narrowing down of prospects as more refined communication tactics are applied is as relevant to engagement as it is to marketing and sales.
Design A Funnel That Fits Your Members
Both sales and marketing funnels and membership engagement funnels identify stages that mirror the behavior of prospects or members. For example, a very simple marketing and sales funnel includes the stages of awareness (the prospect fits the demographic of a buyer), consideration (the prospect has begun researching a product), and purchase (the buyer is ready to make a purchase). A member engagement funnel might include awareness (the member has joined or renewed his membership), commitment (the member has demonstrated an interest in a topic or issue), and participation (the member has engaged).
Map Your Marketing To The Funnel Stage
Once the stages of the engagement funnel are identified, an association can begin designing a plan to communicate with members in a way and with a message that resonates at each specific stage. For example:
Members at this stage have decided that they want to dance but aren’t sure whether they prefer a polka or foxtrot. Typical outreach to new and renewing members at this stage—a welcome or renewal email, membership certificate or card, welcome kit, invitation to a members-only section of the website, introduction to either a new member or returning membership email marketing series, an invitation to join an association social network or a task force—should introduce both existing and new opportunities for engagement as well as solicit participation.
Be careful to target engagement messaging appropriately. For example, new members may want to peruse a whole menu of dance styles. Renewing members may only be interested in staying with the polka until they get it right.
These members know they love to polka and all they want to do is find places and people that love polka the way they do. These members have already begun trading polka tips with other members on public and private social networks, or requested further information on polka opportunities.
Membership marketing collateral at this stage—newsletters on specific areas of interest, targeted membership email campaigns fleshing out specific initiatives or highlighting other member’s participation in activities, or community management on public and private networks that points a member to a specific resource or opportunity based on his online comments—must be tailored to that polka-loving member.
Members at the participation stage are ready to polka. They’ve received their instructions, know what to do, and and want to reach out to polka mentors and fellow polka-crazy members that are part of this big new community. You’ve equipped them with a helpline for issues and a concierge to make their experiences something special (the opportunity to learn the best polka moves on the planet).
Your job at this stage is to encourage advocacy (provide ways that participants can immediately tell others, such as social media, photo booths, or pre-packaged email templates about their experiences or impact) and offer recognition, such as call outs, profiles, or awards (polka advocate of the year, maybe?) for participation so you can convert garden-variety polka members into polka-happy evangelists.
A Funnel Keeps Your Association Focused
Dance metaphors aside, the idea of a funnel is to employ very specific membership marketing tactics that recognize where the member is in his or her engagement process, deliver support and information that motivates and equips them to go to the next stage, and infuse an engagement message in existing and new outreach and programming.
Because of the direct connection between membership renewals and engagement, it’s critical that engagement be given priority. A membership engagement funnel is a familiar and highly applicable framework for nurturing members toward full-throttle participation and renewal year after year.
Who doesn’t love to dance?
September 20, 2016
User conferences. What a beautiful way to engage your customers, show them how to use your products in new and exciting ways, and (hopefully) convince them that your solution is the cat’s meow. In fact, if you’re not positioning your user conference as an advocacy channel, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to market your product to new and similarly aligned customers. Here are some suggestions on how to create true customer advocates from your attendee base.
Taking specific measures to address your customers as individuals will help you create a lasting impression on them. For example:
- Use your data, customer histories, and the relationships between your sales representatives and customers to personalize your interactions with attendees.
Offer personalized agendas in your event apaction with attendees.
- Pre-populate the registration form to save your customers’ time.
- Ask your sales staff to personally (telephone calls when possible) invite customers to the conference.
- Develop suggested conference agendas based on customers’ engagement and purchasing histories.
Sourcing conference content from your attendees builds the relationship by providing them with a seat at the table. Here are some crowdsourcing techniques:
- Ask them for input on the hot topics, pain points, and desired education that should be addressed during the conference.
- Create a customer advisory board to weigh in on programming, content, and special events.
- Solicit input on everything from what to call the user relaxation area to the name of the official cocktail.
Giving your customers channels on which to evangelize your products makes it easier for them to spread the word. For instance:
- Create and publicize a Twitter hashtag for the conference.
- Set up a Facebook, LinkedIn, or other online group specifically for the user conference.
- Install digital signage at the conference that shows other attendees the live feed from social channels and encourages them to comment.
- Create games with embedded educational content (here are some ideas) to reinforce product features and benefits that can be passed along to others after the conference.
Encourage attendees to engage socially with digital signage like Live Display
Allowing your customer to deliver the education, especially if one or more of them are high-visibility or influential brands, can add credibility to your brand. You can:
- Send out a call for proposals to your user group.
- Involve customers in a variety of educational activities, including workshops, birds-of-a-feather round tables, fireside chats, meetups, tweetups, or lunch-and-learn sessions.
- Work with your customers to refine their content and ensure that they are accurate.
Nothing says, “we don’t value you” like a horrible experience navigating the destination. Paying attention to these details can go a long way:
- Pay or provide instructions for your attendees’ transportation from the airport to the hotel.
- Provide your guests with in-airport and/or in-hotel remote event check-in.
- Simplify navigation by delivering information in an easy-to-use conference mobile app with maps, agenda, alerts, and networking capabilities.
Help attendees find their way around by adding maps and location details in your event app
Train a hand-selected group of customers to be evangelists during the conference. Include these elements:
- Assemble a team of customer advocates whose sole purpose at the user conference is to answer questions about the product. Call it a genius bar, help center, explanation station, or whatever suits your user base, but encourage your advocates to be honest and authentic in sharing their experiences.
- Consider giving your ambassadors uniforms, ribbons, or pins to draw attention to their expertise.
- Reward your ambassadors with specialized training, early access to new products, or free admission to the conference.
Bringing users face to face with your employees—engineers, product developers, trainers, technical support staff—and other users is a unique experience in the lives of customers and the company. With the appropriate strategy around serving, involving, engaging, and educating your user conference attendees, you can convert a group with few things in common besides the use of your product into enthusiastic brand advocates.
September 15, 2016
Participatory sessions offer tremendous value for conference attendees. They help eventgoers work through professional problems, find solutions, and ultimately benefit from the collective knowledge of the group. In the past, flip charts were used to collect these ideas. But after the session is over, the papers get rolled up, left behind, and forgotten about. For the attendees and organizers, that’s conference value left on the meeting room floor.
Doreen Ashton Wagner wanted more for her event. So when it came time to plan her final conference session of her two-day program, she gave pause. Her conference, Engaging Associations Forum, was in its third year and in keeping with the theme of her event — to engage her participants — she was looking for a different spin on the same old participatory session. That’s when she came up with the idea to host a Hackathon-style session. Borrowed from the tech space, she wanted to create a collaborative, focused knowledge dump — a way for her participants (most of whom were in their 40s and 50s) to share their ideas, thoughts, questions, and concerns about a topic of their choosing, but also gain access to what others were chatting about and take those learnings home with them at the end of the day.
In the past, these sorts of sessions were done manually. Ideas were crowdsourced in the room, written on a flip chart, and voted on by a show of hands. Discussions happened in small groups and the loudest voice at the table generally dominated the conversation.
Out with the Old
For Ashton Wagner, it was time to go digital. She ditched the flip chart and used her mobile event app’s live polling capabilities to allow attendees to vote on predetermined discussion topics during the event. Before the Hackathon session started, she chose the top six topics and assigned two tables for each theme so the group size was manageable for face-to-face discussion.
Next, she used the Group Discussions feature in the app as a collaborative digital notepad. Each member of the group could type their thoughts, questions, concerns, and solutions into the discussion group, making the process democratic and removing the need for a single notetaker. It leveled the playing field of participation and opened the discussion group up to more introverted attendees or those more comfortable writing than speaking.
When it came time to present each group’s findings, Ashton Wagner pulled up each individual Group Discussion thread on a big screen, so the group could see what was talked about. And attendees could follow along in the app. She was also able to access the discussion threads post event, as were attendees, so they could take all that they learned with them home without overloading their suitcase.
Meeting the Event Objective
Ditching the flip chart was the right choice for Ashton Wagner. Not only was using the app a more cost-effective solution than renting audience response hardware from her AV supplier, but using in-app features like Group Discussions allowed her to extend the discussion beyond the actual time of the event. In addition, if her attendees left the room to grab a bite to eat or a thought struck them on a break, they could still contribute to the Group Discussions. “What’s so great about the feature is that your attendees’ physical presence isn’t necessary and the time limitations are lifted,” says Ashton Wagner. “All of these things contribute to getting maximum engagement which is the primary objective of the event.”
Using Live Polls and Group Discussions as part of Engaging Associations Forum’s session content also encouraged greater engagement and adoption of the event app and led to Ashton Wagner’s best experience with an event app provider to date. And it satisfied the organizer’s objectives of innovating, trying new things, and engaging participants.
Doreen Ashton Wagner; Brandon Bedford, EventMobi; Meagan Rockett
“Our event is a platform to try new things,” says Ashton Wagner’s second-in-command, Meagan Rockett. “As long as we’re pushing things forward with new ideas, new things, new platforms, then we’re achieving our goal of making it easier for people to engage.”
Her only regret? Not using the audience response and engagement features more! “It would be awesome to use these features in even more sessions next year, and even post-session where people can ask and have questions answered by the speaker or the panel,” says Rockett. “There are just so many ways you can use it!”
- Curious about how you could use Group Discussions at your next event? Download this Implementation Guide for ideas
- If you love the idea of designing the event experience around crowdsourced content, check out this blog post
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