This was originally posted on SpearOnes Blog and was Posted on September 10th, 2014 by Kelly Parisi. You can read the original article here

“You know what you need to do to maximize sales performance? Personalize rewards!” If you are in the meetings & incentives industry, you’ve heard that personalization and memorability are important to picking the right award types for your audience. Employees are more likely to appreciate awards that are tailored to their specific interests, which leads to increased engagement and sales results.

But how, exactly, do we personalize rewards? How do you learn about each individual’s preferences within your sales organization or distributor channel?

The Three L’s – Listen, Listen, Listen

A big part of understanding your audience is to spend time with them. Sometimes this can be done throughout the year in an office environment or at an annual meeting. You can also use your incentive travel program this year to get insight into how next year’s incentive should be structured. Ask a lot of questions to attendees: Where do you typically vacation? What destination is on your bucket list? Do you like to travel with your whole family or just your spouse? What do you enjoy most about traveling?

Granted, you can’t give each winner the exact trip they want while planning a group incentive travel program. However, you can begin to gather trends and try to at least pick destinations that the majority of your audience would find motivational and appealing. You would be surprised the information you find out in a casual conversation with your winners.

Little Touches

It is sometimes the simplest things that make attendees feel recognized. Consider personalizing elements in their hotel room before they arrive. This is often done with a welcome gift waiting for them, but don’t stop there! Some luxury hotels or cruises will allow you to really get creative. Some examples include: monogrammed soap, personalized pillow shams, embroidered throw blankets, embossed catch-all trays, or a message from the CEO waiting for winners on their room TV. Size of group might be a limiting factor on these kinds of personalizations, but little things can go a long way in really making your incentive travel experience memorable.

Merchandise & Communications

Merchandise is an easy way to incorporate personalization. Monogramming, wood burning engraving or embroidering are great techniques to turn a commercial item into a treasured item of sentiment. With collateral, people sometimes forget how easy it can be to add individual names to each piece. With variable printing, it can be very cost effective to make each piece seem individually printed. Pre-trip communications, onsite materials and event invitations should all incorporate variable printing for maximum impact. Also, email communications should include subject or opening lines personalized with the subject’s name.

Know Their Name

Sounds like such a little thing, but people love hearing and seeing their name. Especially on group incentive trips – you don’t want your winners to feel like they are part of the herd. They need to feel individually recognized for their successes. Upper management should take time to learn the names of each individual and try to call them out whenever they can. If utilizing a mobile event app, this can be a great tool for management to match names and faces pre-event. Onsite staff should also do their best to know all VIP guests by name as well as learn the names of individuals while operating the program.

At the awards dinner, try to call out each individual separately. If your awards dinner is dragging on, try to keep it moving by showing a picture of each individual with a fun fact on a rotating slideshow.

Survey Feedback

Post-event surveys are a must to gather attendee feedback. Even more important is what you do with the feedback. If 65% of your audience says they would be very interested in going to Hawaii, try to persuade upper management to look into it, even if the CEO doesn’t think Hawaii would be that appealing to him. When you do incorporate attendee feedback into your trips, make sure that the audience knows that you listened and are making changes. The only way people will be honest with you is if they feel their opinion is valued.

If you keep the attendee experience forefront as you design your incentive travel program, your organization will be sure to reap the sales benefits. With each program, I challenge you to brainstorm 3 new ways you can incorporate personalization to recognize winners. Listen to their feedback and use it to make their experience memorable and fulfilling.