New Carrot, Same Stick

Premier Incentives offers companies employee-engagement packages that send sales teams abroad, resulting in unprecedented profits—and memories—for everyone involved.

Photo: Joe Greene

Hawaii. London. Rome. Ireland. Vienna. Hong Kong. Australia. Incentive travel programs have been around since corporate sales forces first took to the road selling their wares. The idea was simple: dangle a carrot in the form of an enticing travel program that the company could use to motivate salespeople to hustle higher sales. Today, in 2012, a lot has changed—especially the enhanced communication between the company that puts it all together and the sales teams at the client company.

Enter Premier Incentives, a “boutique incentive house” based in Salem, Massachusetts, which was founded more than 20 years ago by Richard Gaeta and Marilyn Gaeta. The Gaetas believe that the key factor in creating a successful incentive program for a company is creativity, personal service, and high-quality communications. A crucial facet of the company’s plan is to define each client’s “Universe”: the group of people the client company is aiming to motivate, be it an internal sales force, distributors, service-support staff, or others. Subsequently, plans can be tailored appropriately with each Universe in mind.

“We keep in constant touch with sales forces, distributors, and channel partners at client companies, using a variety of methods, such as promotional mailings and e-mail campaigns,” Richard says. “We create a custom website for each program, so the targeted Universe, as well as their spouses (who, by the way, provide even more motivation) can see what they could experience and track their progress relative to their goal.”

For 14 years, Richard made a career at Pan Am, and he left the company as a general manager. The job allowed him to gain experience working with incentive companies, as they chartered flights with the airline. “Working with Pan Am gave me two things—an advantage in traveling to, and becoming familiar with, hundreds of destinations, as well as an understanding the needs of corporate America,” he says.

Incentive programs, according to Richard, are designed to be self-liquidating, relieving the client of out-of-pocket expenses. “The strategy is to engage and motivate the Universe to fund the program through incremental revenues,” he says. “The company must establish revenue goals and objectives for an incentive program to succeed, [which is] especially critical in these challenging economic times.”

Unlike handing out cash, using incentive-travel programs creates memories, bragging rights, relationship building, and bonding. “If you had all the money in the world and were willing to spend it, you couldn’t duplicate the experience,” Richard says.

Every program managed by Premier Incentives is custom designed and created to fit the client’s business objectives and their respective Universes. In one case, the company created a custom road rally between Dublin and Killarney, Ireland, with a welcome event at Trinity College. “Guests in 100 cars had to find their B&B for the night—a ‘take over’ of the Hotel Europe and the working Muckross Farm, where they enjoyed food, dancing, entertainment, learning, and experiencing first hand the history of Ireland,” Richard says. “It was a huge success.”

Premier Incentives enjoys its market niche, catering to companies in beverage, finance, insurance, and technology. The Gaetas want to keep their client base manageable so they can provide truly detailed customer service. Marilyn oversees the day-to-day operations, the relationships with destination-management companies, and several other travel and merchandise partners. It takes time to establish those critical, worldwide relationships and to understand all the important components that go into orchestrating a flawless delivery.

“It’s the little things we do that make the difference,” Richard says. “Clients appreciate us for our creativity, personal touch, and our attention to detail. I would say that the best reward is having satisfied clients who consistently exceed their goals. There’s a high level of personal satisfaction in that for us.”