Profile of a Reward
Event: Bosch Communications Systems’ incentive program, November 2007. The South Burnsville, Minn.-based company sells musical equipment -- i.e., speakers, microphones, mixing boards -- to audio shops, clubs or directly to rock groups.
Who: Winners were U.S. and Canadian dealers and Latin American distributors, most of them musicians themselves, who reached their sales goals for the year.
Where: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Planners: Tom Hanson, vice president, sales, the Americas, for Bosch, and Matt Robb, account director at Minneapolis, Minn.-based Carlson Marketing
Challenge: Recast a 30-year-old program to better reflect the musician culture of the winners.
play at a scheduled
musicians like better than the sound of their own music.
That’s just one of the many little idiosyncrasies Bosch
Communications Systems discovered recently about the folks for whom
the company has been designing incentive programs for nearly 30
years. Another: Leave them alone. Cut the 24/7 organized
activities. Give them plenty of free time. And don’t even think of
scheduling their flights home in the wee hours of the morning after
a night of enthusiastic partying.
The incentive program, which began in
1976 with Telex, a company that was acquired by Bosch in 2006,
typically involves some 350 participants. Over the years, winners
have been taken to far-flung places such as Australia, Argentina,
Monaco and Vienna.
In the past, every minute of every day
was jam-packed with activities, tours, events and meals, and music
always played a part in the agenda. In Australia, for example,
winners visited the Sydney Opera House; in Vienna, they were
entertained by the Vienna Boys Choir.
But the program began losing some of
its steam in the mid-1990s, and the company put it on hiatus after
2001. Three years ago, it was reinstated, and every year since, the
format has been tweaked to make it more in tune with what these
For the 2007 program, participants
first were queried about their preferences. “They’d had some
complaints in the past that the trips were too packed, and they
wanted more free time and relaxation,” says Carlson Marketing’s
Matt Robb, who has been involved in the latest revamp.
Solution: More laid-back settings and
destinations were selected for the programs (Aruba and Puerto Rico
preceded the Dominican Republic). The number of activities and
formal events was trimmed, and winners and their guests were given
a lot more free time.
Over the years, one of the most popular
activities for this group of part-time or former rockers and blues
players (who typically bring their own instruments) was to form
impromptu jam sessions around the hotels or resorts.
For the most recent program, Tom
Hansen, Bosch’s vice president, sales, the Americas, and Robb took
the winners’ love of jamming to another level: Instead of hiring
entertainment for one of the nights, they added a formal jam
session to the agenda, with equipment, lighting and all the other
accoutrements of a professional set.
In the spotlight: Many Bosch
incentive winners have musical backgrounds -- and the personalities
that go with the territory.
The night featured an ever-changing
roster of talent, with winners serving as musicians and singers,
and the show continued on to the beach, to various balconies and
patios, and even to the piano bar in the lobby, where other hotel
guests thought they were watching professional entertainers. In
fact, when the jam session moved to the lobby, some of the winners
set up a donation bucket for the group and any other hotel guests
who wanted to contribute. The money collected was donated to the
victims of the floods that had devastated parts of the Dominican
Republic the week before.
The annual event has evolved in other
areas: The first night has no formal welcome event; with
participants arriving from all over North and South America, it
takes the worry out of flight delays and other travel snafus. The
big welcome now is held on the second night.
Similarly, the “final” night affair
actually takes place on the next-to-last night, since partying
often goes into the wee hours; this way, there are no early-morning
flights to miss. And the final bash is strictly casual: Khakis and
flip-flops are de rigueur.
Another change, recommended by Matt
Robb, was the timing of the programs. Trips traditionally took
place in December, but because the holiday retail season is so
important to both the company’s and the winners’ business, they now
are held in early November.
Along with more satisfied winners, the
fine-tuned program resulted in a greater number of winners -- a 23
percent increase in 2007 alone. In fact, the group was so large --
425 in total -- that the room block at the host hotel, the
Paradisus Palma Real, wasn’t large enough; the overflow was housed
at the hotel’s sister property, the Melia Caribe Tropical.
“The culture of our firm is more
collaborative and has an open environment,” notes Hansen. And now,
he adds, Bosch’s incentive program more winningly reflects that