by Donna M. Airoldi | March 21, 2017

Destinations: Balancing Excitement With Budgets
U.S. pharmaceutical groups still tend to be more conservative in their destination selections, and many continue to travel to Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The increased prevalence of all-inclusives in these destinations help groups more easily stick to their budgets.

But other destinations are coming into play. As budgets increase, Europe is back in the mix. Madison's Graber took 120 people to Monte Carlo for a five-night pharma program that included driving classic cars along the French Riviera and an event in a private palace. And with the Zika threat the past two years, some groups have opted for Canadian destinations such as Banff, Vancouver, and Whistler, as opposed to warmer climates. "It's beautiful, and with the exchange rate, it offers good value," says Ashley Bollman, manager event operations for ITA Group.

The key is to find new places and experiences to avoid that "been there, done that" dilemma, and once on site, provide nontraditional activities, especially if they tie in to the local culture. Roberts, brought a small group of 20 participants (winners and guests) to Jamaica and held a barbecue on a farmer's ranch, serving local specialties, and had "everyone come together like Jamaican families would."

ITA Group's Purdy created an experience for 200 guests in Nashville for a week-long meeting/incentive combo. When they arrived at the hotel they selected a pair of cowboy boots and had them custom-fit by a local mom-and-pop shop. "The participants absolutely loved it," she says. "They felt like they were immersed in the culture of where they were." And most wore the boots to the awards dinner and posted photos showing them off.

Technology and Apps Now Standard
A few years ago, technology tools were considered new. Now they are essential -- from using them to generate excitement during a program's run to internal corporate social media while on the reward trip. "What's important is being purposeful on how to use technology in programs," says Caldwell.

All messaging and posts should be contained within the app or the firewall of the company. It's popular for the same reasons regular social media is popular, and it's a great way of generating engagement among people while on a trip, but it's important to get leadership behind it so they also use the tools, adds Caldwell.

Bollman explains it's the "fear of missing out" factor. There's the sharing of photos and posts while on the trip, but technology can also be used to promote a trip and showcase what the sales team can strive to attain.

CSR Activities Required
While important across all industries, corporate social responsibility elements in programs are especially key for pharma programs. "There are new types of attendees coming into play and they want to give back," says Boisner. "CSR is a must."

Alan Ranzer, managing partner and cofounder of Impact 4 Good, says he's been doing more CSR programs for pharma companies than other industries lately, with the uptick beginning about three years ago. "It makes sense with who they are as an industry, making a difference in people's lives," he says.

One client offered a voluntary, on-site program in Buenos Aires to paint a mural and make a donation to a local orphanage. About 60 of the 80 attendees participated, with the children helping. The feedback was "great" and included comments about how meaningful it was to "meet real members of the community and interact with them in a way you don't typically get a chance to," Ranzer says.

Focus on Patient Outcomes

Regarding structure, some programs are incorporating behaviors for reps that focus on the patient experience versus straight sales results, says Buckley, with the incentives a tool to drive more patient value.

For example, a rep is typically focused on the commercialization of a drug. But there are other aspects the pharma company may offer, such as connecting patients with patient advocates, tools that support the patient in their treatments, and patient training -- "those are some of the tools that the rep is being asked to pull through to the physician's office, then from the physician to the patient," she says. "It gets back to the company trying to provide more value to providers and patients."  

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This article appears in the March/April 2017 issue of Incentive.