McCord Travel forms incentive planning biz

Because McCord Travel Management was already fulfilling incentive travel for corporate clients, the mega-agency felt structuring incentive programs was a logical next step.
Thus, McCord`s performance marketing division was born.

“I think we can leverage the relationship we have with our clients already and help them implement incentive programs,” said Scott Graf, president of McCord`s performance marketing division.

The performance marketing division houses not only the new incentive planning business but also McCord`s traditional group travel services, such as housing, registration and meeting planning and group air travel.

“I want to be able to talk to a client about their business needs [for incentive programs] end-to-end,” said Graf. “When a client wants us to help plan an incentive trip for their sales people, we want to talk to them about why they`re trying to have this incentive.

“I`ve seen the concept work for Maritz, and we`re leveraging technology to make it work for McCord.”


Graf at one time worked for Maritz Travel Co. in St. Louis. Graf said McCord recruited experienced executives from midsize and large incentive companies to staff the new division.

Because many companies drastically reduced travel in 2001 due to a sluggish economy and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, business is down at travel management companies. Graf said the incentive planning business represents a new revenue stream for the company.

“We`re not looking to hang on and survive next year, but to thrive,” McCord said, “and we have to identify new revenue streams in order to do so.”

McCord`s performance marketing division has been under development for nearly a year.

As the incentive travel business has grown, there has been increasing demand for assistance in developing the incentive program itself, said Graf.

“We have, without naming names, seven to 10 customers engaged or about to be engaged in full service from the performance marketing program,” Graf said.

Graf anticipates that travel will be the primary award McCord will be asked to fulfill, but the new division also can implement a program in which the award is merchandise.

Graf said the most popular choices for merchandise awards are audiovisual products, such as CD players; sporting equipment, and jewelry.

In order to effectively conduct programs without incurring excessive overhead, McCord partners with suppliers that provide merchandise rather than purchasing and warehousing its own inventory.

Graf added that the ability to administer a program on the Internet makes the performance marketing program cost-effective. For example, Graf said McCord establishes a Web-based database for incentive programs.

Using the database, a company`s employees have access to information from their desktops, where they can monitor their status and determine if they have accumulated enough points to earn an award under their company`s program.