When first creating an incentive program it can be challenging to come up with the secret sauce that makes or breaks your program success. Using crowdsourcing to collect ideas the Incentive Research Foundation has put together a Micro Conference concept that polls 40 incentive industry experts on what makes a program successful. Each expert is given a two minute slot to share his/her best tips on designing and implementing an incentive/recognition program. You can download the audio clips from all or each incentive expert and sign up for weekly transcripts from the speakers.
Our most recent adventure took us to Punta Cana where we were charged with creating a signature event for the farewell gala dinner portion of the dealer incentive program we managed. The week up to this point had been extremely well-received and we needed something that would create a lasting impression, something that would stick with our client's top dealers for years to come. Something engaging enough for them to strive towards qualifying for the next program. With the right decor and style, an exclusive all-white party "hit the mark."
From the initial communication of the event it got our client's guests out their comfort zone knowing that they had to wear all white on the final night. The buzz and buildup throughout the program was electric and everyone was wondering what surprises they would encounter when they dressed in all white and entered the event.
From stiltwalkers, to Cirque performers, to American Idol talent, to the 450 person ballroom everything was coordinated together in white and the surprises kept coming throughout the night.
This was our client's first incentive travel program in 15 years and it was important for them to reward their independent dealers with a signature event that was an over-the-top expression of gratitude. Dealer incentive travel programs are about rewarding and recognizing top performing dealers and fortifying a company's relationship with them. These are their top customers and we need to retain their partcipation in subsequent programs and make sure they are aligned with our client's company and products.
What have you done recently in your incentive travel program events that have kept your participants motivated and coming back year after year for more?
As we spent the weekend watching this monstrous storm lunge at the East Coast accompanied by the steady drumbeat of impending disaster, it was pretty clear what to do if you lived here. Manage the consequences because the contributing variables were out of our control.
I thought it was pretty neat that we now have the tools to accurately project the location, timing and strength of these massive storms. Remember those brain-fogging high school statistics classes that tried to teach the calculations for the combinations and permutations of variables? X, Y, Z squared, multiplied, added, assumed and plotted to provide a solution. Thankfully, somebody did. This is great stuff to forecast weather, understand risk, project outcomes.
Once we know the possible outcomes, what can we do? Manage the consequences.
That is the issue we face planning events. We cannot control every outcome because the variables are too broad. We can plan for the much more limited consequences.
For example, have weather backup for outdoor events, mobile contact information communication trees for suppliers, guests and staff, alternative routes to known medical facilities, emergency evacuation procedures, refrigeration strategies for guests with temperature sensitive medicines, continually charged phones and computers, designated on-site decision maker and communications source.
Think simple. When phones are down, text messages are more likely to make it through a data network. Weather questionable? Budget more time to make the weather call for outdoor events when you are planning a buffet because they take longer to break down and move. The list is long but manageable.
Start making your own list of actions that manage the consequences of illness, power loss, inclement weather, strikes, and whatever else is a worry. The variables and options are more manageable and you’ll have more control than you think. And when your guests feel you are in control, well, you are.
My introduction to business technology evolution was writing a return on investment budget brief justifying the expense of a Xerox copier to replace a mimeograph machine. Oh, never heard of a mimeograph machine? It was a decades-old hand cranked stenciling technology that made a carbon printing plate for multiple copies. The new Xerox was an investment that made print reproduction scalable, clean, efficient, and inexpensive.
Then came justifying the expense of a PC to replace a word-processing device, then a laser printer replacing a dot-matrix. I have mitigated the costs of purchasing Windows Office and its many upgrades, moving from cell phones to SmartPhones, approving purchases of tablets, apps…well you get the picture. Looking back it seems there was time to catch your breath during the technology transitions, but no longer.
Now we have tools like voice to text, text to voice, geo-location marketing, ROI calculators, and engagement apps all attaching themselves to every marketplace to give marketers a temporary edge until the newest thing is introduced.. This avalanche of hardware and software tools encourages an accelerating pace of marketer adoption. It also means the tools you are using are the same as your competition making Hardware and Software commodities.
So how do marketers differentiate themselves when all the jazzy tools are essentially the same?
They use wetware. Wetware is the operating system run by the fastest, most sophisticated self-wiring nanotechnology known. In other words, our brains - the synaptic connections residing between our ears. It is what humans use to make sense from seemingly disconnected concepts and experiences. Wetware is the flesh and blood human app built from experience and is honed through wisdom of what works and what doesn’t. You can’t open the technology bag of tools without providing the context of why they will work.
Now we are called upon to bridge technology with strategies that enrich experiences, engage people and justify a new way of getting a job done. People pay for hardware and software and will happily pay for wetware when they understand their return on investment. Go ahead. Invest in your most unique asset.
Wetware, powered by people.
In a 2010 survey, two thirds slept with their cell phones next to their beds and 42% of Americans said they “can’t live” without their cell phones. Mobile phones, and smart phones in particular, have become a truly disruptive technology.
From inexpensive or free online apps offering retail couponing, instant entertainment including on-demand games, movies, music, to the intelligent wallet, hyper fluid social networks, product showrooms and university level education, mobile technology apps have disrupted commerce while putting the entire experience literally in your hands.
And nowhere else can you see this disruption so clearly as in the apps used in the travel and hospitality marketplace. There are geo targeted location programs that help you identify and understand landmarks, restaurants, and museums using tap and zoom technology. Mobile apps have led to the wholesale destruction of physical documentation such as tickets, itineraries and agendas, replacing them with rich real time program highlights and dynamic notifications. There are the added social networking benefits of broadening your community and increasing dialogue. Point your phone at that squiggly QR code and get an in-depth explanation of the painting, statue or product put right on your phone and then show your friends. Find out about your airline reservations and flights on-time performance or tap on your contact and get directions to your location. Ritz Carlton has even added on-property engagement to push location specific information to guests once they’ve checked in!
Is it any wonder that 35% of smart phone owners use their handheld browser even when sitting in front of their PC? Your whole world is in your hand. You whisper into your phone, urge it on to find information quickly, it hides your secrets and knows all your friends, rewards you with information and entertainment and causes stress when it’s out of reach.
When we pack our clients program information, travel agendas, geo-location maps into their apps, their program engagement goes up and their ability to feel in control follows. We are traveling in good company and have a 66% chance…
A few decades ago, there was a widely recognized “best” in virtually every business classification. One “category killer.” There was one “best” TV, one “best automobile, one “best” camera, one best carpet, one “best” suitcase, one “best” computer. And on and on. Today, all that has changed. With notable exception, products in most categories are at parity. (We’re very proud that a few great exceptions are our clients, like Hunter Douglas Window Fashions, Bradford White Hot Water Heaters and Global Office Furniture.). These are brands at the top of their categories.
With most products in most categories fairly equal, at least in the mind of the consumer, what are manufacturers using distribution doing to move their brands, over the competitors’ offerings? The answer is incentives.
Let’s say you walk into a store to buy a flat screen TV. Even after you’ve decided on the basics like size and Plasma vs. LCD, there are still way too many choices, and they all look great hanging on the wall. (I can name 11 brands without even trying, including 3 that start with the letter “S”). So the friendly salesperson steps in and helps you navigate through the milieu, and makes a recommendation. So, since these sort of look the same and basically perform the same and, on an apples to apples basis, cost about the same, what do you think this recommendation is based on?
Is it possible that the salesperson is being motivated to sell that particular brand or model? Is it possible that the salesperson could earn a really terrific reward by selling that brand? Is it possible that the earth will rotate on its axis?
I am not suggesting in any way that people get sold second-class stuff so the salesperson can win a first class reward. Not at all. Remember, I said earlier that most brands in a category are at parity, so the salesperson is not doing an injustice to anyone.
In a well- planned, strategically sound incentive program in the distribution space, the brand really becomes the promotion. Certainly, high-powered consumer advertising will pre-condition the market and pull people into the stores, but adding an incentive program can push the product out the door.
As a consumer, does this sound familiar to you? As a marketer, doesn’t it sound like a good idea to you?
Management consulting, advertising, and investment banking firms have competing clients ask, why should I hire you if you are working with my competitors?
The answer is always the same: we value your business and we’ve constructed elaborate Chinese Walls to prevent the leakage of ideas, customers or work product from one team to another. After all, we have the brightest, most creative people working hard to serve your interests. Pictures of the Great Wall of China from space show that the walls must be formidable.
But still we hear stories about the breaching of these walls. Strategic approaches captured, client data aggregated. Management is aghast and appalled by this stain on their credibility.
How do these breaches happen? Honestly, I think it’s just too tempting for people to peek over the wall. The potential benefits outweigh the risk. Competing strategies could be assessed, clients urged to strengthen their position, personal failure avoided, riches just out of reach.
We know human nature is curious and motivated by recognition and reward. How many people unconsciously look over another’s shoulder to read emails, glance at their neighbors mail, check out their competitors desk, linger over visitor logs? People do it because it’s too tempting. Admit it, you’ve done it too. Add reward to the mix and it’s almost irresistible.
We know as long as there are ten foot walls, someone will find a twelve foot ladder.
How do we handle it, how is our wall better? We simply won’t work for clients who compete in the same space. We give over all our focus and concentration to one client’s needs. Instead of building walls we build solutions.
Have you ever been faced with client competitor conflict or built a Chinese Wall? What do you do?
A recently released study
by the Arberdeen Group highlights how "Best in Class" companies are more than twice as likely than all other companies to provide non cash incentives. Organizations who provide non cash rewards and recognition to their sales professionals had a 23.1 % average year over year growth in corporate revenue vs.7.2% for industry average companies. So how did these companies in the study acheive a 15.9% difference in year over year growth compared to their competitors? The answer is by providing a measurable benefits and reward system with non cash rewards and recogntion for their sales professionals that is supported and communicated at all levels of the organization. Sales professionals will view cash rewards as part of their compensation. Rewards and recogntion programs provide performance enhancement opportunities in a way that payroll-based incentives cannot and in turn grow your bottom line and make your company Best in Class.
When developing a marketing budget sometimes it can be difficult to know which programs will produce the desired result and behavior of your target audience. Our programs take the guess work out and allow you to 100% target your audience.
If you would like to learn more:
I read a line in a newspaper article recently that really struck me. The gist of the story was that prior to a big horse race, the jockey asked the trainer to define the strategy he wanted to employ. The trainer said, “Get out in front, then improve your position.”
The reason I liked it so much is that it’s really the essence of what we preach. Incentives are about improving performance, and a typical incentive winner is the kind of person who, like the trainer’s advice, gets out in front and keeps on getting better. The fact that you’re in the lead doesn’t mean you should let up, because sure as night follows day, your competitors will be relentless in their pursuit. So if you’re ahead and you’ve reached your goal, keep going and reach higher. As one of the world’s greatest ad guys said, “your reach should exceed your grasp, or what are the heavens for.”
Being born and raised in Philadelphia, I am a passionate Phillies fan who loves seeing my team boasting the best record in the major leagues. As of 3 days ago, they were a whopping 7 ½ games ahead of second place Atlanta. The Braves came into town for a critical 3 game series. The Phillies swept all 3 games and now are 10 ½ games ahead. The Phillies were in front, and improved their position.
In 1964, the Phillies were ahead by 6 ½ games with a mere 12 games left in the season. They were comfortably out in front. But rather than going for the jugular, they rested on their laurels, lost 10 games in a row and finished second!
Though both teams share the same name, and both got out in front and had the championship within their reach, one improved their position and will win, while the other remained complacent and lost.
See any analogies with your sales force or dealer network?