A carefully planned and managed sales incentive programme has the potential to grow both new and existing revenues. It does this by redefining how you motivate your partners and their sales teams. Proper incentive programmes should be viewed as long-term investment and rather than a short-term solution and as such, should be managed accordingly. There are occasions where short-term wins can be achieved by running smaller incentives of course, but typically incentives should be as much about behaviour change and mind-share over a period of time, as they are about increasing numbers for a period of time. If you provide your channel with the support and encouragement they need to increase sales, change behaviour and increase mind-share, they will in turn provide their/your customers with the best possible experience and keep them coming back for more!
Whether it’s a new programme being introduced for the first time or an enhancement to an existing one, it is important to generate as much partner awareness as possible. Good planning, a strong message/theme and consistent, regular comms do this by explaining the rationale for the programme, introducing the supporting tool(s), summarising qualification/requirements and how the process of earning, giving, and receiving rewards will work.
‘Properly constructed incentive programs can increase performance by as much as 44 percent.' By Harold Stolovich, PHD
Here are our Top Tips when considering a Channel Incentive Programme.
Proposition and Messaging
How will you communicate your new partner incentive programme? How will you catch their attention amongst other vendors also running incentives? It is a good idea to have a strong theme or concept that drives the incentive and then all comms, campaign activity, assets, events and awards can carry a consistent theme. This will help to establish a strong engagement amongst your targeted partner sales audience.
Resource and Budgeting
What resource do you have in place to manage the incentive and liaise with your chosen agency and incentive programme provider? There will be an internal resource implication but ideally your trusted agency/provider will take a lot of this away from you. And factor in budget early. Not only for the setup, infrastructure, launch and ongoing comms, but for the rewards themselves. They cost money too! You need to budget clearly for the rewards you will be giving, whether these are simple spot prizes, amazon vouchers, weekly champions or end of programme ski trips! It all needs to be included and that way you can calculate a more accurate ROI, including the likely sales uplift you will see too.
Communication is key
Communicating an incentive scheme effectively and consistently is crucial to ensure partner uptake and engagement from the outset, pre-, during and post- launch. The programme must be clear and simple to understand. Participants will need to know exactly what they are able to achieve and what is expected/required of them to earn their rewards. Your comms must be:
Make targets and goals realistic
Set realistic and fair targets – both for you running the incentive and for those taking part in it. It doesn’t matter how good the rewards are, if people feel they will not be able to achieve them, they won’t even try. A programme however that keeps partners informed about their progress and achievements will further motivate them to keep pushing.
Internally also, when running the programme, it is essential that you attribute the correct targets/goals/objectives when setting up the incentives. ROI is key so you must not under or over estimate what the likely return will be, or there could be trouble ahead.
Reward all your partners
Reward everyone who is successful and not just your top performing partners. Rewarding everyone’s success will promote a much more productive atmosphere. In addition, a leader board can be used as a great communication and motivational tool, even if separated by your partner tiers, or amongst individuals within partners, so as not to de-motivate different levels of partners or individuals. Everybody likes to feel special so you could also add in personal or ‘per partner’ targets for them to achieve.
Motivate through sharing
Sharing rewards with partners and informing them that people are winning, and winning regularly is key to long term success. Telling those involved about their progress in achieving specific rewards, as well as similar successes of others along the way, will keep them going. Essentially incentive and reward programmes are about loyalty, sales, behaviour and mindshare. And as we all know salespeople are highly competitive so use this to encourage and motivate them.
Keep it fresh
Your programme will benefit by staying on top of industry changes, as well as the changing business objectives and focus of your company. Regular meetings and partner feedback will help you tweak your programme ensuring sustained activity and engagement. You need to ensure your partners find it fun, fresh, interesting and ultimately achievable.
Measure results to ensure your programme is paying off
Constantly evaluate and analyse to ensure new partners are buying into the programme and existing partners are engaged. Make sure you have access to the right performance metrics to allow you to keep on top of communications. And get it all right at the start: know what you want to measure so you will able to measure it! (Sounds obvious doesn’t it…)
Keep your rewards appealing
Deciding on the rewards is one of the most important parts of designing a successful scheme. If the rewards are not in line with demand, your partners will not have the desire to keep pushing those deals. The ‘not another catalogue’ syndrome can hurt your well-thought-out programme as it will fall flat regardless of how good it looks! Ensuring partners know precisely what they can win, what new incentives are on offer, as well as what’s coming soon, will keep interest and excitement levels up.
Whatever form your communications take, remember that consistency and frequency is essential to any programme’s success. Informed partners will be inspired partners and they drive results that grow your bottom line.
Don’t forget you are not the only one. Partners are likely to be part of one or more incentive schemes offered by multiple vendors – your competitors in fact. How will you make yours compelling enough to stay front of mind to ensure that your partners are motivated more by you than anyone else?
It is also important to mention taxation. This is something you will need to seek specialist advice on, as the regulations will vary from region to regions and country to country. It is something that is likely to affect your incentive programme – especially if you are expecting to roll out globally. So we do suggest that you speak to your tax specialist/advisor locally and that you work with an incentive partner/provider who is able to provide a platform that can cope with and manage the many differences in tax implications. It is possible to manage, but it’s not straight forward to centralise globally anymore. So you can either co-ordinate, using the necessary experts or just keep the incentives local in the regions that want to take part, and thus they take care of their taxation locally.
Do not think it is easy
Incentive and reward programmes have been around for donkeys’ years, so you might be forgiven for thinking ‘just doing an incentive scheme’ is an easy fix. It’s not. The landscape has changed, become more competitive and partners have become more selective in terms of what is going to make their business better.
The simple solution: You must engage the services of an experienced, knowledgeable organisation who not only know incentives but also know and understand the channel and creative marketing. There must be considerable time, effort, resource and finance committed to any incentive/reward programme and ‘going it alone’ or choosing a supplier with no channel knowledge is sadly unlikely to end well.
And at the same time, there is a huge amount of success to be had with a well presented, well planned and well executed programme.