Channel SPIFFs Not Working? Here’s What to Do.

by | Feb 27, 2023 | Blog


Imagine investing a significant portion of your budget in an incentive strategy like channel SPIFFs and not getting the results you expected.


SPIFFs can seem like a fast and easy way to boost sales in your channel for a certain product or product line.


But depending on how you implement them, you may see better or worse results.


SPIFFs are not a one-size-fits-all type of thing.


So today, let’s talk about how to do SPIFFs right.


First, What Are Channel SPIFFs?


For the uninitiated, “SPIFF” can stand for a lot of different things, but most commonly it’s a “Sales Performance Incentive Fund.”


Broadly speaking, a SPIFF is a short-term promotion used to motivate a sales rep—whether they’re on your internal sales team or a channel partner—to push more of a given product, in order to achieve short-term sales goals for your business.


They may fold into a longer-term incentive strategy, or they may be just a one-off.


Channel SPIFFs can be incredibly useful in helping you achieve certain goals, like:


  • Increasing revenue
  • Creating excitement around a new product
  • Driving engagement with your business
  • Capturing mindshare
  • Building loyalty


But that’s only if they’re implemented correctly.


Let’s take a look at some of the common ways we see SPIFFs going wrong, and how to do them better.


1. Timing and Frequency


If you’re doing a short-term promotion like a SPIFF, timing is everything.


All too often SPIFFd get used too frequently, so you’ll want to think through a few questions to elevate your SPIFF strategy first.


What time of year do you roll it out? How long does it last for? How frequently do you use them?


SPIFFs are generally spontaneous, short-term, and infrequent.


If you roll them out frequently and predictably, they may lose their ability to generate excitement among your channel partners.


Worse, your partners may hold off on pushing your products because they’re expecting a SPIFF to come up later in the year.


Likewise, if they last too long, your partners may become too adjusted to the extra bonuses and become dissatisfied when the SPIFF ends.


Implement your channel SPIFFs strategically. Pay attention to the ups and downs of your partners’ fiscal quarters.


A good SPIFF should be disruptive, but not so much so that it throws everything off when it finishes.


2. Product


What products are your SPIFFs tied to?


A SPIFF is typically used to build excitement around a new product line or iteration of an old product.


Whatever products you choose, short-term promotions like SPIFFs require attention on the buying and selling patterns of everyone in your channel.


For example, products with seasonal demand are great for SPIFFs, since the short timeframe of the SPIFF works for temporarily pushing out certain offerings.


If the product you’re promoting is new, complex, and unfamiliar to your partners, they’re not going to be able to move it further down the channel.


If that’s the case, consider tying in an eLearning module for extra rewards to help build product knowledge.


This one’s great because it also directly benefits your partners’ own business.


3.Communications & Structure


A lot of incentive programs fall flat because of inadequate communications and faulty design.


When it comes to SPIFFs, ask yourself these four questions:


  1. Do my channel partners know the SPIFF is happening?
  2. Is the promotion easy to understand?
  3. If applicable, is the SPIFF easily redeemed?
  4. Do my channel partners know where to find more information about the SPIFF?


Great incentive strategies are clear. Incentive programs that easy for participants to understand drive more engagement.


This is especially true for short-term promotions like SPIFFs.


A failure to adequately communicate could result in the participant missing the window for the promotion entirely.


Like with the types of products you promote through your SPIFFs, knowing your audience is vital to successful design. How do your channel partners communicate?


How do they expect to reach you?


What rewards would motivate them?


We typically say that non-cash rewards are far more effective than cash rewards, but some companies use SPIFFs as supplements to the traditional sales bonus.


4. Overall Incentive Strategy


SPIFFs can be effective as one-off promotions, but they’re especially useful when folded into a longer-term incentive strategy.


Like I said before, when your channel partners get used to the rewards delivered by a SPIFF, it may be frustrating for them to lose those rewards after it ends.


Connecting SPIFFs to a broader incentive program helps build motivation in your partners around a certain product in the short term but continues to build recognition throughout the year.


There’s another way SPIFFs can help your business, besides directly driving sales: data.


A well-executed SPIFF can deliver valuable data insights about your partner’s behaviors.


These insights can help you design additional successful SPIFFs in the future, to help you tweak an ongoing incentive program, or to generally help you understand your channel better.


If you’re not satisfied with the results of a previous SPIFF, it may have still provided useful insights that could help you down the road.


Conclusion: How to Get Your Channel SPIFFs Done Right!


SPIFFs may seem like a fairly simple incentive strategy, but there’s a lot of complexity there.


There are a lot of decisions to make.


How frequently you do them? What products should you choose to promote?


How should you communicate and reward your channel partners? etc.


But executed properly, they can give great returns.


Experience the success of a proper SPIFF incentive with HMI. Book a call today!

channel incentive program

Subscribe to Email!

Need more incentive insights? Check out these related articles.

Load More

Start the Conversation Now

Ready to start planning your incentive strategy? Get in contact with us!