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

by | February 27, 2023 | Blog

There’s nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something, only to later question whether you should have done it. We’ve all been there—just ask the queen-size bed I bought for my new apartment, only to realize, once I moved in, that the bedroom was way too small for it.

But that’s a me problem. What about if you invested a significant portion of your budget in an incentive strategy like a SPIF and aren’t getting the results you want?

A SPIF 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. SPIFs, much like my stupid big bed, are not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. So today, let’s talk about how to do SPIFs right.

First: What’s a SPIF?

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

Broadly speaking, a SPIF 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 be folded into a longer-term incentive strategy, or they may be just a one-off.

Channel SPIFs 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 SPIFs going wrong, and how to do them better.

1. Timing and Frequency

If you’re doing a short-term promotion like a SPIF, timing is everything. All too often a SPIF is used too frequently, so you’ll want to think through a few questions to elevate your SPIF strategy first.

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

SPIFs should 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 SPIF 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 SPIF ends.

Implement your channel SPIFs strategically, paying attention to the ups and downs of your partners’ fiscal quarters. A good SPIF should be disruptive, but not so much so that it throws everything off when it finishes.

2. Product

What products are you tying to your SPIFs? A SPIF 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 SPIFs require some attention to the buying and selling patterns of everyone in your channel. For example, products with seasonal demand are great for SPIFs, since the short timeframe of the SPIF 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 SPIFs, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my channel partners know the SPIF is happening?
  • Is the promotion easy to understand?
  • If applicable, is the SPIF easily redeemed?
  • Do my channel partners know where to find more information about the SPIF?

Incentive strategies should always be easy for the participants to understand, but this is especially the case for short-term promotions like SPIFs, when 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 SPIFs, 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 SPIFs as supplements to the traditional sales bonus.

4. Overall Incentive Strategy

SPIFs 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 SPIF, it may be frustrating for them to lose those rewards after it ends. Connecting the SPIF 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 SPIFs can help your business, besides directly driving sales: data. A well-executed SPIF should deliver valuable data insights about your partners’ behaviors that can be used to design additional successful SPIFs in the future, to help you tweak an ongoing incentive program, or to just generally help you understand your channel better. If you’re not satisfied with the results of a previous SPIF, it may have still provided useful insights that could help you down the road.

Conclusion

SPIFs may seem like a fairly simple incentive strategy, but there’s a lot of complexity there. There’s a lot of decisions to be made: how frequently you do them, what products you choose to promote, how you communicate with and reward your channel partners, etc. But executed properly, they can give great returns. And, as I forlornly navigate to Amazon in search of a new bed, I remind myself that our mistakes can often teach us the best lessons.

Need more incentive insights? Check out these related articles.

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