I have been in the business of recommending, designing, implementing, and managing channel incentive strategies for my clients for a long time now. Over the years, this experience has enabled me to recognize some of the most critical components of a successful channel incentive program, including identifying the behaviors you want to drive, developing the right rule structure, targeting the right “player” in the channel, and executing a sticky and engaging communications strategy.
However, I’ve also noticed that one component that can sometimes get lost amidst all these program nuances is the actual incentive reward you choose to offer. Hiding in plain sight, the most obvious and central element of your incentive program—the incentive itself—can become secondary in importance if you’re not vigilant about it.
Take it from me—your program can have the best rules’ structure, the snazziest incentive portal, and all of the right engagement bells and whistles, but if you don’t have a reward that truly motivates the participant, it will all be for naught.
What Makes A Great Incentive Reward?
In my experience, there are two important factors to consider when providing a great incentive reward:
1) The value, or the “perceived value” of the reward
Is the reward valuable enough to engage participants and change their behavior? Making sure the actions that you are requesting are worthwhile for the program participants is obviously vital to the successful achievement of those actions. When the participant asks, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM), the answer needs to be something exciting, desirable, and clear.
Typically, we begin by recommending non-cash rewards, as these tend to have a higher perceived value to their earners. This sort of strategy is also more likely to provide earners with a sense of intrinsic motivation, which studies have shown leads to more robust overall outcomes when targeting specific behaviors.
2) The type of reward
Drilling down, the type of reward is often the main driver of significant gains in incentive programs. Depending on the demographics of your program audience, there are many appealing rewards options. Most of the programs I’ve recommended and managed allow the client to choose the reward that will best motivate their participants. By promoting this sense of autonomy, I’ve found that clients, channel partners, etc., assume an added sense of ownership over their programs, which ultimately drives performance.
They can promote the earning of program currency (points) by achieving specific goals or increasing certain sales-driven factors (Steps-to-the-Sale). This reward system is very effective and gives the participant the choice of endless merchandise, real-time travel options, online event ticketing, a plethora of experience awards, or a personalized concierge service.
So, what’s the best type of reward? Is there a “best?” Without question, I’ve found that the undisputed champion of rewards is a group travel incentive. If you are currently using an incentive program to reward your top-performing salespeople or channel partners, then you may have already realized that there is no greater form of recognition than achieving “President’s Club” status and taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic destination.
Usually, these trips are more than just your average vacation; to be sure, they afford unique opportunities for fun, relaxation, and adventure—however they also provide perfect opportunities to network and mingle with other high-achieving coworkers, peers, partners, and executive management. The memories and personal connections that these types of programs offer can very often lead to a lifetime of loyalty and lasting friendships.