Guest Column - March/April 2008

A Tailored Solution

Aiming for Your Target Audience

By James Feldman

hether you want to influence employees, the distributors who carry your products or the professionals who send business your way, the key is that people like to be recognized. The better you understand the art of recognition—and the better you customize that recognition to the audience—the more impact your efforts will have.

Take, for instance, a program we recently completed for a computer manufacturer that wanted to motivate resellers of its products.

Resellers were invited to a Hollywood-style kickoff party where they became the "stars." "Fans" waited outside, photographers snapped photos, and celebrity look-alikes asked for their autographs.

After the contest finished, the final winners were invited to a by-invitation-only, black-tie event. Its understated elegance was the opposite of the glitz and glamour of the Hollywood-style send-off.

At this event, the winners were appreciated with champagne toasts and a five-course gourmet meal. A 12-piece orchestra serenaded them. A portrait photographer captured the moment forever, and a souvenir bottle of vintage champagne was sent home with each couple. Clearly, the winners felt recognized by the manufacturer, and would welcome the chance to participate in the next program.

Use "Winner Demographics"

This two-tiered approach is an example of how "one size fits all" motivation programs have gone the way of "mass marketing." Today's motivation program must fit the niche of the people it is intended to motivate.

To make a program work, we must first understand our potential winner. Those with large disposable incomes, for example, find "free" very exciting when associated with travel and merchandise.

Others, with less overall income, may find that "free" still costs too much. For example, winning a "free" trip comes with a tax obligation to the winner. If the additional tax places an unwelcome financial burden on the recipient, it's unlikely to feel like a "win."

For the purposes of this article, I am addressing the three broadest income categories of "winners," and what their preferences are. With your incentives, you may want to target:

  • Blue-collar/entry-level employees
  • White-collar/middle managers/sales professionals
  • Upper-level managers/owners/distributors
Recognizing Blue-Collar and Entry-Level Workers

When buying a car, blue-collar/entry-level employees are "payment buyers." Their main concern is the monthly cost for the car. The same is true for the incentive. Give them the basics. They generally are not motivated by travel or luxury merchandise. They are trying to pay for the monthly necessities.

We have found that the most coveted prize for those who are just trying to make ends meet is entertainment or dining gift certificates or vouchers.

These may be to restaurants, movie theaters or other leisure-time activities that motivate better than cash. They are free from guilt. They allow the winners to indulge themselves and their significant other with entertainment that may have been reduced or eliminated due to personal budget constraints.

Another incentive that works well for this group is fully hosted group travel. "Fully hosted" means airline, hotel, some meals and some activities are covered. The winners go away with their peers, and the trip becomes a wonderful getaway free from guilt. Normally this group prefers a trip as individuals, rather than couples, so they can play hard without retribution or any reservations.

For example, we were asked to create a group incentive for delivery drivers. Prior to making any suggestions, we surveyed 100 of the drivers. They favored a trip to Las Vegas, but at a specific time of year. Why then, we asked? To our surprise, we learned that the National Bowling League Tournament finals were held at that time, in Las Vegas. That explained the reason they chose that destination—not gambling or shows.

Be sure to survey your audience about their preferences, before making assumptions about what they would like to receive.