Feature Article - November/December 2010

IMA in Focus

What's New With the Incentive Marketing Association?

By Deborah Vence

The Incentive Marketing Association has welcomed a host of changes this past year, including new messaging, site upgrades and a new Circle of Excellence Award that honors companies that have excelled in social responsibility commitments.

"The IMA social responsibility award is an extension of the Circle of Excellence award program that started in 2000," said Karen Renk, CAE, executive director of the IMA. "And, over the course of the awards history, more than 75 organizations in the corporate community have been recognized for implementing outstanding incentive programs. We recognize the incentive suppliers, as well."

Meanwhile, some of the other areas the IMA focused on this year included enhancing member benefits, public relations and professional development, said Barb Hendrickson, executive vice president of the IMA, and president of Design Incentives Inc., based in Livonia, Mich.

"We streamlined the communication tools, with monthly fast-take education blasts that are faster reads. And then for the outreach and PR efforts, we felt we needed to shore up our messaging and have a clear messaging internally and [within the] corporate community," Hendrickson said, adding that the education blasts include information about IMA webinars, white papers, studies, sessions, conferences, etc. "That would be in the education blasts, any update on white papers or educational materials available to members."

Education and networking continue to be the association's No. 1 benefit—the top things that IMA members value, Hendrickson noted.

"We put together a series of webinars, called Colleague Conversations, and we'll use experts on a variety of subject matters to run these webinars. We've had one on the research foundation, on sales skills and social media. And then just in the last quarter, we've produced three white papers, a bunch of seminars for the IMA Summit and The Motivation Show."

Regarding its new messaging, the IMA developed a new elevator speech and tagline to simplify and unify its message: "Business improvement starts here."

The word "incentive" means different things to different people, Hendrickson said, noting that incentive in the automotive world means money off of a car, for example.

And, "If you talk about the incentives in the insurance industry, that means cash bonus, based on your performance. So, we wanted to capture what is it that the IMA does," Hendrickson said. "And, there are all the strategic industry groups, merchandise manufacturing, gift card people. 'Business improvement starts here,' concisely captures what it is that we do."

Renk added, "Though IMA represents a diverse group of companies offering a wide array of products and services, we all embrace IMA's simple and succinct view . . . business improves when employees and customers are recognized, rewarded and engaged through effectively structured programs with defined goals and proven returns. Every member of IMA can readily embrace this statement to help explain the role they play in the development of these programs."