Feature Article - November/December 2015

Forging Ahead

Changes Abound at IMA

By Deborah L. Vence

From educating companies on the proper use of incentives and rewards to providing a network of savvy professionals to ensure the job gets done right, and much more besides, the Incentive Marketing Association has been the organization at the pinnacle of the incentive marketplace for many years. Whether it's connecting you with the resources you need as you build your own program or providing networking and education for members to ensure they're on top of the recent developments, IMA is a tool you should be aware of and ready to use when the need arises. Here, we'll take a look at the most recent developments for the association and explore how IMA and its membership is able to take your motivation and rewards programs to the next level.

At the Incentive Marketing Association's (IMA's) Executive Summit, held in Nashville, Tenn., this summer, 356 people were in attendance—making it the best turnout at an IMA Executive Summit to date.

"We had over 67 percent of our membership in attendance, and 103 of them were attending their first summit," said Spencer Toomey, CPIM, IMA president and senior vice president of Luxury Lines by MMSC in Westport, Conn. "This is a good sign for IMA's future. It showed that the members see value in the summit for a variety of reasons: networking, education, meetings and socializing with their peers.

"The theme," he added, "was 'Collaboration,' and we are seeing more and more of that between the SIGs (strategic industry groups). Our educational topics covered gift cards, merchandise, travel, social media, and selling and working with countries outside of the USA, showing how we can all work together—collaboration."

IMA Executive Director Donna Chrobak agreed, explaining that the association had "record-breaking attendance, a high-profile keynote speaker, record-breaking sponsorship and unforgettable networking events."

"First and foremost was the commitment to determining and delivering member value, then to reconstruct an association devoted to the member needs and goals."
— Spencer Toomey,
2016 IMA President

Plus, "We are also experiencing a tremendous upswing in our Incentive Professional (IP) certification program, already surpassing all 2015 budgeted enrollment and revenue goals," she said. "In addition, we are showing growth in membership that we haven't seen for several years, and renewed membership engagement."

On top of seeing a boost in attendance and enrollment, the IMA has experienced many changes this year as well—the biggest one being the hiring of a new management company, The Harrington Company, based in Minneapolis.

"On Jan. 1, 2016, Harrington will become our new management company, and we are confident that they are dedicated to providing IMA and its members with the resources we need to help streamline our administration capabilities and resources, build brand continuity, create a more strategic marketing plan, and bring us new ideas and changes that will help improve IMA's value proposition to our entire membership," Toomey said.

Another major change this year was the selection of Chrobak as the new IMA executive director. Chrobak, a veteran of the incentive industry for more than 20 years and a former member of the IMA board of directors, took over the role in January 2015.

With the new association director and management company, Richard L. Low, president emeritus of the IMA and director, special markets at Citizen Watch Company of America Inc., Lyndhurst, N.J., expects that the IMA's marketing efforts will become a major initiative.

"We, the members, are reinventing the IMA and determining our own future," he said.

What's more, the "2015 term was focused on introspection and establishing a vision for what we wanted the IMA to look like in the future," Low added.

"First and foremost was the commitment to determining and delivering member value, then to reconstruct an association devoted to the member needs and goals," he said. "Spencer Toomey, the 2016 president, will oversee this continuing evolution into an association devoted to the membership and developing the external communications to the end user that make a case for increasing the use of incentives in business. The board's decision to approve the merger of several SIGs into one Solution SIG is the first step."

Other IMA news includes the completion of a groundbreaking research study that addresses, from the perspective of the incentive and recognition program participant, the importance of having the right award to motivate changes in behavior and improvement in performance, Chrobak said.

The IMA board of directors, she continued, also has "recognized the need to reexamine our position in the industry, the value proposition we are offering our members and the corporate marketplace as a whole, and how we fit into it.

"As a result," she added, "IMA is in the process of implementing several new strategic initiatives that will allow us to continue to be the premier organization in the industry for incentive experts, thought leadership, and relevant content and education for both industry professionals and corporate end-users."