Feature Article - November/December 2016

Building Up

Changes Strengthen IMA Brand & Operations

By Deborah L. Vence

Anyone familiar with the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) knows that it is the organization to educate companies on the incentive marketplace, as well as promote the use of performance management and measurement tools to help companies improve their business.

This year, the IMA has gone through changes that have helped to strengthen its brand and be a top resource for organizations to help improve their bottom lines.

"This past year has brought a lot of change for the IMA that has strengthened our operations and our brand cohesiveness, which ultimately helps us create a stronger, more unified voice for the incentive industry," said Sean Roark, president of the IMA, CPIM, and vice president of incentive programs, PromoPros/IncentPros Inc.

"Our transition to our new management company has gone very well, and we're delighted with the alignment of our board, volunteer leaders and staff," he said.

The IMA came under new management, The Harrington Company, on Jan.1. 2016, which has enabled the IMA to further streamline its administration capabilities and resources. Minneapolis-based The Harrington Company, an association management company founded in 1977, helps associations build strong foundations, and maintain active and stable connections to their industries.

"It has been a dream—so fantastic," Roark said.

"We now have a management company managing us," he said. " The benefits are evident to us, as we are seeing the decisions we're making yield results."

The Latest Developments

One operational change this year involves the creation of IMA chapters in addition to streamlining the organization's Strategic Industry Groups (SIGs).

"Chapters will have a geographic rather than channel focus. IMA Europe became a chapter this summer and is thriving and growing. We are also in discussions with representatives from new geographical regions about becoming IMA Chapters," Roark said.

He added that the IMA's new Incentive & Engagement Solution Providers Strategic Industry Group (SIG), which was created a year ago, is up and running.

"They are developing plans to bring forward new content and resources for IMA members and end-users," said Roark, who is a member of the IESP.

"The IMA and our SIGs have been strengthening our relationships with related industry organizations," he said. "Through education and collaboration, we are increasing understanding of ways to participate in the incentive industry. We're also providing the research, information on trends and actionable insights to educate businesses on the valuable role of well-designed programs."

He also said that as the use of incentives grows the importance of having well-trained professionals increases, which is evidenced by the growth in the IMA's certification program.

"Thirty-six people have taken certification exams so far this year, which is more than triple last year's numbers. IMA has now conferred 124 Incentive Professional (IP) certifications and 41 Certified Professional of Incentive Management (CPIMs)," he added.

IMA Benefits

"This past year has brought a lot of change for the IMA that has strengthened our operations and our brand cohesiveness, which ultimately helps us create a stronger, more unified voice for the incentive industry."

— Sean Roark,
IMA President

The IMA helps promote the use of incentives and recognition to improve business performance, and is the go-to place for expert resources for recognition and incentive programs.

"For members, the IMA connects them with resources and opportunities to grow their businesses. The IMA amplifies members' efforts by championing the use of incentive, engagement and recognition programs with businesses," said John Hornbogen, executive vice president of the IMA and director of business development for RPG Card Services.

"For businesses, the IMA serves as a resource to find professionals with the expertise, top brands and services to help them appreciate, engage and reward employees and customers," he said.

"The incentive industry is constantly changing," he said. "The IMA helps members stay at the forefront of change by providing data, insights and strategies to be nimble and responsive. Businesses want programs that reinforce corporate culture, deliver on brand value and bring measurable results—and they want it done in real time with the latest technology."

The IMA always has promoted the use of incentives.

"We've built industry relationships, we've produced white papers and publications, but it hasn't always had the impact we're looking for," Hornbogen said.

"This year we've brought all of our activities into a cohesive marketing and PR plan where the membership and customer marketing activities are linked. This will create a stronger impact for the IMA and across all of the SIGs," he said. "We launched our new membership marketing strategy at the July IMA Summit in Houston and members are already seeing the connectivity across our websites and our increased social media presence."

Roark added, "IMA's purpose is to provide a unified voice to speak about the efficacy of incentives to the public."