Feature Article - May/June 2017

From Here to ROI

Long-Term Goals, Sound Program Design Are Essential

By Deborah L. Vence

To reach a successful return on investment, you have to know what your goals are, the risks that are involved and have effective communications in place when promoting your incentive program.

To create and deliver a program with impact, "First and foremost, you must understand the objective of the program," said Maggie Wenthe, manager, marketing strategy, ITA Group Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa.

"Are you intending to increase sales? By how much? In what areas? Increase margin? Launch a new product? Increase certified employees/partners? Increase engagement?" Wenthe said.

Tricks of the Trade

Besides knowing your program goals and objectives, you also need to understand how you will measure the outcome.

"Make sure you're able to get your hands on the proper data," Wenthe said.

Program impact also should begin with a sound program design.

"It is essential to consider the long-term goals and implications of the program, as well as to explore the risks and benefits," said Susan Adams, senior director of engagement, Next Level Performance, a Dittman Company.

"Sometimes the goal is for short-term sales of one product or service. But, far more often, program owners are interested in this year's results, as well as in how they set the company up for success next quarter or next year," Adams said.

"The program should be communicated frequently to keep it front of mind, and must feature motivating merchandise or travel rewards to connect with eligible participants' individual aspirations," she added. "The program should not only drive the immediate results you need, but should inspire everyone to engage with next year's program before it is even announced."

Scott Siewert, who served as divisional vice president of sales of USMotivation in Atlanta, which closed earlier this year, said there are many tricks of the trade to create and deliver a program with impact, but four are particularly important to consider.

First, he said, you need effective communications.

"Effectively communicating is critical when announcing and promoting your incentive and recognition program. There would be very little, if any engagement if your communications plan is lacking or non-existent," Siewert said. "I advise clients to put their best foot forward with all communications."

Participants also need to know what is expected of them, what the program rules are, how a participant can earn points or awards, how a participant can redeem them and how this relates to a person's taxes (are the awards a taxable event), etc.

To reach a successful return on investment, you have to know what your goals are, the risks that are involved and have effective communications in place when promoting your incentive program.

"Promotional, awe-inspiring, concise and clear communications win the day," he said.

Second, he said, when possible you should have the participant's significant other and family involved.

"If a participant does have a non-work friend or family member involved and cheering that person on, your chances for the participant to hit their goal are better," Siewert said. "Thus, if possible, communicate to the participant's home or family. Through careful use of social media you are bound to touch a participant's home and family."

Third, he said, report all news in a timely way. In other words, " let all participants know where they are at any given point during the program.

"Our platform allows for real-time status updates. As soon as points are deposited in a participant's account, the points are reflected in their account," he said. "We send an e-mail (could be a text) notification alerting the participant that there has been a point issuance."

And fourth, "have a rewards catalog that is in line with your audience's demographics. Allow for the multigenerational aspect of today's workforce," Siewert said.

"We believe in award choice. Let the participants choose what their award should be. This is critical to ensure we are touching the participants with what matters to them," he added. "It is, after all, their program. It needs to motivate them!"