Feature Article - November/December 2017

Still Going Strong

Education, Certification Among Top Distinctions of IMA

By Deborah L. Vence

IMA Benefits

The IMA offers many benefits for its members--both personal and professional. The organization helps to promote the use of incentives and recognition, and is relied upon for access to expert resources for incentive programs.

"It's great to have people you can work with, share thoughts and opinions with, and they help you become a better person, a better employee," Hornbogen said. "Life is short. I always say you should work with people you like, and the IMA is a great relationship platform. I get to know and build relationships across the industry and business follows relationships."

For Billie Reise, IMA marketing task force chair, and vice president, administration, Incentive Concepts, she said the incentive industry, itself, is confusing, so it's important for her to be able to help customers through the process.

"If a customer wants gift cards and merchandise, I can refer them to the best sources for gift cards. Through IMA, you get to know the star companies, so you can be comfortable making referrals," Reise said.

In addition, other SIG presidents offered their thoughts on the IMA's benefits, such as Robert Ward, CPIM, president, Incentive Travel Council, and director of sales at Ovation Rewards, AccorHotels, who noted that benefits include the ability to work across borders, both literally and figuratively.

"Whether it is with buyers in Europe or working with and understanding other SIGS, like the IGCC, and how we can add to their profit centers as well as how they can add to ours," Ward said.

Not only that, "IESP's work helps all IMA members and our customers to develop programs that truly enhance performance," added Brant Dolan, CPIM, president Incentive & Engagement Solution Providers, and director, west region business development, Quality Incentive Company. "We take all of the new information, studies, trends and best practices, and provide that deeper understanding based on design thinking, generational differences and more."

Chris Harrison, president, Incentive Manufacturers & Representatives Alliance, and national sales manager, KleerWest, believes that for a new company that is interested in becoming more involved in the corporate gifts and incentives industry, "there is no better way for them to learn what is necessary to be successful than by being a part of the IMA. Though all of the SIGs have a different focus, we all share the same goal of increasing the use of incentives to help businesses."

He said the IMA is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about recognition and incentives. "There are many experts in various fields and all are willing to help steer a potential new supplier or customer to where they will best be served," Harrison added.

At events such as IMEX, the IMA brings together all parts of the organization.

"Through the IMA's coordination we have one effort that has multiple IMA members from different SIGs involved," said Jim Atten, president, Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC), and vice president sales, Shell Gift Card.

"This is a great example of the power of bringing together a variety of IMA specialties, travel, merchandise, gift cards and reaching an incentive audience with a unified voice," he said. "We are excited to be a part of the effort."

Future Outlook

Looking toward the future of the incentive industry, there are some opportunities for growth.

"The incentive industry is already at $90 billion [according to an Incentive Federation Marketplace Estimate Research Study in 2016], and when you look at issues businesses are wrestling with today, we see opportunities for continued growth," Hornbogen said.

The IMA helps to promote the use of incentives and recognition, and is relied upon for access to expert resources for incentive programs.

Studies show that 57 percent of customer loyalty program members are inactive [Gallup's State of the American Workplace report-2017] and 51 percent of the U.S. workforce is increasingly disengaged [Accenture Customer Loyalty in Retail Trends Challenges and Benchmarks-2017].

"Businesses," he said, "need our help. The IMA and its members are the best resources to provide the education, insights and reward and recognition programs to help create not only successful programs, but improved business results."

This fall, the IMA is working on its new strategic plan. And, one of the main goals is to continue increasing outreach and letting businesses know the IMA is the total solution.

"We have created an Industry Experts Bureau that we're launching this fall. The experts' bureau will serve as a resource for people within the industry who are looking for speakers and authors on specific topics, and for the public and media," Hornbogen explained.

IMA industry experts will share their knowledge by developing and presenting educational programs and writing articles on a wide range of topics across the incentive industry.

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

"We're continuing to build and increase the unity across the SIGs. We have a lot of common goals, and we're looking at more ways to bring members together around those common goals," Hornbogen added. "This requires us to think differently and our 2018 Summit theme, A Journey Well Beyond, is designed to help us envision innovations that change how we collaborate, how we work together and the value we offer to members and our customers."