Feature Article - November/December 2017

Still Going Strong

Education, Certification Among Top Distinctions of IMA

By Deborah L. Vence

The Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) continues to be a valuable resource, connecting members from companies across the marketplace to help create a more unified voice and growth for the incentive industry. But, what really makes the organization stand out is its education and certification.

"Whether it's a white paper from the Incentive Engagement Solution Providers (IESP), an Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) webinar on preventing fraud or the great cross-industry content at the IMA Summit, the information we provide for our members helps them stand out as leaders," said John Hornbogen, IMA president, and vice president of business development, RPG Card Services.

"The IESP is truly at the forefront of the incentive business," he said. "They take today's information and emerging trends and look ahead to help all of us in the incentive business and our customers anticipate change and identify the key ideas to help businesses thrive."

What's New?

Some new developments have taken place within the IMA recently, including a makeover of its certification program content.

"As part of our commitment as educational leaders, we are currently revamping the certification program content to ensure it addresses the needs of our industry now and in the future," Hornbogen said.

He explained that the IMA has a committee of industry experts reviewing the current curriculum. They are removing information that is no longer relevant, and identifying new information to be added in order to ensure that the IMA is up-to-date with the latest guidance and resources.

In addition, Hornbogen said a new website would be coming out for the IMA and the Strategic Industry Groups (SIGs), designed to strengthen the IMA's brand cohesiveness, while making it easier for members and customers to find key information and resources. The websites will have a more modern, cohesive look and feel, and more data lookup functionality.

Some new developments have taken place within the IMA recently, including a makeover of its certification program content.

"For example, we are adding a more user-friendly and robust IMRA Representative lookup that will be more valuable to customers and IMRA members," he said.

All IMA SIGs/Chapters have a website that is off of the main IMA site. Last year, the focus was on bringing all parts of the organization together under one cohesive brand. And this year, the focus is on technology enhancements and improving the user experience.

In other news, with the annual IMA Summit being a big venue each year for education and networking, "this year's results demonstrate the value of IMA business relationships with 48 percent of Summit attendees having said they made four to six new business contacts," Hornbogen noted.

"Over 30 percent said they made more than six new contacts, and every person that responded indicated they made at least one new contact," he said. "The IMA has good cross-pollination. The education helps us all get involved in and understand more aspects of the industry. Having the education lets us all compete, but play well in the same sandbox."

For example, Hornbogen's company recently responded to an RFP that involves providing merchandise and gift cards.

"I have the best merchandise connections through the IMA/Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA) to be able to offer the customer a streamlined approach to the program they need," he said.

In addition, the IMA expanded its educational reach earlier in the year when the IMA was accepted to the International Organization of Standards (ISO) Technical Advisory Group (TAG260) regarding establishing human capital standards worldwide.

"This important work presents a potential opportunity for growth in incentive, reward and recognition programs," noted Anne Jetter, IMA secretary and membership task force chair, and director, merchant relations and channel sales, GiftCertificates.com.

What's more, Hornbogen said, "Reward and recognition is vital around the world, and we're pleased to see international engagement increasing. IMA Europe continues to grow and has a very active network of members from many countries across Europe. We are also actively exploring opportunities with our Canadian colleagues."