Feature Article - November/December 2018

Spreading the Word on the Value of Incentives

A Look Behind the Scenes of the Incentive Marketing Association

By Joseph Bush

Incentive Marketing Association President Ted Moravec doesn't mince words when asked how the IMA is doing in its quest to spread the good word of incentive marketing:

"I think we can declare victory in our collective efforts to communicate the value of incentives," said Moravec, executive vice president of Elite Creations.

Hooray! Mission accomplished! Right?

"The challenge is putting that understanding into action," he added.

Top business folks love a good challenge though, and judging by IMA executives' outlook on the past and upcoming years, the challenge doesn't stand a chance. There can't be action before awareness and education, and IMA has nailed those with its corporate outreach efforts and certification programs.

"My number-one priority is to ensure that the activities undertaken by the Incentive Marketing Association align with our mission of advocating for the use of incentives and recognition to improve business performance," Moravec said. "By doing so, we draw a straight line between the mission and delivering member value."

First comes the IMA's dedication to education, certification and its Circle of Excellence Awards, Moravec said, and then the outreach to raise awareness and drive participation.

"The phrase 'improve business performance' describes our activities precisely because these three areas of IMA focus are fully aligned with the support of our mission statement," he said. "The outreach increases awareness and drives interest in our website, which is a helpful resource for program design and sourcing of products and services by IMA members."

Board member and Past President Cindy Mielke said that since the IMA strategic plan was developed, she's seen "a new clarity, and even what I'd describe as a real eagerness," from within the IMA and all its Strategic Industry Groups (SIGs) to focus on corporate outreach.

"The IMA has a lot to offer, from education about effective program design to capitalizing on trends and new technologies to selecting and delivering the right types of incentives and rewards," said Mielke, the vice president of marketing and sales operations for GC Incentives. "The more opportunities we have to share our expertise with business people focused on how to reward and recognize employees and customers, and improving their business performance, the more ways we can deliver on our mission."

Mielke cited three examples of IMA efforts to garner new attention, members and excitement:

  • An initiative with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that included an IMA-produced infographic for SHRM's latest issue of HR Magazine. It used the latest research to show how successful companies can differentiate themselves with non-cash rewards.

    "We're also expanding the content for a one-hour webinar with SHRM," she said. "Earlier this year the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) did a webinar for Lorman subscribers and is in discussions to do a similar webinar with another group of HR professionals."

  • The ongoing education of the distributor and reseller groups who are interested in selling incentive and recognition programs to their customers and the associations that serve them, including the Advertising Specialty Institute and Promotional Products Association International.

    "Several colleagues and I rang in the New Year traveling to the first of a series of education sessions to present perspectives from all of IMA's SIGs on how to work with IMA members to partner and deliver this new revenue stream for distributors," Mielke said. "I'm very excited about this as we see a growing interest every year with more mature questions from this group. And bringing our curriculum to this audience further supports our goal of having one voice for best practices.

    "IMA members are eager to share their messages with corporate audiences," she added, "and I've seen so many people giving their time and talents to these events this year so far. We welcome the partnership of ASI and PPAI member companies who further our mission and goals."

  • To help make it easy for organizations to access experts, the IMA has launched an IMA Industry Experts Bureau to provide speakers or authors for events and publications.

Moravec said the bridge from awareness to action is strengthened by the growing acceptance of the value of incentives in the workplace.

"At a conceptual level, we have never been in better shape," Moravec said. "All research available shows that Corporate America understands the importance of recognition and incentives in improving business performance. We see the overwhelming majority of large companies using some form of recognition and incentives as well as a majority of small and mid-sized companies."

More interest equals more opportunities for IMA and its members to improve program design, to provide cost-effective platforms for smaller companies and to establish standards of practice, he said.

"Like most aspects of today's economy, there is a tremendous amount of disruption taking place in the incentive space," Moravec said. "There are great opportunities for those who can innovate and can deliver performance improvement in a cost-effective manner that ranges from program design and administration and throughout the various product and services supply chains."