Feature Article - November/December 2019

Onward & Upward

IMA Sees Membership Growth, Positive Direction

By Deborah L. Vence


The Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) continues to provide value for its members—promoting the use of incentives, helping to enhance business performance and connecting members from across the marketplace.

When it comes to the latest news, "It's all about momentum," said Don Killingback, director of business development, Wyndham Destinations, and president of the IMA. "IMA's membership is growing, and so is the value we provide for our members."

This year's IMA Summit, held in Chicago, was one of the most well-attended—with 357 attendees from 201 companies from around the world sharing ideas, networking and gaining knowledge on the incentive industry. "The Summit received high marks on both education and networking opportunities," he said.

"It's exciting to see the continued success and effort dedicated to the strategic plan outlined by last year's board under Ted Moravec's leadership, with a focus of aligning our activities with our mission statement," said Mike Donnelly, president of Hinda Incentives and secretary of the IMA. "That became the filter through which decisions, projects and expenditures passed, and the association has been very successful in this focus."

He noted a few examples of this:

  • A substantial increase in corporate outreach, and updates to the IMA and strategic industry group (SIG) websites. "In particular," Donnelly said, "the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) and Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA) have enhanced their offerings to deliver relevant content and product sourcing resources."
  • In order to deliver better education to larger audiences across more platforms, the IMA has worked with new partners, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), while strengthening long-standing partnerships with Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) and the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).
  • SIGs and chapters are now more aligned with the mission of the IMA, and are more cohesive and cooperative with one another.

"We are seeing the emergence of the Incentive Engagement & Solution Providers (IESP) SIG as our lead engine in driving content that will make the mission come alive in more places than ever," Donnelly added

Fintan Connolly, chief revenue officer, Motisha, and treasurer of the IMA, noted "The IMA is going through a really positive period of growth in terms of membership and types of companies that are joining the IMA. We're not just seen as the gift card, merchandise or travel people; we've broadened into service providers and technology providers. We cover more links in the value chain.

"The IMA," he added, "is being recognized as an industry body that really brings everyone together. Our Incentive & Engagement Solutions Providers (IESP) SIG and all of the SIGs have all stepped up the content they're providing and their collaboration.

"The content is top-caliber," he said. "We saw this sentiment clearly after the Summit this year. It was one of the best-attended Summits, and the feedback was very positive on the content and the caliber of the companies. People said it was difficult to decide which session to attend.

"We've become really collaborative. Companies are happy to share best practices and some of the challenges they are facing; this results in better service and programs for our members' clients," Connolly added.

Meanwhile, Len Sadek, CPIM, director, Gift Card Sales & Marketing, Landry's Inc., and executive vice president of the IMA, said that "We're making it easier for people who want to do programs to find best practices, service providers who can design effective programs and the incentives products they need.

"More and more," he added, "we're building out resources and making it easier to access the information you need to learn about how to build an incentive program. We've come a long way in the last few years. We have an Experts Bureau. You can search by topic, and we'll match you up with experts who can speak about employee recognition, customer loyalty, sales incentive programs and more. We also are providing more white papers and other helpful tools."

Bill Martocci, CPIM, president, Carlisle Sales & Marketing, and vice president of the IMA, said that "In recent years the dynamic within the IMA has shifted from a top-down to a bottom-up approach. This has all the SIGs working together to keep our focus, and our messaging, centered on showing incentives as a beneficial expense for corporations and the most successful businesses.

"It is the job of the IMA to promote the use of incentives and broadcast that message to as many CEOs, HR leaders and decision-makers as possible via all the means at our disposal," he added. "With the IMA acting as the point to assemble and coordinate the messaging, we are better utilizing the resources that all the members in these SIGs and our entire IMA membership can provide.

"This enables IMA leadership to take advantage of opportunities to promote the use of incentives in various forms, from public relations to education to dialogues with other organizations that can benefit from the wealth of knowledge and accessibility our members offer," Martocci added. "Proof that this is working is evident in many tangible ways—an overall increase in membership and the success of new chapters abroad seeking our knowledge and joining what we have here.

"Our international chapters are looking to join what the IMA has cultivated and not just for the blueprint of how to build it. They want to participate in IMA programs and build their networks alongside ours here in the United States," he said.

In addition, education is growing in multiple ways, with members sharing more and providing more content through webinars and other forums.

"The numbers of members taking the Incentive Professional course and successfully receiving their IP or CPIM (Certified Professional of Incentive Management) is also increasing," Martocci said. "Earning these designations shows a working knowledge of all the facets of the incentive industry, which provides added value to our customers."