Feature Article - November/December 2019

Onward & Upward

IMA Sees Membership Growth, Positive Direction

By Deborah L. Vence

IMA's Benefits

The IMA "succeeds through the work and collaboration of our members," Killingback said. "It's the connections and relationships members create with each other that help us achieve our business objectives and fulfill the IMA's mission."

(The IMA Mission: The Incentive Marketing Association advocates for and promotes the use of incentives and recognition to improve business performance.)

"The IMA's corporate outreach program helps us achieve our mission by educating businesses about the right ways to do programs," Killingback added. "Not only are we providing education, we're providing resources. Earlier this fall our IESP SIG released a white paper on strategies for reducing employee turnover. Along with the white paper, they provided an entire suite of calculators you can use to calculate the ROI of your strategies to reduce employee turnover, including your employee incentive and recognition programs.

"The IMA is comprised of members from all sectors of the incentive industry and from countries around the world," Killingback said. "Regardless of the SIG or chapter we belong to, it's important to remember the enormous power the incentive industry plays in today's business and the impact it has when we advocate for all tools in the incentive toolbox: experiential awards, gift cards, merchandise and travel."

In addition, Donnelly said, "Business improves when employees and customers are recognized, rewarded and engaged through effectively structured programs with defined goals and proven returns. The Incentive Marketing Association is comprised of companies who are leaders in the $90 billion incentive industry. That's why business improvement starts with IMA."

The value that the IMA can offer members has been significantly enhanced.

"Each segment is growing, and so are our chapters, which help us all. You know the saying: 'A rising tide lifts all boats,'" Connolly said, noting significant success in Europe.

"Our IMA Europe Chapter has grown from strength to strength. We're looking to expand into Paris this year," he said. "Companies are contacting us about membership. Our Middle East & African chapter in formation had a great first meeting this summer with their next meeting set for November. It's really exciting to see the development. There's a huge amount of development in Brazil, and we're excited about the chapter being formed there as well.

"The growth and diversity are what makes the IMA such a strong organization," he added. "We truly have a global footprint, and we're seeing a really nice cross-pollination. At the Summit this year we had attendees from the Middle East, Western Europe, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey. We help each other. We share expertise. Members in the United States are saying, 'Where's the opportunity for me in Brazil?' and Brazil and others are saying, 'Where is the opportunity for me in the U.S.?' You've got multiple languages, regulations, etc., so having partners around the world adds phenomenal value at a relatively low cost."

What's more, "The quality of the membership is amazing," Connolly said. "Companies of all sizes—including Fortune 500 companies and even Fortune 100 companies—are seeing value in the IMA. Our IMA members have interactions with and run some of the world's largest employee, sales, customer and loyalty programs. All see value in being part of this organization."

The IMA's certifications are also growing in importance.

"To have the Incentive Professional (IP) or Certified Professional of Incentive Management (CPIM) is really beginning to carry a lot of weight because it is an industry standard that helps create trust from the point of view of corporations that do business with our members," Connolly said. "The caliber of companies that IMA members work with, and for, carries a lot of respect. Whether it's secure rewards systems or GDPR, our members are specialists in those areas. How we can spotlight opportunities and get people access to markets is a focus for the IMA. That's why we're continuing to look at enhancing our strategic partnerships."

Sadek noted, "When we get our feedback from the Summit, networking is always way at the top. That translates to the day-to-day of what people are looking for from the IMA. People want to know who to go to, they want to network with others who are in their same situation. The networking that starts at the Summit lasts all year.

"I feel like we are at a point where we have very strong SIGs and very strong leadership in the SIGs, so as an executive board member it allows me to focus more on the overall IMA mission," he said. "I am there to strengthen the board so we can better support the SIGs. When we have this broader collective focus, it helps all of us. Promoting use of incentives and recognition works for all members. What's good for gift cards is going to be good for travel, for merchandise, etc."

Martocci said "Through networking with IMA colleagues, you can contact all the different professionals and components that come into play in an incentive program from what to award, such as merchandise, travel or gift cards, to what to measure and how to measure it. The willingness of members to share their common experiences, issues and successes helps anyone looking to set up an incentive program or work in this industry.

"The vision and vigilance over the last several years of IMA leadership, and the strong leadership within each individual SIG, has IMA better able than ever to offer support and guidance to those wanting to learn more about the industry, the benefits of using incentives and what IMA members have to offer," he added.