Feature Article - November/December 2020

A Closer Look

IMA Keeps Moving Forward

By Deborah L. Vence

When the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was first declared a global pandemic in March of this year by the World Health Organization (WHO), that announcement would turn out to be just the beginning of months of uncertainty and difficult decisions for a wide variety of businesses around the world.

For many organizations, the past several months have been undeniably challenging. And, with mandatory lockdowns and safety protocols that needed to be met, businesses had to either furlough employees or terminate jobs completely in order to save money and stop their businesses from going under.

In looking at how all of this has affected the incentive market, leaders from the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) shared their views on the impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry, what the association is doing to help, as well as what some of the latest IMA news and trends are.

IMA Update

On a positive note, Len Sadek, CPIM, director, gift card sales and marketing at Landry's Inc., and president of the IMA, said the "IMA membership numbers remain strong and growing even in these challenging times," noting that the annual in-person IMA Summit that was scheduled for July had to be canceled.

"Our IMA board, our Strategic Industry Groups (SIGs), and the Summit planning committee worked hard to plan and deliver content, training and networking opportunities that are being made available virtually and spread out over the second half of the year," he said. "We felt it was important to deliver the content throughout the remainder of the year, rather than all at once, so we could stay connected and provide fresh, relevant content as needed. We started with our virtual IMA Annual Meeting where our board and committees updated our membership on IMA initiatives, strategic plans and finances."

The new board of directors and planning committees for 2020-21 were introduced, and have already shared several successful training programs and panel discussions on timely topics.

"We have had a very positive response to one of our new programs where companies can present their capabilities, with a focus on innovations they want to tell our members about. We already have several companies lined up for this new opportunity to present to our membership," Sadek said.

Commenting about the annual summit moving to a virtual event, Fintan Connolly, chief revenue officer, Motisha, and vice president of the IMA, said that it has been "a great success with many industry luminaries sharing valuable insights and ways in which we can grow our business and industry in the coming months.

"We also moved our IMA Summit Awards to a virtual program held in September. As a leader in advocating for and promoting the use of incentives and recognition to improve business performance, it is important for the IMA to recognize excellence," he added. "We continue our outreach to our members and beyond and are looking forward to a record-breaking 2021 and a superb IMA Summit in Florida next summer."

Bill Martocci, CPIM, president, Carlisle Sales & Marketing, and executive vice president of the IMA, pointed out that "The work of the IMA continues even in these unusual times. With the inability to hold our traditional IMA Summit, we have been hard at work providing education for members that is relevant and informative.

"All the various Strategic Industry Groups that make up the IMA have also participated and created education sessions designed to keep members engaged. With all that is going on around a person, it is easy to feel alone and unsure."

He added that "The myriad of panel discussions with industry leaders and peers have shown to be helpful in keeping our members apprised of changes over the wide range of issues involving everything from supply chain issues to steps the travel industry is taking to ease the public's concern in a return to getting out there for business and pleasure.

"Mixed in with the education, this virtual summit has much of the content we had planned, such as our annual member meeting, IMA Summit Awards, to lighter content like industry game shows and virtual happy hours to try to help that networking component with some fun interplay," Martocci said. "All with the intent to have some of the staple content members know and expect, because we are still pressing on to help the membership as we can."

Nancy Alderman, CTC, IP, CPIM, client consultant—TSYS Loyalty Travel, IMA board member and president of the Incentive Travel Council, a Strategic Industry Group of the IMA, added that she was "skeptical at first that we could revision such a wonderful in-person event to one that was virtual and still bring the value," referring to the IMA Virtual Summit. "I was pleasantly surprised and grateful to be a part of the planning committee."