Premium Incentive Products Magazine - Products and Ideas That Inspire Performance


Premium Incentive Products Magazine - Products and Ideas That Inspire Performance

IMA Closeup

Businesses Turn to Association for Ways to Motivate, Retain Employees

When it comes to measuring employee satisfaction, finding better ways to bring value to customers or just learning about the incentive industry for the first time, the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) has it all.

It is the go-to organization to help educate companies about the incentive marketplace and recognition programs, and encourage the use of performance management and measurement tools to help companies improve their business. The association represents every segment of the marketplace including advertising/sales promotion agencies, consultants, distributors, gift card and gift certificate suppliers, fulfillment companies, incentive houses, manufacturers, national marketing companies and more.

"As an association, IMA's goal is to provide members with a continual stream of fresh resources that will help them bring added value to their customers," said Karen Renk, the IMA's executive director who will be retiring at the end of the year.

Many of those resources can be found on the website,, including an education resource catalog that is updated monthly; case studies, such as those profiling the winners of the Circle of Excellence Award and showcased examples of best practices in the design and implementation of employee incentive, sales incentive and channel programs and consumer promotions; as well as a featured news section. In addition, the IMA site boasts a glossary of incentive industry terms; a section on incentive marketing basics for those who are new to the incentive marketplace; comprehensive research that encompasses the IMA's research library of studies conducted by the Incentive Federation, the Incentive Research Foundation and The Forum: Business Results Through People that is affiliated with Northwestern University; as well as a compilation of white papers and presentations on People Performance and Recognition, Award Choices, Customer Loyalty and Online Incentives Programs.

In fact, this year the IMA offered webinars and seminars on gamification, the latest incentive industry research, global incentive program trends and much more.

"IMA's annual Circle of Excellence program generates new best practice case studies and showcases the latest trends in successful incentive and recognition programs," Renk said. (Each year the IMA recognizes exceptional examples of incentive programs that have been used as business tools with the Circle of Excellence Award.)

Such programs are essential given that employees who do not feel recognized or valued for their contributions at their companies often end up leaving. Businesses globally want more innovative yet proven ways to motivate and retain their best talent.

"Companies that measure employee satisfaction after one year of using flexible online recognition and rewards systems are reporting double-digit improvements in employee engagement scores and are able to show ROI for specific initiatives where they have recognized behaviors, improvements and results," said Louise Anderson, executive vice president of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), and president and CEO of Anderson Performance Improvement in Hastings, Minn.

In this issue of Premium Incentive Products magazine, we take a closer look at the IMA with the input of Anderson, Renk and Richard Low, vice president of the IMA and national account manager at Hamilton Beach Brands Inc., who shared their views on the organization's accomplishments and initiatives this year, their views on the importance of working with IMA members and the latest industry trends.

The Year's Accomplishments

This year, the IMA wasn't short on accomplishments. The incentive organization continued to thrive and offer value to its members through education and networking opportunities.

To break it down further, Renk noted a list of achievements that include the following:

  • Targeted corporate outreach efforts with a new IMA exhibit at World at Work and an expanded shared booth exhibit at IMEX.
  • A very successful IMA Summit held in Denver that realized record attendance for a summit held in a Western time zone venue. (The 2014 Executive Summit is scheduled to be held July 27 to 29, 2014, in Philadelphia.)
  • The Circle of Excellence Awards Program that recognized four outstanding examples of best practice incentive programs. Launched in 2000, the Circle of Excellence Awards identify and recognize successful customer and employee incentive programs designed to help drive business. Both the company using the program and the incentive marketing partner are recognized.
  • The IMA Certified Professional of Incentive Management certification program was streamlined to be accessible to more industry professionals. (The IMA's Certified Professional of Incentive Management acknowledges incentive professionals who demonstrate the knowledge and leadership essential to succeed in the incentive industry.)
  • A major redesign of is under way, too, with the goal of delivering greater access to resources and to make member-to-member interaction more convenient. The site, which will have more social media features as part of the revamp, is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2013.
  • On the eve of the IMA's 15th anniversary, the organization initiated a comprehensive review of the IMA brand to ensure the organization continues to be relevant.
  • This year, the organization also conducted a search for a new executive director to replace retiring Executive Director Karen Renk. Carla DeFlorio, CAE, the former CEO of the Consortium for Professional Credentialing (Foundation for Rehabilitation Education and Research), recently took over the job.

Working With IMA Members

While IMA professionals work to strengthen their focus on ROI, they also continue to turn to the association for assistance in designing programs that are customized to meet their specific needs.

"IMA members use the association to access research, grow their expertise and stay up to date on the latest industry trends," Anderson said.

And, the IMA accomplishes this by offering education, resources and research to promote the use of incentive programs to the business community.

Renk noted that IMA members represent top companies in the incentive marketplace, including brand-name product suppliers, travel suppliers, card providers, recognition providers, and the organizations that design and implement incentive and recognition programs for their customers.

"[It] is the global umbrella organization for full-service incentive and recognition companies, manufacturers of incentive awards and their field representatives, gift card and travel companies, as well as technology resources. If a company wants to launch or update a recognition and/or incentive program and do it so they achieve their results in the most cost-effective manner, look to the professionals in the IMA," Anderson said.

She added that it has been proven that business improves when employees and customers are recognized and engaged through effectively structured programs with defined goals and proven returns.

"The Incentive Marketing Organization is comprised of the companies that are leaders in the incentive industry," she said.

And, one of the advantages of working with IMA members, Low noted, is the fact that they are active in learning about and participating in the discussions about advocating the use of incentives in improving performance.

"The IMA is the association dedicated to bringing all facets of the industry together under one umbrella. IMA members have access to the latest white papers and research to help companies understand the positive economic impact of recognition programs. IMA members that have achieved CPIM and IP certification have proven their understanding of the principles of the use of incentives," he said.

In fact, according to the IMA website, five incentive industry professionals have achieved the IMA's CPIM designation, which acknowledges those who demonstrate the knowledge and leadership essential to succeed in the $46 billion incentive industry. The CPIM announcement was made at the IMA's 13th Annual Summit in July in Denver. More information on the designees can be found at

"IMA members are knowledgeable professionals that live and breathe motivation and are an essential partner for any company wanting to improve performance from every aspect of their organization," Low added.

The Latest Trends

Mixed signs of improvement in the economy were evident toward the end of the third quarter this year.

"Earnings from public companies were starting to improve. The stock market has had explosive growth this year so far," Low said.

"We will see many companies make meaningful investments in their employees by investing again in length-of-service and reward-for-performance programs. Companies that put these programs in hibernation months ago are dusting them off, refining them, making them more cost-effective and attractive to participants. Consumer-driven programs, especially casino loyalty programs, lost little traction and continue to expand."

Anderson highlighted some industry trends as well. They include:

  • Dovetailing with measures taken as companies emerge from the recent recession, more companies have discovered the benefits of recognition and incentives and are using incentives to accelerate productivity and retain employees.
  • In keeping with the growth of technology and global expansion, electronic recognition has been steadily increasing on a global basis. There has been steady growth of enterprise-wide solutions that allow companies to rely on one platform to provide recognition solutions that more readily cross over country borders and strengthen the concept of one global company.
  • More companies are setting recognition as a defined business strategy, realizing how much it can improve the bottom line.
  • The acquisitions and mergers that are permeating the industry have also affected groups like IMA, causing the association's leadership to re-examine infrastructure and core activities.
  • Within the IMA, both members and the business owners they serve are actively seeking new knowledge that will help them operate more efficiently on a global basis. Look no further than the recent Summit in Las Vegas where that interest was reflected in record attendance.

Key Initiatives

The year brought some transition for the IMA as well.

"As we recalibrated the association's business year to take into account the cancellation of the Motivation Show, we looked for new opportunities for our members to interface with key decision-makers," Renk said.

For instance, in January, the IMA assisted the Promotional Products Association International to deliver a conference for buyers held in conjunction with the PPAI brand show. In May, the IMA hosted a shared booth at WorldatWork that introduced several IMA member companies to this audience of senior level HR and benefits executives.

After a successful experience in 2012, the IMA also expanded its footprint at IMEX America this October, welcoming 10 IMA members to share its booth.

Most recently, IMA entered into an agreement with the HR & Employee Benefits Summit to participate in its 2014 conferences in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Anderson said that the overall goal of these new activities has been to respond to corporate America's growing use of recognition by helping companies to better understand how incentive professionals and their companies can help design programs that meet their needs and realize better ROI at the same time.

"We are reaching out to better engage corporate leaders and expand our membership to include those leaders. In fact, we have expanded our certification programs to help leaders learn how to design and implement their programs with the assistance of incentive experts. In a word, we are trying to make our organization more customer-focused than it has ever been," she said.

Additionally, Anderson noted that "Some of the specific initiatives, in addition to the traditional sales incentives, are wellness rewards for HRA (health risk assessments) and completion of specific wellness programs, employee on-boarding [a method designed to help new employees feel welcome in their jobs and better prepared in their new positions], and accelerated productivity milestone attainment, increased culture of recognition and efficiency gains due to innovation or process simplification."

To boot, Low said the IMA is continually focused internally in order to improve relevance to the membership.

"The IMA Summit is a key industry annual event that always is a top initiative for the organization. The 2014 Summit in Philadelphia promises to be a great event as we look to take another view of the industry," he said.

Also, "Branding is probably going to be the key initiative of the organization. We have preached to the choir, so to speak, for a long time," he added. "IMA leadership is looking at what our brand stands for and how to position ourselves to the general business community as the experts on the use of incentives."

© Copyright 2013 Premium Incentive Products. All rights reserved.