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PRODUCTS AND IDEAS THAT INSPIRE PERFORMANCE

Premium Incentive Products Magazine - Products and Ideas That Inspire Performance
Forging Ahead
Changes Abound at IMA

From educating companies on the proper use of incentives and rewards to providing a network of savvy professionals to ensure the job gets done right, and much more besides, the Incentive Marketing Association has been the organization at the pinnacle of the incentive marketplace for many years. Whether it's connecting you with the resources you need as you build your own program or providing networking and education for members to ensure they're on top of the recent developments, IMA is a tool you should be aware of and ready to use when the need arises. Here, we'll take a look at the most recent developments for the association and explore how IMA and its membership is able to take your motivation and rewards programs to the next level.

At the Incentive Marketing Association's (IMA's) Executive Summit, held in Nashville, Tenn., this summer, 356 people were in attendance—making it the best turnout at an IMA Executive Summit to date.

"We had over 67 percent of our membership in attendance, and 103 of them were attending their first summit," said Spencer Toomey, CPIM, IMA president and senior vice president of Luxury Lines by MMSC in Westport, Conn. "This is a good sign for IMA's future. It showed that the members see value in the summit for a variety of reasons: networking, education, meetings and socializing with their peers.

"The theme," he added, "was 'Collaboration,' and we are seeing more and more of that between the SIGs (strategic industry groups). Our educational topics covered gift cards, merchandise, travel, social media, and selling and working with countries outside of the USA, showing how we can all work together—collaboration."

IMA Executive Director Donna Chrobak agreed, explaining that the association had "record-breaking attendance, a high-profile keynote speaker, record-breaking sponsorship and unforgettable networking events."

"First and foremost was the commitment to determining and delivering member value, then to reconstruct an association devoted to the member needs and goals."
— Spencer Toomey,
2016 IMA President

Plus, "We are also experiencing a tremendous upswing in our Incentive Professional (IP) certification program, already surpassing all 2015 budgeted enrollment and revenue goals," she said. "In addition, we are showing growth in membership that we haven't seen for several years, and renewed membership engagement."

On top of seeing a boost in attendance and enrollment, the IMA has experienced many changes this year as well—the biggest one being the hiring of a new management company, The Harrington Company, based in Minneapolis.

"On Jan. 1, 2016, Harrington will become our new management company, and we are confident that they are dedicated to providing IMA and its members with the resources we need to help streamline our administration capabilities and resources, build brand continuity, create a more strategic marketing plan, and bring us new ideas and changes that will help improve IMA's value proposition to our entire membership," Toomey said.

Another major change this year was the selection of Chrobak as the new IMA executive director. Chrobak, a veteran of the incentive industry for more than 20 years and a former member of the IMA board of directors, took over the role in January 2015.

With the new association director and management company, Richard L. Low, president emeritus of the IMA and director, special markets at Citizen Watch Company of America Inc., Lyndhurst, N.J., expects that the IMA's marketing efforts will become a major initiative.

"We, the members, are reinventing the IMA and determining our own future," he said.

What's more, the "2015 term was focused on introspection and establishing a vision for what we wanted the IMA to look like in the future," Low added.

"First and foremost was the commitment to determining and delivering member value, then to reconstruct an association devoted to the member needs and goals," he said. "Spencer Toomey, the 2016 president, will oversee this continuing evolution into an association devoted to the membership and developing the external communications to the end user that make a case for increasing the use of incentives in business. The board's decision to approve the merger of several SIGs into one Solution SIG is the first step."

Other IMA news includes the completion of a groundbreaking research study that addresses, from the perspective of the incentive and recognition program participant, the importance of having the right award to motivate changes in behavior and improvement in performance, Chrobak said.

The IMA board of directors, she continued, also has "recognized the need to reexamine our position in the industry, the value proposition we are offering our members and the corporate marketplace as a whole, and how we fit into it.

"As a result," she added, "IMA is in the process of implementing several new strategic initiatives that will allow us to continue to be the premier organization in the industry for incentive experts, thought leadership, and relevant content and education for both industry professionals and corporate end-users."

IMA Benefits

Undeniably, the IMA has the resources to help educate companies about the incentive marketplace and recognition programs, as well as encourage the use of performance management and measurement tools to help companies improve their business.

Thus, the overall benefits of the association and its members continue to be important to the industry for many reasons, including the following, as noted by Chrobak:

  • IMA is the only organization in the field representing every segment of the marketplace, including: advertising and sales promotion agencies; consultants; distributors; gift card and gift certificate suppliers; fulfillment companies; incentive houses; manufacturers; national marketing companies; performance improvement companies; representatives; recognition companies; travel specialists; and the industry's major trade publications and trade show managers.
  • IMA is " the leading provider of content, white papers, case studies and education to the industry and the corporate marketplace."
  • IMA works with other industry segments to monitor legislative issues that have an impact on the industry and IMA members, working to protect the industry.

Undeniably, the IMA has the resources to help educate companies about the incentive marketplace and recognition programs, as well as encourage the use of performance management and measurement tools to help companies improve their business.

"The advantage to working with our members is quite simply that our members are experts in designing and implementing effective incentive and recognition programs, and providing the products and services that will make your program successful," Chrobak said.

Another advantage for IMA members is that they have an organization that brings all of the different disciplines of the incentive industry together.

"The theme of the last two Summits has been 'Collaboration,' and what we discovered was that while we thought our businesses were very different, we found out that we were more alike than we thought," Toomey said. "We have common problems, call on many of the same accounts and found that we have common ground where we can work together for our mutual benefits. There is a benefit of working with an IMA member.

"There is a certification program, which enhances the level of expertise of the members," Toomey said. "IMA members tend to be the leaders of our industry. They join IMA to learn and to share their knowledge. They have a vested interest in learning more and finding ways to make their business better. Some companies look at Special Markets as an afterthought; IMA members are committed to the industry and, therefore, the people that you would want to work with."

Low added that IMA members learn best practices and important trends from one another through webinars and conferences, too.

"The IMA has a robust certification curriculum that helps members become valuable resources for their customers," Low said. "Becoming an IMA member gives you access to invaluable resources, from industry leaders to groundbreaking studies and white papers. Companies that work with IMA members are getting the benefit of working with professionals committed to designing and delivering effective incentive programs."

And, the fact is that today's business environment is changing.

"Even with the seeming improvement of the economy, corporations are still looking for ways to maximize profitability," Chrobak said. "More and more, organizations recognize the value of an engaged and happy employee. Engaged employees have fewer missed work days, come to work on time, take the initiative to go the extra mile for the organization, show more creativity and innovation on the job, and promote better relationships with colleagues and customers.

"These things all translate to increased profit, reduced expense, happy employees," she added, "and, most importantly, happy customers."

Future Goals

The IMA has accomplished a great deal since its inception in 1998, and continues to plan for the future.

"One of the main goals for 2016 is to make the transition to The Harrington Company as smooth as possible," Toomey said.

"Harrington had their three main IMA contacts at the Summit, so they were able to see first-hand how we operate and to meet many of the members and get feedback from the various SIGs," he said. "We want to update our website and improve our use of social media, and we will work with Harrington's team to come up with the best solution to accomplish this. The SIGs play a critical role in IMA, so making sure that the SIGs and Harrington's transition is a smooth one is critical."

Chrobak said goal number one is having a successful transition to the new management company.

"We are currently in the midst of the transition process and expect a seamless execution," she said.

"Our other goals are to continue the momentum of increasing membership and reinforcing our value proposition, building the IMA brand in the corporate marketplace as the leading provider of incentive and recognition products and services, and educating our members and corporate end-users on the importance of effectively designed incentive and recognition programs that provided proven return on investment," she added.

Karen Renk Fellowship

The Karen Renk Fellowship Award was created in honor of Karen Renk, who served as IMA's executive director for the first 14 years of the association's existence.

"In her role as executive director, Karen Renk guided the Incentive Marketing Association, championed the business case for incentives, and mentored a wide group of individuals for the betterment of the industry and the association. She was known for a number of qualities including mentoring, character, collaboration and professionalism," Chrobak said.

The Karen Renk Fellowship is awarded to the IMA member who best exemplifies these qualities in service to the association, either through their work within the organization or through outreach to the community at large.

Criteria consist of the following:

  • Current member in good standing of the IMA
  • Active role in the IMA, a SIG and/or a Task Force
  • Demonstrable and substantial commitment to the organization through time and/or effort to promote the industry and the IMA community at large

"More than 16 years ago, Karen Renk had a vision of what we needed as an industry to move forward," Toomey said. "She envisioned an association that encompassed all aspects of the industry that would deliver a united message to the corporate world and she helped create IMA.

The IMA has accomplished a great deal since its inception in 1998, and continues to plan for the future.

"During the past 16 years IMA has had over 1,000 individuals as members, and it continues to adapt to the changes of the times. She was known for a number of qualities, including mentoring, character, collaboration and professionalism," he said.

"We lost Karen recently, and in her memory we have established The Karen Renk Fellowship Award. The Karen Renk Fellowship is awarded to the IMA member who best exemplifies these qualities in service to the association, either through their work within the organization or through outreach to the community at large," he said.

The inaugural recipient of the Karen Renk Fellowship Award is Sean Roark, vice president of Promopros/Incentpros Inc. and current executive vice president of the IMA.

"Sean chaired the task force that did all of the research and vetting of a new management company for IMA," Toomey said.

"This process went on for over a year, and the workload was enormous. There are not many people who would give that much of their free time to make this work, but Sean did," he said. "He had a task force that consisted of members of every SIG, and they had many long debates and meetings, but in the end, the final vote was unanimous. The end result of this hard work is that we have a new management company and everyone is in agreement with the choice.

"As we head into our 17th year as an association," he added, "we will be laying the groundwork that will bring us into our third decade successfully."

In the same way, Chrobak said Roark has made many outstanding contributions to the IMA, including his role as the current executive vice president of the IMA, treasurer of the IMA's Recognition Council and member of the board of directors of the Incentive Federation, which, she said, speaks to the dedication he has for the IMA and the incentive industry.

"It was during the past year, however, when Roark spearheaded the effort to vet and negotiate an agreement with a new association management company on behalf of IMA that his true level of dedication came to light," she said. "And, it was this tremendous commitment of time and energy to benefit the IMA that was the catalyst that earned him this prestigious award."



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