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Premium Incentive Products Magazine - Products and Ideas That Inspire Performance
Building Up
Changes Strengthen IMA Brand & Operations

Anyone familiar with the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) knows that it is the organization to educate companies on the incentive marketplace, as well as promote the use of performance management and measurement tools to help companies improve their business.

This year, the IMA has gone through changes that have helped to strengthen its brand and be a top resource for organizations to help improve their bottom lines.

"This past year has brought a lot of change for the IMA that has strengthened our operations and our brand cohesiveness, which ultimately helps us create a stronger, more unified voice for the incentive industry," said Sean Roark, president of the IMA, CPIM, and vice president of incentive programs, PromoPros/IncentPros Inc.

"Our transition to our new management company has gone very well, and we're delighted with the alignment of our board, volunteer leaders and staff," he said.

The IMA came under new management, The Harrington Company, on Jan.1. 2016, which has enabled the IMA to further streamline its administration capabilities and resources. Minneapolis-based The Harrington Company, an association management company founded in 1977, helps associations build strong foundations, and maintain active and stable connections to their industries.

"It has been a dream—so fantastic," Roark said.

"We now have a management company managing us," he said. " The benefits are evident to us, as we are seeing the decisions we're making yield results."

The Latest Developments

One operational change this year involves the creation of IMA chapters in addition to streamlining the organization's Strategic Industry Groups (SIGs).

"Chapters will have a geographic rather than channel focus. IMA Europe became a chapter this summer and is thriving and growing. We are also in discussions with representatives from new geographical regions about becoming IMA Chapters," Roark said.

He added that the IMA's new Incentive & Engagement Solution Providers Strategic Industry Group (SIG), which was created a year ago, is up and running.

"They are developing plans to bring forward new content and resources for IMA members and end-users," said Roark, who is a member of the IESP.

"The IMA and our SIGs have been strengthening our relationships with related industry organizations," he said. "Through education and collaboration, we are increasing understanding of ways to participate in the incentive industry. We're also providing the research, information on trends and actionable insights to educate businesses on the valuable role of well-designed programs."

He also said that as the use of incentives grows the importance of having well-trained professionals increases, which is evidenced by the growth in the IMA's certification program.

"Thirty-six people have taken certification exams so far this year, which is more than triple last year's numbers. IMA has now conferred 124 Incentive Professional (IP) certifications and 41 Certified Professional of Incentive Management (CPIMs)," he added.

IMA Benefits

"This past year has brought a lot of change for the IMA that has strengthened our operations and our brand cohesiveness, which ultimately helps us create a stronger, more unified voice for the incentive industry."

— Sean Roark,
IMA President

The IMA helps promote the use of incentives and recognition to improve business performance, and is the go-to place for expert resources for recognition and incentive programs.

"For members, the IMA connects them with resources and opportunities to grow their businesses. The IMA amplifies members' efforts by championing the use of incentive, engagement and recognition programs with businesses," said John Hornbogen, executive vice president of the IMA and director of business development for RPG Card Services.

"For businesses, the IMA serves as a resource to find professionals with the expertise, top brands and services to help them appreciate, engage and reward employees and customers," he said.

"The incentive industry is constantly changing," he said. "The IMA helps members stay at the forefront of change by providing data, insights and strategies to be nimble and responsive. Businesses want programs that reinforce corporate culture, deliver on brand value and bring measurable results—and they want it done in real time with the latest technology."

The IMA always has promoted the use of incentives.

"We've built industry relationships, we've produced white papers and publications, but it hasn't always had the impact we're looking for," Hornbogen said.

"This year we've brought all of our activities into a cohesive marketing and PR plan where the membership and customer marketing activities are linked. This will create a stronger impact for the IMA and across all of the SIGs," he said. "We launched our new membership marketing strategy at the July IMA Summit in Houston and members are already seeing the connectivity across our websites and our increased social media presence."

Roark added, "IMA's purpose is to provide a unified voice to speak about the efficacy of incentives to the public."

Future Goals

The IMA continues to make plans for the future, too, with a pursuit toward more externally-focused activities.

"Over the past year or two we've been talking a lot about transition within IMA. Now that we have a stronger internal structure in place, we can put our energy into pursuing more externally-focused activities to fulfill IMA's mission of promoting the efficacy of incentives to the public," Roark said.

"We're focusing on building unity within the industry which helps all of us deliver more value to businesses," he said. "We're moving forward with strategies to create new resources and education so members can stay on top of trends. We're increasing our marketing and promotion of the business benefits of incentives and the value of IMA membership."

The IMA is continuing to expand its partnerships with related industry organizations, such as the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) and the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).

"Through these collaborations we're seeing more commonalities than differences and finding new ways to work together to better serve businesses," said Ted Moravec, treasurer of the IMA and vice president of Elite Creations.

Recent studies show that corporate America is using incentives to improve business results, and the incentive industry is now at $90 billion and growing.

"We're also seeing a convergence of our segments," Moravec said. "Businesses are looking for programs that reward in multiple ways throughout the year, and younger generations are looking for experiences rather than stand-alone rewards. This creates opportunities for gift cards, merchandise, travel and all channels to work together."

Roark added that the IMA is poised for growth.

"We're functioning at a higher level of service to our members. We're developing a better understanding that we are stronger together and we can continue to make the market bigger by working together," he said.

"We're looking at additional membership categories," he added, "and we're seeing increasing international interest that we hope will lead to more chapters."

Industry Trends

The truth is that incentives work, and "more data exists now than ever before showing that organizations with engaged employees and customers do better, and well-designed incentive programs can play an important role in creating the desired business results," Roark said.

The Incentive Federation Marketplace Estimate Research Study, in fact, showed 84 percent of U.S. businesses are spending $90 billion annually on award points, gift cards, trips and travel, and merchandise. While the Incentive Manufacturers & Representatives Alliance (IMRA) Small Business Study revealed that 72 percent of small businesses using merchandise rewards experienced growth in the past year.

The truth is that incentives work, and more data exists now than ever before showing that organizations with engaged employees and customers do better, and well-designed incentive programs can play an important role in creating the desired business results.

"This expansion is creating a more sophisticated incentive marketplace with B2C expectations in a B2B environment, new opportunities to expand reward and recognition programs to create sustainable change, and customized rewards and experiences," Roark said.

He also noted that another industry trend has to do with sustainability.

"Businesses are focusing on more short-term rewards for longer term success. By rewarding desired behaviors throughout the year, companies are enhancing engagement and increasing the sustainability of the desired behaviors," he said.

For example, the old style of sales programs often offered rewards only to a limited number of top sellers, and once those programs were maxed out the remainder of the sales team didn't have the same opportunity to earn a reward.

"Today's programs are more 'campaign-based', so sellers have multiple chances of earning rewards throughout the year," he said. "The same principles are being applied to employee engagement and other reward and recognition programs as well."

In addition, Roark said "one size does not fit all."

The IMA Participant Study showed that nearly all participants had unique award profiles in terms of preferred award, presentation/ceremonial aspects, and more.

"Today you'll often see points programs that offer options for a wide range of rewards so the employee or customer can select something meaningful to them whether it be a gift card, merchandise or perhaps banking the points to earn a larger reward, such as a trip," he added.

Circle of Excellence

The IMA Circle of Excellence Awards, launched in 2000, identify and recognize outstanding examples of successful customer and employee incentive programs designed to help improve business. Both the company and the incentive marketing partner are recognized.

Five IMA member companies and their incentive partners took home awards this year for outstanding successful customer and employee incentive programs designed to help drive business. The Circle of Excellence Awards were presented at the IMA's Annual Summit in July in Houston.

"If you look at the results of this year's winning programs, it's not just the right incentive it's the entire program that contributed to their success. This includes engaging company leaders, developing strategies targeted to the demographics of the employees or sales force and creating a program that offers rewards that are meaningful to the employees and customers," said Joe Zanone, the 2016 Circle of Excellence Awards chair and president of Zanone Sales, Movado Group/Zanone Sales.

"The IMA Circle of Excellence Awards program is one of the strongest ways the IMA conveys the value and importance of well-designed incentive programs."

— Joe Zanone,
2016 Circle of Excellence
Awards chair

"The IMA Circle of Excellence Awards program is one of the strongest ways the IMA conveys the value and importance of well-designed incentive programs," he said. "The competition allows members to be recognized by their peers for use of best practices and developing outstanding programs that help customers achieve measurable results. It also creates awareness with businesses that IMA members are the best resources to help them succeed."

This year, several changes were incorporated to enhance the value of the program to participants and members.

"We revamped the awards ceremony and introduced a new award statue, designed and contributed by Crystal D. The elegant new statue reflects the growing importance of the expertise and experience IMA members provide to customers," Zanone said. "For next year we are looking at ways to increase the shared learning with new forums for winners to share their best practices with members and consumers."

The 2016 IMA Circle of Excellence Award Winners are: Power2Motivate, Fusion Marketing, Corporate Rewards, Ciloyalty and Solterbeck.

Power2Motivate with Brother International Australia

Consumer Offer/Branding Program/Customer Loyalty Power2Motivate was asked to provide an "out of this world" idea for Brother International Australia's key back-to-school high sales period.

The Brother $100K Prize Giveaway! Program exceeded all goals for sales, participation, engagement and usage. The program, which increased sales by 28 percent over the previous year, was targeted to printer and hardware resellers across Australia. Travel incentives were selected for the top prizes because of the demographics and location of the business owners, who may not vacation often. For each minimum monthly purchase of Brother hardware, resellers earned points toward a travel grand prize. Additional points and instant wins also were earned through a "Spin to Win" game of chance where resellers earned instant points toward a wide range of rewards.

Fusion Marketing with Sprint

Dealer Distributor Incentive Participation in the "Sprint Rewards Me" dealer channel incentive program had dwindled to 30 percent since the program's inception in 2008. In 2014, Fusion Marketing was asked to refresh and rebrand the program, which was relaunched in early 2015. Designed to appeal to Sprint's primarily millennial dealer demographic, the program was intended to make them feel personally rewarded and featured significant promotions throughout the year. Sales reps were able to redeem points for cash, via a re-loadable Visa debit card, and merchandise via third-party integration with a rewards partner. Participation in the revitalized program grew to 78 percent with active, enrolled reps outselling non-enrolled reps three to one. Replacing the outdated technology with new, more sophisticated technology, created many efficiencies, which enhanced the overall success of the program.

Corporate Rewards with Wincanton–Recognition Program

After introducing a new company vision, mission and core values, Wincanton brought in Corporate Rewards to develop and launch a program to engage employees in the new company culture. Historically, recognition had been inconsistent and employee surveys highlighted the need for change. Corporate Rewards engaged company leaders in defining program goals and involved them in training and communication throughout the development and launch of the online employee engagement system called "Your Recognition".

The new program enabled every employee to send an e-card to an employee who demonstrated one of the company values. A sporting theme incorporated images of sports medals to convey achievements and performance. Senders awarded points to the recipient by selecting a bronze, silver or gold level reward. The successful program exceeded all goals including more than 25 percent more thank you's sent.

Solterbeck/Sensis–Sales Incentive Program and Employee Incentive Program (2 awards)

Sensis brought in Solterbeck to help boost employee engagement and drive revenue growth across multiple product lines after the company was acquired by a private equity firm.

The existing incentive program, which offered 40 rewards, was often maxed out well before year end, thereby not offering the same chance of reward to all sales staff. Sensis was seeking a fresh approach that focused on performance throughout the year. Solterbeck created "Performance First". Eligible sales team members participate in six different "Sales Sprints", receive recognition and have their sales commissions calculated for each Sprint. The program offered large travel, medium and small rewards. The sophisticated program relied on three, fully-integrated software solutions that allowed Sensis to provide a single source for all sales and reward activity information in one place. Sensis significantly increased revenue and program participation while greatly reducing costs, and they received many supportive and appreciative comments from sales team members.

Ciloyalty with Bupa Australia – Recognition Program

Bupa, a large health insurance and care-home provider with more than 80,000 employees, asked Ciloyalty to help restructure and rebrand its aging "Bupa Sales Academy". Staff surveys and focus groups had identified that personal recognition was more valued than prizes. The new "Bupa Boost" program focused on creating a culture of recognition and providing a morale boost to Bupa's employees who work hard to look after the health of others. While the Academy focused on revenue goals, the Boost program put customers first by encouraging better outcomes for clients through smart business practices and strong customer service.

Depending on their roles, employees are rewarded monthly, quarterly and yearly. The Boost Reward Team also runs discretionary programs that complement the monthly and quarterly incentives, creating competitions that fill the gaps identified in the business' capability or performance. Participation in Bupa Boost far surpassed the Academy with more than double the number of participants.

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