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Onward & Upward

IMA Sees Membership Growth, Positive Direction

The Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) continues to provide value for its members—promoting the use of incentives, helping to enhance business performance and connecting members from across the marketplace.

When it comes to the latest news, "It's all about momentum," said Don Killingback, director of business development, Wyndham Destinations, and president of the IMA. "IMA's membership is growing, and so is the value we provide for our members."

This year's IMA Summit, held in Chicago, was one of the most well-attended—with 357 attendees from 201 companies from around the world sharing ideas, networking and gaining knowledge on the incentive industry. "The Summit received high marks on both education and networking opportunities," he said.

"It's exciting to see the continued success and effort dedicated to the strategic plan outlined by last year's board under Ted Moravec's leadership, with a focus of aligning our activities with our mission statement," said Mike Donnelly, president of Hinda Incentives and secretary of the IMA. "That became the filter through which decisions, projects and expenditures passed, and the association has been very successful in this focus."

He noted a few examples of this:

  • A substantial increase in corporate outreach, and updates to the IMA and strategic industry group (SIG) websites. "In particular," Donnelly said, "the Incentive Gift Card Council (IGCC) and Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA) have enhanced their offerings to deliver relevant content and product sourcing resources."
  • In order to deliver better education to larger audiences across more platforms, the IMA has worked with new partners, such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), while strengthening long-standing partnerships with Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) and the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).
  • SIGs and chapters are now more aligned with the mission of the IMA, and are more cohesive and cooperative with one another.

"We are seeing the emergence of the Incentive Engagement & Solution Providers (IESP) SIG as our lead engine in driving content that will make the mission come alive in more places than ever," Donnelly added

Fintan Connolly, chief revenue officer, Motisha, and treasurer of the IMA, noted "The IMA is going through a really positive period of growth in terms of membership and types of companies that are joining the IMA. We're not just seen as the gift card, merchandise or travel people; we've broadened into service providers and technology providers. We cover more links in the value chain.

"The IMA," he added, "is being recognized as an industry body that really brings everyone together. Our Incentive & Engagement Solutions Providers (IESP) SIG and all of the SIGs have all stepped up the content they're providing and their collaboration.

"The content is top-caliber," he said. "We saw this sentiment clearly after the Summit this year. It was one of the best-attended Summits, and the feedback was very positive on the content and the caliber of the companies. People said it was difficult to decide which session to attend.

"We've become really collaborative. Companies are happy to share best practices and some of the challenges they are facing; this results in better service and programs for our members' clients," Connolly added.

Meanwhile, Len Sadek, CPIM, director, Gift Card Sales & Marketing, Landry's Inc., and executive vice president of the IMA, said that "We're making it easier for people who want to do programs to find best practices, service providers who can design effective programs and the incentives products they need.

"More and more," he added, "we're building out resources and making it easier to access the information you need to learn about how to build an incentive program. We've come a long way in the last few years. We have an Experts Bureau. You can search by topic, and we'll match you up with experts who can speak about employee recognition, customer loyalty, sales incentive programs and more. We also are providing more white papers and other helpful tools."

Bill Martocci, CPIM, president, Carlisle Sales & Marketing, and vice president of the IMA, said that "In recent years the dynamic within the IMA has shifted from a top-down to a bottom-up approach. This has all the SIGs working together to keep our focus, and our messaging, centered on showing incentives as a beneficial expense for corporations and the most successful businesses.

"It is the job of the IMA to promote the use of incentives and broadcast that message to as many CEOs, HR leaders and decision-makers as possible via all the means at our disposal," he added. "With the IMA acting as the point to assemble and coordinate the messaging, we are better utilizing the resources that all the members in these SIGs and our entire IMA membership can provide.

"This enables IMA leadership to take advantage of opportunities to promote the use of incentives in various forms, from public relations to education to dialogues with other organizations that can benefit from the wealth of knowledge and accessibility our members offer," Martocci added. "Proof that this is working is evident in many tangible ways—an overall increase in membership and the success of new chapters abroad seeking our knowledge and joining what we have here.

"Our international chapters are looking to join what the IMA has cultivated and not just for the blueprint of how to build it. They want to participate in IMA programs and build their networks alongside ours here in the United States," he said.

In addition, education is growing in multiple ways, with members sharing more and providing more content through webinars and other forums.

"The numbers of members taking the Incentive Professional course and successfully receiving their IP or CPIM (Certified Professional of Incentive Management) is also increasing," Martocci said. "Earning these designations shows a working knowledge of all the facets of the incentive industry, which provides added value to our customers."

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.

Future Goals

As president, Killingback said he is working with the IMA board on three priorities that support its mission and share a common goal—"helping member companies conduct more business and increase revenues for their companies."

The priorities are:

  • Continue to grow IMA internationally by finalizing the Brazil and Middle East & Africa chapters, which are in development. This will solidify IMA as the authority in the incentive industry and expand global business opportunities.
  • Enhance corporate outreach initiatives, increasing the size of both the association and the industry as a whole, and bringing new prospects to member companies, increasing the value of IMA membership.
  • Boost collaboration between the IMA, its SIGs and other industry organizations.

"Creating bridges between people in diverse segments of our industry creates opportunities for all," Killingback said.

Donnelly said Killingback is asking all members to:

  • "Innovate by creating new products and services.
  • "Motivate by engaging our staff, our clients and ourselves.
  • "Activate by getting involved! Join an IMA committee or task force. It's only through the work and collaboration of the membership that IMA succeeds."

When asked about future goals of the IMA, Sadek noted the following:

  • "Continue to partner with our international chapters to support their growth and identifying mutually beneficial opportunities that work for them and work here in the United States.
  • "Continue to make it easier to tap into the resources that IMA members provide. We're looking at ways to use technology to make it easier for people to find information and source products and service.
  • "Evaluate and strengthen our current alliances. We are exploring new potential alliances that are a strong fit with our membership base and SIGs. These groups are involved in some fashion with the use of incentives and recognition and we want to explore those relationships to see if we can make us all stronger."

Finally, Martocci said, "We are encouraging more members to actively participate. Participation is paramount to gaining the full benefit of your IMA membership as well as the continued success of the association. We need the leaders of tomorrow to prepare themselves today by getting involved. You can join a committee, lend your knowledge or sweat equity to the benefit of the organization or maybe it's bettering yourself through the IP course.

"The time commitment is not that great, and it honestly yields a professional benefit greater than the cost of membership. Ask current or past board members' questions and opinions, [and] then get involved," he added. "We are continuing to expand our strategic partnership and expanding avenues to reach new audiences."

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