Incentive programs are a natural expansion of a promotional products business. That was the message from Sean Roark, a member of the Incentive Marketing Association and the VP of incentive programs for PromoPros (asi/300654) and sister company IncentPros, at an Education Day session at ASI Dallas. In fact, incentives, which include brand-name merchandise, gift cards and travel experiences, is a market worth $90 billion, and it’s growing about 5% a year, according to Roark.
“The question is, how can you expand your promotional products business with incentives?” Roark said. “It’s not just, ‘how do I increase my sales?’ When you combine promotional products and incentives, that’s your potential business space.”
Roark referenced a recent interaction with a loyal client who, when asked if she’d be interested in an incentive program, balked because of a bad experience. “Ask them if they’d like you to handle the incentive program with the same meticulousness with which you handle their promotional products,” said Roark. “I was able to sell her the program because I’m her trusted distributor. It became a $200,000 program and 40% of it was promotional products.”
So clearly one smart strategy is to look to existing customers who will often continue to reuse incentive programs year after year, creating lucrative annuity streams for their distributors. “They’re already happily buying from you,” said Roark. “They call you for branding and messaging, but others may offer that plus incentives. If you only do promotional products, they might call someone else who can do everything.”
There are a number of ways to incentivize people, particularly employees, said Roark. Perhaps workers need to achieve a certain length of service, perfect attendance, a wellness goal, a clean safety record or a sales number. There are also different structure possibilities for each program, such as points for performance, sweepstakes, drawings and plateaus, or tiers, for different achievement levels. It’s important to note that programs come with a number of moving parts that must be addressed, including how the items are sourced, how the program is administered and, ultimately, the presentation of the items. There are also legal matters to be aware of, like income tax laws and regulations put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Departments of Transportation and unions.
“You as the distributor need to know how to pick the products to give them a selection, and you need to know the best way for the items to be presented to the recipient for maximum impact,” said Roark. “Your clients are responsible for one payment for a total solution, but you’re bringing in items from several suppliers and you package it up for them. That’s a talent.”