Here at Corporate Innovations’ Towers we are often reviewing what works, what doesn’t and what needs refining in the world of channel reward programmes and sales incentives. Despite a disparate range of clients, geographies and industries it strikes me that there’s invariably a commonality of levers that can be applied to almost every programme that will help ensure the future success and longevity of a reward or incentive programme, so I thought it useful to set out a few key learnings that you might find useful;

1. Set out Clear targets, objectives and measures of ROI The saying goes, “what gets measured gets done” and it’s absolutely true that if you are not benchmarking your key performance indicators, how do you attribute success? There’s a myriad of KPIs that can be applied to any programme, however my recommendation is to pick a limited number and focus on these. Additionally, consider split testing in order that you can correctly attribute any variation in behaviours to the programme versus a control group.

2. Keep it Simple Do this – get that. It’s that simple. People understand and engage with simplicity. Over-complication, particularly from the start, leads to confusion, potential errors and at worst damage to brand reputation. It’s fine to add different incentives, new reward tiers, accelerators etc, however if your core audience doesn’t get the basic premise of the programme, it will never fly.

3. Get Senior Buy-in. Get it Early No matter the genius of your reward programme it’s essential that someone at the top of the internal food chain is persuaded of your genius and helps you find a path through the door-keepers and nay-sayers and helps secure the funds that can bring the programme alive. We all need some support and a senior sponsor is going to be important – they can also give you valuable insight into what will help smooth your project’s path through the rubber stamping and corporate approvals process in addition to giving the programme instant credibility internally.

4. Appoint a Project Lead as a Window, not a Gate-keeper to the Organisation There’s a lot of work involved in bringing a reward programme to life. So much, it’s unlikely, unless you have a benevolent boss who is happy that you suspend your day job, that you’ll be able to co-ordinate everything yourself. This is all the more important where the programme is multi-regional. You’ve hired an agency, so introduce them to the right people across the organisation; marketing, sales, legal, finance and other stakeholder teams and ask to kept in the loop and involved in the big decisions. Let them get on with it and earn their keep on the little things and they will pull it all together for you. Remember, this may be your first time in launching a reward programme, if you’re working with the right partner, this will be bread and butter to them!

5. Keep User Experience Front of Mind You’ve invested a stack of marketing funds on your reward programme, so it’s important that the audience gets a positive experience. Bring together the guys at the coal face that know what your customers want, your account managers and field sales force, and ask how best to engage the target audience and then bring this to life in positive way that keeps them wanting to return.

6. Vary the Rewards and Incentives Ever noticed that Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s don’t just have baked beans on offer as a loss leader? They vary the products on offer to keep our interest and engagement with their respective loyalty programmes. The same goes for your reward programme, vary the rewards so that they are not predictable and can be used to generate ongoing engagement. It’s great that you are using the programme to build loyalty, which in itself can’t be done over one or two quarters, however keep the programme mainstays steady and then keep it interesting by adding in accelerators along the way

7. Keep Communicating Your reward programme in itself is a worth subject with which to engage your target audience. We recently worked with a fmcg company that was doing a great job of having retailers winning rewards, however couldn’t get them to be redeeming the rewards. A simple and regular communications plan saw engagement soar across the population which we then managed to sky-rocket when we added an element of timeliness to the redemptions with a further incentive

8. Make Rewards Commensurate With the Effort We are fortunate to work with some big IT organisations that sell six and seven figure hardware. Let’s be realistic that a $10 incentive is not going to be highly motivational to a big-swinging IT salesperson. Conversely a £200 reward against a £500 ticket price doesn’t sound realistic to the long term viability of a programme! There’s a balance to be found

9. Get Budgets in Order Before You Start Got the budget to launch your reward programme? That’s great! That’s not however the same as having the budget to keep it going. Invariably in big companies, the programme setup may come from one pot and then any ongoing rewards/ incentives may be attributable to another department’s budget. Ensure that they are all fully on board and know what to expect and you have ongoing commitment should it all go well

10. It’s Ready, so It’s Launch-time, Yes? No!! It’s terrific that the programme has got this far, however it’s imperative to get the troops on the ground fully on board and understanding the programme, how it works and what it means to their customers. If your customers have a question about the programme, invariably they ask their account manager or field representative first. If they don’t have the answers it can look like another short term initiative from head office. You want your team to be joined up and evangelising about the programme, so make sure they are in the loop and know how it works and what it is going to mean to them and sales on their patch. It’s essential they are fully briefed on the programme, have had the opportunity to pressure-test it and can see how their customers are doing; it gives them another reason for a conversation! You might even want to launch an internal reward or incentive programme linked to the success of their customer’s engagement within the broader programme.

So there you have it, it’s not an exhaustive list by any means, however it could accelerate the success of your programme or at the very least give you a few pitfalls to watch out for! If you do nothing else, ensure you get the right partner agency on board that has walked the talk and can bring your seed of a great idea alive! Good luck!