3 Top FAQ’s In Incentive and Loyalty Programs

By: Jason King

Collaboration Is EverythingOne of the aspects of our work at 360 that we all agree is the most fun is the opportunity to get in and help our clients with the planning of their incentive and loyalty programs. Think about it: we get to work with great, great companies and help them work super hard and super strategically at planning how to make people happy with their channel marketing efforts. Then we collectively watch the metrics roll in to validate everyone’s effort in the form of a sales lift. Recently, I started compiling a list of some of the most frequently asked questions we get during this process in the hope that we could answer them here on the blog to help out anyone else who is wondering about the same things.

Here are 3 of the most frequent ones from Q1 of this year: 

How long should programs last?

This question is perhaps a bit of a relic from a time where incentive programs were harder to implement.  What I mean by that is when there was less ability to deploy digitally, there were natural built-in time constraints to launch programs which would decrease a company’s appetite for frequently switching it up.

With the advent of digital delivery options for incentives programs, you have the ability to be more agile. Is it not valuable then to use this flexibility to keep your programs “hot”? In fact, here is one area where you can concern yourself the most with your own goals:  are you launching a product? Do you need to blow through some old SKUs?  Do you want to respond to a weather anomaly or some natural disaster?   Are you trying to build up a certain territory during a certain time frame?  If you’re married to a year-long program, there is a chance you have created unnecessary constraint for yourself.  As marketers in 2013, it is simply table stakes to be thinking and working in as close to real-time as possible.

Out front on the sales floor, a rebate program with no visible end date creates no urgency whatsoever for the customer to make a decision to buy. A sales spiff program that is ongoing fades with the background noise of competing programs and thereby loses its effectiveness.

If we’re pressed for an answer, we will recommend a minimum program shuffle of once per quarter, but if this seems arbitrary to you: good. Ask yourself why you are creating the programs, put a bit of sweat into detecting the answers and then let that guide how often you switch them up.   As author Mitch Joel said in his keynote we attended last week, “[marketers] ask yourselves why, not what, because what is a tactic and why is a strategy.”

Managing Many Programs Pays Off 275pxHow many programs can we run at a time?

Fair enough; this is going to sound a bit like advertorial for our software, but bear with me, as there is a point to it that is closely related to our next question. With our software, you can run an unlimited amount of programs (the current record is 180 concurrent, customized programs) and there is a reason that this “unlimited” approach was built into our platform, which brings us to…

How many programs should we run at a time? 

This is the simplest one to answer, although admittedly it is the one that generates the most work for: you should run as many as you deem to be effective. What I mean by this is that with the ability to run customized programs, right down to the RSA level, it sort of behooves you to get as granular as possible in determining what is going to work the best for you. We are talking about incentives, right?

Give Them What Makes Them HappySo if you determine that Donny’s Dealership in North Carolina needs a spiff program on a certain SKU because Donny has been blowing up your phones complaining that he is stuck with it, you can give it to them. At the same time, if Donna’s Dealership over in Arizona is über-friendly with your brand and sells your stuff all day long, perhaps you spiff them on the whole line, but maybe you don’t have to throw as big a percentage of your spend their way. Finally, Darren’s Distributing out in Maryland prefers to receive a sell-through allowance ( STA ) which gives them the freedom to choose how to apply those incentive dollars whether it be to respond to market price fluctuations, internal sales spiffs or just throwing them right down on the bottom line.

The principle? Find out what makes them tick and incent them accordingly. Tons of work? Yes, but could there possibly be more valuable work for a marketer than detecting the most effective way to do their work?  Engage your field sales managers and ask them to gather data for you right from the front lines. When you’re doing your best work, everybody wins.

We will continue to answer similar FAQs here, but if you’d like to bump one to the front of the line, please feel free to leave your question in the comments below.

Jason King 360 IncentivesJason is the Content and Community guy at 360Incentives.com Connect with Jason on Twitter @JayKing71LinkedIn or Google+