spif marketing

Help, I’m locked in a SPIF war with my competition

  • January 19, 2017

Longstanding assumptions pertaining to SPIF programs are beginning to disappear as organizations leverage digital technologies to manage their interactions across the channel. In particular, the idea that the only way to get more value out of sales incentives is to offer more money within the bonus structure is starting to slip away. The concept here is simple – give sales partners bigger bonuses and they’ll have more motivation to sell your product. The problem is similarly straightforward – putting more financial resources into SPIF payouts takes away from margins. Going digital can resolve these issues by giving brands new opportunities to engage partners and, therefore, derive value from the SPIF effort.

“Digital tools help brands get creative with their SPIF marketing efforts.”

In the past, most interactions between brands and their sales partners either happened via paper-based methods or in-person meetings. Email and similar tools have been around for a while as well, but those solutions aren’t especially valuable when they are only there for communication and don’t integrate with other channel-related activities. Modern channel management software platforms offer data integration between sales workers and the channel and allow for better collaboration across organizational boundaries. As a result, brands can get creative with their SPIF marketing efforts and engage partners in powerful ways.

Three of the most prominent non-monetary ways to improve SPIF marketing and engagement are:

1. Accelerating payout delivery

Getting sales workers more money may not be as important as getting them their bonuses faster. SPIF programs are designed to get sales workers to focus on your products and make continued efforts to put those items in the spotlight. However, if they file a bunch of sales and don’t get word on what the bonus is for a few weeks, then don’t get the payout for another month or two, they will start to disengage. The rewards end up being too separated from the action you are trying to encourage.

Historically, brands have had to gather paper-based sales report, analyze those files beside SPIF forms filed by partners to ensure claim accuracy, calculate the payment, send the details over to accounting, wait for the check to be processed and mail the payment out to sales partners. With digital channel management tools, brands get all of the sales and claims data side-by-side through a cloud-based app, can calculate the payout automatically and pass those details on to accounting, all with nearly immediate response once the claim is filed. From there, payouts can be arranged electronically or by check based on the sales partner’s preference, and the payout happens much more quickly.

“Ensure rewards aren’t too separated from the action you are trying to encourage.”

With such quick results, sales workers can be left more motivated to keep selling your products knowing the turnaround to the bonus will happen regularly and they won’t be stuck waiting months for any benefits.

2. Direct communication to build relationships

The easy communication already mentioned isn’t just useful for gathering sales reports, it also enables brands to send out training materials, get feedback from partners, answer any questions they’re getting from the channel and easily distribute new marketing content all in one place. This creates an operational climate in which brands can:

  • Go back and forth with sales partners to answer questions, clear up any confusion and make sure partners fully understand the details of the programs.
  • Easily release different marketing materials to specific partners as content can be transmitted digitally.
  • Respond to any problems within the SPIF program as they arise through new training or similar communications within the platform.

All of these capabilities enable brands to easily stay in touch with their partners, enabling them to build stronger relationships and drive loyalty.

3. Respond to sales trends as they unfold

SPIF programs can lose steam fast if sales workers start to disengage and brands don’t recognize this until they are analyzing the data after the program has ended. Being able to get sales data and feedback from the channel in real time allows brands to analyze that information while the SPIF program is running. From there, leaders can adjust marketing materials, roll out new training, change the incentive structure or otherwise shift their plans in order to keep the program from running out of steam.

The need to use escalating financial rewards as the primary way to keep SPIF programs running strong stemmed, in part, from a historic lack of visibility into the channel where brands were largely unable to identify the specific reasons why an initiative was falling short. By getting more data and having that information delivered in a timely fashion, brands can get a clearer idea of why programs are faltering and choose strategies aimed at solving those specific problems.

These capabilities come together to help organizations market their sales incentives in more strategic, informed ways that emphasize relationship building and engagement over raw financial rewards. This maximizes the value of the fiscal bonuses put in place and allows organizations to improve the results of a SPIF program without having to cut into margins by ramping up bonuses.

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