X

WorkStride Blog
WorkStride Blog Subscribe

Are You Running a Smart Sales Incentive Program?

Indirect partners love a good company-sponsored sales incentive program. It shows appreciation for their loyalty to the brand and creates an interactive experience to participate in. But participants and administers alike often know the different between a base-level and sophisticated system, and the difference could be impacting your bottom line results.

While mounds of needless complexity could add headaches and dysfunction to a reward system, strategically used logic-based components of the program—like personalization, system rules, custom conditions, and payout levels—can propel the user experience and results of the program from good to great.

Fortunately, there are some key questions to ask yourself that could help assess whether your partner program is truly smart, or, better said, getting the most sales bang for your reward buck.

Does your program enable advanced segmentation?

If there’s one fact that marketers know for sure, it’s that personalizing your message to the target audience creates a more relevant and effective experience. The same is true for sales promotions. Different categories of your program audience often require unique and personalized treatments. And that relevancy often translates to results.

In a recent study, Insight Data Solutions found that “applying the wrong incentive structure for a particular individual can reduce productivity and satisfaction.” Further, they discovered that when the shoe does fit, or more specifically, when the right structure and incentive is provided based on the profile of the particular user, their success rate nearly doubles. Yet, according to WorkStride’s recent study with Wakefield Research, 42% of programs are still targeting their whole audience with the same promotions and content without segmentation.

If you’re easily able to filter your audience into defined groups based on attributes and behaviors, and then leverage the factors of those groups to do things like build and run relevant audience-targeted contests, content and communications, and reward levels, then you can bank on a more meaningful experience and better outcome.

It is important to remember that even though you want each user selling as much of that product as you can, each user is not the same. Leveraging advanced segmentation not only allows you to cater your messaging to each user set, but most importantly your contest metrics and goals will yield you true return on program investment. The user will be able to be paid for attainable goals assuring engagement and loyalty, while your budget will be more closely tied to sales goals than arbitrary payouts.

Can you leverage system logic?

Logic-based conditional elements built into your program help make achieving complex goals and processes simpler.

For instance, running simple X for Y rewards could be an effective strategy, but how far can you go to match your specific requirements. Or before you’ll need to go beyond the basics and leverage opportunities to improve.

  • Can you reward for sales of particular SKUs and not others?
  • Does “X” even have to be a SKU? Could it be a volume of SKUs? A dollar amount? A team aggregate? A bundled add-on?
  • Can “X” be conditional in order to get “Y” (i.e. must be $500+ on a Tuesday)?
  • Could you set a minimum of sales made to even qualify to participate?
  • Can you reward sales lift by offering extra “Y” reward for the sales of “X” that are above the forecasted amount expected to be sold within the period?

Your program should enable you to simply define and change rules on the fly, enable eligibility prerequisites, set incentive levels and success metrics, and other crucial requirements.

SHRM recommends including payout ranges in your incentive plan design that rewards the 90th percentile performer 200 to 300% above the standard incentive amount.

User engagement is a crucial piece of your program, running metric driven incentives is paramount to yield a positive ROI. Users should feel engaged and driven to hit and exceed any combination of equations of goals you put in front of them.

Are you automated?

Systems that allow data collection, creating audiences, spinning up of promotions, and calculations for payouts seems smart. But it’s only truly smart if these processes are automated by the system and not manual work behind the scenes.

The dead giveaway to tell the difference? Can these elements be self-managed, or are they submitted to the vendor to handle. If it’s the former, you likely have an automated system. You work quickly and efficiently with no added costs. If the latter, there’s likely manual work being done behind the scenes to satisfy these tasks – which means wait times for you and your users, room for error, and often added costs.

All companies purchase software for the purpose of making life easier. If your entire program is not automated, then it doesn’t fit the software forte.

Without automation, among many other repercussions, there are two common effects on users that you’d want to avoid:

  • Users become apathetic. If a user is not able to track their success, nor be paid as quickly for earned rewards, the program’s engagement may tapper off.
  • Users become frustrated. If your program has different goals and campaigns running for different populations, a non-automated system could result in huge time gaps, and most likely deter you from advancing the sophistication of your program overall.

Are you gamifying?

Incentive Federation, Inc. estimates that $75.6 billion was spent in the US on awarding redeemable sales incentives through programs in 2015. That means there’s a lot of competition all vying for the loyalty of your sellers. To stand out, you must engage your audience.

Traditional offline promotions based on a flyer usually miss the mark on the value of engaging the user with tracking and a rich experience. Even many online systems are built to simply utilitarian to merely capture, validate, and reward out the sale.

A smarter-built system goes beyond the standard collection, validation, payout and blends in the additional component of user engagement with tracking widgets and gamification?

Your program is only valuable if it continues to yield results and improvements. As such, it’s critical to keep the program interesting for the participants. Contests, games, visual success tracking, leaderboards, and other widgets help get users to participant and keep them coming back.

Gamification should also expand past widgets and be incorporated in your training programs. Learn and earn modules should be a simple function of your system.

How well can you track performance?

How does something or someone become smart? They learn! There’s a myriad of valuable data ruminating in your network right now. Are you able to see it? Filter it? Visually report it? Learn from it?

While basic sales and payout reporting can show how many dollars are flowing through the program, this is raw information that could just as easily be seen using Excel—it’s also way cheaper. With smart programs, you can delve deeper into reporting and analytics and bridge comparisons between sales, partners, and customers which you (and Excel) typically couldn’t do otherwise.

Your reporting should be eliminating guess work when it comes to the promotions that you’re running. Those decisions should be driven by the information that the program is showing you it needs to improve.

If you can’t drill down in your results to display clear reports within specific regions, partners or partner types, divisions, SKUs, promotions, and timelines, then you may be missing a ton of highly-actionable insights that may not get acted on.

Along with seeing siloed intelligence, the software should afford you the knowledge of learning why certain partners, promotions, and products interact with one another. If you can see the direct correlation between a partner and a specific campaign, you can assess the success and any adjustments that need to be made. Further, having such visibility real-time allows you to react to it quickly.

Are dollars being spent wisely?

You’re spending money on earning loyalty and performance from your partners. But are you spending that money smartly? Even the largest of OEMs can become smarter with how they’re spending reward dollars to attain the highest possible ROI.

Through the blend of actionable system data, smart self-managed features, and strategic support from your vendor, you should be able to seamlessly learn the opportunity and improvement areas of your indirect business and quickly execute effective solutions.

Can your program flex?

“Smart” is within the eye of the beholder, and there’s array of different solutions out there that could fit your needs. From big to small. In-house to external. Simple to complex. Boxed to custom. But it’s important to consider what is right for you in both the short and long terms in order to reduce your exposure to risk.

A self-administered, out-of-the-box program might fit the cost requirement, but might be limited in flexibility. On the other hand, a highly-custom built program is tailor-fit to requirements, but the expensive build might be a gamble if you’re wrong about the needs. It then may be too expensive to change.

A smart program can support your immediate needs and also grow with you overtime as business grows and things get more complex. If your platform is willing to support a simple grass-roots campaign like a basic collection/payout promotion, but also support in complex and highly-configured program environment and everything in-between without costly rebuilds, you’re likely running a smart program that you could be with for the long term.


Take your channel sales incentive program to the next level with the fully-configurable, SaaS-based incentives and loyalty platform from WorkStride. Let’s have a conversation!

About the Author

Nick Pizzone is Senior Sales Executive at WorkStride. In this role, he helps clients from midmarket to Fortune 50's across every sector to create ROI-driven incentive programs.