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Look Beyond Sales to Maintain Engagement with Your Program

Laura Broman | May 5, 2020

maintain engagement

On this blog, we’re always thinking about new ways to help you improve your business and your incentive program. In our last post, we considered alternatives to travel  as the central reward of your program, ways to thank your participants for all their hard work even if the big-ticket prize might be out of reach for the time being. Today, we’re looking at the other side of the coin: rather than thinking about rewards, let’s look at ways to shake up your incentive program itself.

Let’s say you’re a B2B business with a points-based incentive program for your customers. The more of your product they buy, the more points they get to redeem for rewards. In times of uncertainty, you might find that your program participants are less motivated to earn points simply by purchasing more of your product or the goals you set for them may no longer be attainable. Maybe you’re starting to get concerned that engagement in your program will stall if participants are scaling back their purchasing. So what’s a company to do?

Well, that’s why we’re here. Consider this: an incentive program doesn’t have to just be about boosting your sales, pushing your product. Your buyers might not be looking to spend more money on you right now, but that doesn’t mean their engagement in your program and your company as a whole needs to suffer. We’ve got a few strategies for you to try out that can help your program flourish and your business adapt to new obstacles.

1. Flex your digital muscles

I know, I know. We talk about this one all the time. It’s becoming increasingly necessary to develop an online presence if you want to thrive in the digital age. Everyone’s heard it a hundred times over.

But hey, now is as good a time as any to take those words to heart and really start engaging with your partners and your program participants through digital. Even if your customers aren’t in a position to buy from you at the moment, that doesn’t mean you have to cut off all communication. Find ways to stay in their hearts and minds, over the Internet.

Look for opportunities to engage with your participants and channel partners on social media. Try out an email campaign to express your gratitude for their business. Above all: don’t go dark. Make sure your participants know that they’re more than just a big dollar sign to you, that they’re a part of your community. Keeping up communication, even when you’re not currently doing business, is a pretty big part of that.

2. Points for participation

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I realize the “participation medal” is a little out of style now, but don’t discount it just yet. One of the most important parts of maintaining a strong incentive program is making sure that your participants are continually engaged and participating. (Seriously, this is really important. We wrote a whole ebook about it.)

It’s simple: if your participants remain engaged in your program, they’ll be more motivated to buy from you in the long run in order to earn points. They can’t buy from you right now? Give them other ways to participate. Make it about more than just achieving sales goals.

For example, offer some points just for logging into their program portals a certain number of days in a row. You can even stir up engagement on social media: give your participants the chance to earn a few points by tweeting at you or liking your Facebook page.

3. Try a little enablement

What could your program participants improve on? Are they distributors who could do a better job selling your product down the channel? Are they end-users who could better understand how to use it? If there’s something you feel is missing from the way your participants are doing business, think about incorporating channel enablement strategies into your program.

Not to nerd out about it too much, but enablement programs are really cool. An enablement program helps participants better themselves at a certain aspect of their business, such as product knowledge or steps-to-sale processes. In the end, everyone benefits: your participants get better at doing their jobs, and you, as their channel partner, reap the subsequent rewards.

On top of this, adding in learning just makes your program more engaging. We talked with Motivforce a while ago and learned that firms that include learning initiatives in their incentive programs tend to see higher ROI and greater achievement of their goals, seeing a jump in objectives like sales revenue growth from 520% to 660%.

Furthermore, it drives that sense of community we keep going on about, that “we’re all in this together” vibe. Remember that a great incentive program is about more than making the sale: it’s about reinforcing your partnerships.

4. Drive redemptions

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Okay, this one’s a little wonky, but bear with me.

When it comes to incentives, we often think about rewards as the end of the line: buy the thing, earn the points, spend the points, get the reward.

But that’s not quite how it works. Ideally, getting the reward is an integral part of the customer retention process. Your participants shouldn’t just collect their reward and walk away like a ring toss game at a carnival. They should realize all the cool stuff they can get and look for ways to earn more points.

Maybe your participants have got a lot of points stockpiled that they’ve been waiting to spend. Why not now? Encourage them to treat themselves. Offer them a well-deserved reprieve from stressful circumstances. If they get motivated to redeem points for rewards, they’ll get motivated to earn more.

Conclusion: bring it all back to the ROE

ROE, or return on experience, is a crucial concept in incentive strategy. The way your program participants see your brand, the experience they have of doing business with you, often turns out to be just as (if not more) important as getting that good, old-fashioned ROI.

In an uncertain or volatile market let your participants, and more broadly your channel partners, know that you’re there for the long haul. Use creative engagement strategies to build that sense of community, of partnership, within your incentive program and without. Make sure they know that you know that it’s not always about the sale. You’ll be rewarded in the long run.

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