I have had many conversations with marketing executives who will dismiss any kind of incentive, reward, or even loyalty programs with a wave of a Martini glass. It is beneath them to even talk about “trinkets and trash.”

They think marketing is advertising and Super Bowl ads. They think marketing is direct mail. They think marketing is jumping on the newest social media craze (anyone remember Periscope? Yeah – that. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

But heaven forbid you suggest that a well-design incentive program for the channel or an ongoing loyalty program for distributors/dealers fall into the “marketing” bucket.

I think they believe you should sell to channels and market to consumers.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

(#PROTIP: Market to both audiences if you want to be successful.)

What Will Change When You Start to See Incentive and Channel Loyalty as Marketing?

First – you end up spending more time on research. Every consumer marketing initiative usually comes with page after page of PowerPoint graphics showing demographics, psychographics, personas, emotivgraphics, etc. Not to mention the barren page labeled ROI. I say that because EVERY marketer KNOWS that 50% of their marketing spend is wasted but they don’t know which 50% (attributed to John Wanamaker.) You need to do the same with your incentive program (not all millennials are the same.)

Second – you get the ability to test ideas. Marketing is full of A/B testing discussions. Run one promotion for a group and a different promotion for a similarly categorized group and see which gets the best response. Happens ALL the time with direct mail and at stupid frequencies with internet/digital since the marginal cost of a different offer is almost zero. Treating your incentive/loyalty application like a marketer means you can test one reward strategy with one group and another with a different group and compare and contrast. That can be a game-changer.

Third – you get an ROI you can attribute to the program. Because you can test ideas you can see what the ROI is. I know what I offered. I know who I offered it to (and know that is the ONLY difference between the groups) and can see the impact of the differences in dollars and sense (see what I did there?)

And finally – you know have an active marketing plan in the channel versus a passive “offer”. HUGE difference. Active means you are updating, tweaking, changing, and managing the program. No Ron Popeil programs for smart channel marketers!

Don’t Be Lazy

Be active.

Be a marketer.

Take the time to do a thorough analysis of your program (I do them all the time for my clients – it is eye-opening for them.)

Create a behavior map to understand the behaviors you want and what the barriers to that behavior are. Don’t know what that is? Call me. 

Create a marketing plan around the “program.” I don’t even like to call them “programs” – I like the term “initiative”. That has a more refined and open feeling to me.

Do QBRs at a MINIMUM (QBR = quarterly business review). Not just the number of clicks on the program site or the number of awards earned, or points issued, but dig deeper into who is doing more (or less). Find positive and negative deviants and do deeper interviews for more information.

CHANGE THE PROGRAM. Don’t let the program sit. Change it. People SAY they hate change, but they love surprises. Do both.

Approach your initiative differently. Be better than your competition.

If your current provider is simply selling awards or a platform you’re missing 60% of what makes a program really effective – the design.

Hit me up on the calendars below and we’ll get you all straightened out.

Phew… Time for a cigarette and a martini. Cuz I’m in Marketing ya’ll.

PS: I made up something in this post. Do you know what it is? Call me to find out.