A little alliteration never hurt anyone.

The first post in this 5-part series went up on July 25th. It focused on making sure your program design fits with your brand. I can sum up that post with this quote:

“Don’t cheap out and just add the most googled meme as your program logo. Before you do anything else – make sure the program keeps the faith with your brand.”

The key is to keep your brand and your program connected. And adjacent to that concept is making sure the program aligns with your company’s goals and objectives. It sounds like the same thing but it is subtly different. Even companies with an extremely strong brand position, one that rarely changes, still have business goals that change quarter to quarter, year to year. This is the alignment we’re talking about now.

Business Goals – Program Goals

Too often I see programs designed based on last year’s program. Copy, paste, update start and stop date, announce, then pray for results.

The reason people need to pray for results is their program isn’t a reflection of today’s market needs. Last year was about building share. This year it’s about expanding on the deals you closed last year. The same program won’t drive that result. The program structure must fundamentally change if you’re ever going to be successful.

Design Based on Who Can Make a Difference

The quick and easy way to make sure you align your program with your current business goals is to go through a mapping exercise. On the right, list the current business goals you want to see accomplished (not too many – no more than 4 or you end up spreading yourself too thin.) Then, on the left, list the audiences that have the most impact on those outcomes. Then simply (and I mean SIMPLY) list the steps needed to move from the left to the right. What are the steps in the process that culminates in your stated goal.

The map will help you figure out where to apply leverage to make things happen. It will also keep you from simply throwing an incentive up rewarding the “final” step without considering the behaviors required to make that outcome happen. Programs that leap directly to the last step in the process are less effective because you’re allowing the audience to do anything they want to get the result you want. Ask Well Fargo how well that type of structure works.

Checking Your Incentive Design

Incentive programs are a pretty blunt tool for influencing behavior and need to be constantly monitored to ensure you don’t get unintended consequences. Incentives are short-term and tactical; therefore their focus should be much more on the business needs of the week/month/year. When you have a program/initiative that is based on short-term goals you can’t simply set it and forget it. Too much changes too quickly in today’s world for these programs to remain effective for more than a quarter without some subtle tuning.

For incentives, review the rules and the goals at least quarterly. Adjust as needed. Sometimes it is necessary to change the theme and positioning to break the inertia of the program and get your audience to stop doing one thing and start doing another. Set a note in your to-do list to review your program alignment and make sure your program isn’t stuck in last year’s marketing and sales playbook.

Review Recognition Strategies

Recognition programs usually are more strategic than incentive programs. (Need a primer on the difference see this post.) Recognition programs are based on broader criteria such as quality, customer service, innovation, or other “values” that are evergreen. It is less likely your company will need to adjust a recognition program that’s based on quality service each quarter. Think about it… quality service will be a foundational element regardless of the business environment or your current quarter sales.

But reviewing the program on an annual basis is important to make sure the result matches the intent. Over time, company missions can drift and change enough that the program design gets out of alignment and needs to be nudged back into position. It is rare you’ll have a full overhaul but you will need to tweak now and then.

Align and Align Again

I can’t say enough about taking the time to align your program with the business goals. Too many programs wonder off track and then everyone wonders why the results didn’t happen. Even if a program is initially designed well, checking in regularly to ensure alignment with current reality will go a long way toward greater program success. No one is every 100% right the first time. No. One.

Review and revise. Align and adjust.

Next Up

We’ve covered aligning with company brand and business goals. Next well talk about audience and how knowing your audience can also make or break your program design.

On to Part 3 … stay tuned!