What We Learned at the BthruB 2019 Leadership Summit: An Inside Look at Incentive Industry Thought Leadership

by: Mark Herbert October 21, 2019

Several weeks ago, thought leaders from some of our top clients (and one exciting prospect!) joined us at the Barnsley Garden Resort in Adairsville, GA for our sixth annual BthruB Leadership Summit. The BthruB Leadership Summit is a chance to bring incentive industry thought leadership together across various industries to figure out how the incentive industry can evolve to stay ahead of a changing sales channel.

Attendees represented manufacturers and distributors from the following verticals:

  • Industrial Manufacturing
  • HVAC
  • Electrical
  • Building Products Distribution
  • Plumbing
  • Automotive
  • Agriculture
  • Global Travel and Hospitality

Despite being from different industries, it turns that when it comes to channel sales, our clients have A LOT in common. After all, like most manufacturers and distributors, all of our attendees rely on an indirect sales channel to reach the end consumer. And whether their channel partners are dealers, contractors, or travel agents, many of these companies face similar disruptors in their channel.

Companies Looking to Incentive Industry to Overcome Disruptors in the Channel

Every year at BthruB, themes begin to emerge from the dialog that occurs. This year, effective communication, actionable data, and achieving differentiation were major focuses. Across every industry, digital transformation, changes in channel partner demographics, and an increased reliance on AI and business analytics, are changing the way buyers buy and businesses sell through the channel. Many of these companies are looking to the incentive industry to help them make this leap.

BthruB Incentive Industry Keynote Speaker Jay McBain
Keynote speaker Jay McBain from Forrester Research set the stage for discussing the role of incentive programs in an evolving sales channel.

Channel incentive programs create a unique link between vendors and channel partners that inspires a better flow of communication and allows vendors to collect and integrate new datapoints. Incentives give businesses tools to engage and motivate influencers and to market across a channel that has become increasingly Millennial.

Incentipalooza: An Inside Look at Incentive Tech Development

For many of our clients, managing an incentive program isn’t their fulltime job, so it is important for us to keep them informed about our latest offerings and to educate them about possible use-cases for our incentive technology. This year, we tried something new.

BthruB Incentipalooza
Incentipalooza was a chance for incentive industry thought leaders to explore developments in incentive tech.

On the first night of BthruB 2019, we held Incentipalooza, a round-robin event where clients paired off into groups to tour select incentive software modules. It was a great chance for them to get a better idea of the full functionality of our tech suite. Each booth had a short presentation and a Q&A – just long enough to spark new ideas for each client’s program.

The event was a huge success that had our clients chasing down their AMs to discuss new ideas for their program on their way to a fireside marshmallow roast. We felt Incentipalooza really set the stage for an open, productive dialog for the remainder of the event – and we left with a few new ideas of our own for future tech development!

BthruB 2019 Presentations from Incentive Industry Thought Leadership

The following morning, keynote speaker Jay McBain from Forrester Research kicked off presentations. One of the most influential analysts in the channel space, McBain shed a light on the future of channel enablement based on current trends. Backed by a wealth of statistics, insights, and anecdotes, Jay McBain presents an expansive, forward-looking approach to channel sales. His approach to identifying influencers and building ecosystems of partners inspired a lot of interesting dialog during the following breakout session.

Stevie Petri Incentive Industry Communications
Incentive Solutions' Stevie Petri shared stats, insights, and best practices for loyalty marketing campaign development.

Later in the morning, our very own Stevie Petri, Marketing Communications Specialist at Incentive Solutions, took the stage to present incentive program communications best practices. We will be releasing a SlideShare of her presentation – so I don’t want to give too much away – but Stevie did a really good job arming attendees with actionable advice for their programs. Effective program communication within their channel is a major priority for many of our clients. Not only does effective communication inspire better engagement and participation for the program, but it is a cornerstone for many companies’ channel marketing for building awareness and forging connections with partners.

However, as phenomenal as Jay McBain and Stevie Petri were, this year we wanted the presentations to be focused on our clients. Several of our clients were kind enough to share an inside look at their own programs, complete with strategies, tips, benchmarks, and descriptions of the hurdles they’re facing. While we won’t mention any names or share specific details for competitive reasons, these presentations were outstanding. We’re always amazed at the level of candor, insight, and strategy our clients possess. Plus, the client presentations really opened the door for open discussion, so that attendees could learn from each other, which is really what BthruB is all about.

Incentive Industry Mock Case Study

Before giving each client one-to-one time with their account management teams, we ended presentations on the last day with a mock case study workshop. Clients and staff broke off into small groups to come up with a plan of action for a hypothetical case study. Working together, they had to choose the target audience, reward selection, and incentive software to enable their solutions. Oh, and just like real life, there were budgetary limitations to contend with!

Incentive Industry Mock Case Study Exercise BthruB 2019
Clients and staff worked together on a mock case study, to achieve creative breakthroughs for their own programs.

We then opened the discussion to the whole floor to compare solutions. Interestingly, everyone’s hypothetical solutions were very different. Some groups chose to incentivize the distributor, others the dealers, and still others the retail sales reps. Reward selection ranged from point-based online rewards to group incentive travel. But what made this exercise so interesting was that everyone’s solution was completely feasible.

Creating a channel incentive program is a little like a puzzle, where there are any number of pieces that can fit together. Sometimes, it can be helpful for clients to be able to step outside of their own programs and have the space to think creatively. Doing so can give them breakthroughs for their own programs.

Work Hard, Play Hard! Enjoying the Barnsley Resort

That’s not to say that BthruB 2019 was all work and no play! At Incentive Solutions, we pride ourselves on a ‘work hard, play hard’ company culture – a philosophy we certainly carry over to our marquee annual event. In between presentations and workshops, our guests were treated to down-home dining, cocktail mixers, and live music.

During down time, attendees had the chance to explore Barnsley Garden’s 3,000 acres of rolling lawns, cozy cottages, and quiet woodlands. This is the third year we hosted the event at Barnsley – and we’re sure it won’t be the last. It’s a special place – relaxing, but never boring – with an atmosphere that’s conducive to focused discussion. It’s a good place for clients to get away from the bustle of their work life and enjoy time with each other.

BthruB Client Team Building Exercise
The BthruB Leadership Summit is a chance for Incentive Solutions to give back to our clients, to celebrate relationships, and create new memories.

For our team-building activity the second day, we took our clients for several round of sports clay shooting. It turned out we had some undercover pros in the mix, but for many clients this was their first time clay shooting. With attendees from all over the country, we figured this would be a picturesque way for them to spend their time in Georgia, a memory they could take back with them.

A Commitment to Incentive Industry Thought Leadership

But, more than anything, BthruB is a chance to give back to our clients. To thank them for making what we do possible. Incentive Solutions was founded as a clients/ incentive company, and The BthruB Leadership Summit is an opportunity to enjoy the partnerships and friendships we’ve created along the way.

By listening to our clients, and making their priorities our own, we’re able to grow as an incentive provider and stay ahead of the curve. We’re committed to growing together, and to championing thought leadership in the incentive industry. If you’re a current client, and would like to be included in next year’s event, reach out to your AM. Or, if you are looking to become a member of the BthruB community, give us a call.

If you need ideas for your own incentive or loyalty program, be sure to download our latest e-book: The BhtruB Incentive Program Playbook!

Yours,

Mark Herbert

President & CEO
Incentive Solutions

About Mark Herbert

Mark Herbert is President and CEO of Incentive Solutions. He has more than 30 years of experience overseeing business operations within the incentives industry, helping companies increase channel sales, build customer loyalty, motivate employees, and grow their business.