Choosing an Incentive System [Ultimate Guide]

by: Mark Herbert January 29, 2020

You’ve been tasked with researching an incentive system for your company. A quick Google search reveals hundreds of incentive companies, all claiming that their incentive system is the best. So how do you begin to narrow down your search? What factors do you need to look at to find an incentive system that actually works for your business?

While it’s up to each individual business to determine their requirements, we created a checklist to help guide your research and find the incentive system that’s right for you.

Checklist for Choosing an Incentive System Provider

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Factors for Choosing the Right Incentive System

For the sake of keeping things simple, we’ll start with five high-level categories you should evaluate when researching incentive system providers. These are:

  • Reputation
  • Support
  • Rewards
  • Technology
  • Budget

Each of these categories include multiple factors, which we’ll be discussing more in-depth.

Reputation: Does This Incentive Provider Have a Proven Track Record?

With so many new incentive system providers entering the space, it can be tricky to tell the real from the fake. Before spending your time on demos and sales sheets, looking at the companies’ reputation can help narrow your search.

Ask yourself questions like: “Does this company have a proven track record helping businesses like mine? How are they to work with?”

When you’re evaluating an incentive system provider’s reputation, try looking at factors like:

  • Industry Experience – How long as this company been in business? Newer companies might be more innovative, but it can be tougher to determine their legitimacy or staying power. If you’re looking at more established incentive companies, make sure that they are continuing to evolve and aren’t resting on their laurels.
  • Testimonials – Looking at Google Reviews and client testimonials for the incentive system providers on your list will give you a better idea of what their priorities are and whether they deliver on what they promise.
  • Case Studies – Case studies prove that a given incentive system works and results in the business growth it was designed to accomplish. Furthermore, it shows that the incentive system provider has systems in place to measure and report ROI.
  • Thought Leadership – Are the incentive companies you’re researching leaders in their industry? Do influential publications recognize their standing? Have they received any notable awards? Reputable publications to reference for this sort of research include Forrester, Incentive Magazine, the Incentive Marketing Association, and the Incentive Research Foundation.

Support: Will I Get the Help I Need to Successfully Manage My Program?

Even if an incentive system sounds good on paper, whether or not it will be a workable solution for your business depends on the support that comes with it. Levels of support include:

  • Program Design – Will the incentive provider help you design your program, or do they leave you to your own devices? Are they responsive? Does the plan they provide feel tailored to your business? You can learn a lot about an incentive system provider during the program planning.
  • Account Management – Once the program launches, will you have access to dedicated account management? Remember, your incentive system will become an extension of your business, so it’s important to evaluate potential account managers on their personality, their qualification, and the layers of backup support for your program.
  • Admin Training – Whether you plan to use an internal admin or outsource program administration, make sure that your incentive system provider has a thorough onboarding process.

Rewards: Ensuring an Outstanding Experience for Your Participants

Rewards are the engine behind an incentive system. They drive the behaviors that benefit your business. Reward selection is a crucial part of choosing the right incentive system. When researching incentive companies, make sure they provide the following reward-related features:

  • Relevance – Rewards should feel relevant to your target audience, while aligning with your organizational goals. Most businesses already have an idea of which reward type they want to use for their program, but it’s important to choose the best iteration of that reward type to differentiate your program.
  • Selection – The rewards that empower your incentive system should scale to provide meaningful motivation for each segment of your target audience. Providing a vast selection of rewards lets top performers and not-so-top performers alike choose rewards that are attainable and feel personalized.
  • Fulfillment – Finally, does your incentive system ensure efficient and reliable reward fulfillment? Is fulltime customer support available to assist participants who need help with reward redemption? As an extension of your brand, reward fulfillment isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Technology: The Platforms That Drive Your Incentive System

It’s 2020. We’re almost 30 years into Digital Transformation. And, if anything, technology is evolving at an even more rapid rate. For incentive systems, Incentive technology is what really separates the winners from the rest of the pack.

Evaluations of incentive technology platforms should include:

  • Security – Incentive systems can be a rich source of customer data. It’s imperative to keep sensitive information ultra-secure and to make sure that your incentive system includes systems for data backup and recovery – just in case!
  • Speed-to-Market – Incentive systems are ultimately a tool to set yourself apart from the competition. With that in mind, it’s important to choose incentive technology that’s agile and can be deployed quickly to adapt to any changes in your marketplace.
  • Automation – Can you really afford any more manual processes? Automated processes result in more efficiency and a better experience for participants and admins.
  • Integration – On a similar note, you’ll save yourself some major headaches by making sure your incentive system can integrate with your CRM, LMS, customer or employee portals, and any other business management software your company uses.
  • Scalability – Any technology you use for your business will either enable future growth, or become an impediment. Make sure that your incentive technology platform is equipped to grow with your program, with your business, and with industry trends.
  • Reporting – Having access to easy-to-use dashboards, as well as advanced reporting, allows you to monitor the success of your incentive system. If an incentive company tries to charge you for these features, you can use the fact that other companies provide them for free as part of your negotiation.
  • End-User Experience – In addition to how the technology works for your business, have you considered the experience you’ll be providing to your program participants? The more accessible and engaging your program, the more successful it will be.
  • In-House Support – We don’t want to mention any names, but most incentive companies either license their tech or outsource development. This means that you will be limited if you require tech support or want to make changes to your program. Teaming up with an incentive system provider that builds all of their tech in-house can become a major advantage to your company.

Budget: Incentive Billing Options That Work for Your Business

Finally, the reality of the situation is that budget will be a major factor in choosing your incentive system. Budgetary factors include:

  • Affordability – Most businesses face budget constraints when shopping for an incentive system. While sharing the budget between sales and marketing can create a little flexibility, ultimately you will have to choose an incentive program provider that fits within your budget.
  • ROI Analysis – With that in mind, being able to project an ROI for your incentive system can give you a better idea of how much you should invest. This will also help you plan for possibly expanding your budget in the future.
  • Flexible Billing – Lastly, it’s important that a potential incentive system provides billing options that fit your accounting and gives you flexibility in regards to cashflow. You can learn more about the different incentive billing options here.

A Little Help for Incentive System Planning

Thanks for reading! If you made it this far, it means you’re serious about researching incentive systems, and we wanted to help you on your journey. The BthruB Incentive Program Playbook is a comprehensive guide that will help you round all the bases and implement a successful incentive program. Click the button below to download your free copy!

Download your copy of the incentive program playbook.

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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.