Have you looked high and low, but can’t figure out why you’re losing on the sales floor? Consider that, likely, your competitor provides incentives. It could be their secret weapon. Incentives help create a more memorable experience, and study after study of B2B customers—such as Walker’s 2020 report on B2B customer expectations—stresses the need for B2B companies to step up customer experiences by building trust, personalizing interactions, and adding a human touch. If your competitor provides incentives, it could be their “secret sauce” to offering a better customer experience than you. Here are some of the ways the competition’s incentive program could be better than yours, and how you can fix that:
They have better incentive rewards.
Maybe their selection of incentive rewards is bigger, more appealing, or more specific to customers’ interests and desires. Maybe they’re simply better at knowing how to make those rewards look as shiny and irresistible as possible, or offering them to customers at the right time.
To compete with this tactic, you have three options:
- Research the kind of merchandise rewards your customers want, and offer them.
- Offer a large enough rewards catalog selection that customers can always choose the items they like most.
- Offer gift card rewards, providing maximum flexibility for customers to reward themselves almost any way they want.
Each type of reward comes with its own different advantages and different impact on the customer experience. Consider each reward type and when it can be used to its utmost effectiveness.
Oh, and another thing to keep in mind: bigger isn’t always better. Big rewards are attention-grabbing, but small rewards have major impact that can create consistent incremental sales growth. When we tracked the most-redeemed rewards for a year, we found that movie tickets, Redbox movie rentals, and golf balls were among the top five frequently redeemed items out of a reward catalog with millions of options.
Their incentive program is consistent and dependable.
I’ve seen too many incentive programs fail because companies run them for one quarter then quit, or change things up too drastically, too frequently. Incentive programs are a form of marketing at their core, and consistency is essential in creating a good customer experience. Consistency establishes authority and creates customer loyalty. Maybe your competition has annual or seasonal sales promotions that they’ve learned to anticipate. Maybe they’ve mastered the art of repetition, which breeds familiarity, which breeds affinity.
How can you make your incentive program more consistent than theirs? Some ideas:
- Plan for the long-term. One advantage of a points-based incentive program is that participants can earn points in large and small increments. They accumulate these points over time, which establishes investment in the incentive program and ample reason to come back. My colleague Jim Costello, Executive Vice President at Incentive Solutions, put it this way: “If you’ve been flying with Delta for years, American Airlines can offer you 10 times the miles, but you’ll stick with Delta because you’ve already accumulated so many miles with them. Being consistent and long-term wins the war.”
- Plan regular sales promotions. You could mix up the type of rewards offered to keep the competition fresh and exciting, but a regular sales promotion—be it yearly, seasonal, or quarterly—helps you build anticipation and capture attention consistently.
- Build in regular marketing communications. Incentive Solutions, for example, offers communication plans with our incentive programs. These include call and email campaigns to remind participants of their reward balance and seasonal message with “treat yourself” reward ideas.
They deliver incentives faster.
Effective incentives require you to tap into a few psychological drives, one of those being gratification. Psychological studies have proven that incentives offered immediately are more likely to reinforce behaviors—hence the term “instant gratification.” This is Incentive Solutions’ technique for delivering rewards instantaneously:
- Multichannel communications allow incentive program participants to receive relevant program messages through email, texts, or website updates. This way, they always know the details of the sales promotions they qualify for.
- Mobile-ready incentive technology gives sales reps or dealer distributors the ability to upload sales claims, receipts, part numbers, warranty registrations, and other sales documentation to the incentive program immediately, even right from the field.
- Our online claims validation tool allows incentive program managers to set validate rules for sales claims submission—for instance, the validation tool can flag submissions for sales over $10,000.
With this incentive technology in place to make the claims submission and validation process immediate, there’s no delay between action and reward.
The timing of their sales incentive promotions is strategic.
If your competitor provides incentives that are strategically timed, it could be crushing your efforts. They might have discovered—through research or trial and error—not just which rewards have the biggest impact on the customer experience, but when they have the biggest impact. The “magic time” for reward effectiveness will differ depending on your industry, your company, or even your department. But here are some ways you can get a head start on nailing the timing of your incentives:
- Make your incentives sing in beautiful harmony with your sales trends. Maybe your snow tire sales could use a little lift in the summer, or maybe you want to kick off a busy winter season of heater sales with a big sales incentive promotion. Research into your sales channel can uncover all kinds of overlooked opportunities, so get a magnifying glass and get creative.
- Maybe that tricky competitor of yours is offering sales incentive promotions at the same time you are. You could schedule yours just a little sooner than theirs, or maybe offer 2X or 3X bonus points during your promotion in order to lure in customers.
- Make the most of the holidays! We’ve found that our clients’ incentive program audiences redeem their points in droves during the winter holidays. Using reward points to buy holiday gifts really gives people that warm and fuzzy feeling. Not to mention, they connect that warm and fuzzy feeling to your brand.
Their incentive program budget is better.
Do you find yourself wondering how the heck your competition is spending that much on their incentive program? Well, they are if they have gotten clever with their incentive program budget. You can get even cleverer. Here’s how:
- You likely have some elasticity in your pricing. If you have a great new product with great features, customers probably won’t complain about paying a little more. Use those dollars to fund the new program.
- Share the funds with your channel partners or non-competing companies. You can use marketing development funds (MDFs) or establish co-op funding to disperse the cost of the incentive program among the companies that can benefit.
- Share incentive program costs between the Sales and Marketing departments. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander after all, and incentive programs benefit both.
- Work with incentive ROI experts. Work with an incentive provider who has developed a ROI-based strategy that’s proven to work. Learn more from the free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Incentive Program ROI.
View your incentive program as a revenue-generating asset and marketing tool, not an expense. You’re not in your sales channel alone after all, and I bet you can pinpoint multiple people who would invest in your incentive program’s success.
I’ve seen people get really creative to make their incentive program more competitive and elevate the customer experience. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm ideas with colleagues, partner companies, or your incentive provider. From fun and irresistible marketing to unique rewards to heartwarming performance recognition, there are a myriad of ways you can distinguish your incentive program. If your competitor provides incentives, show them up with a memorable experience that can’t be emulated.