How to Continuously Improve Your Incentive Program: Nichole Gunn Featured in Beverage Master

by: Luke Kreitner December 16, 2020

With all of the planning, tech development, marketing, and training involved in launching an incentive program, the thought of continuously improving your incentive program is often the last thing that comes to mind.

In her last article of a five-part series for Beverage Master, VP of Marketing and Communication Nichole Gunn pulls from her 12 years of experience in the incentive industry as she explains a common occurrence for programs anywhere in the 12-30 month range of the program lifecycle:

“If left unaddressed, once an incentive program’s novelty starts wearing off and supply chain trading partners become habituated to the program’s value proposition, the incentive program’s ROI may start to decline, leaving craft beer producers scrambling to find ways to replicate the program’s success.”

The good news? With the right preparation, program stagnation can be avoided. Let’s take a look at some of Nichole’s strategies for continuously improving your incentive program.

Five Key Actions for Improving Your Incentive Program

While the perks of incentive programs maintain a large focus on channel partners and customers, businesses are able to generate a considerable return on investment with the proper program maintenance.

What does incentive program maintenance look like? As Nichole puts it:

“In order to stay relevant, a channel incentive program has to be able to evolve with the interests of its participants, scale its value proposition over time and respond rapidly to the tactics of the competition.”

She then goes on to list five major areas of focus for improving your incentive program:

  1. Incentive Technology
  2. Gamification
  3. Reward-Earning Opportunities
  4. Personalized Brand Interactions
  5. Re-Launching Techniques

Improving Your Incentive Program with the Latest in Incentive Technology

It’s no secret- technology is your best friend when it comes to managing an incentive program. Be it tracking program success or providing an enjoyable channel partner experience, loyalty program software can make or break a program’s reputation.

In today’s B2B marketplace, technology is both highly underutilized and yet rapidly growing. For manufacturers and distributors looking to enhance their channel incentive program, utilizing the latest in channel technology should be a top priority in order to stand out above the competition:

“Craft beer producers should focus on selecting incentive software that is fully supported and will be continuously updated to improve the user experience for their supply chain trading partners. Partners will be less likely to engage with a rewards program that uses stale, outdated software, no matter how exciting the reward offering…Craft beer producers should [also] look for incentive software that allows them to quickly go to market, adapt to the tactics of the competition and launch new promotions. These factors will offer an edge when it comes to maintaining engagement throughout the lifetime of their program.”

Gamification Techniques and Enhanced Reward-Earning Opportunities

Just as habit is referred to as the death of creativity, continuously providing the same type of promotion and reward opportunities will eventually lose your target audience’s interest. In order to continuously improve your incentive program, the work placed into both how a reward is earned, and the reward itself must also be continuous.

Gamification, known as inserting game-like elements into areas not traditionally associated with games, is one of the most popular techniques on the market. Examples of gamification in an incentive program include interactive leaderboards where participants can engage in friendly competition, as well as interactive trivia, or badges and achievements earned through participation in product training.

Combine these elements with variations in the reward-earning opportunities, and your program will continue to spark loyalty and grow as your participant’s engagement grows:

“Elevate a points-based program by offering top performers a concierge service to redeem for custom rewards – using their points to buy a new truck, renovate their home or pay for their child’s college tuition will personalize the reward experience and boost the program’s value proposition in a way the competition will struggle to match.”

Finding ways to continuously improve the reward experience will keep your program alive and expanding.

Amplifying Brand Interactions and Enabling Program Re-Launches

One of the greatest achievements in an incentive program is its ability to generate loyalty. As Nichole explains, loyalty is “rooted in creating mutual interest,” which businesses can do by creating personalized interactions that not only help customers feel valued but inspired to move your product through the channel.

“This personalization should extend through every phase of the incentive program, from designing program communication to be relevant to each segment of their channel partners to basing reward selection on participant lifestyle and interests.”

Brand interactions that help your partners are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Acts as simple as providing rewarded training via the incentive platform to help partners more effectively sell products shows investment in your customers that they won’t take for granted.

And if all else fails? Nichole suggests a complete program re-launch:

“A pause between programs can help build anticipation, as supply chain trading partners realize the value proposition of the previous program that they had begun to take for granted. Better yet, by using the knowledge gained from the previous program, craft beer producers can make their re-launched program even more effective than the first.”

Time to evaluate past efforts and create a new plan can be exactly what a program needs. Even better, working with an experienced incentive provider to address current, unfulfilled pain points and missed goals will help guarantee a successful re-launch.


About Luke Kreitner

Luke Kreitner is the VP of Sales at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that specializes in helping B2B businesses accelerate growth, increase sales, motivate channel partners and retain B2B customers.