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Rewards: A Science, Not An Art..

Picking Rewards – A Science, Not An Art
This is about getting everything else in place before you decide what is going to be the "star attraction". Setting (measurable) objectives, researching the audience, filling any knowledge gaps, thinking about how you're going to communicate, and then, and only then, should you be thinking about the reward.

Whilst the reward is always going to be the carrot, the "sizzle that sells the sausage", you first need to make sure that it's going to appeal to your audience. And not just this time, a bad experience with a reward of any nature will be remembered and motivating people the next time round will be more difficult.

Let's look at a couple of examples of the same reward for different audiences.

A colleague was once asked to accompany a group of incentive winners from a (then) well-known High Street retailer on a trip on the Orient Express. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the winners felt, and acted, like fish out of water. When faced with a delicious lobster lunch, not one had a clue what to do with it. Carefully selected wines were eschewed in favour of coke and beer and even the journey was "boring". Not a resounding success.

But contrast this to the results (published in the Financial Times) when Volvo Dealer Principals were offered places on the self same Express. Sales increased by 23% and market share increased from 2.66 % to 4.5% for the 300 series. And they had a fabulous time, ensuring even more effort to qualify next time. Matching your reward to your audience can certainly pay dividends!

So, how do you know what to choose?

There are a plethora of rewards out there ranging from stored value cards through to merchandise and travel (and everything in between). Some of your choice will be determined – or restricted - by budget. However, the key is to spend the budget wisely to motivate as many as possible. But how?

It's actually very simple. In the words of an infamous TV quiz: "Ask the audience". Simple desk research will give you a lot of good pointers. Talk to your client and the HR department to see what's gone before and what worked and didn't work. Find out your audience profile.


A well-known automotive manufacturer had run a sales incentive to South Africa for its sales staff. Contrary to expectation, sales didn't show the expectant increase and the company decided to find out why. On carrying out some research they found that the destination appealed to couples – and since it was singles only, there was much less support at home. Why would you encourage your partner to go to a luxury destination without you?

Based on the findings, the company choose a more "action-oriented" destination – and the formula worked.

Once you've got a good idea of who you're dealing with, you can test your ideas with some qualitative research. A few simple focus groups – or even simple telephone conversations with various people in the organisation will give you the pointers you need. Obviously, you can't please everyone but a majority pushing in the right direction is a pretty good start!

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At a Glance

Most people approach incentives from the top down. What is the most interesting part? Oh, the reward! What shall we give them / where shall we go? But in fact, for a truly successful incentive you need to work from the bottom up.

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