As companies look to gain maximum 'bang for their buck' from their marketing budgets, they are looking more and more towards incentive-based programmes that target specific groups of customers over a period of time and reward them for achieving set objectives.

These reward programmes provide a compelling reason for participants to do more business with the programme owner, assuming the fundamental areas of good service, price competitiveness, credibility and reliability of products or services are already in place.

In essence, these programmes can be the 'icing on the cake' and if structured and implemented properly, are a fantastic tool for account managers to focus their customers on set objectives or specific products that the company is looking to promote.

While these programmes have worked well for many organisations, the delivery vehicle has traditionally been by way of print - often using presentation packs explaining how the particular programme works, detailing the customer's measurement criteria and including a rewards catalogue showing what can be won and how rewards can be claimed. Performance updates have traditionally been sent out at the end of each month to programme participants, detailing how they are tracking.

There are, however, a number of issues associated with print as a means of delivery:

  • The cost of material, particularly if the programme requires different groups of customers to view different information.
  • The inflexibility of altering the programme or rewards once the material has gone out.
  • Material can be easily misplaced.
  • Monthly updates are often already a week or so out of date.
  • The information is not very secure.
  • The prize redemption process takes time, requiring additional forms.
  • Performance reports for the client are more often done at the end of the programme.

Now for the good news - as the web has become more accessible, these programmes can now be cost effectively communicated and managed on-line and not only overcome all of the above problems but can make these programmes really work!

A relatively new and innovative example of this is winrewards.com, a comprehensive system that allows for customised rewards programmes of any type or size - whether existing print-based programmes or new ones - to be run on-line.

It utilises proprietary software and an administration area where all relevant programme information is entered. The winrewards.com design team build customised pages for the client and a participant is assigned a logon name and password so they can see how the programme works, view their current performance status, see the rewards on offer and claim them if entitled to.

The system includes a wide range of features including: change of password and forcing acceptance of terms & conditions; inclusion of bonus offers, leaderboards, monthly specials or links; the ability for a participant to request a reward to be added; the option of sending emails to participants as they get close to performance trigger levels. For a programme owner, a separate logon area allows for up-to-date reports detailing information such as how participants are performing, what rewards have been claimed and even how many times they have logged on!

Programmes have been running on the winrewards.com platform in New Zealand and Australia over the past year with very positive client and participant feedback. A large company in Australia trialed it for 6 months targeting 1200 participants over 11 different staff and trade 'groups' - all measured differently and only viewing pages relevant to them. They were so impressed that they extended the programme for a further 12 months, making the site an integral part of their day-to-day business.

Andrew White, Northern Region General Manager for DB Breweries Ltd, has used the system to target 100 of DB's top tap beer outlets, each with individual volume targets to achieve in order to earn a range of rewards.

"The website provided us a fantastic vehicle to tailor make an incentive program for each key customer based on individual targets and a personalised rewards system. It enabled our account representatives to regularly monitor performance and plan out activity to assist outlets in achieving their targets. Overall the program greatly enhanced the business relationship between key customers and our sales team."
Without doubt, well structured, managed and communicated incentive programmes do work.
There now exists a superior, cost-effective way of maximising the benefits that exist through their implementation.