Follow Along or Join In...

See How It Works

HowDoesItWork 350x250 btn

Subscribe!

It's Time To Fix Sell-Through Allowances!

STA E Book Rendering resized 174 Get It Free Now!

What Is The ROI of Great Company Culture?

Find out in our new, 40 page e-book!

E Book Renderings CaseForCulture resized 174 Get It Free Now!

Reduce Incentive Fraud Today.

reduce incentive fraud today
Get It Free Now!

We Are Changing The World Of Incentives.

Book A Demo Now!

Increase Your Sales!

E Book Renderings SixReasons resized 174 Get It Free Now!

Contact Us

Get Free Channel Marketing Info!

Your email:

360's Sales Incentives Technology Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

How Sprint’s $300K Rebate Fraud Could Have Been Prevented

 

mice   how many in your homeEver start to find the telltale signs that a mouse has taken up residence somewhere in your house?   Perhaps it has chewed through some packaging in your pantry or gnawed a hole into a wall where no hole previously existed?  Perhaps it has left you other, ummm…indicators of its presence?   The thing about finding and trapping a mouse or other rodent in your home is that it leaves you with an uneasy feeling.   You start to wonder if there are other mice and what effect they might be having on your home.

The very same thing holds true for sales incentive and rebate fraud.  Traditionally, this type of fraud has been very difficult to detect.   In fact, in the old world of 100% paper claims with very little to no scalable auditing capability, many companies came to accept incentive fraud as a cost of doing business.   This no longer needs to be the case.

heng dong sad faceOver the past week, a story on the newswires has caught my eye.   It is the reporting on how a former employee of the telecom giant Sprint is alleged to have bilked the company out of over $300,000 in rebate checks that rightfully belonged to Sprint’s customers. 

Heng Dong allegedly routed the checks to post office boxes that he opened in Queens and Virginia, depositing the proceeds into his own account between 2007 and 2010, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said. 

It sounds as if Sprint handles their own compliance investigations, and the vast amount of fraud was detected only after their team followed up on repeated complaints from a customer who had not received their rebate money.   Sprint showed the rebate as paid and began to have a closer look at the mailing address.   The detection happened from there.

When this story first broke on April 15th of this year, it was estimated that 637 of the checks had been sent to one of six P.O. boxes rented by Dong.  

Free ebook sales incentive fraudThis is where this fraud could have been stopped significantly earlier, saving the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with the strain on customer sentiment that always accompanies missing payment on rebate programs.  

So many sales incentives and rebate programs are still entrenched in the old world of paper mail-ins with insufficient backup documentation and no way of properly validating claims.   With many companies' annual discretionary marketing spend up in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it is puzzling why there has not yet been a mass move toward digitization.  

Digitizing all claim documents associated with sales incentives and rebate programs solves the major historical obstacle to proper auditing: it makes the vast amount of data manageable.   Full disclosure: I don’t know if Sprint’s rebate programs are digitized, or if they are somehow integrated into the sales process.  What I do know for sure is that digitizing all claim data allows for the automation of a great deal of systemic auditing of claims.   To put it differently: it allows for an address to be flagged well before 637 checks are sent to the same spot.

It’s possible that many companies still believe that the pain of moving from the old way to a digital platform is too great.   I can’t possibly comment on what other rebate processing companies have in the way of onboarding; I know at 360 we make it as simple as possible.   What I can say with authority is that I sleep better at night when I know that the mice can’t get into my house and when they do, I can find them quickly and take appropriate measures.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Haris Khan 360incentivesHaris Khan is the manager of the Risk and Compliance department at 360incentives.com   Connect with Haris on Twitter at @HarisAKhan13 or on LinkedIn here.

What It Means To Me To Be The Greatest Workplace In Canada

 

By: Jason Atkins

Today I’m just coming off an incredible weekend with my family.  The best part is that what we did was nothing out of the ordinary: a little yard work, some Easter festivities but above all, lots of time spent together.   All the happiness in the air drove me to reflect on the significance of our first place win at the Great Place To Work awards last week in Toronto.

360incentives Great Place To Work 2014When I consider the amount of great companies in Canada and when I look around at the other winners, I feel happy just to be in the room.   But winning number one has a much bigger meaning for me personally and for the company.

For one thing, the Great Place to Work award is a good way for me to measure whether I’m delivering on the promise I made to myself and that I make to each new team member at 360.   When I started the company, it was just me working alone in a room with a whiteboard but I knew I wanted to build a company that would be considered an unbelievable place to work by anybody we employed.   At the time, there wasn’t much in the way of documentation to support my hunch, but I knew that if the team was happy, they would make our clients happy.  

A few years later, I’m able to quantify that our efforts toward making 360 a happy place to work have saved us three million dollars in churn.   Even after all this time, we have still never had a client implement with us and then leave the company.   When you measure that against the accepted annual average churn rate of fifteen percent for SaaS companies, happiness doesn’t just feel good: it pays real dividends.

Todd SkinnerFor me though, it’s incomplete to only look at the financial returns of workplace happiness.   It’s incomplete because measuring the health of a company on its financials alone is incomplete.   I was thinking a lot this weekend about how much making other people happy figures into our own happiness – making other people happy feels amazing.   It is impossible to have any discussion about 360’s road to this award without talking about my great friend, Todd Skinner.  

Todd was 360’s Chief Of Staff and he was the one who started to organize us around culture and set the goals of being the best place to work in Canada and then in the world.   Todd was a guy who dedicated his life to building up others and supporting them in their most outrageous endeavours, like starting this company.  I had never known anyone before Todd who was so aware of what made themselves tick.   Todd could articulate his mission to you in a snap: “To inspire other people to lead bigger lives than they ever thought possible.”  It was Todd’s dream to win this award, so to me it was one of the great pleasures of my life to see that dream become reality last week. 

Winning the greatest workplace in Canada award is a great business and personal metric for me because it means that I’m tracking positively against my own goals.   Having an amazing weekend with my family immediately after honouring my friend Todd’s major goal is something so much more – it lets me know I’m living with purpose.   That means a lot.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jason Atkins 360incentivesJason Atkins is the Founder/CEO of 360Incentives.com and plays himself in our corporate video.  Connect with Jason on Twitter @jayatkins or Google +.

The Power Of Culture: From Words On The Wall to Living It Every Day

 
China Gorman Great Place To Work“What would the world be like if every employee trusted their leaders, loved their work?   What could we focus on?   What problems could we solve in the world?” China Gorman - GPTW Global CEO
360's founder/ceo, Jason Atkins and our friend, culture mentor and investor Bruce Croxon gave a keynote at the 2014 Great Place To Work conference this morning in Toronto. Here's a transcription of their discussion.

Bruce: With Lavalife, people always ask what the secret was to our success.   That’s a bit tough to nail down.   Certainly we established our brand as the go-to place for online dating.  After all, we were four guys in their 20’s, highly motivated by the subject matter.   We were good at the technology - which at that time was cumbersome and a big barrier to entry.   But when I look back on what we did right, it was the power of our culture.   I didn’t realize it going into the business: this came out of 15 years of learning.   What I know for sure is that when I veered from our core values, I paid the price very heavily.

The power of a business’ culture is the single most important element of a successful outcome.

You can put words on a wall and think and hope that people know what they’re walking into every day.  But if you want to be serious about it, and really make it effective; it’s hard work and you need a system.

Now, my capital company looks for technology companies who need growth capital.  One of my top screens is looking for people who know about culture and understand culture.  A couple of years ago, my friends at OMERs asked me to go have a look at this company 360.  For the first 40 minutes of our meeting, I didn’t even know what they did.   Jason Atkins and I just sat and talked about the culture: “here’s my company, here’s our values, here’s our culture”   I knew that it didn’t matter what this company did - they were going to knock it out of the park.

I wondered, “how did you arrive at the knowledge that culture has the power to move companies in the way it’s happening for you?”

(Here is the slide deck from the presentation)

JA: I spend most of my life working and when you drill it right down, life always comes down to happiness and looking for happiness.  If you go into so many workplaces, people hate Mondays, talk about hump day and so on – it’s like they’re wishing their life away.   So I started to think about what happens if you make people happy at work - how does that affect customers and your business?

I really believe that if you don’t have a team that’s bought into your vision, you can’t succeed.

Bruce: I hear so many great ideas each year, but it always comes down to execution. The culture is what gets you through those inevitable dips that come along.  You can walk into any company north of 50 people and there’s the obligatory mission statement: some words on a wall.

Most companies have core values and 99% of the time you’re going to see that teamwork is one of them. Here’s how serious we were about teamwork at LavaLife.  We were fast growing, about 200 too many people actually.   We’d get down to nine finalists for a position.   We’d put them all in a room and run the NASA man on the moon exercise.   Basically, you tell them “here are 12 survival items you’d require if you crashed on the moon.  Rank these items by priority - there IS a right answer.”   We would then divide the 9 into 3 groups of 3 and do the exercise again.  In 15 years, I never saw an individual beat a team score.   To the applicants, this demonstrated the importance of teamwork.   For us recruiting, we got to watch how the finalists worked in groups.  

I’m 53 years old now and I’m officially done working with people who can’t get by their own egos, can’t work together and can’t see other viewpoints.  You end up dealing with a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with the business.

360s well in Rwanda built with charity waterJA: We started with 3 core commitments – provide an unbelievable experience for our clients, an unbelievable workplace for our team and to make a difference in the world.  To build a happy workplace, you need to bring higher meaning to the workplace.  Your personal core values are your filters in life and the same is true for steering an organization.  It’s about working the values into every day work life.   It’s about HOW you think, HOW you approach problems.

The commitment to make a difference in the world has been one that we have to keep our eye on.   We’re the only ones keeping ourselves accountable for that one, but that’s the one that really, really has meaning for us.  Our work with charity:water and Samasource just attaches so much meaning to people’s day-to-day work.  People don’t leave because they can sense that they’re a part of something bigger.  

Bruce: When it gets away from you, such as when the founders are no longer doing the hiring, that’s when the health of the culture becomes real work. 

It’s tough because the stuff we’re talking about here doesn’t keep the investors happy this quarter.  It doesn’t make payroll next Friday.  You need to be on top of SO much these days - at the speed that information now travels.   How on earth do you find time for culture?

Zappos MetricsJA:  Look, I have to publish my financial statements to my board.   But if you go to Zappos and look at how they dashboard things - they are measuring the heck out of everything.   So, I started to understand how to measure the ROI of culture efforts, how to track all the metrics that relate to it.

Bruce:  At LavaLife we were able to tie culture into performance management and pay raises.   As a result of our focus on culture, there was almost no voluntary exiting the company, people were lined up to work there.   Actually, the “more people on a decision makes a better decision” ended up going too far and slowing us down.   It’s important to find the sweet spot for that - so as to not grind things to a halt.

360 CultureBook2013 CoverFront 8 5x11JA:  It’s important to make sure the culture extends to the client side as well.  In fact, we were working on a deal that would effectively double our business.   The decision maker was nervous about our small size and relative newness to the industry, but they went with us.   She told me: “ when I saw how much you care about your people and how happy they are, I know you’ll do the same for my customers.” 

When something goes wrong, and something always will, our customers are so connected to us, they’ll call and say “if you were any other vendor…”   We create a culture yearbook every year and we sent it out to them.  It just helps maintain that connectivity.

Bruce:  Building a culture that leads to outstanding performance doesn’t happen by accident.   It takes dedication, discipline and focus.   Without that commitment from the leaders, the words on the wall don’t mean anything - the don’t live.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Tags: 

Digitize Your Channel Marketing Programs, Grow Superpowers

 

By: Jason King

That tale about Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider seems a bit too far-fetched, don’t you think?   Of course, going to bed with flu symptoms and waking up with super powers is pretty appealing though, isn’t it?  Chris, the guy who sits beside me at 360 (and created the illustrations for this post) is really into his comic books.  We were riffing a bit on how digitizing channel and consumer incentives effectively gives a brand super powers, especially over competitors who are still slinging tons of paper around.   Super powers you ask?   Yes, totally.

rsz speedy 360 color webGet Super Speed

Think about the last time you had a conversation with long, protracted bouts of awkward silence.   The connection between you and that person didn’t feel great, did it?  

The same thing applies when you ask consumers and channel partners to redeem their incentives by sending paper mail.  It just isn’t the speed that people communicate at anymore and the extended gaps inherent with using paper mail are the equivalent of those awkward silences – the connection between you and the partners or customers feels “off”.

By digitizing your redemption process, you effectively maintain connectivity with these important people and eliminate that dead air.   More importantly – you maintain that connection that drove them to buy or sell your product in the first place. 

rsz visibility 360 webGet Super Vision

“If you build it, they will come.”   Great encouraging words for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams.   For channel marketing programs?  Worst.  Advice.  Ever. 

Any time a marketing program is deployed, those doing the deployment can’t help but worry whether or not the initiative is going to have the desired impact.  There’s always that nagging little doubt, wondering “but will they come?” 

The amazing thing about digitizing your incentives is that you now get visibility all the way through your channel.   Is the program working?   Where is it working?  Where isn’t it working?  And the big one: Where the heck is all our money going?   Being able to effectively see all the way through the channel helps you answer these questions in real time and make adjustments if you need to. 

How To Use Your Newfound Powers

rsz uncle ben tells peter how it isAs Peter Parker’s uncle Ben told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.”   It’s important to use your newfound powers for good.  Fortunately, this good work is probably well in line with your business goals.   Here are some suggestions for excellent ways to use your new powers:

Pay quickly.   We have stressed this one repeatedly here on the 360 blog and in various e-books over the years.   The reason is simple: the shorter the pay cycle on a reward, the more effective the reward becomes at reinforcing the desired behavior.   If you are trying to drive behavioral changes with your channel marketing, paying fast is the cornerstone of your success.

Resolve quickly.  Now that you can monitor your incentive and rebate processing in real time, use some of that super speed power to resolve issues as quickly as possible.    This value of this works in lockstep with the value of paying out quickly – fixing issues shows people that you care about them and that sort of emotional connection is what truly helps loyalty to flourish.

Become a Super Projector.  The power to see all the way through your channels does more than help you measure your incentive programs.  It helps you to better build and project future programs.   The power to invest your resources with certainty is a serious competitive advantage.   Think of the implications of not knowing what’s happening with your programs until after they end.  That sounds like a good problem for someone else’s brand to have, doesn’t it?

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jason King 360incentivesJason is the Content and Community guy at 360Incentives.com Connect with Jason on Twitter @JayKing71LinkedIn or Google+  360 is changing the world of incentives.  To find out how, book a call with us now! 

360 Nominated Best Workplace In Canada For A 2nd Year

 

By: Jason Atkins

This morning at our daily huddle, I had the amazing honour of sharing some great news with the 360 team. 

rsz great places to workFor the second year in a row, 360incentives is nominated for a Best Place To Work award.  Anyone who has followed our company over the past couple of years is aware how important this metric is to me personally.  The fact is though, I can’t will this sort of thing to happen on my own.   What means so much to me is how our team has been the true architects of our own growth and success in this area.   That’s the thing about a great culture – on paper, in business planning and policy, culture has no life of its own.   Yet every time I step into our office, I feel like I’m among visionaries.   People who understand the value of a great culture and understand the importance of their own contribution to the health of it.

Being considered one of the best places to work in Canada is something that will always be important to me.  This company was founded to make people happy.  I believe that building happiness in business starts with having a positive workplace culture.   Knowing that this award is out there available for the company who is willing to work the hardest to win it will always help the team and I to stay on track.  We will continue to measure all actions we take against our founding principle of making the world a happier place. 

Last year, we ended up winning second place for all Canada.  That night, my amazing friend and 360 VP, Todd was there to share the moment and a further challenge with me.  It was Todd's goal to win a spot in the top three Best Places To Work within three years,  and we went on to win the award just 15 months after he drew that line in the sand.   After we accepted the award, Todd said to me “you realize the position this puts us in for next year, right?”   Sadly, Todd won’t be with us at this year’s award, but I’m sure he’ll be checking in on us.  He'll be sharing our excitement at being nominated and holding me accountable to the vision all of us have co-created for 360.

If you’re going to be in the Toronto area, I’m giving a keynote at the Great Places To Work conference on Wednesday, April 16th.   I’ll be co-presenting with 360 investor, Lavalife founder and Dragon’s Den star Bruce Croxon.   The title of our talk is The Power of Culture – pushing from words on the wall to living it everyday.  If you’d like to check it out, you can find more details HERE.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jason Atkins 360incentivesJason Atkins is the Founder/CEO of 360Incentives.com and plays himself in our corporate video.  Connect with Jason on Twitter @jayatkins or Google +.

The Role Of A Rewards Program In A Great Customer Experience

 

By: Jeff Bennett

360’s founder and CEO, Jason Atkins is featured this weekend as an industry expert for a loyalty & rewards supplement for USA Today and Mediaplanet. You can check out his article The Changing Face of Customer Loyalty here.

360 Head Shots   Jason Atkins sm 12One of the questions in particular stood out to me. In fact, it is a frequent point of discussion in our line of work: Why is a good rewards program important for customer dynamics?

It’s interesting because I find that the question of building quality sales incentives programs such as SPIFFs or rebates can sometimes be a polarizing one. On one hand, a brand may view their promotion spend as a necessary evil and regard it as such in their planning. Another may throw a ton of resources at their programs, including loads of planning on user experience.

The reason for the occasional bit of contempt toward sales incentives stems from how difficult it used to be to attribute ROI to sales incentives programs. In the paper-driven incentives world, we could measure sales lift could at a high level but clear attribution of results to particular programs was just about impossible. With the advent of digitized incentives programs, we can now measure the success of programs in real-time and with data granular down to transactional, sales associate level. Luckily, the advent of digitized programs has converged with today's unprecedented need to curate brand sentiment at the channel and consumer level.

Folks, I’m a realist and I’m also of an age where I can relate to the challenges of trying to account for marketing spend at any level. Marketing to the channels has never been exempt from this challenge. But now, engagement can scale more easily and marketing attribution is possible right alongside of it. Software exists for attribution of promotion spend right down to the consumer level, and so it just makes good sense to focus on delivering unbelievable experiences for both your consumers and your channels.

What’s In It For Them?

With exponential improvements in manufacturing technology, it has grown difficult for many consumers to differentiate between products in the marketplace. We are all consumers in our lives, so let me share an example of what I mean:

A Vast Selection Of RefrigeratorsIf you have recently shopped for a refrigerator, depending on where you shopped you may have faced a showroom full of similarly-featured, modern-looking stainless steel fridges. Did any of them appear to suffer from a lack of quality? Did you notice that they tend to fall into price categories and that items in similar categories tend to also have similar features? Research shows that certain types of customers may experience this selection as oppressive! This is where the softer, less tangible elements of the deal start to sway their decision to buy. How does the door handle feel in their hand? How does the sales associate make them feel? Is this the kind of person they’re comfortable giving their money to? And now to my point: do the terms of your rebate program add to the customer's uneasiness? Or do they add to the good feeling that the consumer is starting to have that this is the item for them.

And how does your rebate program function after the time of the sale? If the customer has questions, are they able to get them answered in a way that is simple, pleasant and timely?

So, the role of your reward in the customer’s experience becomes one of a friendly curator. A warm indicator that makes it easier for them to say “yes” to your product. A pleasant reward program experience validates the buyer’s decision to choose your product.

For your channel partners, easy access to product knowledge, simple processes for sales incentives claims and fast payments make you their favourite brand to sell.  An online portal for partners helps you achieve all of these objectives.

What’s In It For Them IS What’s In It For You

Thumbs upThis opportunity to build or burn bridges with consumers in the connected economy is what’s in it for you and your brand. A well-constructed rewards program that delivers a remarkable customer experience for your consumers and channels is the puzzle piece that gives your brand permission to continue your relationship with these important people.

Consider for a moment the amount of resources that your company extends to enable each consumer sale transaction at store level. Delivering an incredible customer experience today means a few things:

    • great products
    • great sales processes
    • great rebate processes

Curating the customer's experience beyond the sale helps you build up brand sentiment in ways that were not scalable before digital. Digital connectivity between your brand, your channels and your consumers enables you to attribute each sales transaction to specific marketing actions or campaigns. Everybody wins.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jeff Bennett, 360incentivesJeff is the VP of Client Experience at 360incentives.   Connect with him on LinkedIn HERE.

Top 2014 Challenges For Channel Marketing Strategists Pt. 2

 

 By: Jason King

(This is part two of a two part article.  Read part one here.)   

Build engagement via mobile3.    Introducing more engaging multi-channel campaigns, copy and design.

Here is the fun part.   This is when you begin to exercise your creativity muscle – and it is a muscle you need to exercise every day.   Part of the work of a marketer in 2014 is coming up with loads of great ideas that can be executed easily and inexpensively. 

Novel digital approaches are no longer the exclusive domain of the consumer-facing marketer.   The reason is simple: your partners and their sales associates are also people, and people in 2014 are connected to their phones almost all day. 

I’m not suggesting that your sales incentives programs themselves need to change at a novel pace.   The idea is to always be looking for new ways to engage these people with your programs in new and useful ways.   Could you create an app that feeds deal-closing techniques to the sales associates?   Could you create a scoreboard for your sales incentive programs that updates in real-time as claims get entered online?   Do these things look great when they load across devices, especially smartphones? 

With an expected 50 billion devices connected to the web by 2020, there will be no shortage of opportunities to connect with people.   The challenge that exists today and one that will only get tougher, is standing out in the crowd as others vie for their piece of the engagement pie in the attention economy.

ACTION:  Imagine a day in the life of someone selling your brand on the floor out in your channel.   What do they do when they first arrive at work?   When they’re on break?  What challenges do they constantly face that you can help them with?   How can you provide a bit of fun and delight to disrupt their routine a bit?   

You feel like your product isn’t fun or delightful?   Look: if the people at Charmin could gamify this, I’d say most things are possible.   So get to it and have some fun.   Building meaningful, lasting connections in your channel is the most outcome your marketing can drive.   Those connections can be made in many ways, which are up to you to detect.

Context Drives Choice

4.    Understanding the connected customer (Attention, Behavior & Context)

In his talk, Brian recommended (and we highly recommend as well) reading Google’s free e-book The New Multi-Screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior  The study offers rich statistics on the device usage behaviors of the connected customer. Understanding these new behaviors involves understanding which contexts and activities drive these behaviors.   Remember: as much as you are marketing to folks in the channel with your sales incentives, you are still trying to engage with them at a human level.  From the book:

“My phone... I consider it my personal device, my go-to device. It’s close to me, if I need that quick, precise feedback.  When I need to be more in depth, that’s when I start using my tablet. The other part of it is where I disconnect from my work life and kind of go into where I want to be at the moment...... I’m totally removed from today’s reality. I can’t get a phone call, I don’t check my email it’s my dream world.  And then moving to the laptop, well, for me that’s business.  That’s work. I feel like I’ve got to be crunching numbers or doing something.” 
- Bradley 

ACTION:  Read the paper, but if you can’t find the time to read it, consider the above sample of one.  Could your marketing be fulfilling some of those needs?

Learn how people are using their devices in today’s multi-screen world and consider the context that precipitates each type of usage.  This will inform where and when you can build engagement opportunities in your channels. 

dot com bubble burst5.    Lack of resources, budget and support.

It may be difficult to help you with this one.   In fact, the only time I’ve ever talked with any over-resourced marketers who were free to do whatever they wanted was during the first dot com bubble.   I never did find out what exactly what TribeNation.com was supposed to be in the business of doing and they weren’t around long enough to deliver.  They sure burned a ton of cash though.

The feeling of lack and limitation can drive you to frustration or it can lead you to do incredibly creative work using what you have.   The barriers to doing great work in the digital realm have never been lower – the tools are accessible, software is inexpensive and easy to learn.  It may just be time to get inspired.   

ACTION: How you get inspired to be creative is a personal choice.   Here’s a TED talk about embracing your limitations, given by a guy whose creativity I always find to be inspiring.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jason King 360incentivesJason is the Content and Community guy at 360Incentives.com Connect with Jason on Twitter @JayKing71LinkedIn or Google+  360 is changing the world of incentives.  To find out how, book a call with us now! 

5 Top 2014 Challenges For Channel Marketing Strategists Pt 1

 

 By: Jason King 

(This is part one of what has turned into a two part article. Read part two HERE.)  

I’m in marketing – it’s something that I enjoy doing and it’s also my work every day.   Chances are, if you saw this headline and chose to read this, you are in marketing too and you feel a lot of the same challenges that we all do.

Last week we hosted a webinar entitled #WTF?  What’s The Future of Business? with author/analyst Brian Solis of Altimeter Group and our own VP of Client Experience, Jeff Bennett.   There was a lot of good material that stood out to me during the course of their discussion. (If you missed it, you can watch it HERE) As a marketer though, Brian's slide about the current top challenges for marketing strategists really caught my attention.   In our work at 360, we are not only marketing our company, but also helping others in their channel marketing and consumer programs, such as rebates.

Brian laid out the challenges thusly:

5 Top 2014 Challenges For Channel Marketing Strategists

If you can’t read the slide on your device, they are as follows:

    1. Accessing and leveraging customer data from multiple channels and data sources.

    2. Coordination across marketing channels (mobile, social, display, etc)

    3. Introducing more engaging multi-channel campaigns, copy and design.

    4. Understanding the connected customer (Attention, Behaviour & Context)

    5. Lack of resources, budget and support. 

I thought it would be useful to look at these through a channel marketing lens and with an eye for some ways to engage digital solutions.  

1.    Accessing and leveraging customer data from multiple channels and data sources.

The first half of this one should actually be getting to be a breeze for you by now.  Hopefully your company is running your incentive programs using a sophisticated software solution and you are collecting all transactional data.  In 2014, the collection of data should definitely not be your challenge.  The challenge more often is drawing meaningful insights from the data to inform smart changes in the way you do business.    

old dog new tricksI’ll give you an example of how putting a bit of resources into data analysis can pay off.   A client of ours had labored under the assumption that the older-aged sales associates in their channel were their greatest front line sales asset.  They even had extensive historical data showing that the older SA’s sold the highest volume of transactions and accounted for the highest volume of gross sales.   It seemed straightforward and the data validated this long-held assumption.  Closer examination of a vast dataset pulled from our system revealed that although these two assumptions were in fact true, the greatest margin and greatest profit was coming from the younger SA’s.  The difference?   The product mix.   The younger SA’s were very comfortable bundling together products that were a bit more leading edge technology-wise because they understood and had an interest in how the technology added value.   The older SA’s, on the other hand, almost never sold these same higher-tech bundles.  The client immediately put together some great training on how to sell the higher tech products and, thanks again to the data, knew exactly who to target the training too.   Turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks as the analysis and action started to pay off immediately. 

ACTION:  Marketing people sometimes don’t like numbers – that’s fine.   Find an analyst, even a third party and start looking at the data you have collected from your incentive programs.  What can be learned?  What can you change in the next quarter that will be the new standard for how your company successfully meets its objectives? 

2.    Coordination across marketing channels (mobile, social, display, etc.)

Time for an exercise in architecture – you are the architect of your brand’s message.  You are commissioned with crafting an elegant, functional and remarkable way of communicating that message using a variety of materials, in this case various marketing channels.   The challenge is to use these new tools in the ways that they are each designed to be used, but all the while working toward building up your message. 

Radio AnnouncerRemember the anecdote about some of the oddball ads created when television first came out?  Brands who were not yet used to the new medium would film spots featuring their radio ad announcers reading the script into the camera for the TV audience.  They had not yet adapted their message to provide it in a way that was native to the new medium.   That brings us to now.

Your work in channel marketing is to build engagement with your channels and stay top of mind with the people who are buying and selling your products.   And really, your core message to them is not going to be changing very much or very often.  How then to keep up this engagement?  By telling your story in clever new ways and using a variety of channels, you have the opportunity to build and maintain engagement with your partners in the ways that they find most engaging. Remember though: the message doesn't change, but the tools do.   You want to use each tool to do the job it was built for.

ACTION: When you and your team have decided which marketing channels you are going to use, take the time to review examples of the best work being done using each medium.   If the channels are Internet applications, read current articles and watch video interviews with the founder of the application where they excitedly share their vision of the great ways their tool can be deployed.   Then get busy retelling your message in a way that is native to that channel.

Part two is now online.   Read it HERE.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jason King 360incentivesJason is the Content and Community guy at 360Incentives.com Connect with Jason on Twitter @JayKing71LinkedIn or Google+  360 is changing the world of incentives.  To find out how, book a call with us now! 

4 Steps To An Unbelievable Client Experience

 

By: Jeff Bennett

Earlier this week, 360 presented a webinar hosted by author/analyst Brian Solis and myself which featured content from Brian’s latest book #WTF?  What’s The Future Of Business?  Brian has done mountains of research around the great sea changes taking place in the modern business landscape and makes a really compelling argument for businesses to focus more on customer experience.  In fact, during the presentation, I was struck in particular by the great utility of his 6 Qualities That Define Engagement matrix.

These six qualities are a dynamite framework for a business looking to build out unbelievable experiences for their customers, whether it is channel marketing/sales ops people looking to build engagement in their channel or other marketing departments looking to build loyalty with a superb consumer rebate program.  

(In case you are reading this on a device where you can’t see the below slide very well, the qualities are Valued, Efficiency, Trust, Consistency, Relevance and Control.)
Brian Solis 6 Qualities That Define Customer Engagement 

If you missed the webinar but are working on improving how your company designs its customer and client journey with your brand, I highly recommend checking out the video recording of the webinar and reading Brian’s book.  

Time For Some Action

If you’re reading this because the title caught your eye and you want to start taking action right now, start on your improvement of the client experience with these 4 steps: 

1) Map out, at least at a high level, the client journey.

a)    Example client journey stages:  Pre-sales, Implementation, Client lifecycle (deployment to renewal)

b)    Identify ALL client stakeholders at each stage of the client journey

c)    Identify all stakeholders from your company that are involved in each stage (map out what is above and below the client visibility line – example above visibility line could be a Sales rep – below the visibility line could be a person in finance who deals with collections, but the client never sees or interacts with them.

d)    Identify the measurements that matter most for each stage (turnaround time, time to deploy, speed of payment, SLAs, etc.) – make sure there are just a few per stage – but that each would inform decision making.  Have targets!

2) For each client stakeholder (or persona) write down what they are likely to feel (and how you want them to feel) at each stage, then write down what their needs are going to be at each stage:

For example – PreSales: A stakeholder/decision maker may be thinking  “I feel anxious that I might make the wrong decision” then “ I need proof that they are the right partner for us”.

HINT – give it a go from your perspective, but you should also engage a few clients to confirm or add to your list of feelings and needs from each stakeholder at each stage. 

3) Be CREATIVE! – Think of creative and memorable ways that you can address each feeling (and generate the desired feeling) and each need.  Use this opportunity to brainstorm, think of unique ways of addressing.  For example – at 360, when a new client comes on board we send them a welcome video to introduce the team members they’ll be working with, and welcoming them to the 360 family. 

4) Look at all of the above through the 6 Qualities That Define Client Engagement from Brian Solis’s presentation (it’s slide 31).   How do your actions: 

a)    Make clients feel VALUED?
b)    Provided a service as EFFICIENTLY as possible?
c)    Help to earn their TRUST?
d)    Ensure CONSISTENCY from one interaction to the next?
e)    Provide a high degree of RELEVANCE from one stakeholder (persona) to the next?
f)     Make the client feel in CONTROL?

rsz screen shot 2014 02 27 at 122714 pmOf course, this framework is high level because each business is unique in many ways.   These steps, however, are principles that be applied to building out any customer’s journey with any business.   Rebate programs are a splendid example, in fact:  consumer rebate programs represent a situation where you have already won over the customer at every point so far in what Solis refers to as the Dynamic Customer Journey.   They have discovered, considered and purchased your product – the experience is unfolding beautifully so far.   Designing an incredible user experience for the rebate process should be the icing on the cake as you send them away happy until your next encounter.

I really urge you to take the time and discipline to map out unbelievable experiences for everyone who touches your brand.   In today’s attention economy, great experience are what will make your brand stand out among competitors as well as help you build a loyal customer base who will advocate for you to their own networks.

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jeff Bennett 360incentivesJeff is the VP of Client Experience at 360incentives.   Connect with him on LinkedIn HERE.

Marketing People – Do You Love The One You’re With?

 

By: Jason King 

rsz break upIt can be heartbreaking, we know.   Sometimes you are the only one who can see the good in your partner.   Everyone else sees them as slow to respond, kind of unfriendly and, even worse – not terribly intuitive sometimes.   Don’t feel bad if you’re the last to realize that you need to make a change.

But making that change can be so – difficult.   If we’re talking about moving to a new sales incentives management tool or new rebate fulfillment company, it can seem downright daunting.

Luckily, the good folks on the 360incentives Professional Services team have got it down to a science and they recently sat down with me to share steps to ensure smooth transition for your brand into a new relationship.

Begin With The End In Mind

If you’ve read The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, you know what I’m talking about here.  Anything action worth taking in life becomes worth taking because you can see value in the outcome.  Changing providers for your channel marketing efforts is a big change, so we will assume that you have some better outcomes in mind that is driving the change.  Get crystal clear on these better outcomes: What programs will you run and when?  What are your ROI goals for the programs?   How will you engage salespeople with your SPIFF programs?   How will your rebate programs catch the eye of consumers?  

Make sure you are clear on your goals and then share your vision with everyone who it affects.  Start at the top and make sure you have buy-in all the way down through the organization. 

rsz a teamBuild Your Dream Team

Your company has a lot of moving parts, and when you’re trying to make a big change such as how your manage and measure your incentive spend, this becomes hugely apparent.  

Before you even begin, identify a person from each of your stakeholder departments who will be accountable for their group’s input into the move, and make sure everyone stays connected – a weekly meeting of about an hour ought to do the trick.   Communication between these important stakeholder groups will be the foundation of a successful implementation with your new provider.

Keep It Simple

Make sure that the first programs you run with a new partner are as straightforward as possible while the two of you get to know how each other works.  Remember – there are a lot of moving parts and running a simple program frees you and your team up to help out anyone who is finding it challenging to work within the new system. 

rsz megaphone shout it out loud tshirt p235192668750545674qjha 400Bring It To The People

Speaking of communication – if your channel partners and their salespeople have no visibility into the new incentives you build for them, then the incentives can’t possibly have any effect, can they?   It sounds self-evident from where you and I sit reading this, but communication to the front line salespeople is sometimes a bit of an afterthought.   Do not buy into the Field of Dreams myth “if you build it, they will come.”   It is more like if you build it very well, and you communicate to them effectively, they will come.  

Get In The Trenches

Who are all the different users of your new system?   Spend a day in their various shoes, using the system in ways that they will use it and testing the user experience that they will have.   This will help you refine your programs and processes and may even give you some great ideas for future programs while you’re at it.  Understanding the experience of all users of your programs will make you better at your job.

Training

Leverage every technology you have at your disposal to make sure that your partners, retail sales associates and customers know how your new SPIFF and rebate portals work.  Carefully written text descriptions are handy, but videos with on-screen walk-throughs are best.   Remember – these online assets will be available to help your customers 24/7 so build them well and let them do their thing.

high fiveCelebrate User Adoption

This one makes all the difference in the world.   People get comfortable and most people don’t like change, even when that change is in their own best interest.   Don’t get frustrated – get creative!  Find ways to celebrate or even provide incentives for new user adoption of your new system.   This priming of the pump will help get your new programs up to critical mass quickly.   Remember – you have built something better for these folks and the sooner you can get them using it, getting paid and talking about it with friends and colleagues, the sooner you get to the ROI you were looking for when you made the change in the first place.

The Great Philosopher Neil SedakaIs Neil Sedaka a great philosopher?   Time will be the judge of that, but he got it right with the lyric “Breaking up is hard to do.”  So pack up your partners belongings and have that hard conversation – don’t be afraid of change and don’t be overwhelmed by the work in front of you.   But don’t take the blame; be sure to tell them “it’s not me, it’s you.”

DID YOU ENJOY THIS POST? SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG NOW ANDGET UPDATES DELIVERED RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX!

Jason King 360incentivesJason is the Content and Community guy at 360Incentives.com Connect with Jason on Twitter @JayKing71LinkedIn or Google+  360 is changing the world of incentives.  To find out how, book a call with us now! 

All Posts