We want to address exactly how you can go about launching your program, along with what the rollout process is and what it ought to look like. The most common type of incentive program that we assist clients with is one that’s targeted at independent dealers and sales reps, and that’s the type of program rollout that we’ll examine in greater detail here. We’ll look at a few different examples of how you might approach launching your program, with the relative advantages and disadvantages of each. Even if your program is internally focused, many of these same principles should still apply.
Launching a Program with Independent Dealers
Let’s assume that your company is a preferred brand of some kind that works with independent dealers for sales and distribution. You’ve decided to develop an incentive program targeted at these independent salespeople, with the goal of encouraging them to push your products harder than those offered by your competitors.
When it comes to launching your program, one of your biggest considerations has to be the process of actually reaching these salespeople. How will you let them know that your program exists? If these sales reps aren’t aware of what your program is, how it works, and what it can offer them in terms of rewards, you’ll be unlikely to see much in the way of results. The better educated these independent salespeople are about your incentive program, the better.
If you currently have some sort of CRM or Learning Management System in place for your products, there’s a chance that you might already have the email addresses for these independent sales reps. If so, that’s great news for you. Why? Because a highly effective way to roll out your program involves the use of an email marketing campaign.
You might already engage in quite a bit of email marketing, in which case the efficacy of a good email campaign is something you’ll be familiar with. If you’re new to email marketing, though, you may want to work with your incentive firm or a third-party marketer to set up a drip campaign. Drip email campaigns deliver a series of messages to recipients over time and can be a highly affordable way to raise awareness with respect to your new incentive program. Aside from how easy it can be to set up a drip campaign, one of the other major advantages of email marketing is how affordable it is. Some services are free, and those that aren’t tend to cost a fraction of other forms of communication or advertising.
Of course, all of this assumes that you already have the email addresses of these independent salespeople. If you don’t, then an email marketing campaign obviously won’t be an option. And in our experience, it’s not a typical scenario for companies to have access to email addresses for the sales reps associated with all their channel partners.
Fortunately, though, there are other strategies available to you if email marketing isn’t an option. In fact, our go-to recommendation for the launch and rollout for a new incentive program is direct mail.
Wait, direct mail? Seriously? Yes, we mean it. We know, we know—direct mail is old school. And compared to something like email marketing, it can be expensive. But if done right, direct mail can be extremely effective. You’ll be putting your brand directly in front of salespeople in a way that other forms of communication aren’t capable of accomplishing. As with email marketing, we recommend taking a drip campaign approach to direct mail. Sending out a series of mailers over the course of several weeks is generally much more effective than a single envelope.
Aside from email and direct mail, another highly effective strategy for launching a new incentive program involves working with your field sales reps. They’re going to be visiting your dealers anyway, and this is a perfect opportunity to promote your program launch. Your field sales reps can talk to dealers and independent salespeople individually, educating them about your new incentive program in a memorable way. Your field reps can also drop off promotional materials, which will help to keep your program (and your brand) top-of-mind.
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s essential that you lead with your best possible reward offer. You want these independent sales reps to be excited by the earning and reward potential associated with your brand. Remember what motivates salespeople and play to those desires. Of course, making a good first impression isn’t restricted to the content of your reward program, but also the form of presentation. Make sure that your website is free of errors, and that the user experience is as simple and straightforward as possible. The better the user experience, the more likely program participants will actually engage with your program.
That’s it! You’re ready to launch your first incentive program. In the article Best Practices, we’ll offer some closing advice in the form of best practices. These will help you ensure that your first ever program is a resounding success.