Demographic Arts

By Malcolm Fleschner

Comedian Steven Wright used to say, “You can’t have everything; where would you put it?” Managers who offer their salespeople universal gift certificates as a reward for a job well done may understand his point. With all the reward options a gift-certificate program offers, how do you send out a single message that everyone on the team will find motivational? You don’t have to, says Michael Dermer, president of 1-800-GIFTCERTIFICATE. Instead, he suggests, just try to match your message to the demographic you’re trying to motivate.

“Gift certificates give you the ability to tailor your message to the tastes and preferences of the specific sales force,” he says. “So say your salespeople are all women aged 25-45. You can offer a gift certificate that they can redeem at hundreds of stores, but instead of saying ‘Here’s this piece of paper – buy whatever you want,’ you say, ‘Go on a personal shopping spree to Bed, Bath and Beyond’ or to Saks Fifth Avenue or another retailer that is likely to be of interest to that specific demographic.”

Dermer says that age and gender are just two of the many ways to break down a sales-force demographic. Others he mentions include geographic location, Internet savvy or sales experience. And if more than one demographic is represented, that’s no problem, as he explains.

“We did one program where the sales force was split between a large team of junior salespeople and some very senior salespeople,” Dermer says. “In that case we segmented the gift-certificate offering in such a way that a message focusing on cooler, hipper retailers like Sam Goody and Sharper Image went to the younger reps while for the senior people we concentrated on more established retailers like Brooks Brothers and Macy’s.”

Even if you think your sales organization is so diverse that it could never be broken down into specific demographics, Dermer says that there are more generic gift-certificate solutions that still make participants feel special and motivated.

“You rarely come into a situation where when you ask the demographic characteristics you don’t glean something,” he notes. “It may be income level, gender, geography, what have you. Sales managers know more about their teams than they think. It’s our job to ask the right questions to get at that information.

“But one way to run a program toward a diverse sales organization is to focus on the time of year. If you have a contest going into the fourth quarter you might talk about buying something for the spouse or kids. Then there’s back-to-school time, the wedding season, Mother’s Day, etc. But nine times out of ten if your incentive company is asking the right questions you should be able to boil it down to create a powerful gift-certificate program that’s directed toward salespeople’s unique tastes.”

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