Brand On The Run

The concept of branding originated with cattle ranchers who needed an inexpensive means of distinguishing the hoofed members of their herds. Today’s sales managers, hoping to increase their organizations’ brand recognition, generally are discouraged from applying white-hot irons to their salespeople, however. But that’s OK, say the folks at The Advertising Specialty Institute, who instead recommend using promotional products to tie a brand in with a sales incentive program. For a successfully branded program, they suggest following six key steps.

1. Begin with the end in mind.
As with so many other important projects, begin with the end in mind. What are your specific goals for this program? Rather than simply saying, we want to increase sales, ask yourself additional probing questions, such as: By how much? Of which products? With which customers? Once you have firm goals you can develop a realistic budget.

2. Don’t exceed your reach.
As long as you’re giving stuff away, why not ask for the moon, right? Wrong. Place unreasonable expectations on your salespeople and you might wind up unmotivating them. Set reward levels that require a stretch, but one that is doable for the affected reps. You’ll also need to define the length of the program – typically a quarter, six months or a year.

3. Inspire fun with a theme.
An incentive contest should provide a fun side to the hard work you’re asking of your sales team. One great way to inspire fun is to create a theme that you can refer to throughout the contest. Themes should be uncomplicated, such as a Surf’s Up beach theme, a NASCAR-inspired racing theme or a Peak Achievement mountain climbing theme.

4. Open your wallet.
When you ask salespeople to put out exceptional effort, they’re not going to appreciate that you saved 10% by going with a low-end prize provider. They’ll just think you’re a cheapskate. Better to spend X dollars on a contest that will only reward the very top performers than to spend the same amount on a program that gives a little bit to everyone. In other words, don’t dilute your rewards.

5. Promote creatively and often.
Salespeople have a lot on their minds. Neglect to remind them about the program and it will be lost amid a vortex of other pressing matters. Key on your theme when sending emails and posting flyers. Make announcements and use paycheck stuffers. Even better, give away inexpensive, promotional items that tie into the theme but also remind everyone what they’re working towards.

6. Enlist a higher power.
No matter how diligently a sales manager works to create and spread the word about an incentive contest, if the front-line reps don’t feel the program has support from upper-level management they will not pay attention. To avoid this problem, have top managers participate in the kickoff and announcement or send out the email reminders.