Now Hear This

By Malcolm Fleschner

Effective communication is a tool integral to making sales incentive programs work. But just what does effective communication consist of? Motivation Strategies magazine recently polled a number of experts in the incentive business and came up with the following suggestions.

1. Get messages across.
Though many organizations are taking their entire sales contest administration online, think twice about only emailing participants. People respond to different kinds of overtures, so while email might get the message across to one rep, paper-based communications might work better with someone else.

2. Enforce the theme.
At the kickoff, make a statement by prominently displaying the prize. One tried-and-true approach is to tack up a big poster of Hawaii in the sales office (assuming you’re giving away a Hawaiian trip, of course). Plus, give people something to take back with them, such as a bottle of beach sand, a pineapple or a lei.

3. Include the fine print.
As soon as you launch the program, follow up with a detailed description of the rules. This communication should reinforce the theme, explain the program’s objectives, its point structure and other critical information the reps will need.

4. Keep the information coming.
Send out regular – but not oppressively frequent – messages reminding participants about the contest. The goal is to maintain high levels of interest. To make sure messages are read, include a scorecard or leader board. Also, try to vary messages in creative ways that identify your communication as something worth taking a moment to pay attention to.

5. Communicate via the Web.
Besides making program administration a snap, the Web represents a powerful tool for gathering participant feedback. Consider posting instant surveys online to find out how people are reacting to different aspects of the contest.

6. Close strong.
Your contest should end with a bang, not a whimper. Make a big deal of announcing your winners and, if possible, use the conclusion of the contest as a platform to discuss issues that can help everyone on the team, such as best practices and performance enhancement strategies.

7. Set aside the money.
Experts say you should plan to spend between 15% and 20% of the program budget on communications. Make sure you prepare for this expense ahead of time or you risk being disappointed with the results of a perfectly good contest for lack of proper promotion.