You Want an Incentive Program? Conquer Integrated Marketing First!

One of the cornerstone concepts behind successful incentive programs is the integration of the program with organizational goals. Incentive programs tend to work best when a set of overarching company values has been established and those values are marketed to employees effectively. This ensures that integrating organizational marketing will be an effective corporate strategy tool. Incentive program providers such as Atlanta-based Loyaltyworks encourage integrated marketing within companies to align and achieve organizational goals before setting into motion an incentive program that reinforces those goals. As you implement your integrated marketing campaign, you’ll find that four areas will impact adoption of your efforts and the motivation of employees to be part of your values:

  • Internal communications
  • Senior management’s sponsorship of integration
  • Consumer orientation
  • Rewards and incentives

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In this article, we’ll look at each of these areas in detail. Before we do, let’s better define integrated marketing. A 2005 research project by The PMA Educational Foundation, Inc. used a definition by Don and Heidi Schultz, from their book IMC: The Next Generation: “a strategic business process used to plan, develop, execute and evaluate coordinated, measurable, persuasive brand communication programs over time with consumers, prospects and other targeted, relevant external and internal audiences.”

Schultz and Schultz outline four levels of successful integrated marketing as it evolves within an organization:

  1. Tactical Coordination

The goal message or value system is established, and the organization decides how to express the message through diverse marketing, including communications, public relations and special events. At this stage, the objective is to deliver a cohesive vision, developing consistency and synergy through all internal marketing and communications.

  1. Redefining Scope of Marketing Communications

Once the brand message has been established, it’s time to think about those outside the organization receiving the message: consumers and business-to-business (B2B) partners. Management should broaden the scope of communications to encompass not only internal marketing to employees, but to supply chain members and other partners, making sure that the brand message aligns with external communications.

  1. Application of Information Technology

Applying information technology requires empirical data, particularly behavior data on consumers and B2B sales partners. This data will allow you to identify and monitor the impact your internal and external communications have. Incentive program mobile technology, for example, allows salespeople to submit invoices from the field so you can begin building a database of information about consumers and sales channel partners.

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  1. Financial and Strategic Integration

At the highest level of integrated marketing, you should be able to use the skills and data gained in earlier stages to drive corporate strategic planning.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing namely on stages one and two, the tactical coordination and scope-redefining communications involved in integrated marketing. But the full, four-step process gives you an idea of how involved the integrated marketing process is. Reaping the most benefits possible from integrated marketing requires extensive cooperation throughout your organization, empirical data and planning.

Now that you understand the step-by-step process of integrating marketing, let’s take a closer look at the four areas that will impact that process:

  1. Internal Communications

The more contact you have with those outside the company—whether through vendor dealings, supply chain management or customer service—the more opportunities there are to break from your brand message, unfortunately. That’s why it’s important to align all employees to your message in stage one. A robust internal marketing communications program should influence all employees to embrace brand consistency and extend that consistency outward to all interactions with the organization’s affiliates.

An internal marketing plan not only carries your brand message out to those your company deals with, it can energize and motivate employees, enabling them to be active participants in your brand mission.

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The 2002 case study of SEEBOARD, a British electricity company, is a shining example of how successful integrated marketing can improve an organization, not only by conveying brand information, but changing workplace culture. SEEBOARD was committed to a holistic, yearlong integrated marketing effort, which included:

  • A recruitment and training procedure
  • Retraining staff
  • New communication tactics (a quarterly internal magazine; Q&A with executives)
  • A reward and recognition program
  • Community involvement through fund-raising and volunteering

As a result of their integrated marketing campaign, 99% of SEEBOARD employees supported the company’s new vision, 88% said they would recommend SEEBOARD to their friends as a good place to work and 92% said they felt proud to work at SEEBOARD. Not only were employees happy with the new brand orientation, statistical analysis indicated that internal marketing was a significant determinant of the company’s performance, in both financial and profitability terms.

SEEBOARD’s strategy defines all the elements of integrated marketing discussed in this article. The company’s senior management committed to a brand objective that focused the entire company on consumers. They also aligned their reward and recognition program with this new corporate strategy. Ensuring employees could get behind the brand’s new message was the last step in solidifying internal communication of integrated marketing.

 

  1. Senior Management’s Sponsorship of IntegrationBacking integrated marketing, incentive programs and brand messages by senior management is a must. Often, integration runs against the grain of organizational approaches, where people function solely within their departmental or occupational silos. While this approach may be very effective from department to department, it becomes a problem when trying to incorporate new brand policies and messages throughout the whole organization.So what’s the best solution? Senior management involvement. Leaders and decision-makers must support integration and communicate with each other to work toward full adoption of integration efforts. When people see the company leaders supporting an idea, they will follow suit and soon everyone will be on board. Once management has mandated and endorsed the message, the organization can move on to the next important element of integrated marketing: orienting the entire company toward consumers.
  2. Consumer OrientationMost companies and manufacturers are focused on production and sales. This seems like a good approach, at first. If you take a closer look, though, it becomes apparent that it’s an outdated strategy leftover from the industrial age, when companies were often founded with a single, simple purpose: to produce. We live in the age of communication, now, where things are a little more complicated.Focusing primarily on sales/production limits concentration on that all-important factor on the other side of production: consumers. It encourages the silo approach to operations, making it harder to instate brand messages and integrate marketing. With the external focus of consumer orientation, teams can concentrate on the many facets of consumer and sales channel relationships, ie. acquisition, retention and upgrading.

    With a consumer-oriented approached, it’s not up to marketing and communications alone to forecast and understand consumer needs. With all departments getting involved, they bring their respective expertise to the table. This helps drive all companywide endeavors toward one, identifiable goal.

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  1. Rewards and IncentivesAs you implement an incentive reward program along with your integrated marketing, you should use it to reinforce your new organizational objectives. Reward those in your company and in your supply chain for exhibiting the behaviors that best reflect your goals.Many companies traditionally reward their employees and sales channel partners for products sold, which isn’t a tactic to throw out the window, but in a consumer-oriented structure, the most desirable behaviors are the acquisition, retention and upgrading of consumers. Reward your B2B contractors for submitting warranty registrations or scheduling product upgrades and maintenance, for instance. Mobile app technology allows them to do this directly from the field, which helps integrate their sales process with your organizational goals more seamlessly.

    You can also reward employees and sales channel partners for undergoing online training exercises. Loyaltyworks offers modules like Learn and Earn, in which incentive program participants receive rewards for completing surveys or passing quizzes. This tool ensures your brand messages and objectives are being adopted by those in your organization, ultimately increasing program participation and creating brand loyalty.

Integrated marketing is a proven strategy for changing your company’s objectives and developing a more consumer-oriented approach that creates brand loyalty in consumers, B2B partners and employees alike. Incentive programs play an important role in integrating marketing by reinforcing desired behaviors and boosting employee morale. The more tools you have to promote a consumer-oriented goal, the better off your company—and your profits—will be.