by Leo Jakobson | September 07, 2017
A new incentive firm launched this summer dedicated solely to sales incentive program design, management and analysis, rather than award fulfillment. 

The goal is to offer more advanced "design thinking capabilities" to companies that use and believe in incentive programs, but either run their programs themselves or with an award fulfillment company, says Chris Galloway, the owner and lead designer of Animate Growth Partners  (AGP). "I think that there's a real market for providing that design service as a service without necessarily influencing the reward choices that they've already made. They are happy with their awards and we would be reinforcing it."

AGP will only employ designers and account service teams, Galloway says, pointing to audience insights, behavioral economics research, neuroscience, and decades of experience in delivering programs that maximize lifetime value as the firm's forte. Along with companies running their own incentive programs, AGP intends to work with award suppliers to help improve their clients' programs.

Sales and dealer channel sales account for more the $50 billion of the $90 billion U.S. companies spend annually on non-cash reward and recognition programs, according to the Incentive Federation's 2016 "Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study." But the "Program Design and Support End-User Survey" it published the year before found that barely more than half (51 percent) use a full-service reward and recognition firm for their sales incentive programs. That drops to 43 percent for dealer channel sales programs.

"Very simplified, the responsibility of the agency that I've developed is design and manage programs better, in order to reinforce the rewards and the appreciation that's shown at the back end," Galloway says. That way, he adds, "you're reaching a much broader set of people, much deeper into the audience and the top performers."

As far as rewards, Galloway says his firm is partnering with best-in-class reward providers, but AGP doesn't manage that part of the program. Instead, it will be "a white-labeled, back-office extension of partner account teams and clients alike," he says. "We are going to stay very focused on sales, on growing revenue for our clients."

Galloway sees his company's involvement in the four steps that make up an incentive program: consulting, design, execution, and finally measurement.

The first is the "upfront consulting on program design, on diagnostics of the audience, and financial modeling of the performance, all ahead of a formal design recommendation," he says. That's followed by collaborating with clients on rules modeling and aligning the programs' values with the client's values, and making sure that the programs incentivize behaviors that actually lead to incremental sales. 

"Step No. 3 is the execute phase and that's really a full-on marketing campaign," Galloway adds. "It's really a marketing effort, but it's not just communications, although communications is a part of it. It's training, it's printed materials and sales tools. We'll even do lead generation."

The last phase, he adds, is measuring the business impact with tools ranging from key performance indicators to return-on-investment to participant surveys. "That's where the analytics really come into play."

The goal, Galloway says, is to go beyond just incentivizing the program participants. "A dealer sales person might be 'okay' if you set a goal for her or him to achieve, and they certainly love being recognized for winning, but they also want to know how you are going to help them get there," he says, adding that long-term results require building strong, two-way connections. "You just can't do that sustainably on the merits of rewards and recognition alone."