by Jason Atkins | July 29, 2013
In July I keynoted the Incentive Marketing Association’s Annual Executive Summit session on technology. In a talk entitled “Connect Through Technology,” I spoke about the way technology and customer lifetime value can drive consumer advocacy for a company or product and reshape how promotional programs are executed today. In the lecture I offered five key takeaways on technology’s impact on the incentive industry, where incentive executives should be looking for information, and how utilizing technology can help maximize the lifetime value of a customer.

1. Unlock the Secret 
The data you receive from your sales associates are bountiful, and are probably just sitting there. In fact, there’s been more data created in the last five years than in the entire history of mankind, providing us with the organic information we need to be able to anticipate the needs, wants, and habits of customers. But how do you take data from a sales associate, internalize them, apply them against business decisions, and use them to drive engagement with consumers and sales associates alike? The only way to do this is by utilizing cutting-edge technology. The real-time insights you get from analytics of software platforms translates back to you. You can leverage and convert them into a foundation for making impactful business decisions.  

2. Gamification
Simply put, implementing a standard incentive program doesn’t engage or excite sales associates. Human nature thrives on competition, so why not integrate some of that into your incentive programs and jazz them up? By “gamifying” a program you turn it into a positive and friendly competition, and both employee morale and sales numbers will be boosted. Gamification can be as simple as a unique display mechanism like a leaderboard or social recognition for top performers. Additionally, customizing online sales tracking platforms in a way that is fun and unique helps sales associates to be more aware of their progress to date and the upcoming thresholds they need to meet.  

3. Know the Participants 
The positive influence of brand advocates can exponentially expand your company’s reach. In today’s interconnected world, people aren’t chosen by a brand to advocate on its behalf, people choose the brand they want to advocate for. The pervasiveness of social media allows all consumers to act as advocates; everyone influences everyone. Now more than ever, the reviews and feedback of your customers’ peers are the driving force behind purchasing decisions. This phenomenon has been catapulted and supported by technology, and will continue to play an integral role in the overall lifetime value of a customer as technology advances even further.  

4. Monitor and React 
Perhaps more important than knowing who the social media influencers are is knowing how to monitor what they’re saying -- and react accordingly. Recently, 360incentives had a customer who was unhappy about the way something was handled and took to Facebook to share his thoughts. He posted at 5:23 pm, and by 5:33 pm someone from our 360incentives team had responded to him directly, informing him that the issue at hand was being looked into. Over the next 103 minutes, our team worked to resolve the customer’s problem, and at 7:16 pm we were able to write back that it had been fixed. The customer was surprised and elated that his problem had been fixed so quickly (as he later shared in the same social communities) as a result of airing his grievances on social media. This is the kind of social media influence people in our industry are not taking into account and, again, is one more driving force behind the lifetime value of a customer.  

5. Give People Choices
No one, whether it is a sales associate or a customer, likes to feel forced into making a decision. Whether it's offering a customer several different ways to submit and track a claim or creating a system that's open to all payment methods, technology allows us to give people options and ensure a certain level of comfort. In our business, if you send a customer a check they may want a gift card instead, or if a rebate takes twelve weeks for fulfillment and there is an opportunity to expedite the process, the act of providing choice makes people happy. When people have the opportunity to make their own decisions, they feel that they have bought into the decision and likely are much more satisfied, which helps them become a customer for life.  

Jason Atkins is the Founder and CEO of Whitby, Ontario-based 360incentives. Atkins began working with technology at a young age, and by the time he was 16 he had his own networking support and software development business where he wrote one of the first online rebate systems. His strong entrepreneurial spirit has continuously helped grow businesses by leveraging technology to create new opportunities. For more information, visit www.360incentives.com