by Charles Purvis | December 22, 2015

One of the fundamentals of designing a successful channel program is to make it personal. It starts with knowing your participants. Data and insights should inform the design of your program to deliver a more personalized experience that drives engagement, loyalty and growth.

As the president of a California insulation contracting company, Steve Troth has been participating in Johns Manville's Preferred Partners Program for three years, a channel loyalty program designed by Maritz Motivation Solutions that rewards contracting businesses for growing their business with Johns Manville. Every time his company buys Johns Manville insulation to use as they're working on a home, Troth earns points based on those purchases. He often uses the points to reward his employees, thank key customers, and once in a while, even on something special for himself.

Recently, Troth used some of his Johns Manville program points to create his own personalized reward experience. Recently, he used Maritz Motivation Solutions' concierge travel service to combine two trips -- one to Paris and another to London, for some fun and relaxation with his wife, Becky. "Redemption of the points is easy," he says. "Even combining two trips went smoothly."

To move people, you have to understand people. It starts with developing a framework that is grounded in human behavior theory and informed by the latest in neuroscience. Designing a successful channel loyalty programs should focus on three key areas:

1) Designing the exchange
What's in it for me? Designing the exchange is the most fundamental step in designing a people-centric channel program and should include meaningful rewards for achieving the desired behavior.

The choices people make are driven by four biological drives: the drives to acquire, to defend, to bond, and to create or comprehend. Each of these drives is underpinned by powerful emotions that serve to prioritize and influence decision-making. That's why identifying the motivational "what's in it for me?" is key.  People are moved powerfully by their drive to acquire, and they judge the fairness or equity of the offer through their drive to defend.

Designing a motivating and equitable exchange for the desired behavior is the foundation.

2) Designing the experience
To design a personalized experience, you have to know who your participants are, and there are several tools in the incentive planners' kit here, such as ethnographic studies and sales data, among others.

Now, we have to design an overall experience that "wraps around" the exchange, and is personalized. Participants feel special, and valued, when they feel understood for who they are, and when their actions and behaviors generate meaningful and personalized feedback. As their experience with a program deepens, and they see the impact that participation can have on their business and personal lives, participants move beyond simple behavioral change, and we begin to see positive changes in attitude as well. This sets the stage for the next phase -- becoming resistant to competitors' offers and more loyal to the brand.

3) Developing the brand identity

At this stage, it's important to encourage a sense of loyalty or alignment between the brand and the participant, so in the end, channel partners become true advocates for the brand. Troth sees the value in what he deems a loyalty program and says it's motivating too. "Very much so," he says. "It contributes to keeping as much of [our] purchases with Johns Manville [as possible] versus buying around."

Charles Purvis is Solution Leader at St. Louis-based Maritz Motivation Solutions, a Maritz Inc. company.