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Top 10 Must-Do’s for Post-COVID Channel Incentives and Virtual Lead Gen Events in 2021

With COVID-19 vaccines in sight and the next normal starting to settle in, it’s time to look at what channel incentive programs need to do in 2021 to keep the sales pipeline full. Brightspot’s recent webinar featured our incentive experts’ list of ten must-do’s for channel incentives in the post-Covid environment and broke down what the future has in store for us.

When discussing the return to business as we knew it in 2019, the experts looked at the strength of the stock market that seemed largely unaffected after March 2020 and coupled it with the predicted GDP forecast where we see a return to growth as early as 2022. In fact, Mike May, President of Brightspot, has set July 4th, 2021 as the benchmark for our “Independence Day” from COVID-19’s effect on the economy.

Of course, it can be expected that incentive agencies are eager for a bounceback for the sake of programs. However, the big surprise to the Brightspot experts was the shared optimism by the webinar attendees. During the webinar, the audience was polled on when they believed companies will be comfortable holding live events and the majority of responses targeted a Q3/Q4 2021 rather than 2022 and beyond. With the business world and incentive houses alike poised for a resurgence, it’s more important than ever to analyze what preparations need to be made so channel programs can hit the ground running. Here are the top 10 post-Covid to do’s for every channel incentive program in 2021:

1. Make a New Start

Do something small or large to incentivize and reinvigorate sales, but more importantly, just do SOMETHING to refocus channel sales reps. Sending a symbolic message that there is confidence in the product and those selling the product is paramount for kicking a program back to full speed. Demonstrate that there is a definitive effort to drive sales once again and the barriers that were raised up by COVID-19 are starting to crumble, making way for new opportunities!

2. Change It Up

As a third party, Brightspot has a unique seat in the industry in that we have first-hand evidence from multiple industries and verticles and can draw general similarities for channel incentives. The major theme Brightspot sees in the channel space is that reps are looking for direction. Use 2021 to reset focus and regain mindshare and quota share by refreshing the terms and offers. Adding an ‘overlay’ program to a long-term program that has a big, flashy prize like a trip to a championship sporting event or an individual incentive trip for a winner and a guest help market the program’s revival and gives an aspirational award for participants to strive for.

3. Simplify

In the Incentive Research Foundation’s study on What Top-Performing Companies Do Differently with Sales Incentives, two major success drivers that were universal amongst all programs were simple rules and simple communication. Channels are inherently challenging to motivate due to the competition of other incentives, and overly-complex offers with lengthy explanations will quickly deter reps from following the path of a sale to a reward.

4. Communications Calendar

The importance of sending a steady and purposeful stream of program communications cannot be overvalued enough, and having a communications calendar in place will hold everyone accountable for maintaining best practices. Different participants may require different messaging to increase engagement and enrollment; be sure to evaluate audience demographics and make a thoughtful communications calendar for each segment.

5. Brand the Wallet

Prepaid Visa cards and Mastercards make a large majority of award redemptions, especially in the international programs, and when we took a look at the top common mistakes in gift card incentives we were shocked to see 69% of businesses were buying plastic cards at retail. Not only does buying gift cards or prepaid cards at grocery stores lead to bad internal controls and increased fulfillment costs, but it also means there is no branding on the card to tie the award to the program! Every time a winner goes into their wallet and uses the card and doesn’t see that reminder of where they got it from, the effectiveness and recall of the incentive program falls. If a program is estimating issuing 1,000 or more gift cards or prepaid cards, Brightspot strongly recommends creating a branded card that ties in the program theme or at least has the company’s logo on it to improve that connection to the spiff.

6. Motivate New Behaviors

Every new year is a great time to motivate new behaviors, and with the massive disruption of 2020, there is a big opportunity to reeducate the channel. Are there new products or verticals the company is promoting due to COVID-19? Use this time to get reps up to speed with what’s changing and give them the best information possible, so they are well-equipped to sell right out of the gate.

7. Avoid 10% Overspend

Accenture’s study on overspending in channel incentives shows that internally managed programs will often overspend by 5-10% due to three causes: 1) complexity, 2) decentralization, and 3) data errors. Using a robust sales incentive software platform will often pay for itself by eliminating the overspend caused by those three pain points and dramatically improve the lives of those managing incentive programs. If a program has over 100 participants or an award budget greater than $25,000, Brightspot highly recommends they consider searching for an incentive technology solution.

8. Virtual Experiences 2.0

We often see lead generation events are closely tied with the success of filling a sales pipeline, and while live events await a safe environment to thrive in once more, virtual events are the way to boost activity. Take a large list of warm leads and invite them to a virtual experience that strays from the path of standard sales pitches and create a memorable event that can be enjoyed from home.

Kick it up a notch with a virtual whiskey tasting or a paint-and-sip party for a relaxed virtual get-together, or make it family-friendly with a cooking class or comedy show (just be sure to properly vet the appropriateness of the talent’s act beforehand!)

9. Upgrade Virtual Meetings

We’ve all become accustomed to the Zoom meeting with a standard keynote speaker and accompanying presentation, but when there are multiple speakers and breakout sessions with hundreds of attendees, things start to get complicated. Upgrading to a virtual event platform that acts as a hub for digital meetings lets you consolidate content and sessions in an easy way for registrants to navigate. Virtual event platforms are perfect for substituting or augmenting a partner summit or conference in 2021, so you don’t have to completely miss out on a major lead generation asset.

10. Prepare for Live Events

Regionally-focused, smaller events are going to make the return before large-scale conferences and tradeshows, so take the opportunity to plan accordingly. Health and safety precautions will be much more manageable, and the relationship-building potential will be higher given the focus on local venues in each region. Bring in a celebrity chef for a socially-distanced cooking class, rent out a movie theater with spaced seating for a new premier, or simply organize a lunch-and-learn in a private hall where temperature checks and sanitation standards can be enforced.

Be sure to check out the complete how-to guide on Channel Partner Rewards for more bright ideas that benefit your program. If you have any questions or would like to explore how we can make your channel incentive program the bright spot of your company, feel free to drop us a line!

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Michael Pisterzi

Author Michael Pisterzi

Marketing Manager | Tech-centric marketer with a dedication to relationship marketing in the incentives & events industry.

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