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Once program goals are identified, it’s time to determine who can impact your goals, and how.  Market conditions and participant profiles vary. There is no one-size-fits-all incentive. Understanding your incentive audience prepares you to design effective rules and select exciting awards to motivate your participants, and ultimately, achieve your specific business objectives.

“Probably no aspect of program design has a greater impact on outcomes than understanding the audience.” – Rodger Stotz, Chief Research Officer at the IRF (Incentive Research Foundation)

Understanding Your Incentive Audience: Who is in Your Target Audience?


  • Employees or customers
  • Sales reps, channel partners, third-party agents
  • Age — average and range
  • Male / female
  • Average income
  • Functional role, job titles, and levels
  • Education level
  • Number of participants
  • Number of locations, stores or companies
  • Countries, regions, divisions


  • Level of buy-in or engagement presently
  • The current level of motivation
  • Capability to improve, learn, or sell
  • Extrinsically or intrinsically motivated
  • Attitudes, interests, opinions

The 20-60-20 Rule

When identifying the program audience, remember the 20-60-20 rule:20-60-20 rule for understanding your incentive audience!

TOP 20

The top 20% are your best performers (A+ Performers). They will continue to perform no matter what you do. It’s in their DNA. They are already functioning under the current circumstances.


The middle 60% (B performers) can go either way — switch on their buttons and performance improves, but if they aren’t meaningfully engaged, their performance may suffer.


The bottom 20% (C performers) probably won’t budge no matter what you do. They might not care. They might lack specific skills. Perhaps they’re just in the wrong role.


  • Do you need more than one program to accommodate various audiences?
  • Are you linking the performance of your audience to specific business goals?
  • Does your audience have expectations based on previous experience?

There are 12.5 more steps to go in developing the perfect incentive program.  Download our eBook for more tips & tricks on how to create an ideal incentive program!

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Mike May

Author Mike May

Mike is a wearer of many hats. President of Brightspot, author of 12.5 Steps to a Perfect Incentive Program, past Chairman of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and recognized as one of the Top 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry. His expertise includes bucket-list incentive trips, motivational incentive program design, matching event goals with the perfect destination & hotel, cost savings strategies, global channel reward programs, and targeted communications. Mike maintains his certifications in many specialties including Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Certified Incentive Travel Professional (CITP), and Incentive Professional (IP).

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