Going to market in partnership with dealers and distributors can be a tricky proposition. Their attention and support is essential to your success, but their priorities don’t exactly align with yours. The same dealers and distributors you rely on so heavily for sell-through also offer your competitors’ products. How do you get the time, attention and sales you need out of middlemen with such a different perspective, and who are being pulled in so many directions? In our experience, the answer is by developing the right reward strategy.

A savvy supplier builds a close working relationship, which includes implementation of a dealer incentive program. Done right, dealer incentive programs keep your products top of mind and tip of the tongue, at all levels of the dealer/distributor organization. This is smart business, because every day people working at your channel partners have interactions that can affect your level of success. Conversations at the management level will be in meetings, where decisions are made about which brands get featured in advertising or displays. Conversations at the frontline employee level will be on the sales floor, where consumer purchase decisions are finalized.

As you’re planning program structure, don’t shortchange the time you spend on choosing an incentive.

The right one can contribute to stunning results. And the wrong one? You may as well have no program at all, because no one will be inspired to participate. For best results, you need an incentive that’s memorable and meaningful on an individual level. What that means depends on your target audience. And this can be a true challenge when you’ve got a large group with diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and desires. Fortunately, these three truths about incentives will help you decide which carrot you’ll use to motivate:

Cash seems like the easy answer, but it isn’t. 

Though overwhelmingly considered to be desirable by recipients, cash rewards frequently disappear into everyday funds, along with the chance to make an impression. And even when reward cash is kept separate from everyday pay, there’s no guarantee it’ll be spent on something more special than a bag of groceries. That makes the reward as forgettable as the $20 bill used to purchase it. Rewards need to be experienced as rewards.

Merchandise catalogs are disappearing for a reason. 

When you use merchandise catalogs for rewards, redemption is restricted. Recipients are forced to spend what they’ve earned in a single place that doesn’t give them the freedom to shop price and get the best value for what they’ve earned. In-store, in-person shopping isn’t an option, either. There’s no chance to check the fit of a sweater, the heft of glassware, or the sturdiness of a power tool before purchase. These limits make the rewards much less rewarding.

The power and practicality of prepaid cards is undeniable. 

Prepaid cards as gifts have skyrocketed in popularity with consumers, for the same reasons that they’re ideal rewards. What’s purchased with them stands out from “regular” purchases, and they give recipients the freedom to choose what they want, how and when they want. Plus, prepaid cards can be customized to reinforce your brand and connect it to the positive redemption experience.

While the idea behind dealer incentives is simple, the execution takes a bit more work. But it’s worth it. A well-planned incentive program, with the right kind of incentive, can make all the difference in how dealers see and present your products and your business. Best of luck in making your next dealer incentive program the best one yet, and please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can assist you in achieving success.

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