Tailoring Motivation Programs to Your Target Audience

A Grand Kickoff, A Gala Evening

Whether you want to influence employees, the distributors who carry your products or the professionals who send business your way, people like to be recognized.

The better you understand the art of recognition — and the better you customize that recognition to the audience — the more impact your efforts will have.

Take, for instance, the program we recently completed for Compaq Computer. The manufacturer wanted to motivate resellers of its equipment.

Resellers were invited to a kick-off party at Planet Hollywood in Chicago, where they became the “stars.” Fans waited outside, photographers snapped photos and celebrity look-alikes asked for their autographs.

After the contest finished, the final winners were invited to “PromPaq” at the Drake Hotel. This event was a by-invitation-only, black-tie event. Its understated elegance was the opposite of the glitz and glamour of the Planet Hollywood send-off.

At PromPaq, the winners were appreciated with champagne toasts and a five-course gourmet meal. A 12-piece orchestra serenaded them. A portrait photographer captured the moment forever, and a souvenir bottle of vintage champagne was sent home with each couple. Clearly, the winners felt recognized by Compaq, and would welcome the chance to participate in PromPaqII.

Why Use ‘Winner Demographics’

This two-tiered approach is an example of how “one size fits all” motivation programs have gone the way of “mass marketing.” Today’s motivation program must fit the niche of the people it is intended to motivate.

To make a program work we must first understand our potential winner.

Those with large disposable incomes find “free” associated with travel and merchandise very exciting.

Others, with less overall income, may find that “free” still costs too much. For example, winning a “free” trip comes with a tax obligation to the winner. If the additional tax places an unwelcome financial burden on the recipient, it’s unlikely to feel like a “win”.

For the purposes of this article, I am addressing the three broadest income categories of “winners,” and what their preferences are. With your incentives, you may want to target:

  • Blue collar/entry level employees
  • White collar/middle managers/sales professionals
  • Upper level managers/owners/distributors

My analysis of these three audiences follows.

Recognizing Blue Collar/Entry Level Workers

When buying a car, blue collar/entry level employees are “payment buyers.” Their main concern is the monthly cost for the car. The same is true for the incentive. Give them the basics. They are generally not motivated by travel or luxury merchandise. They are trying to pay for the monthly necessities.

We have found that the most coveted prize for those who are just trying to make ends meet is entertainment or dining gift certificates or vouchers.

These may be to restaurants, movie theaters or other leisure time activities that motivate better than cash. They are free from guilt. They allow the winner to indulge themselves and their significant others, to entertainment that may have been reduced due to personal budget constraints.

Another incentive that works well for this group is fully hosted group travel. “Fully hosted” means airline, hotel, some meals and some activities are covered. The winners go away with their peers, and the trip becomes a wonderful getaway free from guilt. Normally this group prefers a trip as individuals, rather than couples, so they can play hard without retribution or any reservations.

We were asked to create a group incentive for Frito-Lay delivery drivers. Prior to making any suggestions, we surveyed 100 of the drivers. They favored a trip to Las Vegas, but at a specific time of year. Why then, we asked? To our surprise, we learned that the National Bowling League Tournament finals were held at that time, in Las Vegas. That explained the reason they chose that destination — not gambling or shows.

Be sure to survey your audience about their preferences, before making assumptions about what they would like to receive.

Making a Hit with Middle Managers/Sales Professionals

The second target group is comprised of the middle manager, white collar, salesman or sales manager. These people have accumulated some equity in their homes and cars, and they have some disposable income.

Travel rewards may have greater appeal to them than merchandise, since they have more flexible time and income. It becomes very important for the promoter to differentiate among the members of the target audience within this segment because there is wide dissimilarity in this group.

Incomes, education and interests must be considered. These potential customers get their information from more than one newspaper, more than one major television network as well as cable.

They are looking for fun, not education, in their chosen incentive reward. They want flexibility and convenience. If you are targeting this group as consumers, the right incentive can produce continuity in their purchasing habits. Often we forgo personal tastes for offers of millions in prize dollars to be awarded to customers. This group has been known to save UPC codes to collect “free” stuffed toys.

Our “middle” group loves vacation travel and merchandise. They are motivated to take short weekend trips. Individual travel is their preferred award. Upwardly mobile, competitive individuals like managers do not enjoy trips with other managers or co-workers. They like to be in the forefront. They like recognition. They live in the present. You must motivate them in the here and now.

Impressing Upper Level Managers/Owners/Distributors

The third — and most challenging — level to motivate is the upper level manager, owner or distributor. They have plenty of free time and disposable income. They are reducing their quantity of material possessions but buying more expensive items. They have invested in art, in wine, rare coins and stocks. Many travel first class, indulge themselves in fine foods, and expect the best for themselves. They have participated in many programs and understand “the rules.”

Their major interest is the multiplicity of choices and the ease with which they can obtain the rewards for their efforts. Merchandise must be very upscale with name brand recognition. Travel must be unusual and first class, with special attention paid to the personalized treatment of their elevated status.

The word “free” is still very compelling to this audience.

One of our clients, Lexus automobiles, must find ways to motivate its dealer network. These potential winners may earn $500,000 to $1 million+ a year. They can afford to make their own vacation plans. Money is not a motivator. Recognition sets them apart from others. They love to travel for free to expensive places and be “treated like royalty.” They respond to “ego” trips to places and events not normally available — for any cost — to the general public. You’ll find them working for a round of golf in Augusta, Georgia (home of the Masters Tournament), dinner at the Palace of Versailles or going to the closed parties and getting VIP seating at the Academy Awards. These have “bragging rights.” Nothing is more important than to say, “I was there!”

Vistage speaker James Feldman is the president of several marketing companies that specialize in promotions utilizing both merchandise and travel incentives. His clients include Toyota, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Apple, Subaru, Lexus, Hewlett-Packard, Clairol, Volkswagen, etc.

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