Meetings Canada


The Value of Incentives

Planners need to convince clients of incentives’ value.

By Joanna Wiseberg

I have been in the promotional-products industry for 20 years, and I’ve observed that incentives and premiums aren’t a top priority for companies, even though they should be.

It’s strange, because it’s a way of saying “thank you” and showing appreciation for a job well done. I’m not sure why this is not being done more consistently.

I deal primarily with meeting planners who organize events and recognizing/rewarding is a gap that needs to be filled.


Showing appreciation doesn’t have to cost a bundle. There is a misconception that rewarding is expensive, but this type of strategic expenditure is an investment that produces huge returns. A lot can be done with very little.

Meeting planners need to use their imagination before they approach a client, regardless if it’s an existing or potential client. They ought to step away from their computers and think about how they’re going to get new business. It requires creativity. Clients aren’t thinking about creativity; they’re busy doing their job, so you have to do it for them. More often than not, a lot of business is lost from assuming clients know. They don’t. They have too much on their plate and need to be reminded on a consistent basis.

Planners have a huge responsibility. They have to persuade clients to spend money on something they can’t touch and feel. They must paint a picture in a client’s mind of what could be and create a need, aside from the regular conferences and meetings that are a given. They face many challenges and the biggest (whether it’s real or not) is lack of budget for anything new. This is where the savvy meeting planner has to listen for the cues and messages that are hidden under spoken words, because amazing opportunities are missed by simply not listening. When clients don’t hear anything new and exciting, they have no budget. But when a client is presented with an interesting idea, money suddenly appears! This happens in the promotional-products world as well.


The use of themes, colour, teasers, (fun) premiums for a kick-off; implementing levels of achievement, and winning a prize worth fighting for, all work. Creating excitement, competition and engagement makes incentives and premiums interesting. Use a little offline and online marketing to generate buzz. In these serious times, the element of surprise has been completely forgotten.

We are now dealing with a sophisticated recipient, so it had better be good! Think about what would turn your crank and would make you jump a little higher.
Leverage your contacts and ask for ideas. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Decision-makers need to realize that it’s about rewarding those people who have made a significant contribution to a company’s success. It spreads goodwill and fosters efficient employees who generate profitability.

I would like to relate a short story about my experience when I started Red Scarf Promotions. In the beginning, it was just me and my assistant. As time went on and the company grew, I never once stopped to think about the backbone of Red Scarf. Those who know me, know that I love to sell and it’s always about the interaction with my client. I was gently reminded by my assistant that she, too, would like to taste the fruits of success and at that moment, I realized I could not be successful without her. My entire perspective changed. An incentive program was created, for one person, that worked for both of us and lasted 10 years.

Ask yourself this: When was the last time someone thanked you for a job well done?

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