Jun 01, 2021

Maximum impact for trade incentive programmes

Get maximum impact from your trade incentives

Article by Christine Rodriguez, Senior Client Director, Blackhawk Network

When running an incentive programme with channel, dealer, distribution, or trading partners, are you confident your incentives are compelling enough to influence behaviour? To secure the sales growth and brand loyalty you’re targeting, your trade incentives need to match your consumer campaigns for speed, personalisation and choice. 

In this article, I explore why keeping your brand front-of-mind for your partners — particularly salespeople, dealer reps or proprietors — is key to achieving shared goals, and outline how Blackhawk Network can help you make it happen. I also give you some tips on choosing the right incentive at the right time and delivering it in the right way.

Whether you’re incentivising sales of tyres, packaged food and drink, mortgages or laptops, here’s what you need to know...

Incentive recipients are consumers too

You’re clear on the importance of channel incentives but want to understand more about how to offer your participants rewards that really hit the mark? Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient at the moment they earn their reward. They’ve worked for it, and their thoughts will quickly turn to how and where they’ll spend it.

Don’t fall into the trap of second guessing what your recipient wants. Blackhawk Network’s research has shown how easily you could get it wrong if you pin your hopes on common misconceptions. Our whitepaper, ‘The Generational Game’, gives an example of how a certain interest might not map to the demographic you expect:

“But given that younger adults are often thought to be keen to explore new countries or head away to the sunshine with friends, it was surprising to see that travel and holidays didn’t even figure in the top 15 hobbies for Gen Zs. By comparison, travel was fifth in the list for Baby Boomers, with 40% considering it as an important part of their lives.”

While the pandemic has reduced the number of travel incentives over the past year, many people are now hankering to get away again. Meanwhile, others would be happier with a reward that makes it possible to finish that DIY project, meet up with friends for a meal, or to buy something really special.

It’s easy to make well-intentioned assumptions without even realising it. Don’t risk it. Just like any other consumers, your partner incentive recipients want the freedom to choose their own reward. 

Blackhawk Network’s EMEA Consumer Research Report for 2021 showed that demand for multi-brand cards is on the rise, with 62% of people surveyed buying more of them in 2020 than the previous year. It also highlighted the need to consider choice in terms of reward format, as well as the choice of rewards themselves—the research showed that 49% of people would not just accept but prefer a digital gift card to a physical one.

One way to offer recipients the choice they want is through our channel incentives platform, Select. Recipients are sent a unique digital code, which they can exchange for a gift card that they pick themselves. With hundreds of high-street brands in the mix, this popular choice-driven platform reflects the trend towards multi-brand gift cards.

A second route is to offer reloadable prepaid cards. Our range of open loop prepaid cards can be used across all sectors as a premium alternative to cash. Issued as physical or virtual cards, these consistently achieve high uptake, helping to boost the engagement rate for your incentive programme.

Both of these options guarantee choice, and mean your dealer, reseller or trade incentives can be delivered and redeemed at speed.

Already have a channel incentives platform? You can plug Blackhawk Network rewards into your existing setup to offer more choice, without changing your entire proposition.

Is your brand memorable?

Your sales incentive programme could be one of many vying to win over your B2B customers. To drive your desired results in a competitive environment, it’s fundamental that your rewards genuinely resonate with your end recipients.

Our EMEA Consumer Research Report for 2021 revealed that 42% of people are more loyal to a brand as a result of rewards and loyalty programmes. That’s a potentially significant payoff but you’ll only feel the benefit if your recipients connect those positive experiences with your brand. If you’re offering brilliant rewards but people don’t remember who’s behind them, you’ll be missing out on the return on investment that’s rightfully yours.

When the recipient is part of a sales team, you want them to talk to their peers and employer about your rewards. You want them to connect the dots between the reward itself and how they earned it, maximising the chances of repeat success and encouraging others to do the same. If you’re spending your marketing development funds (MDF) with the end trade partner, are you building that crucial association between the sales activity and your particular brand? 

To guarantee your brand plays a central role in the recipient’s incentive experience, consider customising your comms and reward to your company or programme identity. It’s a way of laying claim to the positive recall you’re generating in the mind of your recipients. 

This doesn’t have to be expensive either. Our solutions make it easy and cost-effective to tailor your channel incentive initiatives so that they reflect your brand.

The Select platform can be customised from end to end, using your brand colours, logo and tailored design at every stage of the journey. Our range of prepaid cards can be similarly tailored to create a bespoke reward that puts your brand front and centre, whether you opt for physical or virtual cards.

Easy-to-use and quick to receive  

Once the participant has earned their reward, they want it quickly. Again, remember consumer behaviour here — the redemption journey needs to be straight-forward.

Whether you’re managing your channel incentives programme in-house or through a platform provider, speed and simplicity are key. Sending recipients a digital code they can swap for a gift card, or instantly gifting them a close-to-cash prepaid, card keeps things timely and intuitive. Add in an API integration and it becomes even more seamless. 

For a more in-depth look at our digital reward options and how to use them to maximum effect, you can download our eBook ‘Do Digital Rewards Right.’

Choose rewards that create the right partnerships

Finally, remember that not all partners are equal; there are some who base their engagement with a brand on discounts and rebates alone. These fickle relationships aren’t the ones you want to cultivate.

A true partnership is built on consistently working towards mutual success. When you offer the right rewards at the right time and in the right way, you’ve got the foundation of a successful, long term relationship with your resellers, retailers or dealers. 

All of us at Blackhawk Network stay close to the changing needs and desires of consumers, as well as our customers. We’re experts in translating that knowledge into fast, flexible, choice-based rewards that work for your business.

Ready for an incentives programme that packs more punch? Fill in the contact form to your right to start a conversation about your channel incentives today.



Christine Rodriguez started her career with a global IT manufacturer, where she spent over a decade building expertise in the channel network’s role in a vendor’s route to market. 

She has been working in the incentives and rewards industry for almost 14 years, helping clients meet their engagement objectives for their own employees, customers and partners. 

Christine joined Blackhawk Network in 2019 and leads a team that works with vendors and brands to achieve their partner incentive goals.