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How You Can Use Incentive Programs

The number of new patient appointments had really dropped off over the last several weeks, and the doctor was obviously concerned.  He had identified the problem, but the solution was still a mystery.  The problem was that his primary source of new patient appointments was experiencing a slump and was therefore unable to refer a steady stream of new patients to the doctor.  The solution was a simple one that has worked in many different types of businesses.  Let’s take a look at how you can put the right kind of incentive program to work for your business.

A compelling incentive program can really increase sales.

A compelling incentive program can really increase sales.

Incentive Programs That Work

An incentive program is something that rewards people for doing something that you want them to do.  Think of it as the carrot and the stick, but without the stick.  People love receiving gifts and rewards, so these kinds of programs are very effective when everything is setup properly.

There are three elements to consider when setting up an incentive program (sometimes called a rewards program).  Those three elements are activity that you want to promote, the reward, and who you want to participate.  In order for a reward program to work, there has to be an alignment between each of these three elements.  If one of these three elements is not aligned with the other two, then the program doesn’t work out very well.

Activity To Reward

There are lots of activities that you want your customers to engage in.  For example, you may want people to participate in a survey or fill out a feedback form.  Perhaps your goal is to increase business through referrals.  Maybe your objective is to increase customer loyalty.  Incentive programs can and do work very well in these types of situations.

The strategy that I employed with the good doctor to increase new patient appointments involved an incentive program built around increasing referrals.  A letter was carefully crafted and sent out to previous patients informing them of a new program whereby they would be rewarded for any patients that they referred.  The letter produced a 20% response rate and the reward program was a huge success.

Some incentive programs come with an expiration date while others are ongoing.  The McDonald’s Monopoly game is an example of a clever incentive program with an expiration date.  The real goal of this promotion is to increase customer loyalty.  You see, McDonald’s knows that the purchase of fast food is a habit for most people.  By giving people an incentive:  you might get a winning Monopoly piece with your next purchase, new customers are drawn into the restaurant in to participate, and existing customers purchase more frequently in order to increase their chances of winning. The increased purchasing behavior formed during the Monopoly promotion will live on – long past the promotion’s expiration date.

Successful Incentive Programs

All successful incentive programs are built around providing the target audience with a reward that they just can’t resist.  The doctor’s reward program was a Starbucks gift card because it worked for the target audience.  The McDonald’s Monopoly game sweepstakes works because their target audience loves the game and the chance to win.

How can you put an incentive program to work in your business?  Start by identifying the activity that you want to increase.  Next, identify your target audience for participation in your reward program.  Then come up with a reward that your target audience will find very compelling and will motivate them to participate.

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