Sam Glanzer, Director of Rewards and Recognition at Younique, joins Kenny on this episode of the podcast to talk about promotions, incentives, contests, and rewards. He tells us the right way to design and promote an incentive and some of the wrong ways to do it. Together, Kenny and Sam discuss the need to create harmony between your incentives and their qualifications, between your incentives and your commissions, and between your incentives and your other incentives.
Kenny: Hello and welcome to the MLM.com podcast. I’m your host Kenny Rawlins and today we’re joined by Sam Glanzer from Younique Products. Sam is the director of recognition and rewards at Younique. Sam, thanks for joining us.
Sam: My pleasure happy to be with you today.
Kenny: Did I get your title right? Sometimes I mess that up.
Sam: Yes, director of rewards and recognition.
Kenny: Sam, why don’t you go ahead and give us a little bit of your background in the industry, and how you got to where you are today?
Sam: I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years now. I started out at Xango as an events coordinator—diving right in with rewarding distributors for their accomplishments and taking them around the world. I moved around in Xango. I was promotions manager after some time in events. From there I got to work with the recognition team as well. From there I continued developing programs and incentives and ways for us to really celebrate the successes of our distributors. I was with Xango for ten and a half years. I recently started working at Younique in a similar role, coming up with ways to celebrate and reward their presenters at Younique for all the amazing things that they do and how they’re driving their businesses. That is where I’ve been. It’s been an exciting ride.
Kenny: Perfect. I think you and I have some similar or complimentary experience. I’ve worked on the commissions side of things—working with companies in developing their commission plans. That is about rewards and recognition. One of the things that we’ve been preaching at InfoTrax the last few years is that too often commissions and rewards and incentives and contests aren’t complimentary. You get the commission team that does their thing and the marketing team or the rewards team does their thing. I’d be curious on your thoughts of how rewards and incentives and trips and promotions should coexist with a comp plan. Like you said this is about rewarding people’s successes and helping them to be motivated and passionate about the products and the opportunity. How do you see those two worlds coexisting?
Sam: Compensation plans are a key part of the industry, and they’re designed to reward people as they hit certain benchmarks along the way. Many compensation plans reward people generously. A sound recognition plan, as they go through those ranks and accomplishments, is key. The way I see promotions and incentives coexisting with the compensation plan is kind of like an additional boost or an additional bonus. Sometimes there’s quite a bit of a jump from one rank or status to the next and a promotion is something that keeps people engaged in the short term. It gives people milestones along the way so that they can continue to have successes as they’re advancing through the compensation plan which sometimes takes a little longer. In addition to that it keeps things exciting. It gives distributors and presenters information—something to talk about right now that drives the excitement and oftentimes the momentum in their team. “Hey, our company’s doing this!” “Hey if you do this, our company’s doing this right now.” We’re always changing, always trying to be innovative. It ought to complement the compensation plan. The two should be hand-in-hand, getting people to the end goal, which in most plans is the very top level of the plan. That’s how I see them coinciding and working together.
Kenny: I like that take on it a lot. In my mind, like you say, they need to be complementary but they do have two distinct roles. One of the nice things about incentives and contests and rewards is the fact that they’re not permanent in nature. People look at a comp plan—especially where they’re building potentially long-term wealth in that—they don’t want that changing. It’s built with the expectation that if I build it, I’m building an organization that can be sustainable. Whereas a contest or a short-term promotion or incentive is a much different thing. Right from the get-go everybody knows this is short-term and a lot of what is driven there is based on very specific deadlines. It can be very exciting and it can engage people. It can help to build towards the comp plan, like you say. Especially if it’s well thought out, it can be stepping stones to the different milestones that you have in the comp plan. There are also some people who have no interest in the comp plan. They’re there for the product. They’re there for the environment, the community. And they’re passionate about the company. They can be engaged in a contest. They can be a part of it. It can be something that they can get excited about and talk about. I’d be curious what your take is on what makes a really good incentive or promotion.
Sam: That’s a great question and that’s what everybody is striving for. What type of promotion or contest is gonna strike it hot with the audience that you’re going after, and really move the needle? The promotions and incentives that I’ve seen that have been successful have a couple key elements. One of the key elements is a behavior. You need to identify a behavior that you want to affect or motivate or give an incentive to. Whether it’s recruiting or sponsoring, whether it’s sales, whether it’s advancements through a plan. Often, we make the mistake of saying “hey, we have extra inventory of this product,” or “hey, we want to give away a bag,” or “we want to give away this swag item. Let’s come up with something for people to do to earn this.” I think if we can identify the behavior first and then put a reward on that behavior or towards an incentive for people to do that behavior—starting at point A and going to point B as opposed the other way around. That’s the first step.
Once you know the behavior that you want, if you can identify a reward that is comparable to the work that needs to be done to earn the reward—so that the work justifies the reward—that’s also key. You don’t want to ask people to go sponsor twenty people and then give them a recognition pin for it, or some sort of trinket. You want the reward to be substantial enough so that people are excited and so that it generates hope and potential for them. The reward has to be within reach. That’s key is having the work justify the reward. The thing that kind of puts the cherry on the top is if that reward is something that your leaders are excited about and can buy into because they are your group that is gonna spread the word and really spread the excitement. Those are the people who are selling not only your products to the field but also your promotions and marketing to their teams. If you can get them on board then it will just spread like wildfire throughout the organizations and people will take hold and dive into it with both feet.
Kenny: You obviously can’t see me because we’re recording [over the phone] but I am nodding my head vigorously. I totally agree with what you’re saying there. I agree with all your points but the one that really stood out to me is starting with the behavior in mind. I’ve seen so many people start with some other motive or some other thought in mind where it’s either “such-and-such a company did this contest and I heard it went really well so let’s do it as well” or “we’ve got this extra product that we got to get rid of” or “we’ve got this event coming up.” Instead of thinking about what we need as a company and what our field will be engaged by, they’re using something else to drive that. I’ve seen [incentives] not just flop but actually be counterproductive especially when you’re basing it off of what somebody else has done and you’re not taking into account your own company culture and your own company comp plan.
I got called in one time by a company I was doing some contract work with and they said, “hey we really cut our earners in this particular commission type over the last three months. what happened?” and I said, “well I just barely found out you guys have been running this promotion that rewards this particular behavior. That behavior is actually the opposite of the behavior you’re trying to build with this bonus type.” They said, “well why did we do that then?” And I said, “I have no idea but the very thing you were rewarding here is the opposite behavior that you trying to build long-term.” The reality was they had heard about a promotion from somebody else and ran almost an identical promotion and didn’t take into account their particular comp plan.
But it can be anything. It can be culture. It can be a lot of things. I liked your point about starting with a behavior and then building from there. Your point is excellent in that you need to think about how much work somebody is putting in to get this reward. Is the reward too much or too little based on the work that we’re asking for? I think that kind of goes hand-in-hand with the next thing I’d like to talk about. What are some pitfalls? Aside from not thinking with the behavior in mind, what are some other pitfalls that people run into or that you see happen?
Sam: Sure. One pitfall that we’ve run into is we create programs that we know, if people do it, it will generate this type of revenue or we can anticipate this level of sales. We feel like if we scale up with the work and the rewards then the revenue generated will also scale up with it. But sometimes when we push things too far or too high, the work that is required feels out of reach—beyond being accomplishable to the masses.
One year we had an experience with this where we had this week-long, all-expenses-paid trip in an exotic part of the world. It was an amazing trip and an amazing reward so we set these requirements that would justify that reward. The response that we got from the field was not as energetic as we thought it was. When we dug into it we realized that what people were looking at—kind of calculating in their minds “okay if I were to do that work to earn this reward, it’s gonna take me away from my core business and from maintaining and growing because it’s gonna divert my energies over here. And it’s so much work to get that reward. In the timeframe, would I really be able to reach it?” In their minds, they’re asking the question “is it worth it for me to divert my energies here or should I keep my energies where I’m at?” We just had a poor response for it. Those are some of the core pitfalls. We think we can scale it up but then it puts it beyond the reach of the masses and we don’t get the response that we’re initially looking for.
Kenny: I totally see that. It just gets to the point where it feels out of reach. One thing that I thought of as I was thinking through this interview—this comes back to my background on the IT side of things—is having a really good incentive and a botched rollout that’s maybe executed too quickly so there’s confusion about where people stand. A lot of this comes down to making sure that people have visibility, making sure they understand where they’re at. I’ve even seen it where people have too vague of rules. You think “this makes sense” but then you get just flooded with calls. “Well what if this and this and this happened?” A good incentive in my opinion needs to seem very simple. The way to make it seem very simple is doing the proper legwork on the back end, thinking through the what-ifs, and putting together the material needed to support the incentive.
Sam: You bring up a good point on keeping it simple. Simple for the most entry-level presenter or distributor is key so that you can affect the masses. Along those same lines of simplicity, another pitfall would be having too many promotions or contests or prizes going on at the same time. Then you are forcing people to choose “well should I do this one or should I do this one?” When there are too many choices, people don’t do any of them and they just go back to focusing on their core business activities. I completely agree with you. You have to keep it simple, take out the complexities, and then not have too many going on at the same time because then you lose your marketing bandwidth on what people can actually consume from a marketing perspective.
Kenny: Yeah. You know, that reminds me, when I was growing up, my dad used to always say “when people get confused, they stop.” We think that they might keep trying but the reality is they just stop. Confusion—whether it’s confusion because a particular incentive was poorly rolled out or confusion because they’ve got so many options—they just stop. It reminds me of going to dinner with a large group. When there’s a ton of options… you’re much better off having one or two options and then you can get to a consensus. When there’s a bunch of options you know people spend a little time thinking about this or think about that and it doesn’t become productive. I think that that is very good advice. Have good incentives but have few enough of them that they’re actually meaningful and exciting and people can be working towards them.
Sam, I really am very appreciative of your time and your expertise. This is something that I think the industry is using more and more. I’ve been around the industry most of my life and one of the things that has stood out to me is that people are doing a better job of complementing what they’re doing from a marketing standpoint and from a commission standpoint with meaningful contests and incentives. The industry needs more people like you who are thinking through these things. We appreciate your wisdom and hope that you’ll join us again.
Sam: Yeah. My pleasure. Thanks for having me on. You know, in the industry, at the end of the day, it’s all about providing tools and resources for people to be able to be successful and grow their businesses. Like you said, [incentives are] one more tool to help people along the way to be successful in the drive towards accomplishing and living their dreams. That’s what we’re the laying the foundation for. Thanks for having me on and I appreciate you diving into the content like this.
Kenny: That’s it for today’s episode of the MLM.com podcast. Once again, I’m your host, Kenny Rawlins, and I want to give a special thanks to Sam Glanzer for his time and expertise on this important subject. We also want to thank Jana Bangerter and Adam Holdaway for production support. We hope you’ll join us next time.