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On Target (Spring 2009)

We are very excited by the launch of the Incentive Business Exchange. After many months of preparation, the parent company of this magazine has completed work on a technology platform that will help incentive companies, incentive travel providers, distributors and marketing services agencies more effectively and inexpensively launch incentive, engagement and redemption programs for their clients. They will be able to do so working with the great vendors and fulfillment companies that make up the incentive market. We have entered into this venture for number of reason, first among which is that we believe the success, health and future of this marketplace lies in its ability to reach out and broaden the scope of this industry to encompass the new and exciting area of Engagement. In this economy, making it easier and less expensive for companies to help their end-user clients run programs in the under $100,000 range is going to be critical. To effectively do that, they’ll need cutting-edge technologies and faster fulfillment without the need to increase their human resources.

Why is Selling Communications, Inc. involved? Well, we have always believed that the role of a media company is to be an advocate for the industry it serves, provide leadership and growth opportunities for its customers and always look for ways to improve the health of the market, particularly when it makes good business sense to do so. As such, we’ve been developing technology solutions to help our industry and clients better compete in this new era of marketing. We’ve never taken a reactionary position – to sit ideally by and let others innovate. We prefer to roll up our sleeves and get involved in cutting-edge concepts and strategic solutions. Our clients – the greatest merchandise and gift card suppliers, fulfillment companies and incentive companies in the world – expect nothing less. And we believe this endeavor helps us all.

Having said all that, even though we’ve spoken or communicated to thousands of you, I don’t think we’ve done as good a job of explaining the benefits of this product as we might have. Because of the collaborative way we went about building the technology, there has been, since its inception, a lack of clarity about what the product is, what it does, who it benefits and who it serves. Part of that comes from our tremendous enthusiasm and passion for the Incentive Business Exchange. We so believe in it – and so want others to see what we see – that maybe we began talking about it and writing about it before we should have, which naturally caused some confusion and more than a few questions. For the many of you that have engaged us, challenged us and provide valuable input, we are greatly appreciative and humbled by your support. For everyone else, we hope you’ll take a look – or even second look – at the IBE and its myriad possibilities. We’re confident that when you do, you’ll see the benefits to your organization and to the industry at large.

Now that we’ve officially launched, I thought I’d use this column to answer some of the questions that many of you have raised. Please contact me if you have any concerns that you’d like to air, or if you just want to learn more.

Q: What is the Incentive Business Exchange and what are its benefits?
The IBE is an engagement technology that includes two options for incentive companies and marketing services firms seeking an end-to-end solution using the vendors and rewards of their choice:

  1. The Universal Rewards Platform. Essentially, a complete redemption center in a box, it provides a quick and easy way to launch points-based incentive programs for any audience or type of program using the vendors of your choice. It also includes a template with space for basic program content and a complete e-mail communications platform to create standing reports for each participant.
  2. The Solata Engagement Manager. This is for firms seeking a complete engagement solution for clients who understand the importance of communication, learning and engagement. It provides a complete portal for points-based program, including:
    • Content and advertising management for co-op funded programs
    • Registration and/or enrollment
    • Ongoing e-mail marketing, standing reports, etc.
    • Optional features.

Q: What market is it designed to serve?
This product is targeted at incentive companies, resellers, marketing services agencies, incentive travel providers, meeting planning companies, event marketing firms, promotion and advertising agencies. End-users will not be able to purchase or in any way use the technology to run incentive programs, except through their agency or incentive company. We only sell to middlemen, based on a technology license, set-up and ASP pricing model.

Q: Are there finder’s fees to connect a vendor or fulfillment house to an incentive company using the platform?

Q: Who owns this technology?
The technology is 100% owned by Selling Communications, Inc.

Q: Is Maritz involved?
Rewards Direct by Maritz is one of our many fulfillment partners.

Q: How does this benefit vendors and fulfillment firms?
We hope this easy-to-use, automated solution will encourage more engagement and incentive programs, in turn utilizing more merchandise, gift cards and individual travel.

Q: Can end-users create their own incentive programs using IBE?
Absolutely not.

Q: Can any brand be involved?
Any brand can participate, as can any fulfillment firm, as long as they are presently operating in this marketplace.

I hope this answers some of the questions you might have about the Incentive Business Exchange. Over the next few months, we will also be launching Corporate Rewards Exchange, a transactional website for authorized end-users to purchase in bulk.
But that’s a column for another day…

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