4 Steps to Creating a SPIFF Program to Incentivize Channel Partners
May 19, 2020

Channel partner incentive programs, or SPIFFs, are contests that accelerate sales performance. Although SPIFFs are short-term incentives, they ultimately help achieve long term revenue goals and business growth. However, SPIFFs are an investment and should be thoughtfully planned and executed to achieve maximum ROI.


What is a Channel Partner Incentive Program?

A SPIFF is a time-sensitive incentive program geared toward channel partners to boost sales activities. SPIFFs also serve to strengthen relationships between manufacturers and resellers. The main reasons for creating SPIFF programs is to improve performance, push a specific set of products, and engage salespeople. 


The following four steps will help create a lucrative SPIFF program for partners:

 1. Define Goals

Set aside time for pre-planning and identify what you hope to achieve. Start with a question tied to your goals, “How do we incentivize our partners to help us reach our goals?” Determine which metrics you’ll use to measure SPIFF performance.  

To set appropriate goals, take stock of where you are right now. What is your current business situation? What needs to be improved? What areas of the business are weakest? Which products or services would benefit most from a channel partner incentive program? For example, if you know the summer months are a slow time, you may want to structure your SPIFF around that time for the “extra push.” Or, you may want to do it during your busiest time to capitalize on the momentum. 


Examples of measurable SPIFF metrics:

  • Sales of specific product lines or services
  • Specific markets to target (this could be by vertical or geography)
  • Specific channels 
  • Desired revenue or a percentage increase in sales
  • Deadlines and duration 


Mapping out plans and goals for your SPIFF program ahead of time gives the needed structure. You need to know where you’re going before you can embark on a journey. You can’t achieve channel partner program goals if you don’t set them.


2. Create a Marketing Strategy

Similar to setting goals ahead of time, you should pre-plan your marketing and communications strategy around your SPIFF program. Many organizations make the mistake of launching their channel incentive program and then marketing it as an afterthought. Partners should be informed of a SPIFF program ASAP to prepare for it and have enough time to put in the work. You can use similar marketing tactics you use to promote your products to customers.


Marketing tactics for promoting your SPIFF program include:

  • Teasers and hints about your upcoming SPIFF launch
  • Email announcement campaigns
  • Virtual kick-off event or special announcements
  • Mailers and postcard


3. Select Awards and Incentives 

Choose your method of compensation for participants in your incentive program. SPIFFs are rewards-based, so your prize choice is critical in creating an effective plan. If your participants aren’t excited by your offer, they may not be as motivated to succeed. This is why cash is such a popular SPIFF choice. There aren’t many people that wouldn’t get excited about additional income. 


Popular SPIFF rewards options:

  • Prepaid cards: This could be gift cards for popular businesses like Amazon or prepaid credit cards. Some companies, like Epson, create branded prepaid credit cards equipped with an online account that continually disperses money to accounts as the sales reps close deals.
  • Travel: Some companies offer all-expenses-paid trips. Travel rewards are similar to Presidents Club, but for your partners. 
  • Merchandise: When it comes to offering products, choose something that most people would appreciate. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are something everyone can benefit from. 

For further ideas, read our post about channel incentives that will connect with partners


4. Choose Participants 

Choosing participants for your SPIFF program is similar to targeting buyer personas in a marketing campaign. Choosing participants requires more granularity than just identifying specific partners. You’ll also want to take into account the individual personas of the participants and their motivations. Having a firm grasp of who you’re targeting will ultimately help you create a channel partner incentive program that’s tailored to them and is effective. This information also comes in handy when choosing rewards, as you can gear them toward specific demographics. 


To understand your target SPIFF participants, consider the following criteria: 

  • Average age
  • Gender
  • Average salary and compensation structure
  • Seniority and job titles
  • # of participants
  • # of locations


Bottom Line About Partner Incentives

A SPIFF program can produce tremendous results in your revenue numbers and partner relationships. Creating an effective channel incentive program comes down to mapping out your goals, adequate marketing, the appropriate rewards, and the right participants. When executed correctly, your SPIFF program will motivate your partners and build strong bonds, resulting in long-term success.

Ali Spiric