Sam Adams Boston Lager, the small, premium brand of beer, faced a big challenge: getting the attention of distributors and their reps who also sell beer made by the industry giants, who offer lavish incentives to places like Australia.
But David Duffy, the territory manager for Virginia, found a reward he thinks can help Sam Adams level the playing field and, as he puts it, "get as much share of mind" as the big guys--without spending as much money. Known as "Super-Certificates(tm)," these rewards from online GiftCertificates.com can be redeemed by winners for a choice of gifts from hundreds of retailers, restaurants, hotels, and spas (from Chanel to Crate & Barrel, Marriott to American Airlines, T.G.I. Friday's to Loews Cineplexes).
How It Works The Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams, has always offered its 160 sales managers around the country various incentive options, which come out of sales managers' budgets. Managers set goals and create a mix of awards, bearing in mind that each customer is different (for example, a bar in a good location with a high volume vs. a neighborhood supermarket). Sometimes, the goal is for the rep to get more and larger displays on the retailer's floor; other times, the challenge may be to increase the beer's presence in bars and restaurants.
It's important to the company to find awards that are personalized yet easy to administer. "We work with an extremely diverse group of people, and respecting that is important to us," says Jennifer Chapman, sales promotion coordinator.
Fifty-two sales managers chose to offer the GiftCertificates.com program as part of Sam Adams' 1999 year-end promotion, "Best of the Season." Boston Beer also sponsored a consumer sweepstakes, with a grand prize trip for four to the 2000 Sundance Film Festival (which is sponsored by Sam Adams) in Park City, Utah. The beer maker provided TV, radio, and Web support for "Best of the Season," plus special displays for retailers.
GiftCertificates.com did not require a guarantee of the order size up front, nor did Boston Beer pay any costs to set up the program, Chapman says, other than a service fee of $1.95 per certificate.
For those who weren't Internet-savvy, the online company gave the sales managers and winning dealers an 800 number and a fax number, and created customized instruction sheets explaining their options. For reps meeting their goals, managers ordered the denomination stipulated (for example, $100 worth of SuperCertificates) and had the prize sent to the winner. All told, Boston Beer's sales managers ordered 800 certificates in denominations ranging from $25 to $1,000.
One Manager's Approach Duffy tried a different approach from that of his colleagues. He sent $50 certificates to each of 20 key decision-makers (the bosses of the reps) at his nine wholesalers, with holiday cards thanking them for their help during the whole year and calling for their support during Sam Adams' "Best of the Season" promotion. He offered cash incentives to the reps at the same time.
Fifteen of the 20 certificate recipients called to thank him. "They were delighted by the surprise and innovation," he says. "It separated me, as a partner of theirs, from everybody else."
This coming holiday season, Duffy will include the reps who build displays in supermarkets in the program. "These guys are selling a million different brands," he says. "My job is to get them to think about Sam Adams. So when they go to the grocery store, and the grocery manager gives them one display, I want it to be a Sam Adams display. If they received a $100 gift certificate from me thanking them for their help two days before, the odds are a lot better that they're going to give me one."
He also plans to use the certificates as a second-tier award in an incentive program that offers a prize trip to Boston. "Sam Adams sells very well in urban areas, but it doesn't sell well in rural ones," he explains. "Rural reps don't even try to participate in this promotion because they think, 'I'll never sell enough Sam Adams to win a trip to Boston.'"
But this level of prize, he believes, could make a difference. "They might decide, 'If I can get two Sam Adams displays in the two supermarkets on my route, maybe I can get a gift certificate to buy my wife something nice.'"
Duffy concludes: "It's nice to have a tool that lets everyone win!"