The use of incentives across all levels of companies is on the rise, according to proprietary research by Promo magazine (www.promomagazine.com), sister publication of Corporate Meetings & Incentives. In its recently released Premium Incentives survey, the magazine found that 49 percent of respondents use incentives — up from 36.5 percent last year — and a full 40 percent plan to increase their use of incentives in 2006.

The growth, in part, could be due to the industry's stepping up of efforts to educate the general public about the bottom-line benefits of these programs. For example, the Incentive Federation (www.incentivecentral.org) is about to kick off a five-year plan of corporate outreach to bring that message home through research, public relations, and education efforts.

“There is a tremendous amount of energy and excitement in the premium and incentive industry right now,” said Patricia Odell, managing editor of Promo. “Reputable research has proven a direct link between employee satisfaction and the health of a company's bottom line, and spending for both employee and consumer incentives is projected to reach $28 billion this year.”

Also, she says, associations such as the Incentive Marketing Association (www.incentivemarketing.org) “are actively recruiting and educating members to act as spokespeople for the industry, pitching the benefits of the use of incentives — a sure sign that the industry is taking the lead to advance its case.”

The Promo survey found that the top goals for corporate incentives are building consumer and brand loyalty (41 percent), motivating new purchases (36 percent), and motivating sales reps (34 percent). How do companies measure whether their programs have achieved those goals? Half the respondents judge a program's success by growth in incremental sales, while other factors such as productivity, retention, and the results of consumer and employee surveys are also a consideration.

Did the respondents consider their programs to be delivering the ROI they expected? Some 38.5 percent said their ROI was on target, and 7.3 percent said that their programs had exceeded their expectations. Only 11 percent said results were less than expected.