When Novo Nordisk began preparing to launch its Type 2 diabetes drug, Victoza, last year, the company wanted to hit the market fast and strong. That meant its sales reps not only had to be up on the new drug, but also highly motivated to outsell the competing drug already on the market. But how to you psych up a 2,000-person sales force whose mean age is 28?

That’s the question Novo Nordisk tapped Performance Plus Marketing, Roswell, Ga., to answer during the development of the Victoza incentive program, which went on to win for PPM the Incentive Marketing Association’s Circle of Excellence Award for Best Sales Incentive Program. The award-winning program centered around Club V, a hip and happening online nightclub where participants could earn points for training activities, participate in contests, take online quizzes, and track their progress against the competition. And, for the top 10 percent, there was The Vault, an ultra-exclusive area of the site full of goodies just for the high performers.

They went with the online nightclub idea because it meshed well with the key attributes of Gens X and Y, says Wendy Wagner, who was PPM’s vice president of client services at the time (she has since left the company and been replaced by Thomas Wessling, executive vice president). These include being tech-savvy, having a strong focus on work/life balance, being results-oriented, and wanting to have a little fun along the way. Club V did all this, though it was scaled back a bit from the original concept—which was more of a rave scene and included a mosh pit—to a more upscale version.

Rolling Out the SiteThe incentive site, which also handled all redemption functions, was rolled out during a five-day sales meeting in Las Vegas in February 2010. The live meeting included a physical version of Club V and The Vault, a VIP-only venue at an evening function where only the top performers were allowed past the velvet ropes and bouncers to sample specialized food and beverages and collect exclusive swag bags. The PPM team was on site to hold the quizzes, explain the prizes, and gauge participant interest and excitement levels. “It made a huge difference to have us on site to physically reinforce the program, instead of having the brand manager just put up a slide saying, ‘Hey, don’t forget we have an incentive program,” says Wagner. “Being able to interact with participants gave us good feedback on what they’re interested in, and helped reinforce the program to them.” A full 100 percent of those eligible participated in the Club V activities, and more than 95 percent of the sales force took the daily quizzes in hopes of earning prizes.

Both Club V and The Vault rolled from the live event straight into a long-term, online-only incentive program that ran for the next 18 months. Sales reps could take training courses from their regular training portals, then go to the Club V area of the Victoza portal site to reinforce what they learned and get extra points for taking quizzes. But the quizzes were just gravy—99 percent of the points earned came from how reps performed out in the field.

Driving Participation
Prior to Club V, “we didn’t have a reward program that was strictly based on performance,” says Jamie Jones, sales director of the Victoza Commercialization team at Novo Nordisk. But it likely won’t be the last. “It was wildly successful, based on feedback and how far ahead of forecast we stayed,” he adds. Part of the reason for its success could be that the program also was promoted both traditionally—through live meetings, print, and voice mail—and through text messaging. Displaying the awards at the sales meetings helped spur enthusiasm, he says, as did weaving the Club V theme of the contest through the launch meeting, subsequent sales meetings, and of course the online site.

Part of what drove participation might also be the actual top award: A chance to win one of three company car upgrades to any car in the fleet, including the ones the top execs drive. Each rep who qualified to hang out in The Vault could donate 100 points toward the purchase of a $100 raffle ticket for the upgrades, with the raffle proceeds going to charity. “They could put in one ticket or 10—it didn’t matter to us, because it was all going to charity,” says Jones. “It was fun, it was competitive, and they enjoyed being part of it because they could get something cool out of it.”

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