Beyond the Carrot: An Approach to Impactful Incentives

We’ve seen the incentives industry evolve over decades. By now, everyone is familiar with the old “Do This, Get That” incentives model – the classic dangling of the carrot.

It’s transactional and, frankly, it’s not enough to drive consistent partner engagement anymore.

Today, we’re proposing an approach that’s been overlooked for too long, and it goes “Beyond the Carrot” with a more modernized perspective on incentive design. But what does it look like moving from old to new?

Out With the Old: “Do This, Get That”

The old “Do This, Get That” model focused on transactional behaviors and limited rewards: Sell a widget, get some money; transact with me and get a rebate on the backend.

This approach misses an opportunity to build quality engagement – but why? What’s the problem?

  • A Traditional, One-Dimensional View
    This narrow perspective treats incentives as a singular, isolated tactic. It focuses solely on pushing a specific action, like a sales rep hitting a quota, which ignores the bigger picture.
  • Everything is Transaction Focused
    Challenges arise when interactions are only built around transactions, which neglects the value of nurturing a relationship. It assumes people are purely motivated by short-term rewards, undervaluing the power of intrinsic motivation and long-term goals.
  • Limited Rewards, Typically Cash
    A one-size-fits-all reward system will often rely on monetary incentives alone. It fails to acknowledge that people are motivated by diverse factors, and cash might not be the most inspiring reward in all instances.

In With the New: “Do This, Get More”

The new model goes from “Do This, Get That,” to “Do This, Get More.” It’s multi-faceted and looks at all aspects of partner relationships, not just sales and transactions.

The modernized approach is loyalty-driven, aimed at building enduring relationships with a long-term focus. It goes beyond the “singular carrot” and expands previous incentives definitions. Here’s why it works:

  • A Modernized, Multifaceted Approach
    This strategy takes a people-centered view of channel partners and recognizes them as more than just the output they generate (sales channels are made up of people, not business machines). The goal is to develop a toolbox that offers partners a variety of resources and benefits that motivate them to build your business alongside you.
  • Expansive Incentives
    Traditional incentives evolve from definitions that are too limiting (for ex: while seemingly straightforward, straight cash payouts have constraints when it comes to truly motivating and engaging partners). A strategic mix of incentives considers both the motivation potential of an incentive (the likelihood that it will influence partner behavior) and the impact on business success (the application of the reward for business over individual purposes).
  • Everything is Loyalty Focused
    The priority is building strong, enduring relationships with partners. Rather than only short-term transactions, the focus is on fostering trust and mutual benefit.

Going Beyond Just Another Carrot

For the best results, we’ll always suggest considering the bigger picture to elevate both the “Do This” and “Get More” aspects of the new incentive model. So, what does “This” and “More” actually mean?

Do This

In the “Do This, Get More” Model, This refers to the specific partner behaviors you want to motivate.

Throughout our years studying behavioral science, we’ve seen the value of broadening the scope of “Do This” behaviors beyond just sales dollars and transactions. In other words, results come from rewarding a range of behaviors that signal engagement, showcase loyalty, boost brand advocacy and, of course, fuel sales growth too.

This mindset offers the freedom to think about sales dollars a little differently. It might not just be about selling more volume month to month; goals might shift toward a balanced product mix or growth in new markets. 

Get More

The “More” in the “Do This, Get More” model describes the value that diverse reward options bring to partner and program experiences.

Incentives are most powerful when they extend beyond just cash rebates to include other rewards, experiences, access-based incentives, tangible rewards, monetary funds and symbolic recognition.  

Prioritizing a variety of rewards also lets you tap into different motivational triggers. It’s how you can cater to business nuances, resonate with individual preferences, and personalize experiences that lead to a more successful program.

Monetary incentives should be incorporated as appropriate, but cash payouts simply fulfill a transaction. Instead, we want to strengthen relationships between partners and your brand to encourage a refocus and reinvestment of the rewards they earn. And that’s where enablement comes in.

Enable Behaviors

This holistic view recognizes that behaviors should be enabled and not just rewarded. It’s all about equipping partners with the knowledge and resources they need to thrive, such as product training, marketing materials and ongoing support.

Incentives & rewards generally motivate behavior extremely well. Of course, positive reinforcement is the original motivator, but there’s another way to encourage behaviors: Enablement, or supporting partners’ ability to follow through.

All of it: from “Do This” to “Get More” to enabling those processes is a continuous motivation cycle. Partnerships are a loyalty and engagement journey. 

A holistic view of incentive programs goes beyond the carrot.

Incentive strategies need an upgrade.

For program experiences to evolve with partners, we need to move on from the narrow “Do This, Get That” model.  

This new strategy sees the bigger picture, and it moves toward a well-rounded approach that builds strong, lasting relationships with your partners, not just one-off transactions.  

Ultimately, it’s not sales alone that determines program success; it’s recognizing what was lacking before and making changes that help businesses grow and keep partners happy. Taking these steps means motivation will last longer than the next carrot chase. When you meet partners with More, that’s what you’ll get for your business.