The Ultimate Incentive Toolbox for Channel Programs

5 types of incentives that motivate your partners

Imagine a toolbox that only comes with a hammer. A bit limited, right?

Building anything of quality calls for a range of powerful tools, and the same is true for your program. the businesses and individuals in your channel have diverse motivations, needs and goals, and a variety of incentive types is essential for keeping them engaged and motivated.

That’s why we’re breaking the mold of generic options with endless experiences and choices. By activating a wide range of rewards – from business-builders to events – you move away from a one-size-fits-all approach, making it easier to tailor incentives to specific behaviors and cater to unique partner personas.

Let’s explore five of the most powerful incentive types that channel programs offer and how you can use them to your advantage.

The 5-Part Incentive Toolbox

We’ve created these five categories, and together they make up the channel incentive toolbox. You won’t use all the tools at once, but having a variety lets you tailor rewards to diverse partner preferences and align them with your program goals. So, how do you know which tools you’ll need?

Reaching for the Right Tools

Each tool is designed to tackle a different challenge, so you’ll need to examine what behaviors you are motivating to pick the right one for the job.

There’s a powerful link between the kind of behaviors (like transactional vs relationship-focused) and the types of incentives that would be most effective to drive those behaviors.

Program maturity is also a factor, as seasoned channel programs often leverage more tools than those just starting out or building their channel.

The key is to begin with your core needs and layer in other relevant incentives as you grow. Experiment with novel rewards during promotional periods or add new incentives as you expand the types of behaviors you’re encouraging.

The flexibility of a diverse incentive toolbox is a great way to meet your crucial business objectives and keep partners engaged long-term.

Let’s dive deeper into the five types of incentives that make up a truly powerful portfolio.

Monetary incentives are a cornerstone of many channel programs, offering partners a variety of financial rewards for achieving specific goals.

The power of monetary incentives lies in their flexibility and convenience. Partners can receive their rewards quickly and easily and can reinvest those funds into their businesses to further their growth and sales efforts.

Let’s also consider that many of those within our channel are salespeople by profession or by nature – and financial rewards directly appeal to common motivators for sales reps, such as earning money and gaining a sense of accomplishment.

These rewards can take many forms, including cash bonuses, rebates on purchases, discounts and market development funds (MDF) to support marketing efforts. While financial rewards are effective, they’re just one piece of the puzzle.

A well-rounded channel program also incorporates non-monetary incentives to create a more engaging and holistic experience for partners.

Why Monetary Rewards are ImpactfulExamples of Monetary Rewards
– Flexible and Convenient
– Immediately Valuable
– Able to Be Reinvested into Business
– Aligned with Typical Sales Rep Motivation Drivers
(Money, Status, etc.)
– Prepaid or Reloadable Cash Card
– Direct Deposit
– Checks
– Virtual Payments
– Rebates, Discounts and Instant Savings
– MDF

If you want to tap into deep-seated aspects of human motivation, leverage the power of symbolic rewards. For those driven by status, competition, recognition or accomplishment, these types of non-monetary incentives will spark engagement.

Imagine the pride of belonging to a prestigious “Champions Club” or earning a coveted certification that sets you apart from the rest. When you trigger that competitive spirit and harness peer influence and social proof, you’ll watch partners strive for the top.

It’s also worth remembering that not everything must be a grand gesture. Even simpler forms of recognition can be impactful. A public shout-out, a digital badge displayed on a partner portal or a personalized certificate can all validate hard work and dedication.

Consider the specific motivations of your partners to ensure the rewards are desirable and meaningful. By understanding what drives your partners, you can use symbolic rewards alongside other incentive types to create a compelling program.

Why Symbolic Rewards are ImpactfulExamples of Symbolic Rewards
– Appeal to Status and Momentum-Driven Individuals
– Activated by Peer Influence and Social Proof
– Foster Competitive Spirit
– Grow Achievement and Intrinsic Motivation
– Status or Tier Achievement
– Titles, Certifications and Clubs
– Trophies and Plaques
– Physical and Digital Badges
– Public Recognition

Offering exclusive opportunities and privileges that can’t be obtained elsewhere is alluring. Exclusivity breeds value – and when you add access-based rewards into your incentive mix, partners will be highly motivated to maximize their efforts.

Plus, being part of a select group makes partners feel important and valued; it encourages them to maintain their performance and retain their earned access to specific products, communities or information that might boost their earning potential.

Scarcity also plays a role in fueling partners’ curiosity. Limited availability makes exclusive opportunities even more enticing, driving partners to compete and quality for special privileges.

When partners reach certain levels in your program, consider rewarding them with earned access to:

Tailored Marketing Materials:
Resources like product displays, samples and other market-ready resources provide valuable hands-on experience and are a huge asset for partners when showcasing the latest offerings to their customers.

Dedicated Concierge Support:
Partners feel like program VIPs when they gain direct contacts who can answer timely questions, help troubleshoot issues and provide hands-on support, advancing specific objectives.

First to Know Updates and Information:
It sparks a sense of importance when partners are the first to hear about upcoming initiatives through exclusive briefings or in direct communication channels with your organization’s key decision-makers.

Advisory Board Access:
Top-tier partners will be eager to keep their professional momentum with prestigious opportunities to participate on your advisory board.

Rewarding partners with access to inner-circle resources and support strengthens your partnership and creates deeper alignment with your brand. Ultimately, everyone wins – partners are empowered to succeed, and your brand benefits from a more engaged and knowledgeable channel.

Why Access-Based Rewards are ImpactfulExamples of Access-Based Rewards
– Greater exclusivity, greater importance
– Scarcity and limited availability fuel curiosity
– Rewards can be reinvested and support brand alignment
– Mutually beneficial
– Higher motivation to work hard and keep earned access (the “Endowment Effect”)
– Product samples, displays & equipment
– Learning, education and certification
– First to know news
– Product exclusivity
– Leader communications
– Dealer Advisory Board
– Marketing, Content or Concierge Support

Tangible rewards, often physical merchandise or gifts offered through a points redemption catalog, can be an excellent option for increasing partner engagement. When partners turn points into great stuff, it provides a visible and recurring reminder of their achievements.

The beauty of tangible rewards lies in the flexibility they offer for both individuals and businesses. Here’s why:

When you’re incentivizing individuals:
Partners gain the freedom of choice. They have the autonomy to select items that resonate with them, from trending electronics to golf gear to retail gift cards. This personalizes the experience and increases the perceived value of the reward.

When you’re incentivizing business entities:
Owners can be given the discretion to reinvest in their business, purchase office great, reward their team or distribute gift cards evenly among employees who contributed to business success. This fosters team building and aligns program goals with business needs.

In addition to a redemption catalog, these two special types of tangible rewards are worth considering in your program:

Company Swag:
Branded apparel and merchandise showcase partner pride and brand loyalty. Prioritize the quality and relevance of the swag to ensure it will be valued by partners. Choose items they’ll actually use.

Unboxing & Gifting:
A selection of curated products packaged together with branding elements creates a ton of excitement. This reward is often used to surprise and delight valued partners for special achievements.

Don’t underestimate the power of “stuff”. When tangible rewards go beyond just trinkets, they provide a concrete connection to your brand and an ongoing reminder of partnership success.

Why Tangible Rewards are ImpactfulExamples of Tangible Rewards
– Visible, recurring value reinforcing behavior
– Autonomy of personal choice
– Team building and alignment-focused
– Surprise and Delight moments
– Brand loyalty and visibility
– Online reward catalog items
– Business-building and team rewards
– Personally motivating reward catalog
– Individual and team unboxing gifts
– Swag and branded wearables

5. EXPERIENTIAL: Trips, Events & More

Experiential rewards resonate on a deeper level than other incentive types. They generate excitement during anticipation, joy during the experience itself and a warm sense of nostalgia afterward – essentially leaving a “memory halo” that keeps positive feelings lingering. This emotional connection promotes a strong bond between partners and your brand.

Experiences are also highly relational and shareable. They’re often enjoyed with others, creating social bonds and solidarity. Partners can brag (in a good way!) about their adventures, which further solidifies the “trophy value” of the reward. So, what kind of experiential rewards can you incorporate into your channel program?

Consider exclusive group trips with networking opportunities, personalized vacations tailored to bucket-list times, or exciting local activities and sporting events. You can even offer team-building experiences to strengthen partner cohesion.

When you incorporate experiential rewards into your channel program, you are not just incentivizing behavior – you are investing in relationships.

These unique reward opportunities generate excitement, foster camaraderie and plant positive memories that leave a lasting impression on your partners. The result is a more engaged, motivated and loyal channel ecosystem – an advantage for everyone involved.

Why Experiential Rewards are ImpactfulExamples of Experiential Rewards
– Long-lasting memories
– Stronger emotional connection to your brand
– Social bonding and shareable experiences
– Team cohesion and networking
– Novelty and anticipation
– Incentive trips
– Individual and family travel
– Activities, events and tickets
– Team building and local experiences

A Toolbox of Possibilities

A well-rounded incentive program goes beyond basic rewards. By understanding what matters to partners, and using a strategic mix of monetary, symbolic, access-based, tangible and experiential rewards, you can create a program that truly resonates and motivates.

When adapting your incentive toolbox, consider the nuances of your business and your partners: who is being incentivized (individuals vs Businesses), the behaviors being targeted and the types of partners in your ecosystem.

It’s also crucial to factor in the financial feasibility of activating multiple incentives for your program. Partnering with experts like Maritz can help you maximize your budget across these categories.

When you take these steps, you’ll both meet your business goals and feel confident knowing you’ve checked every box to keep your partners engaged and motivated beyond the next reward.


We get fired up about incentive options, and even more excited when we get to work with businesses like yours to craft tailored toolkits that drive engagement and lasting loyalty.

Maritz can help with:

  • Incentive Strategy and Program Design
  • Reward Fulfillment
  • Incentive Trips and Business Events
  • Financial Feasibility Modeling
  • And a lot more

Get in touch! Let’s find out how we can design your best incentive programs to date.