Employee Incentives: Fair Trade

Years ago I realized that my employees were one of my most valuable assets, both in my operations and marketing. Although I can be a savvy businessman, I couldn’t execute my strategies without good people behind me. Once I had acquired such a crew I needed to reward them and show my appreciation for their hard work.

After considering the musings of guerilla marketers, I realized that I was not alone in this query. The thoughts of cross-promotion, networking, trade and referrals kept reappearing. It was time to combine these elements into a marketing tactic of my own and implement it.

If I could trade gift certificates with a local retailer I could have a gift/reward to present to my valued employees. The perceived value would be at least triple of what I had paid (food cost) for their gift certificate. My gift certificates would be presented to another retailer’s staff, thus opening additional databases of potentially new customers. Best of all, the fact that their bosses were presenting the certificates gives me added credibility and implied testimonial.

Four years ago I composed the attached letter and sent it out to several retailers at my local area of commerce, choosing ones who had products my employees would want and that had a staff that I wanted as customers. As I composed the letter I realized that not only was I rewarding my employees and marketing my business, but I was helping to unite the retailers of a small town to support the local economy and thus support themselves.

What kinds of businesses did I target?

  • Grocery Stores
  • Department Stores
  • Restaurants – Fast Food and Mom & Pop’s
  • Theaters
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Radio Stations – They have a stacked prize closet and they talk
  • Gift Shops
  • Local Avon Representative

You get the picture; I got the response. I can now present my employee’s with a basket full of gift certificates that I may have paid 30 cents on the dollar for. The value in their eyes is that they know they are appreciated and they have the spending power to prove it. They have gained bragging rights over their contemporaries, none of whom receive such a valuable bonus. Most importantly, they have the motivation to remain productive.

I have now established a good rapport with surrounding retailers. Would-be competitors now view us as a friend and community leader. I have gained Top Of Mind Awareness in my trading area. Staff members of other businesses are now sampling my product and becoming regular customers (in turn, my employees now patronize them as well).

The investment in such a program is minimal — food cost and printing gift certificates. The return is pronounced; happy, motivated employees, new customers, positive image in the business community, free distribution of my message and a very credible testimonial to my product.