Motivation is their business at MotivAction of Plymouth

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2013 - 5:52 PM

MotivAction designs incentive programs for large companies looking to inspire sales, loyalty.

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Profile of Joe Keller, CEO of MotivAction. (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE(mlevison@startribune.com

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The recession is over.

Just ask the folks at MotivAction, which helps companies pump up workforce motivation with incentive programs that drive sales, improve service and make customers happy.

MotivAction, which has been in business since 1976, has added 15 new clients in each of the last two years while revenues increased by 17 percent in both 2011 and 2012.

“We’re mostly a leading economic indicator,” President Joe Keller said in a recent interview. “We’re now booking incentive programs into 2014 and 2015.”

MotivAction’s clients, which include 26 Fortune 500 companies, hire the 100-employee firm to set up reward, recognition and loyalty campaigns for their employees as well as their customers.

Incentives can range from a personal thank-you note for a job well done to an online shopping trip to a jaunt to Maui.

“We deal primarily with large clients looking for a desired behavior,” Keller said. “These clients want a workforce that sells more, is more engaged and has customers who are loyal.”

In the reward process, Plymouth-based Motiv­Action and the client first identify the goal, then design the program, motivate the participants and measure the results.

One current popular program involves on-the-spot recognition called Snap Awards in which a manager hands a card to an employee for achieving certain results. The card has a points value on it that, in turn, can be used toward the choice of a gift, from a grandfather clock to flowers for a loved one. The products come from a virtual store operated by MotivAction.

The company’s programs have ranged from travel incentives for employees of a large manufacturer to a self-booking travel rewards program for customers of a large Minnesota-based bank.

“More than anything else, employees want to be recognized and appreciated. That’s the essence of engagement,” Keller said.

The privately held company is reluctant to publicize its client list beyond noting that it has customers in 40 countries and competes nationally with the likes of the Meritz Group, BI Worldwide and Aimia, the Canadian-based firm that acquired Carlson Marketing in 2009.

“We operate behind the scenes, so you can’t tell we’re there,” Keller said.

One client who did agree to talk about its relationship with MotivAction said the trip to Hawaii that MotivAction arranged for more than 500 customers, vendors and employees “was nothing short of a miracle” for its execution.

David Gravely, director of sales for West Virginia-based State Electric Supply Co., said the loyalty program developed by MotivAction helped increase sales by 55 percent among the electrical contractor clients who do business with State Electric and participated in the program.

“MotivAction gave us direction and helped us with marketing,” Gravely said in a telephone interview. “We use this as a sales tool and it’s all about the numbers.”

While MotivAction seems on the upswing now, the future wasn’t as rosy in the fall of 2008 when the Great Recession took hold. The firm cut its workforce by nearly 25 percent. Clients scaled back.

“This industry was hit very hard. Nobody was immune,” Keller said. “Everybody stopped [incentive programs] or cut way back. Travel-based programs became very unpopular immediately and were mischaracterized as boondoggles. Point programs were not hit as hard.”

MotivAction noticed business starting to bounce back in 2011. The company even rehired some of the employees who had been let go at the beginning of the downturn.

The company has a sales staff, its own in-house creative agency, an IT department, business analysts and a rewards department that buys the merchandise for its online store.

“It’s not back to where it was, but we are clearly on the right path,” Keller said of MotivAction’s business outlook.

The engagement business is more tech-savvy these days but the bottom line remains the same.

“This is not rocket science,” said Keller. “One of the best returns on investment a company can have is an engaged workforce and customer base.”

 

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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