Animate is the new motivate.
“Giving up on our long-term goals for immediate gratification, my friends, is procrastination.”
This is a quote from one of my favorite authors, Dan Ariely (“Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions”; a succinct video review of key principles in that book is here). And that quote above, in a nutshell, is the answer to both of the questions in the title of this post. It is also the reason I don’t see Animate Growth Partners (AGP) as an “incentives” company.
Animate – [an–uh-meyt] give life to; give zest or spirit to; move or stir to action; motivate. AGP seeks to help clients animate the business relationships that bring sustainable growth. As a verb, animate also implies that what you are giving life to, or stirring to action, aligns with a person’s values and beliefs. For example, I cannot conceive of animating a person to consistently shop at Walmart when they personally value small businesses. AGP’s goal is to build long-term growth on a foundation of mutual values and two-way connections.
Other verbs aimed at causing growth have different implications:
- Incent is a verb that places the carrot firmly at the end of the stick; however, what happens when a person reaches the carrot? Is the next carrot quite as appealing, or attainable? Or even worse, what happens to those who can’t reach the carrot?
- Drive is often paired with words like behavior or results. The implication here is that people need to be driven to do the “right” things. I equate that notion to a cattle drive. How connected will a person feel to something they were “driven” to do, perhaps against their better judgment, as though they were cattle?
- Motivate is included in one of the definitions of animate. The difference is subtle, but important. Motivating a person is generally seen as transactional or task-oriented. It is a short-term tactic to achieve a short-term goal. However, what happens when your competitor comes in with a better offer to motivate your customer’s behavior?
B2B performance improvement programs are evolving rapidly now in an effort to catch up with what B2C marketers have been realizing for more than a decade. One-size-fits-all is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of your customers or distribution partners. True loyalty is generated through an emotional connection to a brand, and emotional connections (relationships) simply cannot be purchased (incented, driven, or even motivated).
Animating growth through loyal relationships involves mutual understanding, support, and appreciation. Many companies have the appreciation part in place, albeit isolated to top performers. AGP was founded to help sales and marketing leaders add the dimensions of understanding and support to design programs with the goal of sustained growth. To maximize impact, these elements require a disciplined design methodology, not a canned motivation approach.
That’s “Why Animate?”
So, why now?
The opening quote assumes that (generally speaking) procrastination is bad, which is a fairly safe assumption. At best, immediate gratification is delaying an eventual inevitability. But more often than not, that delay is causing the long-term problem to get worse (more expensive, obtrusive, harder to achieve) over time. I believe that is as true for AGP as it is for our clients.
Technologies that help forge B2B relationships have adopted a modern SaaS model, which makes implementation faster, easier, and less expensive. It also makes them available to agencies like AGP to use in client solutions. Every client need is unique, and it is clear that in order to have the insights and flexibility required for effective program design, an agency must be able to tap into all market services (research, CRM, lead gen., analytics, training, etc.), and be willing to incorporate any type of reward as the vehicle for appreciation. Very few companies are bringing this flexibility of service to the market today.
The incentive industry’s inevitable long-term challenge was to develop a business model that can serve all clients (not just the Fortune 500), and that is not dependent upon a particular technology or reward type. AGP has jumped headlong into that model, and has embraced the fact that some clients will not be accustomed to paying for design services that were historically “given away” (translation – costs are rolled into the reward or technology fees). However, design services are the key to moving beyond transactional motivation. Our fully-transparent pricing approach that does not mark up rewards or technologies will be seen by many clients as a refreshing and liberating opportunity to pay an agency for the measurable value they provide.
AGP will help clients design and manage programs that animate long-term relationships and build loyalty. When programs are designed for true mutual benefit, without bias, relationships will be formed on a foundation of trust. A closing quote, again from Dan Ariely,
“Without constant suspicion [about motives], we can get more out of our exchanges with others while spending less time making sure that others will fulfill their promise to us.”