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IMA President Fintan Connolly: Increase Global Education, Network

Fintan ConnollyRNN questions Fintan Connolly, new President of the Incentive Marketing Association, on his plans for his new term as head of the world’s only trade organization focusing specifically on incentives, rewards, and recognition.
RRN. What are your objectives for IMA this year?
Connolly: I want to build on the great work that past IMA leaders have done, to harness the energy the IMA has created so we can continue to thrive and grow. We’ll do that by implementing initiatives to:
  • Increase education and networking opportunities
  • Build a future-proof global strategy
  • Explore ways we can leverage our respective skills and business to drive increased business.
RNN: What do you think are the biggest trends and opportunities in the market?
Connolly. Finding balance. On a positive note, the incentive market is growing. Results of the Incentive Federation Inc. (IFI) “Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study,” previewed at the IMA Summit this summer, show the non-cash incentives market grew 49% since the last market estimate study in 2016. In addition, 92% of companies with revenues of $5 million or more use at least one form of a non-cash incentive program. That growth is great news for our industry. The balance part comes in trying to deliver on the growing demand and changing needs. We’re seeing increased use of technology, personalization, and expanding incentive categories to encompass health and wellness. Addressing the growth and rapidly changing environment is where the IMA and its members truly shine. Our global network provides an invaluable resource in making it possible to deliver the type of engagement, incentive, and recognition programs with the variety of gift cards, merchandise and travel rewards businesses need anywhere in the world.
RNN: What can IMA do to help members benefit?
Connolly: Continue to build on success and deliver more value to our members. We had an outstanding response to our 2022 IMA Summit with 97% of attendees who participated in our survey telling us they plan to return next year! The power of the IMA global network and our outreach to draw in new participants really showed at the summit with 93% of participants telling us they made four or more new business contacts. The IMA membership covers every aspect of the value chain, and when we all come together, we provide incredible education and new business opportunities that can’t be found elsewhere. I would like to expand this by developing more options for members to learn, network and promote their services and areas of expertise across all IMA Strategic Industry Groups (SIGs) and chapters/regions. This will highlight the ways that we complement each other’s services to provide a holistic approach to engagement, incentive, and recognition.
RNN: What do you believe are the biggest challenges for the market?
Connolly: The market is changing rapidly. We have seen many mergers and acquisitions in recent years, and technology is playing a major role in that change. We are moving away from a transactional environment where traditionally we provided merchandise, gift cards and travel and that was enough. Organizations small and large now want much more. They want to know what the ROI of their program is. They now rely on data on redemption statistics, usage profiles, penetration rates across the organization by region, department and location. They want to know what the engagement rates are and how they can build on the effectiveness of a program over time. They want the ability to manage budgets, the ability to take manual procedures out of the equation completely and to have a seamless experience not only for the end users but for the program managers too. It is our job to provide those services, to help our customers to bring value to their organizations so they too can be successful, and it is incumbent on all IMA members and SIGs to deliver their part of the value chain.
RNN: What can IMA do to help members address these challenges?
Connolly: One of the IMA’s strengths is how we help each other across the globe to provide industry-leading insights to design the programs and provide all the strategy, infrastructure, and types of rewards and incentives that businesses need. IMA can provide timely education on the latest issues and help members learn from each other on effective strategies for addressing the issues.
RNN What are you most excited about accomplishing for the coming year?
Connolly: I am excited to see how we can bring our industry further over the coming year. Change does not happen overnight, and it is by incremental improvement, vision, and growth that we can make a difference. I think we in the IMA are in a unique position to deliver all elements whether that be thought leadership, technology, merchandise, gift cards, or travel, and to deliver it on a global basis. I’m looking forward to a great IMA Europe Summit, where we will bring all stakeholders together, we hope to have an event in the Middle East this year and many other meetings in the US all culminating in our global IMA Summit in Boston on July 17-19. It’s going to be a very busy year for everyone but an exciting one, I promise that.
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