by Lisa Grimaldi | June 01, 2007

The following checklist is based on a white paper created by the Performance Improvement Council, a division of the Naperville, Ill.-based Incentive Marketing Association; (630) 369-7780;

Define Your Needs

  • What is your firm’s current volume of business and what are its goals?
  • What type of business is it?
  • What is preventing your firm from achieving the desired results? Have you identified the factors that are inhibiting performance?
  • Find the Right Partner

  • Start the search by getting referrals from peers who have used performance improvement services (more commonly known as incentive marketing firms).
  • Conctact industry organizations such as the Incentive Marketing Association (630-369-7780; and the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (312-321-5148; and obtain lists of their members.
  • Ask prospective performance improvement firms for references; contact clients that have used them for performance improvement or incentive marketing programs.
  • Visit selected companies in person. Meet with the supplier’s key team members, not just a salesperson.
  • As they assess your company’s business needs, ask prospective suppliers what general solutions or range of solutions they would recommend, and why.
  • Find out who will be on the program team and if your company will have any choice in the selection.
  • Ask what percentage of the supplier’s services are performed in-house.
  • Ask what services are outsourced, and why.
  • Find out how long the supplier’s outsourced partnerships have been in place, and how many programs they have worked on together during that time. What types of programs were they?
  • Interview References

    It is generally agreed that the most foolproof method for validating the capabilities of a performance improvement provider is to interview several of the firm’s present or former clients. Among the questions to ask them:

  • What was the nature of your company’s marketing or performance improvement challenge?
  • What was the quality of the expertise that this supplier provided?
  • Did the supplier demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of your particular industry? If yes, how so?
  • How well did the supplier listen to your concerns and understand your needs?
  • Did the supplier provide an innovative approach to your business challenge?
  • Was the supplier fair in all business practices and pricing?
  • Did the supplier become a true added value to your organization’s mission and process?
  • Was the supplier able to meet the mutually agreed-upon deadlines?
  • Did the supplier help you meet your goals?
  • Do you intend to continue using this supplier?

  • Is the supplier a member of any industry associations? Do staff members participate in industry conferences and functions? Have any staff members received certification from an industry organization?
  • How does the company educate staff and stay abreast of industry news and research?
  • What is the supplier’s tenure in the business?
  • Notes: