Strategies for effective dealer incentive programs

By: ITA Group

What you need to know

  • Creating a shared vision with dealers leads to increased buy-in and improved dealer channel ratings.
  • Streamlining and centralizing dealer incentive programs overcomes silos and improves engagement.
  • Data should inform incentive programs to optimize performance, not just during a launch but on an ongoing basis.

dealer reviewing quality of tire as part of dealer incentive program

The future you’re building can’t happen without engaged, loyal dealer personnel. The best dealer incentive programs boost engagement, drive sales and enhance brand loyalty, energizing frontline brand ambassadors and retaining skilled service technicians.

But how do you create buy-in and set up your program for success? Our experts shared insights from their years of experience that will set your dealer incentive program apart from the competition. 

The benefit of dealer incentive programs

For manufacturers already engaged in dealer incentive programs, understand the full scope and impact of your efforts. Dealer incentive programs continue to offer several key benefits.

1. Increased sales volume and market share

Incentives motivate dealers to sell more of your products, especially during slow periods or when facing high competition.

2. Improved inventory management

Incentives can clear out older models or slow-selling inventory, and allow manufacturers to launch and promote new products more effectively.

3. Stronger dealer relationships and alignment

Incentives foster partnership and collaboration between manufacturers and dealers who share the common goal of increasing sales and profits. This leads to better communication, trust and feedback.

4. Enhanced product quality and customer service

Incentives encourage dealers to invest in training, equipment and inventory that improves the quality and availability of the manufacturer's products. They also motivate dealers to provide better customer service and support, increasing satisfaction and retention.

By aligning the interests of dealers and manufacturers, dealer incentive programs create a win-win situation that drives sales, manages inventory and strengthens relationships. They are key tools for manufacturers to gain a competitive edge in the market.

If you’re still struggling in any of these areas, let’s look at ways to increase your dealer incentive program’s effectiveness. We pulled some highlights that our expert strategists Karli Quisenberry and Erica Kasischke shared in a recent webinar about how technology, data analytics and personalization continue to play a key role in driving dealer engagement.

What are some of the roadblocks to gaining dealer buy-in for OEM programs?

Erica: A strong alignment between the dealer channel and the OEM is crucial for gaining dealer buy-in. When both parties share a vision and understand each other’s goals, buy-in becomes natural. This alignment allows for open and honest conversations about customer engagement, which is crucial for both dealers and OEMs. 

What practical strategies can help with dealer buy-in?


  • Clearly articulate the value proposition and benefits at the dealer level.
  • Conduct thorough research to gather feedback and insight from multiple roles within the dealership.
  • Regularly meet with the dealer council to understand business issues and address them through programming.

Can you share an example of successful OEM buy-in strategies?

Erica: We had a client who focused on creating a shared vision with their dealers, which led to increased buy-in and improved dealer channel ratings. The intentionality and time spent on aligning goals paid off, strengthening their relationship and setting them up for success.

Related: Read the full story of how an international manufacturing company motivated dealers.

What are some challenges of coordinating multiple incentive programs, and how can they be overcome?

Karli: Many incentive programs can overlap, leading to confusion and disengagement among dealership employees. Streamlining the process, centralizing incentives and segmenting audiences overcomes these challenges and improves engagement.

What benefits come from program consolidation?

Erica: Consolidating incentive programs into a centralized hub improves engagement and administrative efficiency. With easier access to information, better communication and a more interactive participant experience, consolidation leads to increased sales and ROI.

How can a company start the process of consolidating programs?

Karli: Start by creating a road map to understand current programs and technology platforms. Engage stakeholders to gather input and identify pain points. Start small with pilot programs or focused initiatives and build momentum from there.

Related: Read how one global auto brand saw 21% increase in YOY unit sales.

Research plays a crucial role in designing effective incentive programs. Why is upfront research so critical?

Erica: Experience gives us a lot of insight and success, but applying those assumptions to a client’s data creates an understanding of potential and success. Data is so valuable and will shape both program structure and KPI recommendations.  

There are many similarities among brands in the automotive industry, but each brand still has its intricacies. Upfront research uncovers these and ensures the program design accounts for them, setting the overall dealer expectation for what successful engagement looks like.   

I know this question was directed at data’s impact to initial program design but ongoing research after launch allows for any necessary adjustments. This could include midyear data analysis and promotion review to determine what adjustments need to occur in the immediate program. Securing the dealers’ voice through surveys lets you adjust where applicable and start to road map for future program enhancements.

Related: Read how data helped a major manufacturer implement a non-sales incentive program.



Optimizing your dealer incentive program

Using these practical incentive strategies not only helps boost sales and enhances service quality, but also strengthens dealer relationships.

Once you have a program in place, give yourself time to collect data and feedback from dealers so you can continue to refine your program’s experience. This process ensures your program stays relevant with current trends and that dealers feel heard and like their experience matters to you.

Want to dig even deeper into your dealer incentive experience? Learn how to get and use channel partner data.

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ITA Group

ITA Group custom-crafts engagement solutions that motivate and inspire your people. ITA Group infuses strategies that fuel advocacy and drive business results for some of the world’s biggest brands.