The Incentive Solutions’ Story
Incentive Solutions is all about challenging the status quo and growing even when it seems impossible. That legacy started with Steve Damerow, founder of Incentive Solutions. Damerow disrupted the way the incentives industry did business by putting clients first.
In the 1990s, Damerow was seen as a clients’ man. If a client wanted a specific venue for their incentive travel program or corporate meeting, it was considered done. No matter the request, Damerow knew how to make his company’s clients happy with their group travel incentives or merchandise rewards.
His company, on the other hand, wasn’t so thrilled about Damerow’s personal client-first policy. Back in the 1990s, many incentive companies – even the most influential ones like the one Damerow had worked at – built strong, impenetrable relationships with their vendors, leaving clients with what the vendor and incentive company decided best for them. The incentive leftovers often fell into either one or two categories: travel incentives and merchandise rewards no one cared about.
There’s more to incentives
Damerow saw the vendor-first, one-reward-fits-all mindset as both a business fault and an opportunity. The incentives industry, he believed, wasn’t really serving their clients. On the merchandise side, incentive companies were too busy catering to vendors, travel incentives only motivated a small portion of a client’s target base. Both reward types, Damerow believed, missed the motivation mark clients looked for when in the market for an incentive program.
At the time, many incentive companies offered their clients lackluster merchandise rewards from print catalogs where rewards cost two to three times more than the same products in a big box store. This all boiled down to one terrible truth: incentive program participants literally worked all year, beating deadlines and driving revenue, only to redeem an over-priced toaster or mug. Talk about de-motivating.
Damerow knew there had to be a more effective way of motivating people, so he spent months researching technology trends, cultural shifts in the workplace, and the science of motivation. What he found backed up his observations out in the field – the incentives industry needed to step it up.
Going against tradition, Damerow pushed for a different way to motivate people and boost client profits, which included listening to clients over overpriced vendors, offering tiered rewards, adding debit and gift card rewards to the rewards basket, and truly engaging the majority of participants with rewards they want. That way, client companies could motivate top and average-performers, driving up their chances of maxing out company goals through human capital.
The push to tier rewards and create a more client-centric company didn’t win Damerow the ending he thought it would, though. After campaigning tirelessly for a new way to do incentives at work, the clients’ man was fired. Turns out, his incentive ideas were “too radical.”
The new way to drive business
He packed up his office, his incentive ideas, and vowed to lead the market with his own incentive company, one that understood the importance of giving clients what they wanted. But he couldn’t quite go for that dream yet because there was still the issue of money. With a wife and two small children at home, Damerow had to work to build up the cash for his dream. So he worked for his clients, who were happy to bring him on as a consultant.
After a few years of consulting, Damerow’s dream came true. In 1994, Incentive Solutions was born, ushering in a client-friendly travel incentive company focused on growing its clients’ businesses just as much as its own. Finally able to build his vision from the ground up, Steve added debit and gift card rewards to his company’s offerings a few months after opening.
But that wasn’t enough. Drawing back on his research, Steve came up with an online reward strategy, one that included better merchandise. And he didn’t stop there. He imagined creating more than just a reward solution, but rather a complete incentive marketing and sales tool, which was revolutionary in the 1990s. But imagining was one thing – building that robust incentive technology platform was another.
Steve’s startup wasn’t quite where he wanted it to be. The cash-strapped startup had only produced technology clients didn’t value. Damerow knew that it wasn’t enough to create incentive programs. Clients wanted better ways to track growth and measure ROI, and his technology hadn’t gotten to that point yet. On top of that, the company spent more money than it brought in. Steve needed a change and fast.
The incentives industry brought Steve and Mark Herbert together, but their different paths separated them for a few years. While Damerow built Incentive Solutions, Mark Herbert managed multi-million dollar travel incentive programs and corporate meetings as Vice President for WorldTravel Meetings & Incentives. Though divided by geography – with Steve in Atlanta and Mark in San Diego – their shared curiosity about the future of incentives remained.
When Mark relocated to Atlanta, the duo frequently met up for working lunches where they shared incentive insights and market predictions. At one of these lunches, Steve offered Mark an opportunity to grow with his business. Unfortunately for Steve, Mark had other priorities.
A family man, Mark felt uneasy leaving his stable job behind for his dream of scaling a startup incentive company. He had small children at home, so he turned down Steve’s initial invitation to join him at Incentive Solutions. But Mark cheered Steve on from the sidelines, helping out when he could and offering Steve something just as valuable – a contact.
As it turned out, the contact had a history of developing innovative technology. Under his watchful eye, Incentive Solutions’ existing software transformed into an early version of the online incentive technology platform we have today that integrated with Amazon. The platform was successful with clients, both prospective and current, Mark agreed to join Incentive Solutions as President and COO in 2002, earning a stake in the company.
Facing the odds
When Amazon withdrew from the B2B market, Incentive Solutions’ differentiating reward software went with it. Under the guidance of Mark’s contact, Kelly Held, the software was revamped and renamed RewardTrax, which we still use today.
As other companies began to adopt RewardTrax-like platforms, we dared to keep growing. In 2008, we ramped up our technology’s capabilities, developing a suite of pre-programmed, configurable incentive software modules, including the Performance Tracking, CRM Integration, Learn and Earn, and Mobile App modules. And every year since, we’ve added more technological capabilities to our incentive programs based on the needs of our client base. In fact, 85% of our technology and services begin from client feedback and suggestions.
Incentive Solutions, today
In 2009, we kept growing even in the midst of a financial crisis. That year Incentive Solutions acquired competitor Loyaltyworks. Nearly a decade later, Loyaltyworks was completely absorbed into Incentive Solutions after a major recapitalization deal with The CapStreet Group, a Houston-based venture capitalist firm.
As of spring 2018, Steve Damerow stepped down as CEO. He remains a member of the company’s board and assists with future mergers and acquisitions.
Today, Mark Herbert leads Incentive Solutions as President and CEO. With over 200 clients and millions of redeemed incentive rewards, we’ve become experts in motivation and all things incentives. We specialize in channel incentive programs for dealers, direct and indirect sales teams, and B2B customers. We’ve grown and changed a lot these past years, but one thing remains the same:
We dare ourselves, our employees and our clients to grow, and keep growing.
Industries We Serve
- Medical and dental equipment
- Insurance – casualty, business, and commercial property
- Auto – finance, insurance tire, parts, warranty, and recreational vehicles
Because of our diverse rewards offerings and varied industry expertise, we can help clients develop the incentive solutions that best match their specific market situations and target audiences.
Our reward products are complemented by dedicated account management services, a proprietary, modern incentive technology platform, sophisticated communications design and performance tracking tools to bring loyalty programs and business results to life. Our end-to-end capabilities, continuous innovation and unmatched team experience enable us to delight clients time and time again by exceeding expectations.
A legacy of innovative incentive ideas
Incentive Solutions opens its doors offering Group Incentive Travel. Later this year, we become the first to apply the use of emerging debit and gift card rewards technology within the incentive industry.
Launched our proprietary, online incentive technology platform, focusing on point programs and the administrative tool. Later this year, we become the 1st to pair gift card rewards with incentive online incentive technology.
Developed a full suite of pre-programmed, fully configurable software modules to customize your incentive program and act as a marketing tool to achieve your objectives. We continue to expand and add modules, every year.
Loyaltyworks is acquired by Incentive Solutions.
Mobile optimization is added to all rewards programs. Mobile apps now available.
Developed ROI and analytics processes. AM’s become ROI certified.
Admin dashboards, gamification, interactive leaderboards and CRM integration are all added to our growing list of products. We also now pair group travel programs with our incentive technology platform.
We partnered with the CapStreet Group, a venture capitalist firm headquartered in Houston, TX. Loyaltyworks merges with its partner company, Incentive Solutions.