User motivation comes in many shapes and forms and as with many things, the answer is “it depends”.
It depends on what sort of user they are – i.e. are they in sales or in engineering, marketing or research. Many users are motivated financially, with others being motivated by challenging work. This is a subject that has been written about many times over, so this will not just be a re-write of such existing work.
A few years ago, the workforce might have been motivated by the car that their job function came with, as an example I recall being HIGHLY motivated when my boss said to me one morning that it was time for me to receive a company car. A month later I took delivery of a brand new Volkswagen Golf GTI and wow did I cover some miles, eating into my own time every day on behalf of that company travelling in my dream car, not caring that I was probably giving the company more than 50% more time each week. I gave some of the best energy of my career during the 12 months that followed receiving that car, awakening at 4am to do a four hour drive before spending a full day with a client and thinking nothing of it. This is what motivation did for me personally.
As I have written about recently, computing devices may well be a motivator today as we generally like to be thought of highly and being given a nice laptop/ desktop computer/ smartphone may well be a motivator that has a similar effect. For example, if I had a cheap looking plastic laptop then I may be more than a little embarrassed to get it out to perform a presentation or product demo, but if I had a nice cool laptop that others aspired towards or wanted, then the thing would be jumping out of my bag at each opportunity and the quality of my presentations and demonstrations would be immeasurably better.
The trick is spending time getting to know the users and thus understand exactly what makes them tick. Having this knowledge enables you to deliver the right thing(s) to give them the hit that they need at the right time. It is also key to point out that this will change over time, where in my example the car gave me a boost for almost 12 months, but some motivators may only have an impact for weeks (such as a spot bonus) so be always on the lookout and most importantly, UNDERSTAND YOUR USERS; it will pay handsomely once you begin to get it right.