Having worked with a number of clients that market through affinity partners, SIGMA has identified a number of marketing best practices that have dramatically improved affinity marketing results. Affinity marketers may identify improvement opportunities by examining these top-performing methodologies.

Affinity Marketing Diagram

Targeting the Right Affinity Partners. The potential value an affinity partner provides may vary greatly from group to group. Therefore, marketers should manage your pursuit efforts based on the potential value the individual affinity may provide. Be sure to use information about your current clients as well as third-party data to develop a scoring approach that will allow you to tier your prospect base.

First, begin by segmenting the affinities into major categories such as large corporations; regional associations, clubs, credit unions; colleges and university associations; and national organizations. We have found the following data attributes to be useful in segmenting the groups: the strength or influence of the affinity relationship with its members, the size of the organization’s membership, and how well the members’ profiles match to the marketer’s ideal customers. We often develop benchmarks based on an analysis of current customers and development of a targeting model. The scoring model may be a robust predictive model or a simple points model based on varying attributes.

Optimize Affinity Member Targeting. Not all affinity members have the same value; in fact, groups often only deliver a small number of high-tier prospects. In most cases, your objective should be to avoid marketing to members who are low-tier prospects, those members that are clearly unlikely to respond and to whom your communication may be seen as “junk.” Begin by developing a profile to identify who looks most like your best customer. Then stick to your guns and focus on those affinity members who match your target profile.

Multichannel Personalized Communications. Creating the right messages that support the interests and needs of both yourself and your affinity partners need not be complicated or costly. Today tools are available to deliver templates, content libraries and databases to automatically construct personalized communications that speak to each affinity member uniquely, in an informative and effective manner. The key to success is to establish a simple data framework that allows you to learn from each campaign interaction. Developing the knowledge to understand optimum messages, offers and channels are critical for superior long-term success. There are a number of messaging tools that allow you to deploy across multiple channels seamlessly.

Collaboration Portals. For high-functioning affinity partnerships, we create partner collaboration portals. This portal typically supports creative reviews and approvals, dashboards showing the progress of marketing campaigns, repository of key files, and assets. One of its principal values is the provisioning of consistent and timely information across the partner ecosystem. The Partner Portal informs the affinity partner on campaign timelines, approvals, future campaign plans and additional services that the company provides to the affinity partner.

Campaign and Offer Optimization. Fine-tuning your communications is critical to the long-term success of the affinity program. Each campaign deployment is a chance to learn how to improve response and ROI. Subtle, seemingly inconsequential changes can achieve substantial improvement. Continuing a test-and-learn approach should be a central component of your affinity program. SIGMA suggests a test matrix be established for each campaign; the test matrix clearly identifies each element being tested and is linked to the campaign and touch database. As responses and results are collected, performance can be assessed for each test cell. Meaningful results are habitually reviewed and learnings are applied to the next campaign.

Reporting/Knowledge Portal. The collaboration portal should provide the basic campaign performance tracking information as well as results by key marketing segments. Ideally, the portal also assesses campaign performance by key benchmarks that are appropriate for both your company and the affinity partners. For example, benchmark metrics can be developed for campaign performance for “Southern University Alumni organizations.” Alumni organizations in that category would see their individual performance and how they compare to their peer group “Southern University Alumni organizations.” Once you have an organization’s member data, you can append household third-party party data to the member record to examine campaign performance by key demographic dimensions.

We hope a few of these ideas can make a difference for your affinity marketing this coming year.