While a traditional marketing strategy promotes a company to differentiate itself from the competition, affinity marketing has entities engaged in a partnership to offer goods and services that appeal to a specific audience. For non-profit entities, such as associations, this audience is its membership.
For associations, understanding how to apply affinity marketing can increase awareness and help attract and retain members, not to mention be a valuable source of non-dues revenue. For the for-profit business, an affinity partnership offers the opportunity to tap into a “captured” market of potential buyers with a common demographic. For example, if you join AARP, its members are entitled to discounts from a variety of partners such as The Hartford and Allstate insurance companies and two dozen restaurants, including Joe’s Crab Shack and Outback Steakhouse. This “synergistic” marketing can build brand loyalty and awareness between complementary organizations.
There are numerous benefits of an affinity partnership, let’s look at three essential elements that make affinity partnerships successful.
1. Brand Integrity
Your brand is one of your important intangible assets- it’s your reputation. When choosing the right partner, make sure their values align with your company’s. Marketing is the ability to put oneself in a prospective buyer’s shoes—to be empathic and view the world as a potential customer would. Customers trust a strong brand, which means a willingness to buy your products or services. The expectation is high from your customers, so your affinity partner should bolster and be consistent with the quality of your trademark.
According to research by the Temkin Group, research shows that customers with strong brand loyalty are highly likely to recommend the company- more than five times as likely to repurchase, more than seven times as likely to forgive that company if they make a mistake, and almost nine times as likely to try new offerings from the company.
2. Choosing the Right Partner
Associations want to offer their members various discounts and benefits from a wide array of companies. Most will generate an excellent non-dues revenue stream, but the right partner can also boost brand recognition. In today’s digital world, whether on social media or through peer reviews, transparent marketing from your affinity partners is essential. Your affinity partnership should avoid exaggerated claims or endorsements without clear and concise sources as any falsehoods can damage a customer’s trust. They should also be up to date on rules and regulations, and any standards governing your specific industry.
The American Marketing Association’s statement of ethics holds marketers up to six important values — fairness, honesty, transparency, responsibility, respect, and citizenship.
3. Communication of Data
A great affinity relationship should be built on trust and communication. Your affinity partner should have industry-leading and established practices to protect customer data. The safety and security of their information are a top concern for most customers. Furthermore, communicate to your affinity partner accurate and current data to make the customer’s experience as seamless as possible.
Be proactive and survey members about the affinity partners and their offerings. It’s a great way to let your partner know what’s working and what may need to be improved upon. At a minimum, affinity partners should communicate at least once a quarter to let each other know what is happening in their respective worlds.
4. Lack of Communication
People come, people go, and relationships change. What may have started as a great affinity relationship, may now be taken for granted after a few years. At a minimum, affinity partners should communicate at least once a quarter to let each other know what is happening in their respective worlds.
Poor communication will strain an affinity relationship to the point that there will be a few sponsorship vacancies come time for the annual conference. Be proactive and reach out to your affinity partners. More often than not, the association needs them more than you do.
Also, reach out and survey members about the affinity partners and their offerings. You need to know if members like the sponsorship opportunities and if they are being handled with the right amount of customer service from your partner.
Affinity partners are like any relationship, they need attention, dedication and trust to become long-lasting and beneficial to both sides. If your association is looking for a new source of income that doubles as a member engagement tool, try introducing affinity programs into your revenue strategy, and contact Core Affinity today to learn about our affinity programs.