How do Affinity Programs Work in Four Steps

Eric Edwards

10/07/2022

Merriam-Webster defines “Affinity” as both an attraction to or liking for something and an as-attractive force. In the business world, an affinity program is a type of partnership where a business offers special discounts or services to an association’s members.

Why is this important? Because according to the Center for Association Leadership (ASAE), about 30% of an association’s income stems from membership dues. That leaves 70% needed from non-dues sources. A robust affinity program can provide a steady stream of revenue to fill in this gap. This is an affinity program’s biggest potential value—a stream of non-dues revenue for the association.

If done properly, and maintained, the association and the partner business will realize a steady-stream revenue source and, as an additional benefit, attract more members to the association. We call this “Affinity Attraction,” a kind of mutual magnetism if you will. But first, you need to find the right partner.

First Step: Find a “Magnetic” Affinity Business Partner

The cliché “it takes two to tango” is especially true with affinity programs. You can’t have “affinity” without a business partner who shares a common industry bond with you. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, it helps to find an experienced affinity partner familiar with the dance steps, like Core Affinity.

For an Affinity Attraction partnership to work effectively, your values and goals as a business should align. In modern dating parlance, you “swipe right.” If they do not, neither party will realize the full benefit of the partnership; and you “swipe left.”

Why is this so important?

Because the partner becomes an extension of your association’s service or product offering. Suppose you engage in a partnership with an affinity company, but its service is not up to your level of professionalism. In that case, that company can affect your brand equity and, eventually, you will lose membership. Brand equity is vitally important. It’s your company’s reputation. An affinity partner is an extension of your brand. Therefore, a partner’s actions will reflect poorly on your company.

This is why partnership trust is so important. The partner should have access to your association’s membership data so it can market to them. Few things are as crucial as your membership data. You wouldn’t want a partner to mishandle or be careless with one of your most valuable assets. You also want transparency of how your affinity partner markets to the membership to meet your standards. Your members are busy running their businesses and do not need to be spammed by junk marketing tactics.

Affinity Partner Magnet

Second Step: Offer Members Something They Want

This step goes hand in hand with the first. The magnetic attraction of your affinity partner doesn’t mean much if it fails to generate much interest (and thereby revenue) for the partnership. Spend the time to work with your affinity partner to see what members genuinely want and need to run their business. Discounts with a national office supply store, travel discounts, health insurance, and retirement planning are examples of services association members can enjoy, use, and hopefully attract more members. A good affinity partner understands this and should work with you to understand the needs of the association members.

Some affinity partnerships go beyond assisting in daily business operations. Some are created explicitly for getting away from the business, such as discount travel planning, hotels, car rental companies, cruise lines, and tour guide services.

Third Step: Promote the Affinity Partnership

The Affinity Partnership will not reach its full potential if you do not promote the affinity program. A good practice is to let your membership know about the new partnership weeks before launch. Marketing promotion can include tactics such as email blasts, conference calls, meeting announcements, and good old fashion mailers. Be sure the communications created stress the value of the affinity partner. Don’t forget to include how to access their services or products.

If you do not have marketing resources to help promote the partnership, ask your new affinity partner to help or employ a marketing agency to assist with a campaign.

Fourth Step: Cultivate Your Affinity Partnership

As with any relationship, communication is key. What starts out as a solid business partnership based on mutual interests and values will “demagnetize” without consistent communication. People come and go in companies, and new personalities may not fit like the jigsaw puzzle it once did.

Keep in scheduled contact with your partner and make it a priority. During these meetings, encourage candid feedback about any issues involving customer service, billing, or any other touch point. One way to promote strong communication bonds is to conduct a yearly survey to gauge continued interest or if the magnetism is waning.

Conclusion: How Affinity Programs Work

Affinity programs can be a great source of mutual revenue for associations and their partners. How they work isn’t complicated, as long as values align, and communication is frequent and open.

Core Affinity can show you and your association how a program can work and support you through all the steps. Our expertise in affinity programs enables us to examine your association membership and its unique offering to discover the best solutions for membership engagement.

We invite you to contact us today to see if there is an Affinity Attraction for a partnership.