Paul Andres has been in the insurance and affinity marketing space for twenty plus years. As he and Lucas began to dive into their collective experience and the differences between now and back then in last week’s 6 Degrees of Associations episode, we uncovered a few key learnings.
Democratization Helps Us Do Better
Years ago, when affinity marketing first came to be, the novelty of being able to go to one resource online, or in person, to see the multitude of offers that came as part of your membership was engaging and provided value. Since then, the digital transformation has upset that value proposition.
Information about insurance, financial planning, travel discounts, office supply deals, and everything in between has become democratized through technology. An association relying on being the online destination for the simple purpose of displaying options is outdated. Amazon, Expedia, Robinhood, and companies like Progressive, now make it easier than ever for a person to go online and shop for the best deal. This is a good thing because it helps companies do better.
Now let’s get to the hard question…was it ever that valuable? Or was it the only thing we knew how to do at the time to present the negotiations your organization took on board to benefit your members? In its strictest sense, affinity marketing is a win-win-win deal. The association wins by bringing cost savings through a relevant partner to their members. The partner wins by gaining eyeballs for their product or service at a fraction of the cost of advertising to the masses. The member wins by getting cost savings. At least this is the limited thinking of set it and forget it affinity programs. The people that are running effective and growing affinity programs are better today for realizing that democratization of information is forcing them to provide better service and more value.
Data is King
The broad adoption of the online marketplace has presented a unique opportunity that every major organization knows they should tap into but doesn’t always know how or why. Data is king, it’s worth repeating. If your member can go anywhere to get the same cost savings, how does your affinity program differentiate itself? If companies have more places than ever to display their wares and services, what sets your program up as investment worthy? Data.
Advancea has developed a marketplace platform we’ve discussed in this blog before, that provides meaningful qualitative and quantitative data that can help an association effectively manage their affinity program. This is crucial in being able to objectively evaluate any given offer that is available, what partners are really bringing the most value to your members, and perhaps even which programs should be sunset based on performance. It may also give you critical information on how to gain better utilization of an offer. This is critical information to go from being transactional to relational.
Anyone can go on to Carvana, CarMax, or any major automotive website to check out the latest models, good pricing on used cars, and reviews. This democratization of information about cars completely changed the value of the middlemen, the dealerships and the brand. While some companies want to simply compete on price, most brands realize that for customer retention, there are more important things than just the cost of the car or the great lease deal.
When you are trying to present your affinity program as a member benefit, it’s important that you not only understand what those benefits are but also how you will live up to them. How can a company provide more value and better service if they don’t understand their customers? Data can help, as well as research. You know your members best; you are in the best position to help your affinity program administrators understand what authentic and relevant offers would impact your member’s experience.
To move from transactional, an organization must be more than just a website someone can click through to find the latest deal. Each partner offer should be built out as its own individual marketing campaign based on the value it provides to the members it is relevant to so that it becomes relational. Set it and forget it no longer serves anyone.
Product, Relationship, Experience – The Trifecta
Lucas identified product, relationship, and experience as the three main pillars of a good affinity program and when he asked Paul which meant the most, the answer is all three. As Paul points out, the product is likely the common denominator across vendors. The long-term value of the relationship and the customer experience is what helps pull people from transactional to relational.
As an example, from Paul’s experience with Prevail Innovative Wealth Strategies, when members come on board and go through an initial fact-finding mission, the associates at Prevail will go one step further by helping to see that individual through the lens of their comprehensive needs in financial planning from insurance to wealth building. The goal is to be helpful to that member in all areas of their financial life not just for building wealth, especially since a lack in one area such as life insurance can have a huge impact on someone’s future ability to build wealth. By seeing the member as a whole person, Prevail can provide comprehensive services through relationship rather than just simply offering a checklist and price comparison of money market accounts as an example.
To build a successful affinity program that truly brings value and benefit to your members, be sure that your partner is not simply providing a website address. Allow the depth of engagement to grow from the relationships your members build with your partners. This will ultimately create the real win-win-win!