Media & Marketing


Carlos Barge

Affinity marketing is a type of direct marketing in which a business forms a partnership with an organization to provide goods or services in exchange for access to a new market. In this type of campaign, two parties – the affinity group (made up of people linked by a common interest or goal) and the business providing the group with a product or service – link their brands in a mutually beneficial way.

With affinity marketing, the business providing the product or service gains new customers by capturing a larger audience. The opposite of competitive marketing, affinity marketing aims to boost brand loyalty and market awareness of products and services for all involved parties.

Affinity marketing offers a perceived reduction of risk for group members who might sign up for an insurance policy, for instance, if other members of the group are doing so, or customers might sign up for an offer if it came from an alumni association or credit card company. In some cases, there might also be a perception that the group has buying power or that members of certain groups (i.e., teachers, police, etc.) should get a good price for something.

To ensure an effective affinity partnership, marketing teams need to focus on finding the right partner with complementary, but non-competitive, offerings and access to the company’s target market audience. Additionally, affinity marketing campaigns require teams of strategists and negotiators to ensure strong partnerships. The benefits should be clear for both sides, and they should establish terms and responsibilities to ensure partners’ goals are in sync.

Target the Right Affinity Partners

The potential revenue an affinity partner can deliver may vary greatly from group to group. Therefore, marketers should manage pursuit efforts based on the estimated potential value an individual affinity might provide. By using profiling information about your current clients and looking for partners whose members match your target profile, your efforts should create more productive partnerships.

Establish Segments of Potential Partners and Create Segment Benchmarks

By segmenting your partners into major categories, such as large corporations; regional associations, clubs, credit unions; colleges and university associations; and national organizations, and evaluating your results by segment, you will usually find significant differences that should focus your efforts.

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.

Integrate 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 automatically construct personalized communications that speak to each affinity member uniquely, in an informative and cost-effective manner. The key to success is to establish a simple data framework that allows you to learn from each campaign interaction.

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. Establishing a test-and-learn approach should be a central part of your affinity program.

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