Effective affinity marketing of any kind is a collaborative venture involving the combined efforts of the business development, public relations and marketing teams in an organization. And the goal is to develop an affinity marketing program that builds performance-based relationships with companies that target a similar audience.
Initially, the business development group must determine as much as they can about the market in advance. By identifying as much detail as possible associated with a given audience for a product, the team can then determine the most highly qualified targets.
For example, a health insurance company might identify its market as individuals and small businesses. Two categories of partners fitting these general descriptions would be companies that encompass a change of event in peoples lives (e.g. buying a house, getting a new job) and partners which comprise specific occupational areas with a high target composition (e.g. independent contractors, entrepreneurs, small office/home office market).
Finally, the department is able to target a third segment of partners that captures the market for people who have high domain knowledge and are most comfortable transacting business online (e.g. financial institutions and online brokerages).
Once potential markets are identified, the technology team must equip the deal-makers with the appropriate tools prior to seeking partnerships. While a link with a simple co-brand might have been sufficient two months ago, the market is now pushing for a seamless integration into a partner’s look and feel. For example, instead of creating a co-branded center that consists of the company’s site with the addition of its partners’ logo, the company can now offer an integrated health insurance center within the frame of its partners.
Thus, a partner’s end-user can access the company’s entire network offerings while retaining the ability to navigate through its partner’s site. Ultimately, integrated co-branded technology will help the business development team sign up stronger partners.
After a deal is signed, the public relations department creates a brand awareness event by issuing a partnership press release. Aligning with a strong partner can create a buzz comparable to a major funding event. Choosing to showcase the larger and more newsworthy deals to announce, rather than saturating the media with every partnership, will ensure an enthusiastic response.
The strength of the selected affinity partner roster catalyzes our marketing efforts. As the marketing team attempts to build the company brand, the ability to leverage existing affinity relationships provides a substantial platform on which to stand. Brand building can be constructed on the power of your partners’ brands.
Everyone wants to use the technology of, and be associated with, a winner. Thus, the public seeks a company that has aligned with trusted partners. This instant credibility can only be attained through partner selectivity.
Furthermore, the marketing team acquires a substantial asset in a strong affinity partner. With an affinity relationship, the marketing work begins when a deal is inked. A company that wants to put up a link can join an affiliate program, but only those partners seen as possessing the targeted audience are deemed affinity partners. If the business development team has done its job, an affinity partner provides an audience that is highly appropriate for your product. Now, the marketing team has the responsibility to leverage this user base. The company should assign a dedicated staff to seek creative ways to target the partners’ user base. Teams can use a combination of click-and-mortar techniques, including e-mail, direct marketing and promotions to market to its partners’ users. Importantly, this marketing outreach takes place not only with its partners’ permission, but under their aegis.
An important factor not to be overlooked is the competition. Competitors constantly attempt to win business from established partners. An affinity partner relationship manager whose sole task is managing the ongoing relations with our partners can combat this problem. The relationship manager must maintain constant communication with the partners through e-mail, phone, instant chat and partner newsletters. If a company has done an effective job of communication, a partner will be much more apt to renew a contract.
It requires the combined efforts of all the teams of an organization to make an affinity marketing model work. Paying attention to the details of the deal is the only way to assure that both your company and your new partners will benefit from the program.