Banks and Insurance firms have long seen the power of marketing through affinity partners, but new entrants to this marketing world include the major hotel and car rental chains.  The airlines are getting into the act, as are some brave consumer services firms such as Lifelock. It takes a bit of fearlessness to jump into this world of managing dozens, or hundreds of partners, but the boost in marketing results has been proven time and again.

Having worked with a number of clients that market through affinity partners, SIGMA has a blueprint of marketing best practices that can dramatically improve affinity marketing results. Some of these are just practical, tried and true direct marketing techniques, but often the complex world of partner marketing makes executing on the basics difficult.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. We have found the following data attributes to be useful in segmenting the groups: the strength or influence of the affinity relationship with its members, the size of the organization’s membership, and how well the members’ profiles match to the marketer’s ideal customers.
  3. 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. We often develop benchmarks based on an analysis of current customers and develop a targeting model. The scoring model may be a robust predictive model or a simple points model based on varying attributes. By scoring all members and marketing to the top tier of model scores, you will optimize your marketing spend and return.
  4. 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. Develop a test-and-learn approach to understand the optimum combination of email and mail to maximize results and minimize costs. There are a number of messaging tools that allow you to deploy across multiple channels seamlessly.
  5. Work More Smoothly with Your Partners Using Collaboration Portals. For high-functioning affinity partnerships, we create partner collaboration portals. This portal typically supports creative reviews and approvals, repository of key files, and assets. One of its principal values is the provisioning of consistent and timely information across the partner ecosystem. The Partner Portal informs the affinity partner on campaign timelines, approvals, future campaign plans and additional services that the company provides to the affinity partner.
  6. 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. SIGMA suggests a test matrix be established for each campaign; the test matrix clearly identifies each element being tested and is linked to the campaign and touch database. As responses and results are collected, performance can be assessed for each test cell. Meaningful results are habitually reviewed and learnings are applied to the next campaign.
  7. Business Intelligence and Insights Portal. The insights portal should provide the basic campaign performance tracking information as well as results by key marketing segments. Ideally, the insights portal also assesses campaign performance by key benchmarks that are appropriate for both your company and the affinity partners. Once you have an organization’s member data, you can append household third-party data to the member record to examine campaign performance by key demographic characteristics – and share insights easily with your partners.

Pursuing these strategies across multiple affinity partners will take planning and careful project management, but will surely boost your results over time.

About the Author:

Martha Bush is SVP of Strategy & Marketing at SIGMA Marketing Insights.  Follow Martha on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.



The missing ingredient in targeting your best B2B prospects – their interest in you.

Predictive models are the bread and butter of direct and database marketing. They help marketers focus their efforts and resources on those prospects most likely to take up the product or the offer.  These models uncover the best prospects, letting marketers ignore those less likely to take action. With this type of analytics, we will […]

Read the full article.

Banks Need To Have More Fun

Having fun while interacting with your retailer is now the norm. But, there is one sector which has been decidedly sluggish in embracing what’s known as gamification. The financial sector has been slow to use games to engage and embrace their customers, yet change is on the horizon. But why has the financial sector been […]

Read the full article.

From Across the Web – The Good Bits

At SIGMA we are insatiable gobblers-up of research and information on our favorite SIGMA topics such as Marketing Analytics, Data Management and Strategy. Little surprise that we ask forgiveness rather than permission when we fill up our friends’ and colleagues’ in-boxes with insights we think will help move their companies and their careers forward. Of […]

Read the full article.

A Webinar With Our Partner Tableau for the AMA

This September, SIGMA’s Director of Business Intelligence, Andrew Lucyszyn, had the opportunity to present with our technology partner Tableau at an AMA Webinar called: “Analytical Insights to Power Customer Growth.” Together we discussed how SIGMA and our clients are wrangling Big Data – delivering useful insights that help move the needle on acquiring, retaining and growing their customers. […]

Read the full article.

The Benefits of Hiring a Boutique Marketing Firm

You’re considering changing your marketing services provider and since “nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM,” you’re looking at the biggest players in the industry, right?  You certainly wouldn’t be alone. The process of moving from one MSP to another is fraught with anxiety and the great unknown.  The process takes a long time and […]

Read the full article.

Great Content and Marketing Automation Tools Alone Won’t Build Your Marketing Plan for You

Thumbnail image for Great Content and Marketing Automation Tools Alone Won’t Build Your Marketing Plan for You

If you’re a B2B marketer or sales professional, chances are you spend a lot of time and effort doing copious amounts of research on how to best market your product or service. You most likely study mass quantities of content, article after article from a plethora of reputable sources that all convey similar messages: Test […]

Read the full article.

Insights That Transform

Thumbnail image for Insights That Transform

There have been spirited conversations lately around SIGMA having to do with the idea of insights and our ability to convey those insights to our clients. The drum that I (we) beat to is that our clients demand value and the real value we give to our clients is insights. Not the work that goes […]

Read the full article.

Activity, Achievement and Firewood

As the legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said – “Never mistake activity for achievement.” How are you evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns?  Every company has a marketing budget, but how is that budget spent and are you spending the limited money you have in the most effective way possible?  These are difficult […]

Read the full article.
Thumbnail image for Starbucks Coffee and Customer Value

Starbucks Coffee and Customer Value

It was about three weeks into my new job at SIGMA (six months ago) that I had my epiphany.  I had finally figured out how to work the microwave without exploding my Grande Pike Place Roast or Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Oats  (:30 seconds on high for 16-oz. coffee and :90 seconds for oatmeal, […]

Read the full article.