Using a pilot-and-rollout, test-and-learn methodology, financial institutions often phase new program enhancements -- beginning with marketing analytics and then building out other program efficiencies based on the expected value gains to their organizations. That's a plan that works, and here are five critical but often overlooked steps to guide that process to lift your affinity programs to the next level.
1) Fine-tune how you select your affinity partners.
Not all affinity partners deliver the same value. Managing your affinity partner acquisition efforts based on their projected profitability is just as important as focusing on acquiring the most profitable end customers. Don't waste the opportunity to leverage customer intelligence from your existing customer base to quantify the opportunity from a new potential partner. Bringing existing customer data together with a national database of demographics can be used to create a revenue potential model to evaluate the new partners' customer file. Marketers can then develop a scoring approach for estimating the overall value of those prospective customers the affinity partner might bring to the table.
2) Use segmentation with your affinity partners.
Thinking about your partners' potential in terms of segments can make acquisition more efficient. Start by segmenting the affinities into major categories: financial institutions, large corporations, associations, clubs, and alumni organizations. Analyze the attributes of each segment, including the potential scores. Some of the attributes you might consider are: the strength of the relationship between the affinity and its members, membership size, how exclusive its membership, and how closely do the members' profiles align with your ideal customer profile?
3) You don't need to market to every member of your partner's organizations.
Not all the members of your affinity partner will fit your target audience. Your product can be offered to all members on their Web site or in their newsletters, but you don't need to spend money reaching out to unlikely customers. Your partner's database may contain only a small percentage of high-tier prospects. Develop a scoring model which can identify affinity prospects most likely to resemble your best customers. You'll need to act fast and be able to score your partner's new members on a regular basis in advance of each campaign.
4) Test and re-test.
Fine-tuning your communications is critical to the long-term success of the affinity program and your partner relationships. Each campaign deployment is a chance to learn how to improve response and return on investment. Building a test-and-learn process should be a central component of your affinity program; it starts with understanding the response implications for important program elements and establishing control cells for each campaign. Even subtle design/copy/format changes can improve your response rates. Create a unique test matrix for each campaign. The test matrix clearly identifies each element being tested as well as control test cells for comparison. That way, as responses and results are collected, performance can be easily assessed. Creating compelling selling messages that create maximum conversion involves developing a repeatable, disciplined process.
5) Use collaboration portals with your partners.
For high-functioning partner relationships, collaboration portals can greatly increase project efficiency. A principal benefit is to deliver consistent and timely information to both partners. Your partner portal informs your affinity partner of campaign timelines, approvals, future campaign plans and additional services that the company provides to the affinity partner. A portal supports the complex creative development and review process. It can include dashboards showing the progress of marketing campaigns and tracking historical metrics over time. The portal can be set up to provide campaign performance tracking information to all members of the marketing team. Ideally, the portal can provide differing levels of access to information based on whether it is intended for clients or affinity partners. The reporting portal should be easily understood and accessible, showing standard reports and marketing terms that are consistent and commonly used.