Don’t confuse affinity marketing with affiliate marketing. They’re a bit similar, but each deserving of their own category in the marketing world. Affinity marketing is when one organization partners with another to both capture market share and offer exclusive benefits to customers. For example, when Nike partners with smaller designers who have cult followings, they’re offering their customers exposure to that designer and drawing in customers to Nike who may otherwise overlook the brand.
Typically, affinity marketing occurs when two organizations feel like they can offer both of their audiences more interesting products and services without cannibalizing their efforts. They may compete in some area of business, but in one certain aspect of both their business, combined efforts can better cater to their customers and provide a brand image boost with the public. Interesting collaborations, cool new promotions, and partnerships overall generate interest.
Affinity marketing usually happens in campaigns designed to go on for a certain length of time. They use incentives to bring new customers into their audience and increase sales. No matter how big or small your company is, there are affinity marketing opportunities to be had. Here are five things you should start doing now with affinity marketing.
Identify Areas for Growth
Entering into any strategic partnership should be approached with caution. Done right, it can supercharge your business, driving growth, and increasing brand familiarity. When mistakes are made, however, you risk losing your own loyal customers to competitors. If you’re just starting with affinity marketing, look at areas of your business where you’re not necessarily the strongest and focus on partnerships in those areas. You reduce exposure so you can feel at ease about experimenting with this new form of marketing.
Earmark Potential Affinity Marketing Partners
You’re already likely monitoring competitors as a way to gather business intelligence. If you’re not, you should definitely start doing so now. Staying abreast of what your fiercest rivals in business are doing keeps you sharp. You know what’s out there that threatens to pull away your customers. While you’re doing that, pay attention to the companies that you think offer interesting synergies with your business. You may be doing similar things in different markets or product lines where collaboration could offer a large payoff. Track what they’re doing for a while before you approach them to engage in affinity marketing. Make sure it’s a good cultural fit as well to avoid communication and strategy issues.
Develop an Affinity Marketing Plan
Once you’ve located an opportunity and an affinity group you want to target, you should begin to do work internally with sales and marketing groups to position yourself for a campaign. Identify potential markets and crossover products you want to use. Here’s what it should include:
- A list of goals
- Concrete sales figures you want to achieve
- What marketing channels you want to use
- How much your budget is
- How long it will run
- Who you are targeting
These are all things, according to your discretion, that you should discuss at least in part with your affinity partners. Talking about methods and goals will improve alignment and ensure that both of you are pleased with the outcomes.
Negotiate the Right Affinity Deal
Affinity deals come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s necessary to recognize that not everything’s going to be a 50-50 split when it comes to the figures. Larger companies often have more at risk in terms of a brand image when doing an affinity deal. They also bring a lot of operational firepower and industry knowledge to the table. As such, they likely will demand a larger piece of any affinity deal. Whatever side you’re on in negotiations, you and your team should discuss how you’ll approach negotiations and how you’re going to come out with a deal that’s right for your company. Agree on boundaries, responsibilities, and other aspects of the deal in detail to make sure everything is spelled out before you proceed.
Dedicate Enough Resources to Your Campaign
Ross Kernez of Marble says “You need to allocate enough resources to let your partners and your customers know that you’re taking the affinity deal seriously.” A poorly-executed affinity deal comes off very badly in the public sphere. It looks like you don’t care or don’t know what you’re doing. Assign enough people to give your affinity marketing plan the attention it deserves.
Wherever you are in your business growth journey, affinity marketing is a powerful tool you can use to strengthen your weak spots and grow your business. Who knows, you may also find a business partner for the long-term that you can rely on for advice, resources, and mentorship down the road. Marketing is often about trying new things to see if they work and constantly refining the work you do to speak to audiences in a meaningful way.