Are you looking for additional sources of chamber non-dues revenue? Have you thought about affinity programs?
Affinity programs can make it possible for your chamber to increase its non-dues revenue with no additional efforts by directing people to things they’re already buying anyway. This could end up being one of your easiest sources of non-dues revenue.
In this article we’ll explain:
- What affinity programs are
- How they can help
- What are the most common
- What is most successful for chambers.
What Is an Affinity Program?
An affinity program is a “partnership” between two organizations where the one refers customers to the other and receives a portion of the sale or a referral fee for the new customer.
In addition to earning a portion of the sale for buyers you direct to a business, your chamber also benefits from making positive introductions that help your member businesses.
The affinity partner may also provide additional or non-advertised specials to your members, which helps your chamber provide additional benefits to your members such as savings and advice on helpful tools and software (or whatever you are referring them to).
Some affinity programs provide branded products for the chamber to sell so it appears you are selling the solution (i.e. “white label” programs).
Often times, members are shopping for a solution to a particular need and it’s on their to-do list but they don’t have time to perform their due diligence.
When your chamber provides easily accessible information with a company that’s been vetted by you, you’ve negotiated a good rate for your members, and you’re able to put your members in contact with someone you trust. Ideally executed, there’s an increase in revenue for the chamber, the business partner, and an easy solution and cost-savings for the member. It’s a win for everyone.
When you have an in-demand affinity program that offers a solid discount or benefit, you may even attract new members or keep existing members based on your affinity program. This is especially true when the discount you provide covers a base level of membership.
But there can be a down side to affinity programs.
Whether you stipulate this or not, there is often an assumption on behalf of members that an affinity program you are a part of would have been properly vetted on your end. You want to ensure that you work with a company that you trust because you’ll be referring people to them. This can be a wonderful experience or a very bad one based on your business partner.
To ensure the best experience possible, you’ll want to follow these guidelines.
How to Find a Great Affinity Program Partner
You never want to offer your members an affinity program based on the mere suggestion of a company that wants to create a partnership. It must be beneficial for you and your members. To ensure it is, you’ll want to perform your due diligence which would include:
- Brainstorm about the kinds of solutions your members need. Some businesses will be great fits and very much in demand. Others may not work for your members. However, an affinity program will rarely require a “quota” of referrals on your end. You should think twice about agreeing to any sort of partnership that would require that. The point of an affinity program is that it is an easy source of non-dues revenue. If you have a quota of members to meet for your affinity partner, it can feel more like taking on a second job than an easy source of non-dues revenue. Some affinity programs will offer better discounts for your members based on the numbers you are referring. That can open up valuable savings for your members as well.
- Research businesses that offer what your members need and whether they have an existing affinity program. Many B2B companies do. But don’t be discouraged if you can’t find the necessary information on their website. Some businesses you may need to approach directly to inquire.
- Understand what the business is offering and what it requires of you. Do you need to provide members with a code or do they have to use a customized URL? These details are critical to the chamber getting credit for the sale and the member getting the discount. Make sure you understand that details and they are not too hard to follow.
- Perform your due diligence on the affinity partner. The chamber’s name will be associated with this business partner. You want them to be trustworthy and a great business to work with for you and your members. Talk to the person your members will be working with. You can be sure if your members have trouble with your affinity partner, they will be contacting you. No one wants an additional headache.
- Stay in contact. Your affinity partner should be able to provide you with sales tools to offer your members one of the best deals available on their product/service. But they also can give you access to early information that helps you maintain your reputation as a knowledgeable business organization. For instance, if your affinity program is launching a new service or adding onto their product, they may be able to provide you with information in advance that will help you start the important conversations addressing your members’ needs. This exchange helps you and your affinity program partner feel like real business partners. Communicate these desires to them so they understand your expectations.
It’s important to perform these steps and not rush into a partnership just because a business offers one. An affinity partnership should provide a continual stream of non-dues revenue for your chamber not just a quick burst that peters out after the initial announcement.
While you want to perform your due diligence and make sure the company you are partnering with has a good reputation and a strong product/service, it doesn’t have to be something your members need. It could be something they want such as a discount for travel or car purchase.
Affinity Partnership Ideas and Examples
What type of businesses make strong affinity partners?
Here are some ideas and examples that you should check out:
- Office technology
- Office products company
- Email marketing software (Constant Contact offers one for chambers)
- Credit card processing services
- HR solutions and payroll companies
- Insurance companies
- Employment services or job posting companies
- Marketplaces (Amazon offers a program for specific items purchased through a dedicated URL)
- Mailing services
- Prescription drug card savings groups
- Legal services groups
- Mobile app providers
- e-commerce platforms
Check out ACCE’s information on chamber affinity programs.
Finding the right type of service is less important than the partnership you build. For a strong non-dues revenue source, you want to work with a company that wants to be an extension of the chamber and a true business partner. This should lead to the type of relationship that will make you both successful.