When it comes to affiliate marketing, ‘finance’ and ‘innovation’ are not typically two words you’d expect to see in the same sentence. 

Since the differentiation between financial services products like credit cards tends to be more subtle than between travel offerings like flights or retail merchandise like apparel, they seem to lend themselves more towards static CPA-style commission structures which are more difficult to customise. Additionally, a smaller number of highly specialised partners dominate the industry, which can sometimes restrict innovation. 

That said, the partner and affiliate channel is the perfect environment for testing some of the more innovative and unique online customer acquisition strategies. Because affiliate marketing is the only true performance marketing channel—that is, a channel in which you only pay for approved transactions or conversions—brands don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re wasting their ad spend. With that in mind, here are five ways leading finance brands innovate their partner and affiliate marketing efforts:

1. Syncing reward structures with business strategy  

Finance companies are increasingly focusing on acquiring valuable customers. It is no longer sufficient to simply drive large volumes of customers – to demonstrate the value of the partner and affiliate channel, they must drive high-quality, loyal customers. The perfect way to achieve this is by more generously rewarding partners for meeting these KPIs collected at and after the point of sale or, in the case of financial services, at the time of approval and after a certain period of time.

Examples of these KPIs could include the loan amount offered, the level of cover chosen in an insurance policy, the level of spend in the three months after opening a credit card, whether a customer has switched their bank account or whether a customer has also downloaded the corresponding app to their mobile phone. Capturing this data and tailoring commissions for the partner based on whether the consumer has satisfied these conditions will enable brands to drive the type of customer they want much more readily.

2. Physical or digital customer rewards

For many brands in financial services, it is difficult to differentiate products and services from the hundreds of other products in their typically crowded and highly competitive marketplace. Sometimes an added incentive in the form of a physical or digital reward managed through the existing partner and affiliate programme can work wonders in persuading new customers to make a purchase decision.

This type of strategy usually works best when used as promotions during at certain times of the year. This both prevents saturation and boosts activity when needed. Brands may wish to employ external fulfilment agencies who have experience in this field or manage it internally. This can be a standalone campaign targeted at customers driven through existing partners or used as part of a relationship with another brand.

3. Brand-to-brand partnerships

Brand-to-brand partnerships are sharply rising in popularity as organisations look to tap into customers of other reputable brands in complimentary or adjacent markets. By employing strategies such as placing links on house-building websites to mortgage products or offering short-term insurance products on airline booking pages, finance institutions can begin to influence customers with highly relevant information when customers are far more likely to seriously consider or purchase these services.

Brands can choose to work on a classic affiliate and partner marketing model whereby approved transactions generate partner or affiliate commissions or trigger performance-oriented payments. Alternatively, they may wish to create more complex bespoke campaigns targeting one another’s customer bases and offering rewards to those customers in place of the classic commission payment.

4. Refer-a-friend schemes

Referral marketing, which is the act of rewarding existing customers who persuade friends to purchase a product or service, is one of the most powerful methods of promotion. However, it is rarely used to its full capability by enterprise finance brands due to the complexities of implementing the tracking technology, managing the customer communications, and finally fulfilling any compliance or regulatory requirements.

By leveraging the infrastructure and technology present in existing affiliate and partner programmes, it is possible for brands to manage referral campaigns internally under the umbrella of the affiliate budget without running the risk of paying setup fees and outsourcing important customer communications to external parties usually responsible for this type of activity.

5. Promoting to employees of other brands 

For financial institutions, ensuring quality applications is of paramount importance, but sometimes even the best target-driven performance marketing can attract the wrong type of customers.

This is why it makes sense to promote to audiences of known employees from brands in other verticals such as retail and travel. By transferring the cost of commissions usually paid to publishers into a discount or reward which directly benefits employees in these companies, finance brands can target large pools of known quality customers within their existing affiliate programmes.

When deciding whether to embark upon an innovative partner and affiliate strategy, it is important to remember that there are no penalties for testing these tactics as commissions or rewards are only paid on a measurable performance basis. Therefore, there really is no excuse not to incorporate at least some of these strategies into your existing partner and affiliate programme. What’s more, these are just a few of the ways innovation is beginning to accelerate within the industry – the only limit is your imagination!

Also, if you’re in London, let us know if you’d like to attend our upcoming seminar on innovative partnerships in financial services on May 17.