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AFIA deploys marketing automation to deliver deeper member engagement and communications

The Australian Finance Industry Association (AFIA) represents the voice of more than 100 providers of consumer, commercial and wholesale finance services working closely with key stakeholders such as Government, regulators, consumer advocates, small business advocates and other industry associations.

Headquartered in Sydney, it serves both large established financial services companies as well as smaller and emerging financial services businesses across Australia, with associate membership available to accounting firms, management consultants, software companies, training businesses and lawyers.

It’s a complex business with many moving parts – but had traditionally relied on spreadsheets and what was in people’s heads for member contacts and insights.

It meant, according to Mel Carpenter, Executive Director of Membership Services and Company Secretary, “there were a lot of gaps and no single source of truth about engagement activities with our members.”

It also meant that AFIA was not as nimble as it wished to be in terms of representing members.

AFIA recognised it needed a modern marketing platform that could capture all the information about members, support day to day marketing activities and ensure fit for purpose data governance practices were in play. As AFIA relies on a small team, with many competing priorities so it needed the platform to be intuitive and simple to use.

Dynamics 365 Marketing ticked all the boxes.

The marketing automation platform – which was rolled out in a carefully phased deployment became the central repository for member information and the single source of truth of member information that AFIA required. With the guidance and help of Microsoft partner, 365 Mechanix, it took three months to implement the platform and first populate it with verified data. Shortly after that, the first marketing module was deployed which allowed AFIA to send personalised and tailored email newsletters to its members and stakeholders.

That has totally changed the cadence of communications with members says Carpenter.

“We have three regular comms – on Monday, one that goes on Wednesday, one that goes on Friday night. That would not have been possible the way that we were working previously. So it was really good timing, particularly for COVID.”

Dynamics 365 Marketing allowed the AFIA team to use templates featuring distinct and recognised designs allowing more frequent and engaging communications to members.

“There were times when we needed to get some ad hoc messages out. And whether that was just to a subset of key contacts or whether it was to our full distribution list, the CEO or the Board was asking us to do that quickly, sometimes with less than 24 hours notice. And we were able to deliver this. Because of the system, we were actually able to do this really effectively and really easily. I can’t even imagine, three months earlier, trying to do that,” adds Carpenter.

Karl Turner, AFIA’s Chief Operating Officer and the Director for Policy and Risk Management, quips that without Dynamics 365; “We’ll be still doing the first one now, and we’d both have far less hair.”

Connected and effective

AFIA – which also uses Office 365 – benefitted from the integration of Dynamics 365 with Office, which allowed its nine staff to work from home, but remain connected, engaged with members and effective during the pandemic. The platform has also ensured that the CEO has been able to continue to communicate with stakeholders and members.

In February 2020, AFIA switched on the event management capability in Dynamics 365 Marketing – as luck would have it, just in time to pivot from physical to virtual events. But instead of flying blind about which members were tuning in and engaged by its online offerings – AFIA now has access to the data that revealed that in greater detail.

Turner notes; “We’d always wanted to know who is attending, how many people, what seniority, and start to build that picture so we can reach out to those, who maybe we haven’t seen for a while and say, ‘What’s happening? Why is it happening?’”.  This would allow us to refine and enhance our engagement strategies.

Now it has that information as soon as an event takes place.

Much richer member insights are also available to AFIA’s CEO, so that when she engages with a member she has a clearer understanding of what the member has been doing and how engaged they have been by AFIA’s events and campaigns.

Carpenter adds that the minutiae of organising events has also been streamlined.

Having all of the registration through the system allows for automatic updates to go out. Previously, we were having to do that manually, send out a reminder the day before or having to manually send out ‘thank you’s. Now, it’s just all automatically done through the system on the event management side

AFIA also integrated Dynamics 365’s events management capability to the online payment gateway, Stripe. This was a gamechanger in terms of member experience. Previously it took about 24 hrs for the account receivables team to manually transact the event payment and confirm this with the member. The delay caused members to reach out and check if their booking had been accepted or received; which has now been resolved.

AFIA’s marketing manager is able to regularly analyse the data; reporting on open rates and click through rates, which were not previously available. That insight is then used to shape future marketing campaigns to maximise impact.

The transparency delivered by the platform has also supported AFIA with its regulatory and compliance obligations, such as maintaining a statutory register of members. In the past, some of that data was held in paper records – now the member registry is only ever a click away.

To ensure maximum benefit from the digital transformation, AFIA has worked with staff to ensure they understand the importance of the system, the need for accurate and timely data – and also that they understand what information needs to be captured in Dynamics 365 and what does not – so it doesn’t get bogged down with inconsequential information.

AFIA is currently exploring other modules within Dynamics 365 Marketing, with the next cab off the rank the Voice of Customer which will help streamline data capture and ensure consistency in terms of what is collected.

With the digital marketing foundations in place, AFIA is eager for the chance to continue to enhance its offerings to members, and to support its staff day to day so its Members can:

  • Continue to promote simple, convenient, innovative and affordable credit to finance Australia’s future.
  • Foster competition and innovation in Australia’s financial services industry, which enables members to grow, expand and thrive as key participants in lending and other markets.
  • Generate greater financial and economic participation by consumers and small businesses in Australia’s financial system and economy and improve social participation as a means to create financial wellbeing. .