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  1. #1
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    A little help/advice, please, with a marketing decision...Go/No Go?
    Many of you know my main (long-time) gig is online travel, specifically hotel reservations. Next month will be the tenth anniversary of my first online reservation conversion - way back with the "original" TravelNow.com.

    Not sure how to ask...but we (Jill and I) have an opportunity of contracting product fulfillment from a major supplier with which to launch our own Hotel Affiliate Program focusing on the United States and Canada. (European/Asian expansion could be in the future.)

    I envision targeting the person with a niche destination site or blog. For example: I know of one guy who targets a semi-annual event and makes a few thousand dollars for each of two weeks a year. I know another person (an ABWer) with a fairly comprehensive site about a small city in Ohio.

    So, considering a well-run program, with competitive payout and no parasites - here are two questions:

    1. What upsides vs. downsides do you see?

    2. Would you, personally, have an interest in promoting such a program?

    Any critique or ideas at all would be welcome. If you think I'm crazy to even consider this, I need to hear that also.

    Thank you for your time.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
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  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador beachcom's Avatar
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    Hey Bill,

    Right off the bat. First, Congrats on 10 years in the biz. With the way things have changed that in and of its self is an accomplishment.

    Question: Would this be an all in compassing hotel site like expedia, or for just one of the major chains?

  3. #3
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beachcom
    Hey Bill,

    Right off the bat. First, Congrats on 10 years in the biz. With the way things have changed that in and of its self is an accomplishment.

    Question: Would this be an all in compassing hotel site like expedia, or for just one of the major chains?
    Thanks for the Congrats.

    Yes, all of the chains. There might be a couple of exceptions, but generally speaking we would offer just about every hotel that, your example, Expedia does.

    BTW - trivia - did you know that for a couple years (not too long ago) Expedia.com and Hotels.com did not have Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, StayBridge, Candlewood, or any of the IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) hotels?
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  4. #4
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Affiliate / Sales Tax / Nexus considerations...for affiliates promoting online hotel reservations/bookings.

    With hotel reservation sales there are no nexus issues for the various states (which may be) introducing such "Amazon Tax" legislation. Hotels are paid by the "parent" company - to include state and local taxes, along with the actual reservation cost for the booking. The hotel properties, themselves, keep track of and remit any tax liabilities (which are usually more complicated than just a sales tax because many local jurisdictions also charge a "room" tax on top of any existing sales tax).
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  5. #5
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Any specific ideas on how you would differentiate yourself from the myriad of other hotel programs out there?

    It's certainly something I would be interested in. I have a hotel-related site planned in the future.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  6. #6
    Outsourced Program Manager Angel Djambazov's Avatar
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    To kind of piggy-back on Michael's question, the travel industry is very flooded. New travel sites like Kayak have at differentiated themselves enough to grab some consumer loyalty. That I think is the trick.

    Also I think you have to ask yourself whether the return for you is worthwhile having to maintain a site that will require a lot of dedication in order to grab and hold on to a small market share. If it's worthwhile then I say go. But it is a question you should give some thought to.
    Angel Djambazov
    Managing Edtior ReveNews
    OPM for Keen Shoes and Graphicly.com

  7. #7
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Even a small market share in this gigantic market could be huge.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  8. #8
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Thank you, Michael and Angel, for the comments. And, yes, I agree that the travel vertical is flooded. It is flooded by the biggies (who have little care or concern about running a program for the "average" or "smaller" affiliate) and by a gazillion sites running datafeed "clones" of the biggies. All the major consolidators are also in Ebates, Upromise, OneCause, etc......(Hotels.com offers 5.5% in CJ, which is one of the higher commission levels - yet gives 4%, to save for college, on Upromise)

    The biggies, of course are all over the TV ads (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc) and the chains are there, too. (Maybe I can become brilliant about affiliate marketing if I stay at a Holiday Inn Express this weekend. )

    Most of those sites have affiliate programs for the "average Joe" affiliate that are little more than banner ad supplies. The datafeeds are huge - and in many cases too difficult for someone promoting their hometown or favorite vacation location on a small site or in their blog. Plus, the commission structure is usually low (2 to 5%) and the aff must WAIT through the payment cycle AFTER the hotel stay has been consumed (completed, which can be months into the future). I think (I know) there is a way around that long delay and the disheartening realities of 30% cancellation/no-show/non-pay charge-backs. The biggies also (some of them) have very leaky sites w/ outside ads and phone numbers (that do not credit the referring aff).

    If an affiliate wants to build a National Site and use that to quit the "day job" - we won't be what they need. However, an affiliate looking for a good way to provide hotel offers for a niche market, to produce some additional income, might find "us" to be quite useful. An example might be a Civil War buff who writes about his travels to battlefields in the Mid-Atlantic - might offer up a widget (or PopShops) display about three or four hotels closest to each destination.

    I envision a datafeed (with images) massaged well enough to work in PopShops and GoldenCan and in whatever tool(s) the right network can provide. I also envision Widgets being created for affiliates who have a special request for "their" favorite destination. Of course there will need to be traditional creative, a'la banners and text links.

    Those are some of the things we (Jill and I) would do differently to "care for" our affiliates.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador superCool's Avatar
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    superCool thinks Bill knows his stuff in this area and will make the right decision. superCool would very much be interested in this type of program and loves the idea of "local" sites like you mentioned.

    one thing that would make Bill different/better than most others would be that Bill has done this type of thing himself - from scratch - and figured it out with great success. if Bill is willing to really help his affiliates he will reap rewards and benefit from their success. this could be a great Win-Win Bill. Good luck with it.

  10. #10
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Thank you for the words of encouragement, superCool. But you give me too much credit. Along the way there were people who took time to help me - and I enjoy paying that forward. If I can help someone make a little extra income in doing that, so much the better. Do you, by any chance, have a(ny) local/destination type site(s)?

    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    Even a small market share in this gigantic market could be huge.
    You know one of my niche markets is my former home town. Baltimore is only a mid-sized city but will likely get 14,000,000 visitors this year. Attracting even a fraction of 1% could result in a sweet number of sales. And this is only one mid-size city.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  11. #11
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Will it work for a destination town like Branson? My dad runs a site for Branson and hasn't had any luck with affiliate programs. Even Ticketmaster's Buy.at widget never produced.

    I do some consulting for several travel super affiliates who also market for travel companies. They have contemplated launching a travel program but the payouts can take 6 months since they pay after the room is checked out. Would be happy to hook you up and see if there is some synergy.

  12. #12
    Full Member JCSupSvc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill
    I also envision Widgets being created for affiliates who have a special request for "their" favorite destination.
    I can see a lot of potential in this, and have 3 sites right now that could really use it.

    John

  13. #13
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    Will it work for a destination town like Branson?......
    Quote Originally Posted by JCSupSvc
    I can see a lot of potential in this, and have 3 sites right now that could really use it......
    A site, or sites, focusing on a niche destination, such as Branson, is where I our primary market would be. Or, I suppose I should say, it would be with the affiliates who developed and maintain those types of sites. Chuck and John - if you PM me a link and a traffic estimate, I'll be happy to take a peek and give you some feedback. Keep in mind that I don't have a magic bullet - it still takes work to make it "work."
    ......contemplated launching a travel program but the payouts can take 6 months since they pay after the room is checked out.....
    That, indeed is a drawback. For example, we have already been booking rooms at the beach for June/July/August - not many yet, but they are coming in. Traditionally, a room booked for August is not paid by the hotel until after they receive a "bill" from the consolidator - likely in September. If the hotel waits until October to pay that invoice, the affiliate payment may not come through a CJ or LS merchant until November or December. Hmmm...February 'til November or December. Ouch! (There are other types of contracts between consolidators and hotels that may make that lag a lot shorter. But you normally won't see that through a traditional merchant-affiliate arrangement.)

    I don't want our (potential) affiliates to have to wait more than a "normal" billing cycle after the "sale," just like having sold a kite to take to the beach. For example, I sold a $70 kite on January 31st through a ShareASale merchant and I have already been paid. For kites we sell this month we expect to be paid on or about the 20th of March.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  14. #14
    Full Member iolaire's Avatar
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    I suggest that you try to focus this program on the needs of local visitor bureaus. That would give you an initial industry where you can identify and target the players with advertising/mailings/email/conventions etc... Any affiliate income can then be funneled back into their destination promotion efforts.

    Otherwise I think it will be changeling to find (or make them aware of your program) the various regional publishers who might benefit from this program.

  15. #15
    Full Member OICUAM2's Avatar
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    I agree with most of the above.

    You have experience as a travel affiliate and as a merchant with the girly checks program. Travel is a tough market, but it works online as that is where most of the research and purchases are made.

    As someone with travel sites, I have been looking for better affiliate programs to partner with. Most of the big ones just don't cut it with me. Tons of issues with payouts, link availability, lack of active management, decreased commissions, decreased action windows, etc...

    Working with someone from "here" (ABW & affiliate perspective) would be nice.
    [URL=http://www.investeverymonth.com]InvestEveryMonth.com[/URL] - Build Wealth

  16. #16
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    @ Iolare - Thank you for the suggestion. I had planned on including that in future recruiting endeavors. However, most of the large city/town bureaus* have been recruited and/or signed up by one of the "biggies." But there are myriad small towns, as well as "point of interest" locations that have not yet been tapped and should be approachable.
    Quote Originally Posted by OICUAM2
    Most of the big ones just don't cut it with me. Tons of issues with payouts, link availability, lack of active management, decreased commissions, decreased action windows, etc...
    Agreed, and believe me, I have seen that, too. We would not try to be everyTHING to everyBODY; preferring, instead, to run a smaller, but affiliate-friendly program. Thank you for your comments.


    *A local travel bureau was successfully recruited by a west coast company - who later on tried to recruit me for one (or more) of my local sites. So I am a bit familiar with their tactics - they actually have a salesperson (with shoes on the ground) making the calls. Approximately 1/3 of America lives within 400 miles of me - so I have a local (proximity) advantage for visiting many of the smaller towns and travel destinations.
    Bill / Marketing Blog @ 12PM - Current project: Resurrecting my "baby" at South Baltimore..
    Cute Personal Checks and Business Checks
    If you are too busy to laugh you are too busy.

  17. #17
    Full Member iolaire's Avatar
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    Bill - FYI there is a big yearly travel expo in DC on March 6 & 7th - Washington DC Travel & Adventure Show at http://www.adventureexpo.com/.

    That would be a good opportunity if you want to walk around and talk to some of the regional promotion people - they always have a good section of US regional destinations. Usually you can register and get free tickets using the PAST promo code.

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