An affiliate program is like crowdsourcing your marketing agency and you can get a lot of exposure for your business with virtually no up front costs when compared with something like PPC. An affiliate program also has the added advantage of only paying for performance so while you might be paying for visitors who take no action when you run a PPC campaign, an affiliate program means you only have to pay the commission when you have the money in your hand.

Think about this too: If your affiliates are doing the work to send you targeted traffic, you can let them worry about SEO and rankings, you’re getting all the targeted traffic you need and with so many affiliates talking about your website the chances are a media company might pick up on your story because it’s creating such a buzz on the ‘net.

Competing directly with well established websites like Airbnb, HomeAway and 9Flats is going to be a challenge when they have multi-million dollar advertising budgets but an affiliate program is the perfect solution to conduct a guerrilla marketing campaign to get exposure for your company.

Burrow comes with a feature packed affiliate program option which lets you manage your affiliates, set the commissions and handle all the payment requests. Even if a booking is refunded the system is intelligent enough to roll back any commission earned by the affiliate. But there is more to running an affiliate program than just enabling this feature on your script, it needs to be well managed and well thought out.

Plan Your Creatives

Just offering an affiliate program isn’t going to be a guarantee of success you have to remember that most people need to be led by the hand in simple small steps in order to do something. If you just say to the person, put this link on your website or blog very few people are going to actually do it, you need to sell your affiliate program as much as you are selling your website to new visitors.

The first thing to do is to create a variety of graphical advertising banners for your website which affiliates can simply copy and paste on to their website (it’s all about making their job as easy as possible). You need to create banners in multiple standard sizes as described by the IAB, a few variations in each size with different calls to action will suffice.

It’s not just the graphic banners you need to create though, you need to add no-work copy and paste text that your affiliates can add to their site. Consider preparing material for the following creatives:

  • Review articles explaining how your website works
  • Travel or tourist guides for the places where people are offering places to stay on your website
  • AdWords ads your affiliates can copy and paste
  • One sentence descriptions of your website
  • Pre-formatted forum signatures
  • Solo emails

In a nutshell, the easier you make it for your affiliates to copy and paste marketing messages to their website the more likely you are to get people promoting your website for you.

If you have the budget you can even consider some customization to the Burrow software to create an XML data feed that regularly updates with the latest places to stay and your affiliates can build whole websites showcasing these places on their website.

Set Up An Attractive Commission

If your affiliates have to spend their time and effort putting affiliate links on their site or even building entire websites based around promoting your site you need to make it worth their while. You can look at the Internet marketing arena here because often the best selling products are not selling more because they are the best in the market but because they offer their affiliates the best commissions.

Put yourself in the shoes of an affiliate who just wants to earn money on the Internet. Product A is the most comprehensive product ever produced on a particular subject but only pays out 5% commission on sales. Product B is an average product but pays affiliates 75% commission. The vast majority of people will promote the 75% commission one because for the same effort they earn exponentially more.

The same concept needs to apply to your affiliate program. Paying your affiliates $0.50 on every booking isn’t going to inspire anyone to get serious about promoting your site. Paying the affiliate $5 on every booking is going to be a much greater motivator.

burrow affiliate settings

Burrow gives you the flexibility to offer commissions on new users that are signed up as well as commissions on bookings. You can even use one and disable the other. If you decide to offer a signup commission then the amount can be quite low, this can be set between $0.10 and $1 per signup. To ensure that people don’t just get 10 of their friends and family to sign up to you can set the minimum payout amount to $100.

The commission on a booking can be either a percentage or a flat fee. Remember that you are taking a booking fee from the buyer and a small fee from the seller so your commission shouldn’t exceed this amount otherwise you’ll be running at a loss!

burrow affiliate system

The image above shows some other important considerations. The cookie expiry period is how long the user should be tracked for, for example if your affiliate sends a visitor to your site but they don’t sign up straight away but instead come back the next day, do you still want your affiliate to get credited? If you set the cookie to just one day you probably won’t get any interest in your program, it should be set to at least 30 days.

Paying commission on every booking is an important consideration. If you check this option then you can feasibly pay a lower commission because the recurring income potential will be higher (and you can highlight this to your affiliates). However it does meant that in the long term you would earn less as you have to pay out commission on many future bookings so it might be an idea to have a high commission on the first booking and no future commissions. The decision should be led by the performance of your business, do you find that people just make the one booking or make many bookings over a lifetime.

The commission holding period is an important consideration because we live in a world of online fraud where credit card payments can be reversed so you don’t want to pay out your affiliate commissions until you are certain that the payment is legitimate. Holding a commission for 30-90 days is commonplace for affiliate programs.

Finally you have the threshold limit which is the minimum amount an affiliate must earn before they can request a withdrawal. Set it too low and you’ll be constantly processing payment requests, set it too high and affiliates will be demotivated. Try to set it so that an affiliate needs to get several bookings before they reach the threshold.

Spread The Word About Your Affiliate Program

Your regular users who book places to stay are not really your target audience to promote your website. They will do this by word of mouth rather than set up a dedicated website telling everyone how wonderful your service is. Instead you need to go to the places where hardcore, full time, super affiliates are hanging out. This means registering on affiliate forums and getting your website listed on affiliate directories – and this is where your effort of making awesome creatives and setting highly motivating commissions comes in to play. These full time super affiliates will review what you have got to offer, consider the ROI from a marketing spend and time point of view and decide whether it’s worth their effort to promote your site to get a slice of the travel industry pie.

If you are trying to split your time between promoting your site to buyers and promoting to affiliates then remember that if you signup one affiliate they have the potential to promote your site to hundreds of people that you might have otherwise reached and you only have to pay out when you have been paid upfront.

Respect Your Affiliates

Finally, if you want to make your affiliate program a success when using Agriya’s Burrow – vacation rental software make sure you respect your affiliates. This means making sure you pay them on time and every time, never delay the payments and don’t change the terms of your affiliate program for the worst without consultation.

Conclusion

The affiliate program built in to Burrow- airbnb clone is a very powerful and very flexible solution to market your website but you can’t just enable the feature and hope that people just start promoting your site, it takes work and effort but the rewards can mean you have a crowd sourced army of marketers working to promote your site leaving you to do other things, like count all the dollars rolling in.