Questions to Help Qualify Affiliates

Travel Suppliers have long used intermediaries to sell their products, and the affiliate channel represents a new, cost-effective and dynamic approach to attract and sell to customers that the supplier does not – or cannot – market to directly.  To achieve success in the affiliate marketing space, it is essential for both the seasoned or novice travel supplier to work with quality affiliates.

There continues to be concern in some quarters of the industry about rogue elements within the affiliate ranks.  To be sure, this concern is valid, but in our opinion, similar concerns about distribution channel partners exist in most industries around the world.

Despite the questionable actions of some less than above-board players, most affiliates are hard working individuals and companies who play by the rules.  In addition, some affiliates also happen to be at the cutting edge of digital marketing.  Indeed, some of the most creative, innovative and successful entrepreneurs in the ecommerce landscape are affiliate marketers (think Amazon).

Because there is no industry-wide regulatory body overseeing the industry and setting and enforcing standards (similar to what ARC and other BSP institutions accomplish in the airline – travel agent industry), it is critical that suppliers vet their affiliates prior to engaging them commercially.

One approach used by many travel and non-travel suppliers is to rely on the affiliate network they work with to do this vetting.  Increasingly, however, many suppliers are taking their affiliate programs in-house, and opting-out of networks.  Whether you depend on a network, or conduct your own vetting process, there are several questions we suggest you ask to determine if an affiliate makes a good partner for your firm:

  • Have you had experience selling travel products? If so, what types of products have you sold, or, which travel industry segments is your experience in?
  • How much of our product do you anticipate selling each month?
  • Is any of your traffic generated from outside the United States?
  • Is your base of operation in the US, or international? (some of the best Travel Affiliates are not based in the US) If internationally based, do you have a US bank account?
  • Where do we send your W-9 / 1099?
  • Will we need to support Sub-Affiliates?
  • Are you currently, or ever have been, involved in spamming activities?

Conversely, given the rather opaque and highly competitive nature of the Affiliate Marketing industry, there are several questions which if asked, will likely shorten most commercial discussions and negotiations with an Affiliate.

  • How is your web traffic generated?
  • Can you provide references from your prior commercial relationships?
  • Would you mind showing us what makes you successful so we can replicate it in-house, and not have to pay you?

By no means are we suggesting that either list represents a full rendering of the issues and related questions that should comprise your affiliate vetting process.  It is however, a good starting point, and should help to steer you in the right direction.

For more detailed questions regarding on to properly vet risk elements of your affiliate relationship, please refer to our Legal Risk Management article.