skip to main content

Do Affiliate Programs Have a Place in Resort Pass Sales?

divider image for this post

I sometimes feel I do too much critiquing and too little suggesting. Like, somehow, I’m the 400 pound, mullet-sporting guy on his 3rd beer at the baseball game yelling at the 2nd baseman to hustle. So, every once in a while on a Wednesday I’ll try to balance the scales a bit and put my own ideas up for display, analysis, and critique. (view all ‘WID’ posts).

For those of your with little or no experience with the idea of affiliate marketing, let me quickly give a brief explanation. Affiliate marketing is the online, automated equivalent of finders fees. For example, if I have a website and I want to make money from the traffic I bring in, I can put ads up on my own with affiliate links to products that might be relevant to my readers.

If someone clicks on that link and then buys a product on that site, i get a commission. For digital products this commission is as high as 75% because neither the duplication of the product nor the delivery carry any cost. For physical products, the typical commission rate is less than 10%, with most below 5%.

The Background
When I was working for myself a few years back, many of the small business clients I worked with were interested in, are were already running, some sort of affiliate program. This was partly because of the hype (affiliate marketing often has a negative connotation because of how many “get rich quick” programs included this concept) but partly because many people found it took similar effort to make a sale as it did find a new affiliate partner. Each partner could potentially make dozens of sales so simple math shows the benefits.

Turn it Upside Down
I’ve often shied away from affiliate marketing because rather than buy, some people instead promote the product with the hope of making enough in commission to buy it which typically didn’t happen. So, in one affiliate program I setup I tried an experiment: I turned it upside down. Instead of saying “you can earn this much with every sale” I said, “after you buy you can get a refund of this much every time someone you refer buys too”.

This way, the only way into the program was to become a customer and, because they had actually used the product, they were better at promoting it. Plus, the price didn’t seem as high with the realization that a couple referred sales could bring a 20% refund.

Season Pass Sales & Social
So, with all these thoughts in my head, I’ve often thought of what place an affiliate program might have in the ski industry and this is my conclusion / question: I wonder if it might fit a season pass sale perfectly. instead of saying, “sell a pass and get $X”, say, “we’ve found that our passholders frequently tell their friends when they buy their pass. That’s awesome marketing for us, and we think that should be rewarded.”

Just give each passholder a unique referral link to share on social networks that tracks the people they refer, give them a little coaching on some ways to be effective sharers, and turn them loose.

Each passholder that buys suddenly has a reason to tell people they just bought a pass from you, increasing the chance their friends will buy from the same resort so they can ski together. As deadlines approach, you can tap this army of current passholders to build buzz before deadline on social media because it’s in their best interest to do so. Every time them make a referral, they get a X% refund on their pass.

I’d love to see this taken one step further with leaderboards showing the most referrals, most traffic referred, etc. The first person to refer enough people to get a full refund gets a heli-trip of a $250 gift card, etc.

It’s not perfect and it would certainly take some adaptation and careful cost analysis before implementing, but I wonder if in this social age, something like this could really take off.

After I wrote this post, i found CureBit. Doesn’t seem like a terribly powerful platform, but certainly an option that seems to have the functionality I described above.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

Get the weekly digest.

New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.