Established in London over 25 years ago, Big Bus Tours is the largest operator of open-top sightseeing tours worldwide, currently offering rides in 17 cities across the globe. Their tours take in all the top sights of each city, with passengers having the option of hopping on and off at major landmarks to explore in their own time.
Big Bus Tours joined Affiliate Window two years ago and has gone on to grow its sales by 55% this year.
We spoke to Alberto Melgar, the group’s affiliate manager, to gauge his advice on growing an SME affiliate programme, including ways of targeting small affiliates and working with publishers as business partners.
You joined Affiliate Window back in 2014, was it your first affiliate programme?
Alberto Melgar: Yes, it was our first affiliate programme. Big Bus was born more than 25 years ago and our tours are available in 18 cities around the world, so having the possibility of working with top publishers in our biggest cities was one of our main priorities when we joined Affiliate Window back in 2014.
Where does affiliate marketing sit within your overall marketing strategy?
AM: A few years ago, our digital acquisition strategy focused on PPC and SEO, but since we joined Affiliate Window a couple of years ago, our affiliate programme has played a very important role in our global online strategy.
Thanks to the affiliate programme we have been able to reach a wider audience globally and work with some awesome publishers that have been recommending Big Bus since the programme was launched.
At the same time, we have worked with discount and cashback websites many times, which has been extremely helpful during specific moments of the season as we have been able to reach more travellers via email and display campaigns.
What advice would you give an SME business looking to grow through affiliate marketing?
AM: Based on our own experience, I’d highlight that affiliate marketing is about building relationships. Keep in contact with your affiliates and understand what their motivations are, offer them solutions and remember, sometimes money won’t be their main motivation.
Also never assume that publishers with higher traffic volumes will bring more sales to your programme. Some small, well-targeted websites or blogs could become a key part of your affiliate programme very quickly if you offer them the right tools and guidance.
If you are targeting different personas, make sure that you offer landing pages, creative and offers targeting all of them. And more importantly, remember to explain to your affiliates what your plans are and give them enough time to prepare if you want them to promote your offers, etc.
Lastly, I’ll say that offers and promo codes are a good way to increase your sales, but you should always try to keep a balance between content, display and discount affiliates to make sure that your average order values and conversion sales volumes are within your targets.
How do you engage new and existing publishers to keep your programme fresh and innovative?
AM: We contact our top affiliates regularly and keep track of the changes that they make to their websites and to make sure that they have the most updated prices and offers and that their links are working.
At this moment we offer different commission levels and performance bonuses. For the last eight months, our top performing affiliates have seen their commissions moving from 7% to up to 15%.
Every month we also choose around five affiliates and spend some time helping them with general advice about how to improve their websites in terms of usability, SEO and UX. We strongly believe that if we help them grow, keep them engaged and we keep working with them, our affiliate programme will grow as well.
If you want your affiliate programme to be successful, it is essential to work with your affiliates as you would work with any of your business partners.
Are there any exciting plans for 2017 that you would like to share?
AM: Well, we all know that affiliate marketing has changed a lot during the last few years and it will continue evolving in 2017. I think that the key element of our plan for 2017 is adapting to the needs of our affiliates and making sure that we offer them the best tools and resources available, and that’s why we are working on some interesting projects that hopefully our affiliates will love.
To find out more about the Big Bus Tours affiliate programme, click here.