Believe it or not, affiliate marketing has been around for more than 20 years, but many businesses have yet to try it. Why? Mostly because, as Forbes points out, there are still many “myths” surrounding it.

But anyone who’s not leveraging every advantage they can could be cut out of the estimated $630 billion – give or take a few billion – consumers are expected to spend this holiday season. So if you’re still not up to speed on what affiliate marketing is all about and how it can help you grow your business, well, you need to read this.

Affiliate marketing offers greater value

Even though Christmas is almost upon us, the shopping season extends well past December 25 – especially when you factor in post-holiday sales. And New Year shopping holidays like Valentine’s Day and President’s Day will be here before you know it.

So what do you need to know to reap the benefits of affiliate marketing today?

For starters, a lot has changed in 20 years. In fact, a lot has changed in just a few years, and the evolution continues. Affiliate marketing has become more sophisticated and refined as the online advertising industry moves to what insiders call “performance marketing.”

Digital Marketing Glossary defines performance marketing as, “marketing techniques and campaigns by which the advertiser pays only for results.”

Which brings us back to why affiliate marketing is at the top of digital marketers’ must-have tools list. Affiliate marketing companies, like Clickbooth, Conversant, and MaxBounty, to name a few, offer businesses marketing value via a cost-per-action/cost-per-acquisition strategy.

Widely referred to as CPAs, these strategies only costs advertisers money if the clicks lead to real purchases or high-quality leads. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) – which may get your business in front of potential customers, but you pay whether they buy or not.

It’s like the difference between investing and playing the lottery – obviously the former is the smarter choice.

An option made for today’s consumer-led climate

What makes affiliate marketing even more crucial a marketing tool today, is the way it taps into the consumer-centric trend that social media has inspired. Consumers are in charge now – which is one of many reasons affiliate marketing is such a great option for advertisers.

Think about the power of word-of-mouth (WOM). Is it more effective coming from a brand or marketer, or from an actual human being? Given the degree to which consumers expect a personalized experience in just about everything, human testimonials win every time.

Of course, included in this idea is the “What’s in it for me?” on the affiliates’ side, i.e., perks worthy of sharing your business’ messaging in a human way.

Basically, everybody wins.

Choosing the right partners

But there are some areas of concern, especially with the way affiliate marketing is regulated in the US. Momentology cautions, “Toolbars, parasiteware, and other problematic software can be an issue.”

But even if affiliate marketing’s image has been tarnished with reports of adware theft issues in recent years, it doesn’t mean it’s any less viable an option. These incidents can be completely avoided by putting in a little due diligence, versus blindly signing up for every affiliate network a Google search spews out.

Here’s what you should be looking for as you vet affiliate marketing networks:

  • “Proactive and ongoing monitoring of [y]our affiliates and their traffic”- Clickbooth
  • “Precise measurement and consumer insights” – Conversant
  • Testimonials from major clients always help – Rakuten
  • “Fraud prevention teams who monitor all online activity for vendors and affiliates” – cleverbridge

Of course your needs may require that you investigate other specific aspects of affiliate marketing, but the points above are a great place to start.

So don’t let the click thieves scare you away from affiliate marketing, as the benefits far outweigh the risks. Make this holiday season your best yet by putting this strategy to work, and have a happy, prosperous, New Year!