In the most recent CMO Report from Nielsen, customer acquisition was the most unanimously highly ranked campaign objective, with 93% of CMOs rating it more important than brand awareness or customer loyalty.

Another CMO study, this one from Gartner, reported that 37% of marketing budgets are focused on acquisition. That’s a big percentage, and with traditional approaches getting more expensive, smart marketers are looking to stretch the value of their spend. This need to stretch resources is a key consideration in any customer acquisition strategy. And with all this investment, the customer acquisition cost for most brands is going higher and higher.

Search, email, and social media are likely stalwart tactics in your marketing efforts Here are five additional strategies to help you get ahead of the curve.

Affiliate marketing is defined as a merchant paying a commission to other online entities, known as affiliates, for referring traffic and driving sales. Affiliates are also often referred to as publishers.

Common affiliate marketing program publisher types include cashback, loyalty, comparison, vertical search, metasearch, and coupon sites. Most affiliate programs include multiple partner types in their marketing campaigns.

LEVERAGE AFFILIATE MARKETING

As a customer acquisition channel, affiliate delivers efficient ROI and proven omni-channel consumer reach. Given that affiliate has been around since the early days of digital marketing strategies, it probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you look to go boldly where no marketer has gone before. But let’s look at some numbers:

Forrester Research predicts that by 2020, US ecommerce sales will hit $500 billion— and affiliate marketing will impact $70 billion of that total.

Forrester also found that 48% of shoppers find promotional offers on affiliate sites more valuable than promotions direct from retailers. Of that total, eMarketer has predicted affiliate marketing spend will hit $6.8 billion in 2020.

Traditionally, affiliate marketing programs were managed by so-called affiliate networks, which served as service outsourcers. Some brands continue to use and like the outsourcer model, while a growing number of brands are leveraging software to take greater control of their programs and data.

Today, affiliate channel technology makes it possible for companies to track and measure program performance, as well as pay their partners more efficiently. That tech is helping affiliate takes its rightful place as one of the core marketing channels.

Finding the right tool(s) to manage your affiliate marketers and program end-to-end is crucial to getting in front of potential new customers on affiliate sites. Deciding whether to work with an affiliate network or SaaS platform will take some due diligence. Your top affiliate partners will drive lots of new visitors to your site. Arm your team with the right tools to properly execute, optimize, and drive new customer acquisition.

UTILIZE INFLUENCER MARKETING

Word-of-mouth was perhaps the earliest form of marketing, with celebrity endorsements eventually being the natural evolution of this type of influencer marketing. Despite all that popularity, figuring out precise average acquisition cost for such programs has been difficult until relatively recently.

As influencer marketing gains momentum – Forrester says 28% of marketers named influencer marketing their fastest-growing online customer-acquisition methods – many brands are embracing social influencers.

Micro-influencers, who typically have between 1,000 and 50,000 followers each, can provide authentic, category-relevant endorsements to a more targeted audience. Their followers are highly engaged with their content, and likely to find their recommendations more trustworthy than those of a celebrity. That helps drive higher conversion rates.

CONSIDER CHATBOTS

Considered by many as the first wave of artificial intelligence technology, chatbots have only been around for a few years but have already changed the ways brands communicate with consumers.

Chatbots are programmed to conduct conversations via text and simulate how humans interact. As a customer acquisition tool, chatbots are designed to convert customers via targeted advertising and apps like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Slack, and SMS.

For example, imagine you put an item in your shopping cart on a brand’s website but didn’t complete the purchase. Later, you receive an alert from a chatbot within a social media app, reminding you of the item in your cart. With a simple set of options such as “Buy Now”, “Remind Me Later”, and “Do Not Contact Me Again”, the chatbot has gently prodded you toward purchase.

This technique is seeing growing success, not to mention building trust via the “Do Not Contact” option. A recent report by Ubisend found 1 in 5 consumers would consider purchasing goods and services from a chatbot, and 40% of consumers want offers and deals from chatbots.

TRY LOYALTY PROGRAMS AND SYSTEMS

Among U.S. consumers, there are 3.8 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs. These programs can be a powerful way for brands to keep existing customers coming back. But growth in loyalty membership has slowed year-over-year. This could be due to loyalty fatigue, length of time to gain or cash in on rewards, or simply a loss of interest in joining more programs.

Now, consider this: seventy percent of consumers overwhelmingly like the idea of loyalty programs partnering with other brands to enhance loyalty benefits. An example of this is an airline loyalty program that has multiple partner benefits for its members, one of which is a discount at a car rental company.

This may be lucrative to attract consumers planning vacations. For the car rental brand, the partnership delivers added scale for new customer acquisition. The airline could see re-engaged loyalists based on substantive offers from brands that add value for them.

To find another brand to form a loyalty partnership with, start by understanding the digital behavior of the customers you want to reach. Try to keep the partnership benefits and reward redemption simple so consumers can easily take advantage of offers in their preferred channels. Seek out loyalty partners whose members will enjoy the perks and experiences you offer. For example, if you are a high-end headphone or streaming device maker, partnering with a rewards program for a gaming retailer could make a lot of sense. If you are already managing your partnerships through a technology platform that also provides strategic advice, talk to your contacts there. They can probably introduce you to potential loyalty partners that will benefit your brand.

ESTABLISH BRAND TO BRAND PARTNERSHIPS

Most of the customer acquisition strategies we’ve discussed involve some form of partnership. As technology advances more quickly than ever before, and consumers become more sophisticated, brands must continue to build meaningful alliances with other brands to connect with new audiences. Some brands bucket these types of partnerships in the referral marketing category, but a growing number see it as a distinctly different way to promote your products.

Today, online retailers and other brands are partnering with other brands in powerful and surprising ways. These brands bring something unique to one another, and often multiple benefits beyond customer growth, while still being measured on a performance model.

Brands need not operate in the same - or even adjacent - verticals to find synergy in working together on a joint marketing program. For example, a major beer brand could partner with a ride-sharing service to help prevent drunk driving. What matters is the purpose or fit between the brands. This in turn builds brand equity and trust with consumers and may also result in new customers and increased sales.

Forming the right partnerships takes strategy and relationship-building. If you are using a SaaS platform to manage your partnership marketing, you can leverage their partnership team to make introductions to the brands you want to work with.

Think about brands that have customer bases and target markets similar to yours. If you are trying to reach millennial parents, for example, look to brands that already have many of these consumers. Chances are you can offer them increased value through exposure to your customers as well. Creativity, innovation, and value should be the driving forces of the brand-to-brand partnerships. Leveraging a technology platform that can track sales activity and revenue conversion data will reduce the time it takes your team to prove ROI and growth form these relationships.

For an example of a successful brand-to-brand partnership that fits this model, read how Hawaiian Airlines and retailer SurfStitch are driving cost-effective customer acquisition through their brand-to-brand partnership.

PARTING THOUGHTS

New customer acquisition is a key marketing objective for all of us. If you are looking for new channels and scalable programs that prove their ability to drive growth quickly, look no further than the strategies discussed here. From affiliate marketing to working with micro-influencers to building strategic brand-to-brand partnerships,these proven tactics will help you survive the complexities of today’s costly marketing and media landscapes.

Whether you work with an agency on partnership campaigns, or manage solutions such as these in-house, finding one technology to help you manage any or all of these strategies by standardization and automation will make things a lot easier for you. As all affiliate managers can testify, getting a true partner automation tech that works in a broad range of use cases is immensely helpful, whether your task is to acquire new customers or accomplish any other goal achievable via marketing partners.