How to Maximize Your Return on Ad Spend with Performance Marketing

September 22, 2023

While forecasts for marketing budgets have started looking brighter, advertisers continue to face economic volatility. Whether ad expenditures are generally up or down, the pressure to drive — and demonstrably prove — a positive return on ad spend never gets less critical. 

By definition, performance marketing is premised on offering verifiable outcomes. So aligning performance-based attributes and findings makes perfect sense for brands and agencies at a time when privacy concerns and the “slow-death of the third party cookie” have resulted in significant signal loss across ad campaigns.

Five Tips for Maximizing Return on Ad Spend

“Do more with less” has become the dominant ethos of all business operations. That dictum seems especially true when it comes to running ad campaigns. Performance marketing largely depends on generating specific results, such as sales leads or actual purchases. This means that cost-effectiveness and transparency are already baked into the process. With all that in mind, read on for our five tips for making every dollar in your marketing budget count.

1. Move billable actions further down the marketing funnel

According to AppsFlyer’s latest forecast, global app install ad spend — or the money mobile marketers spend to acquire new users to install their apps — is projected to reach $94.9 billion in 2025, representing a 20% increase from 2023. While new user acquisition is important, maximizing ROAS is about engaging and monetizing those users beyond the install.

Advertisers are realizing that, in addition to growth, performance marketing can also include driving strong lifetime value and customer loyalty. For example, in recent years, app marketers have begun to look towards cost-per-engagment (CPE) pricing models and “deeper funnel” billable actions(e.g., reaching level 25 of gameplay or making an in-app purchase).

This is just one example of the shift in mindset that’s bringing performance partnerships to the forefront. No matter the direction of the economy or the rise and fall of various media formats, performance marketing remains a reliable channel for driving customer acquisition and return on ad spend.

2. Build strategic partnerships to achieve your performance goals

Clear, honest, open communication is the basis of all good relationships. In a performance marketing context, that means knowing how your partners like to work, how they define success, and eliminating obstacles to uncovering the truth behind a campaign’s performance.

When evaluating prospective partners, it’s important to address some key questions before determining if they are the right fit. Do they have the tools and tech integrations in place to measure campaign success? What optimization strategies will they use to achieve maximum efficiency and ROAS?

To ensure no stone is left unturned, we outline all the questions to ask before selecting a performance partner here

3. Establish tech integrations for accurate tracking and measurement

There are two kinds of tracking partnerships marketers need to familiarize themselves with to make sure they’re getting an accurate, accountable read on the success of their affiliate campaigns while ferreting out fraudulent activities. These include Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) and Affiliate Tracking Platforms (ATP)

In particular, mobile advertising is one of the most difficult forms of digital marketing to track (though Apple’s SKAdNetwork and Google’s planned release of Privacy Sandbox for Android aim to make attribution easier). MMPs help attribute, collect, and organize app data to clear the fog surrounding campaign performance. Some examples of MMPs include Branch, AppsFlyer, Singular, Adjust, and Airbridge.

Outside of the intricacies of mobile apps, ATPs are also essential to monitor ad effectiveness on desktop and mobile web. These platforms provide the framework to access the details involving analyzing and optimizing campaigns on the fly. Examples of ATPs include Partnerize,, CJ Affiliate, PartnerStack, Voluum, Referson, and TUNE.

The right fit of a marketers’ MMP and ATP generally comes down to the scope of campaign activity and budgeting. 

4. Take a privacy-centric approach to your customer data

Advertisers increasingly look to performance marketing as a channel to establish ongoing customer relationships. A key benefit of that relationship is gaining access to first-party data and leveraging these insights to support long-term personalization and CRM marketing efforts. 

In digital marketing, the flip side of personalization is the imposition of privacy protections that block access to consumer insights. But a privacy-centric policy doesn’t need to mean digging moats around customer attributes. 

This is the moment when digital advertising must get more creative and attuned to consumers’ and government regulators’ pushback on privacy. There’s the “slow death” of third-party cookies, which demands innovative ways to better understand consumer behavior along the purchase path, while Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework limits advertiser’s ability to account for actions across the app ecosystem. 

As these privacy-centric shifts reshape the performance landscape, brands will need to make a concerted effort to regain consumers’ trust. Transparent data collection will become paramount for advertisers looking to deliver personalized experiences and adopt a privacy-conscious approach to attribution.

5. Develop programs for driving loyalty and long-term value

Loyalty programs are evolving for the digital age as brands seek to maintain lasting connections amid greater privacy protocols. There is an increased recognition that loyalty and rewards programs aren’t merely defined by punch cards and coupons anymore. They’re primarily interactive tools that remind consumers that your brand will be there when they’re ready to engage. 

For example, Quick Serve Restaurants’ experience with expanding loyalty/rewards programs is illuminating. In a 2023 survey of 17K consumers, Fluent found that consumers are 43% more likely to delete existing QSR apps versus downloading new ones within the next year. With the threat of churn looming in the background, QSR companies must be cautious not to take their existing customers for granted.  

For brands across industries, delivering recurring value and driving continued engagement is key to fostering loyalty among existing customers. Subscription or tier-based loyalty programs and more personalized experiences can help attract and keep high-intent customers willing to spend more in exchange for better perks.

Looking Ahead

For brands striving to maintain relevance during yet another turbulent period, the notion of “customer-centricity” is crucial. As performance marketing practices continue to evolve, advertisers must look ‘beyond the banner’ to connect consumers with the products and services that provide real value, foster brand loyalty, and maximize return on ad spend.

Connect with us here to learn how Fluent can help you maximize return on ad spend and drive business growth.