Today’s guest post is by Leah Bell.

Planning your marketing strategy for 2013?

In most cases, it is more costly to acquire new customers than to keep the business you already have.

This can be especially true if your customer-base is made up of college students due to their high lifetime value.

If your customers are multi-generational, I challenge you to make your youngest consumers your priority next year. Even if they don’t have significant spending power today, they soon will.

In fact, at about 88 million strong, Millennials have a purchasing power estimated at $170 million, and by 2017 they will have more spending power than any other generation that has come before them.

Here are some tips to make college students obsessed with your brand at a young age, and be more likely to stick with you for the years to come.

1. Offer your product for less while they are still in college.

J.Crew has done a great job creating loyal, college going fans with their student discount. Students who are loyal in college will most likely buy their first professional wardrobe and maybe even a wedding dress from J.Crew.

Other examples of brands who invest in college students, include Apple, Volkswagen, and 7-Eleven (a UQ client).

2. Connect with them online in an unexpected and meaningful way.

College students love innovation and will reward brands willing to try a unique approach. Most marketers are afraid to take chances in a medium that is unproven, but no risk no reward – right?

Warrior Lacrosse found a way to connect with Millennials on Instagram with the help of VenueSeen. Warrior fans can enter a contest to win a free Rabil lacrosse stick by taking Instagram photos.

Warby Parker allows customers to measure their pupillary distance simply with a video camera and a credit card – this kind of innovation surprises and delights college students, encouraging them to share the story with their peers.

3. Make them feel good about being your customer.

Seventy percent of students say they are more likely to buy from a brand that supports a charitable cause. Companies who do good, such Toms and Pure Charity, appeal to college consumers.

4. Connect them with their peers.

College students today don’t know a life without the Internet and can’t imagine living without their smartphones, Facebook, or Twitter. To put it simply, they love being connected with their peers.

Target does a great job at taking advantage of this behavior by putting their brand front and center while creating opportunities for students to connect.

During the first week of school Target busses hundreds of students to their stores for an after-hours shopping party. These events are less about shopping and more about creating a memorable experience for students excited to meet new people on campus.

Acquiring new customers is important, but do not forget to take advantage of the low hanging fruit; optimize the customer base you already have to increase their customer lifetime value.

Leah Bell is the president and co-founder of UQ Marketing, an agency headquartered in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in building brands on college campuses. Before UQ Marketing, Leah held sales and marketing roles at two Fortune 20 companies, where she saw firsthand how big brands were struggling to connect with her generation.