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A recipe for a successful mobile app marketing plan – the secret lies in the ingredients – part 3


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The optimal mix for your marketing plan, considering your objectives, budget and more
This is the third part in a series of trainings, discussing the optimal mix of activities, considering your objectives, budget and more. Here we will continue diving into specific tools to include in your plan and also discuss user acquisition media campaigns.

The first part discussed some considerations in deciding on your objectives and setting up your budget; the second part focused on public relations based tactics, from traditional PR, to industry events, social media and content marketing. Part 1 and part 2 of the series included some important comments. We recommend you read them in order to get better context.

Second area of marketing activities to consider: User acquisition (through advertising on mobile and online media)

When we talk about user acquisition campaigns, we refer to the process of paying for ads in different channels with the goal of increasing downloads, installs or attract loyal users. This is done using tools such as display ads (e.g., banners), interstitials, promotions, web ads, email ads, social media ads and so forth. If social media marketing (discussed in part 1) was a huge section (and we just scraped the surface), than this area is enormous!

You can promote your app using online (web and mobile) and offline advertising. Here we talk about the online part (more accurately, the mobile push). 

Naturally, most of your advertising budget (assuming you have such a line in your budget) will focus on mobile ads. Why mobile ads? When you click on an ad using your mobile, you are immediately directed to the download page in the store, so the conversion rate (ratio between the number of people who saw the ad to the number of people who completed the desired action; in this case downloading the app) is much higher.

The basic rule to follow is: minimize the number of actions (clicks) needed from seeing the ad to the desired action. The smaller it will be, the higher the conversion rate will be (clicks converted to downloads). This will increase the activity’s ROI (return on investment) and lower the user acquisition cost (the cost per download).

Let’s think of it like that: You can pay for ads based on impressions (cost per mille -1,000 impressions – also called CPM), pay per click (CPC) or pay per downloads (CPD). In some cases you can also pay per the desired action (CPA).

The higher your performance (the number of clicks or actions generated by your ad), the higher your conversion rate will be (this is always compared to industry benchmarks), the lower your payment per action/response is, and the better ROI you generate.

You just need to make sure you minimize the number of steps on the way to download (remember, every additional step reduces the conversion rate, since potential users are dropping on the way).  If you can get to one click from ad to download page – Bingo!

So when you hear people talk about “mobile- app user acquisition”, it usually refers to mobile ads directing users to the app’s download page. And since a huge part of mobile usage today is done through apps – most mobile ad networks are placing ads on mobile apps. You advertise your app on other apps. Most of these apps are making some (or all) of their revenues from serving (pushing really) ads to their users (that’s why it’s also called “push” advertising or push strategy). The larger their users base, the higher number of impressions (and hence clicks and downloads) they can generate, generating higher revenues for them.

Now, most acquisition tactics require quite significant budgets, lots of learning and also leaning on technological aiding tools (such as tracking tools, analytics and so forth). It’s a big guys’ playground, run by big players. This is NOT a tactic to engage in when dealing with small budgets. Generally speaking, from what we experienced, most ad agencies would quote you for a pilot/test campaign of around $20K minimum (excluding their management fee which will come on top). And this is just for testing the water, optimize the right media for your app and the specific campaign you are running and getting all the logistics tested and set up for future ongoing work and campaigns.

So unless you have some significant amount of cash to put on this activity, you may want to skip it altogether and look for alternative, cheaper ways to bring in users. But, don’t get discouraged. Many successful, profitable apps made it to the top with little marketing budgets (just think of Candy Crush or What’s Up.. have you ever seen a What’s Up mobile ad? we haven’t…)

As for the lucky ones amongst us, who can afford running user acquisition campaigns, you will be amazed by the unbelievable results you can achieve. Beware, it’s addictive!  There are so many push techniques to match all kinds of different objectives, you won’t believe it. Boosting your app to first place on the store within hours (!!!), enjoying huge amounts of daily downloads, pushing in only quality users, paying only for users who logged into your app in predefined times during the campaign… whatever result measurement method you have in mind, be sure someone out there has an advertising business model for it. It’s a jungle. We just love it!

To make things more complicated, measuring the results of acquisition campaigns is a full world of its own. It’s a profession. You can have endless measurements and never stop optimizing your campaigns by what you had learned from previous campaigns’ results.

And if that’s not enough, while you plan your push campaign you will get direct offers from app publishers (e.g., Pandora app is working directly with advertisers), ad networks, ad-platforms, ad-networks, ad-agencies and many others, some of them have innovative, cool and creative ways of pushing your app to users. By the way, they all compete with each other as well as work together. Crazy world it is.

It’s likely that the more you learn, the more confused you’ll get. Each of the potential providers will probably kindly explain why they have the ultimate answer for your needs. They have cracked it; they can bring you the best results for the lowest cost. They would all tell the truth of course, but it’s their truth, and you need to define where your truth lies.

Our way of dealing with these complexities was to first learn and determine which ad types are right for us, and which ones we want to avoid (for a variety of reasons). Then, it was plowing forward, looking for the right ad-agency that would best serve our app’s marketing objectives. They optimized our campaigns based on the performance of a pilot campaign and of course always kept us in the loop.

So, unless you are a user acquisition pro, it’s better (and we would also dare say a must) using an agency or a similar service and pay the extra 10-20% commission. In some channels (e.g., Facebook install ads), you can run campaigns yourself, no help is needed, and you can save 10% or more, but this is an exception. Still it’s recommended that you take some time to learn a bit more about this field, as it’s probably better to use more than one channel for the sake of optimizing later on.

In summary: User acquisition requires significant budget, but for those who have it, it can be a game changer! Pushing apps through mobile ads can achieve amazing CTR (click through rate) – can even get as high as 6% or higher. That’s unheard of in other advertising mediums.

Running and optimizing an acquisition campaign on multiple channels with no professional help is challenging and almost impossible. Still, even when using an agency, invest the time to learn the basics, so you can be smart about selecting the right agency for you and evaluate and discuss the activity with them in an intelligent way (what to ask for, determine if they are making the right recommendations, give them directions, use the right lingo, etc.).

As part of your learning, don’t forget to look into tracking solutions (find out if your agency is covering tracking as part of their service). You need to be able to measure the result of each and every campaign you run. That’s the basis for your campaign optimization (media push improvements going FW, meaning higher CTRs, lower costs, growing impact, or in other words, the Holy Grail).

By now you can probably roughly estimate whether you will be using media acquisition in your marketing plan or not. You probably also have a ball park number in your head to allocate for this activity when building your budget.

So again, before moving on, remember to get yourself familiarized with:

  • Service providers out there (ad networks, platforms, ad agencies or other solutions) and their
  • Specific offering (creative? Measurements? Analytics? Optimization? Reports?)
  • Ad types (banners, interstitials, push notifications, incentivized, premium etc.) and their impact on prices, user quality and additional parameters
  • Measurements (technologies, solutions, optimization methods, etc.)

Be sure to check out part 4 of our app marketing plan series, where we will discuss ATL advertising and on-street promotions.

Elli is one of Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Having years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry promoting popular mobile apps and B2B related services. Presenting specific expertise on users' acquisition strategies, PR, social media, product marketing, BizDev integrations and more
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