Do you remember your first cell phone? We do. It was a Samsung flip-phone, perfect for texting, taking overly-pixelated pictures, and playing some kind of rendition of Nokia’s snake. Now, think back- how often did you use the internet on this phone? If you were a business person, we can only guess you used it for business-related stuff like emails and so on (unfortunately both of us authors were not part of the workforce in the early noughties), and if you were a teen, well… we know for sure it was a mistake to click on the browser icon (opera mini, google, safari and the likes), because internet on your phone back then was quite a luxury. However, today it’s kind of unthinkable not to have it, right? 

Two-thirds of the world are connected by some kind of mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, notebook, etc, and we are only venturing further into this digital landscape. We know that this ecosystem has created digital marketing as a result, but in this article, we will look at the branch called ‘mobile marketing’. 

Mobile marketing is exactly what it sounds like. But, if we want to get into the real scheme of things; it is defined as a multi-channel digital marketing strategy that aims at reaching a target audience on their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, via websites, emails, SMS, and MMS, social media and apps. Yes, SMS and MMS were a part of this kind of marketing (it still is, but does not play such a prominent role as before). So, if you want to keep or gain the attention of your potential buyers, your content needs to be both strategic and highly personalized; and this is where mobile marketing comes in. It is a vital piece of the puzzle for creating any short or long-term marketing plan, and for it to be effective you need to curate a seamless experience that customers expect, which can be challenging. 

To overcome this hurdle, we want to break down the plan/checklist you need to create to set up your mobile marketing campaigns, particularly if you have ready-made iOS/Android Apps and would like to advertise them. Before we continue, a word of advice from us: we know that it is an extremely exciting prospect to be able to connect with new and current customers in real-time at any point in the customer lifecycle. However, it is essential to take your time in the beginning for creating the proper setup and tracking so that you can reap the rewards of it afterwards, instead of diving headfirst into unfinished planning with uncertain impacts. 

Now that that’s out the way, here is our checklist to keep in mind for your next mobile marketing campaign. 

1. Define KPIs and user persona/audience

We know, we know… This is something that is drilled into all our heads at every Marketing 101 lecture: but it is really important, so we can’t skip it. You need to begin with defining what engagement means to you for the campaign you are setting up. For example, engagement could mean creating a compelling experience for your user, so much so that they are likely to respond to your efforts by taking actions you want them to take. This could be them buying something, signing up for a newsletter, subscribing to a service, sharing something on their social media, and so on. From here, you can define your conversion goals that you can measure along to make sure you are heading in the right direction. 

Secondly, you need to define who you want to acquire as a user/customer. Here it is important to consider volume vs. value. Do you want to acquire as many humans as possible? Or, do you want to target fewer people, but with higher value who are most likely to respond to your efforts in the way that YOU want them to? See what we did there ;)?

Your audience that you want to reach heavily depends on the KPIs that you select; they are intertwined. The most common KPIs in mobile user-acquisition (UA) include: 

  • Install Rate (IR): this is the percentage of people who downloaded an app after clicking on an ad to install it. 

  • Conversion Rate (CVR): similar to IR but with impressions

  • Retention Rate/stickiness: the number of users that return to your app after a certain time

  • Cost per install (CPI): this is the bid price that you pay for your app every time a user installs your app from an ad you posted.

  • Cost per acquisition/action (CPA): this is the cost of acquiring a paying customer or getting them to do something that you want. 

  • Cost per mille (CPM): also known as cost per thousand, and this is the fixed price paid by you (the advertiser) for every 1,000 clicks or views of your ad. 

  • Effective cost per mille (eCPM): this is used to measure the cost of every 1000th ad impression regardless of the buying method.

  • Lifetime value (LTV): this refers to the total value of a user if you have given them enough time to explore and exhaust all opportunities to pay or watch the ads in the app.

Before we continue, we need to talk about LTV. It should be every company’s ‘North-Star-Metric’ but nowadays, many professional mobile marketers tend to not give the proper attention it deserves; so there needs to be a lot more education and knowledge exchange between departments. In other words, getting to really know your users LTV and utilizing it for marketing campaigns is a task that requires attention from different departments such as business development, marketing/UA, and CRM just to name a few. Alignment is key for success here. 

Retention and LTV are two important KPIs that most people do not really think of in the beginning, instead, they focus on CPI or overall revenue. These two factors will ultimately ‘define your company’s Apps revenue’ and so you will always want to look and monitor these two specifically. If retention or LTV is not working properly, you will lose money. Understandably, a higher value audience will cost you more in the UA KPIs (e.g. CPI, CPA), whilst cheaper ones will produce less profit for your company at the end of the day. It is a trade-off and you have to align it with your business goals to reap the rewards you want. 

2(a). Setting up MMP (Mobile Measurement Partner) for Tracking

This relates to properly tracking and measuring your Apps’ success and KPIs, which you can do with a Mobile Measurement Partner, or MMP for short. An MMP is a third-party company that collects, organizes, and presents the data from your marketing campaigns to illustrate an overview of your campaign performance. As mentioned before, you want a high-value audience, so by shifting from quantity to quality, marketers must rely on MMP tools to pinpoint the highest quality users and hone in on their strongest performances to allocate future budgets. 

Some examples of MMPs out there include Singular, Adjust, Applyflyer, Google Firebase, and so on. We and others highly recommend using MMPs, as they are experts in their respective fields, and can support you with the best mobile app tracking possible. You could develop your own tools, but then again this requires more expertise and experts, which are often more expensive, even in the long term, with regards to development and hiring. So why not just rent out such tools instead?

2(b). Recommended UA Analytic platforms

Think of these as doctors that provide health checks for your apps that are particularly insightful for your analytics or UA teams. These platforms check the ranking, demographics, cohorts, and much more. The logic behind these platforms is that the better you can identify your mobile app potential users, the better your budget will be spent and the more users (loyal ones hopefully), will be acquired for your app. 

Some platforms include:

3. User Acquisition on Mobile Paid vs Free/organic

Okay, so before you skip to the section about how to do this for free, hear us out. We know it’s tempting to perhaps do UA freely and organically because we all want to think that our users will just find us, user intuition if you will. Unfortunately, this is not the case; you need to have both. Why? Well, because they complement each other really well, like Oreos with milk. Ideally, you would need a finely tuned App Store Optimisation Strategy (ASO), as your ‘Free/Organic’ option which should preferably be one person; and to have a team buying media from the PAID section. If you hit that sweet spot and harmonize the two, you can grow way more compared to your competition with just the necessary budget in your markets. 

For the Paid part of UA, you need to pick your User Acquisition channels. The three that are most important to us are:

Social: using platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Here you target precisely on a large scale with a lot of control. However, this channel requires a lot of time to do, but the user quality is unmatched. Additionally, the Fraud level is quite low. 

Search: Google Ad Campaigns, Apple Search Ads, Yandex (the Russian Google), etc. Compared to the social channel, the key advantage with search is of course the intent of users going to search for a certain product or category. Although the scale of your campaign can be the larger side and the quality can be higher, your targeting options are slim. This is because you can only target by demographics and keywords. 

Mobile Ad Networks: Applovin, Vungle, Liftoff, Tapjoy, Unity, IronSource, Etc. Unlike the two previous channels, this one has the highest Fraud Level, but you still reach unique App publishers through them. This means that your app is set before a completely new audience, which would make a lot of sense if one of your goals is to scale your marketing activities.

If your business is small, then start small, (duh). We all know that the algorithm is king, so go for the low-hanging fruits in the ‘king’s discipline’ like using search channels because the intent is already there. Then, when you have the time and the money, expand to the social channels as soon as possible, and start with Facebook. If your budgets grow, then move on to using Mobile Ad Networks as your third step. Remember, Google and Facebook still account for a massive user base, and have great targeting options that some platforms do not have. Additionally, as your channels grow, you will need an MMP as mentioned above. This will give you the ultimate comparison of all the channels and give you a ‘one single truth’ report. Plus, you will not have to mess around with hundreds of different dashboards and 3rd party data-points. 

Now to the free channel of UA: ASO (there are other channels in this section such as content marketing like blogging, posts, etc, but we will focus on ASO for now). Your ASO marketing strategy will affect UA in three ways:

  1. Firstly if done properly, it can drive organic traffic to your app product page. The best way to get noticed in the app store is by focusing on the right keywords. By placing them in the right places and ensuring your app page is optimized, you can easily drive traffic to your app without any other marketing strategy in place.

  2. An effective ASO can enhance all other UA channels. Although your ads and PR campaigns can drive traffic to your app, they cannot convince users to actually download it. Creating app landing pages that are optimized for Google Play and Apple App stores will help boost your conversion rates and ensure that the traffic you generate will become paying customers.

  3. Another pro-tip for ASO: is to play around with your app icons. You’d be surprised how much effect they have on users and their decisions to press the download button or not.

So, In a nutshell, you need to define your LTV goals per channel and per user to drive sophisticated and profitable decisions for your marketing budget allocation.  By working closely with your data experts to establish a seamless stream of data, use the first-party data to decide what a “valuable user/High LTV” vs. a “non-valuable user/ Low LTV” looks like. You can then dissect this based on your MMPs channel data and bada-bing, bada-boom you have a potential CPA target per channel that you cannot exceed in order to remain profitable. 

We know that we got a little bit technical in this article, but let us close with this: marketing and analytics go hand in hand, whether we like it or not. To have a successful campaign for your mobile app, you need to establish a data stream between business intelligence and user acquisition and remain app-timistic.

Christoph Schmied

Christoph Schmied

Christoph is another one of our Digital Performance Marketing Specialists, who has been in the game since ‘12. He is our biggest source of optimism, or rather app-timism and is the mobile marketing guru in the office. Outside office-hours, Christoph leaves the embrace of digital marketing and leaps into the arms of his other true love: good food. Basically, if you are tired of eating schnitzel or need to tweak your mobile marketing game; then you may want to connect with him.

Megan Joye McFadden

Megan Joye McFadden

Megan is our marketing assistant at Scalista. She is biotech student who (kind of) switched lanes over into business, and has a flair for all things creative. When she is not assembling all the expertise from our team into a coherent blog, she can be found dabbling in all kinds of activities that involve podcasts, science communication and baking. If you would like to get in touch with our black-tea-with-milk-and-sugar-drinking blog writer, you can find her on LinkedIn.

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