The original post can be found on my weekly Inc.com column, Uncensored.
As a mobile app entrepreneur, or appreneur if you will, making a great mobile app is only part of the battle. Everyone loves those success stories of organic growth, you know, the ones where the company didn’t spend a single dime on marketing! Those are cool but the reality is that unless your app is something that can become an integral part of society like Uber (they advertise by the way), sooner or later you’re going to need to market to be successful. Spend money to make money.As a mobile app entrepreneur, or appreneur if you will, making a great mobile app is only part of the battle. Everyone loves those success stories of organic growth, you know, the ones where the company didn't spend a single dime on marketing! Those are cool but the reality is that unless your app is something that can become an integral part of society like Uber (they advertise by the way), sooner or later you're going to need to market to be successful. Spend money to make money.
As you already know from reading my column, I'm no fan of spending frivolously so I'm going to help you understand how to spend efficiently on mobile user acquisition, also known as UA. We want to target the right people in the right market(s) but how do we do that? We do it with data. If you work in user acquisition and you're not data literate, you are behind the the 8 ball.
We are quite a bit into the app economy, so we're not at the point where you should be testing new things. The proof is already out there. Mistakes are expensive and you should learn from those of your competitors.
If you really want to test new theories you need to fail and succeed and learn really fast. If you don't, by the time you learn your lesson, someone else will have already lapped you. It's about speed to return on investment.
Your competitor already has the users you need
So take them. Not all users are creating equally and UA can be expensive. The best and easiest way to find quality users is to go after those of your competition. You already know they're into what you're offering and there is the bonus of taking away from the enemy.
People use multiple apps, so besides going after them directly in your competitors' apps, you want to target the other apps they use.
In order to determine where else these users are spending their time, you'll want to use what I call user graph data. This says that users of app X are likely to be users of app Y. For example, if you are competing against Pinterest, you want to advertise to their users. Using user graph data, I might determine that their iOS users are highly likely to also be users of Words With Friends, Pandora and Starbucks.
Place advertisements for your app within these apps and if you have good enough creative, you'll be stealing users directly from your competition.
Don't reinvent the ad creative wheel
You know who to target but now you need to put together some great creative. Don't outthink yourself here. Study other mobile publishers and create something that works by using a mix of qualitative and quantitative data. To determine effectiveness of ads, see which ones companies run the longest and their share of impressions compared to other ads they have run.
Companies won't keep running ineffective ads. Study these ads for the type of information that is sent to the viewer both visually and audibly. s it a banner ad? A video? If it's a video, is it playable? Is there background music? Is there text on screen? Does it show the inner workings of the app? Is it humorous? How long is it? From running some analysis by myself, I'll give you a few tips.
Video will always be better than banner and shorter video will always be better than longer. We're talking 10-15 second ads outperforming 30 second ads. Many of you will say, "but there's so much to my app, how do I showcase it in just 15 seconds?" The answer is you don't.
Many companies today make the mistake of thinking their mobile ad is a place to advertise their features and functionality. They think that having a certain feature will attract users. Features and in app user experience are what retains users, not what attracts them. What sparks a download/install is a "hook" or value prop.
Don't rely on audio. Many users will see your app with volume off and without headphones in. If viewers can't read your message, there's no point in paying to promote it. These are just a few simple things I've learned from digging through the data of other mobile advertisers.
Remember that when it comes to UA, you need to get your hands on good data, learn from the mistakes of others, and target your competitors' users.