Mobile Heroes

James Haslam by James Haslam | September 13, 2021

Germans, according to one author, “do it better.” And German apps are having a moment as hubs of technical innovation spring up across the country. A few apps have even become superstars on the app stores, with names such as N26 and Zalando featured in top lists across the globe. 

The country also attracts talent from all corners of the world, and many of the best app marketers have graced the presence of our Mobile Heroes program with insights and learnings. We’ve assembled four of them together who share two traits: they all work in Germany, and all four of their blogs are about building, from your first user acquisition to robust automation technologies and scaling a team.

Step 1: Building User Acquisition Channels

The first step of a successful app marketing initiative is kicking off your first campaign. Erman Akar, Product Owner at Düsseldorf-based StepStone, advises marketers on finding vendors without wasting time once they begin the search for new channels.

Before scheduling a call with a potential traffic partner, there are some crucial questions to ask. If you want to save yourself the hassle of taking a call that could go nowhere, Erman advises sending them a good list of questions to evaluate their traffic and understand if the partner is a good fit. Here are a few questions Erman likes to ask (you can find the complete list on the blog):

  • What bidding options do you offer?
  • What is your average CVR and CTR per ad unit?
  • What type of ad units does your network have?

Once you have received the answers, it’s sensible to rank them depending on the depth and clarity of their answers. For partners who receive high marks, schedule a call to discuss the next steps.

After you go through the selection process and identify a partner, you need to help set them up for success. “Allow them to bid competitively,” says Erman, “and also, give them time.” Don’t expect this to happen overnight if your goal is to find cheap installs while scaling spend. Your new partner will need time to run tests and adjust their bidding strategy accordingly.

Lastly, Erman advises marketers not to become victims of the sunk cost fallacy. “You might feel very invested (and you are—literally) after you spend a lot of time and money with a partner. But if the traffic doesn’t get the results you want, cut your losses and test another source.”

Read Erman’s full post to find advanced traffic source evaluation tips.

Step 2: Building Analytics

Marta Fogel, former Head of Performance Marketing at 7Mind, is an expert at setting up analytics. In her full post, she shares a rigid strategy to get your analytics right that applies to all organizations. Marta asserts that “regardless of our organizational roles, we all desire the same thing: access to organized data.” As such, it’s not an area you can afford to forget.

Marta outlines a five-step process to set up an analytics platform. This includes:

  1. Begin with in-depth internal discussions with the right people
  2. Reviewing useful products
  3. Figuring out legacy data
  4. Coming up with the optimal naming conventions
  5. Getting the insights

While we won’t focus on each part here (you can read the post for the steps in detail), we will focus on step two: reviewing useful products.

Marketers have a choice at the outset: using a pre-built product, or creating your own. While Marta doesn’t discuss the pros and cons of each, she does mention that 7Mind “opted for an internal solution because we did not want to depend on non-customizable functionalities for our specific needs.”

If you are auditing from many different BI tools in the ecosystem, prepare a checklist of questions to ask vendors. Marta has some suggestions, including:

  • What is your budget? 
  • Do you need access to real-time reporting? 
  • What is your team size (often required for several licenses)? 
  • What is your data visualization tool primarily used for – acquisition, activation, or retention? 
  • How many data analysts do you have, and what is your data volume?

After answering these questions, it’s time to narrow down the selection and choose the best tool for your team.

To get the lowdown on all five steps, take a look at Marta’s blog on building in-house analytics.

Step 3: Building a Team

“Your task starts with assembling a great team.” Bold words from our third Hero, but Jason Conger, former Head of User Acquisition, at Berlin-based gaming studio Wooga certainly knows his stuff—he has the knowledge and experience on what it takes to build a formidable marketing team.

First of all, Jason advises, “great doesn’t have to mean big.” In fact, “many successful companies manage with a relatively lean UA team.” Most of Jason’s career has been spent in small teams between 3-10 people. He says, “we’ve found a lot of success in this scenario.”

Jason states that a great user acquisition manager spends their career focusing on and developing three distinct areas: Technical, Creative and Business. Here’s a breakdown of what those terms include:

  1. Technical: Combination of SQL, data visualization, and for more advanced teams, automation/machine learning. 
  2. Creative: Design thinking, brand/product marketing, creative optimization. 
  3. Business: Statistics and economics when it comes to financial projections, risk management and strategic planning. 

“No matter how you structure your growth team, find people who have these skills,” he advises. But don’t expect marketers who are great at all three: “there will undoubtedly be a crossover between the different skills but seek people who excel at one or two.”

In terms of organization, some teams are organized by games, channels or by platforms, and some by combining all three. At Wooga, Jason utilized “ a hybrid framework with a combination of game, network, and project owners.” The team revisits their structure regularly to ensure they are on the right track, and they will switch up their organization roughly every year, “so be flexible—one size doesn’t fit all, and what works now won’t necessarily work in a year or two.”

For more on building a great UA team, read Jason’s blog in full.

Step 4: Building Automation

The last step in the process is to successfully automate tasks and save your team time. Gessica Bicego, Senior Director of Growth, Performance Marketing, spearheaded rapid scaling at Blinkist, with budgets doubling year-over-year. However, her team didn’t grow quite as fast, an impressive feat. They achieved this by automating the tasks that humans would otherwise have taken on. 

First, the Blinkist team evaluated where channel managers were investing their time, trying to identify tasks that could be automated. Their approach was as follows:

  • Identify all the different tasks and the number of hours dedicated to each task.
  • Order the tasks by time and look closely at the top 30% of the list.
  • Exclude the tasks that require humans.
  • Add a rank to each task that takes into consideration the time, complexity, and opportunity.
  • Evaluate the ordered list to identify opportunities for automation.

Based on Gessica’s methodology, the team found one specific task to automate: campaign bidding. 

“Bid management has always been a time-consuming task,” Gessica says. “Depending on the budget and channel, we could easily be managing bids every day. Sometimes even multiple times a day.” They wanted to eliminate this management as a top priority. To do so, the person in charge of the task detailed their process to manage ad bids. Using a simple logic tree, they documented the process and applied “IF…THEN…ELSE” rules. Once those rules were defined, Gessica looped in Business Intelligence (BI) and data engineering departments to set up automation processes.

“If you expect to start saving time from day zero, you are mistaken,” Gessica notes. “It’s a good idea to start with one or two campaigns and slowly add the remaining campaigns. You don’t want to automate all your campaigns at the same time in case something goes wrong.”

To get more detail on automating your campaigns, check out Gessica’s post.

That’s a wrap on this edition of Mobile Heroes Best Of’s. Want more? We have four posts in the series you can read up on, including channel tips, fraud solutions, app launches and UA tricks. Also, keep an eye on the blog for more Heroes Best Of’s in the future—or, sign up to our mailing list in the sidebar to get updates straight to your inbox.