It’s a long road from an app debuting on the app stores to a growing sizable fan base. But making the right moves right out of the gate and adjusting tactics along the way can be the difference between a blip on the radar and a top spot in the charts with an army of dedicated users.
To succeed you need the right tools and information to make smart media buying decisions from day one to capture and retain the quality users your app business deserves.
Set yourself up for success
If everyone knew what was going to be successful, this would be easy. Unfortunately, we’re never sure which creative is going to resonate with potential users.
Luckily, we live in the time of endless data and near-instant metrics, not to mention an age where microscopic media buys can be used to test a variety of campaigns simultaneously. Therefore it’s imperative we use smart tools at our disposal to ensure we’re pushing the highest quality creative out.
1 Focus on quality
To figure out what’s going to drive the activity you want to invest heavily in, every campaign should be testing four-to-eight pieces of creative to see what’s resonating and driving users to engage.
Characters vs. landscapes, bright colors vs. stark contrasts, gameplay vs. stylized renderings – there are lots of ways to visualize the experience in your app, and you should be giving them all a test run to see what sticks.
But remember, you’re not just testing art to see what drives clicks. While that’s important, often the creative that gets people engaged isn’t the same creative that drives the KPIs you care about that lead to revenue and high user LTV. That’s why you have to tie your campaign measurement to those deeper, long-term objectives and not just the best click-through rates (CTRs).
With your A/B results in hand, you can then return to the drawing board and continue honing and testing additional iterations of creative to arrive at the performance-enhanced art.
2 Define and identify good users
There are many traps on the path to success, and one that trips up many game publishers early in the game is falling for the allure of low cost per impression (CPI) buying.
Getting in front of more eyeballs for less money seems like a good idea. But this spray-and-pray approach means you’re wasting a lot of impressions on folks who have little chance of becoming high LTV users. Plus, buying traffic cheaply, regardless of volume will use up most of your media spend budget and reach a plateau quickly.
Quality users don’t come cheaply, which is why you’ll need to increase your CPI gradually as you narrow your targeting. Yes, your ads are getting more expensive per impression in this scenario. But, it doesn’t mean you’re spending more per acquisition. Instead, you’re choosing quality over quantity, and that quality is going to bring the higher LTV your app needs to succeed in the long run.
While you could try to do this on your own through trial-and-error—not to mention a lot of late nights squinting at reams of data—the pros (advanced performance marketers) know – you need algorithm-driven tools to do this efficiently.
As the results come in and the system learns more about what’s working and who to target, your media buying can shift from CPI thinking to a Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) mindset where your end goal (vs. ad industry metrics) are driving your budget and results.
What we do at Bidalgo for apps
With math and machines on our side, each week you’re getting smarter and more refined in your media buying until you’re buying and targeting purely based on LTV.
3 Be sure you can trace your steps
A successful media buying campaign is only useful if you can replicate it and iterate. If you don’t know what happened through the full acquisition funnel (all the details of your best cohort behavior), you’re making decisions with gaps in meaningful information (half right, half guess). Be sure to setup attribution properly, so you know how you’re getting your best users and where you’re finding them.
Scale your growth
1 Find your success pockets
The key to scaling efficiency is continual testing and optimization. You’re doing this along with multiple axes simultaneously, each week seeing what’s working (and not working) and narrowing your focus accordingly:
- Placement – Start with all placement types, then only the most efficient, then only those with low CPIs and high install volumes, and finally focusing on those with high install volumes and LTV indicators (such as payments).
- Bid types – Begin optimizing CPM for install, then expanding to cost per acquisition (CPA) and app event optimization (AEO). Next, it’s highest volume bid buys and low CPIs. You’ll end up in week four with more data to bid against volume and payer rates for the right mix.
- Targeting – Start off with custom audiences (CA), lookalike audiences (LAL) and keyword targeting (KW). Next introduce broad demographic targeting (age groups, gender, etc.), followed by clustered geographies and precise interests. Once again, by week four you’re purchasing based on high volume and payer rates.
- Creative – Start with all the creatives, then narrowing them down based on performance, keeping specific creative with the above targeting breakdowns if the art performance isn’t consistent across the various targets.
2 Use technology built for scaling
That probably sounds like a lot of work to do every week, and it would be if you’re doing it on your own. Admit it; profitable high-spend performance can’t be replicated using Power Editor. Race car drivers do not compete in run-of-the-mill cars available to the general public.
Advanced media buyers use power tools as well. With algorithm-drive platforms like Bidalgo, this level of continuous measurement and optimization is baked into the system and nearly automatic.
Bidalgo platform takes all of your inputs—KWs, LALs, business targets, creative—and handles all of the targeting and delivery. We incorporate long-term optimization for budget and ROAS targets, then let you reuse what worked in the past for future campaigns, balancing exponential growth with maintaining quality user acquisition.
3 Automate daily workflows
With the roadmap for success in hand, it’s time to repeat execution over the long haul. Here’s where it’s essential to make what’s effective routine, and that only happens when things get automated.
Skipping the boring, repetitive tasks ensures your campaigns keep running and performing and take the human element out of the equation when it’s not required. The campaign manager can focus on keeping the creative and targeting assets pipeline full, which is way more fun anyway.
4 Be an early adopter of new ad formats
Social media doesn’t sit still for long, and the top platforms are frequently introducing new ad formats to differentiate and deliver value to advertisers. For example, Facebook debuts as many as six different ad formats every year.
While some fizzle out and don’t get traction, new ad formats are a critical tool for audience hunting ad buyers. The key is buying in fast before the competition swoops in and starts driving up the prices.
When you’re one of the first to the party, you can beat your targets much cheaper than the existing formats, giving you the chance to get a big revenue and user growth pop at low cost.
For example, when AEO debuted in July of last year, we were able to get a 400% ROAS for some Bidalgo clients by snapping up this opportunity early on.
Level up your game further
Alright, you’ve optimized the heck out of your creatives and targeting, how can you kick things up a notch and squeeze even better returns out of your ad spend? Here are three more opportunities for optimization.
1 Use your watch and calendar wisely
Do you do the same things on a Monday that you do on a Sunday? Are you thinking about the same things at 8 am as you do at 8 pm? Of course not. So why are your ads acting like it’s always a lazy Saturday afternoon?
They don’t have to with day-parting and week-parting tactics at your disposal. We know casual gamers play more on the weekends, but they also might take a few turns on their lunch break. We also know people tend to browse the virtual storefronts on the weekends while they pull the trigger on purchases more during the weekdays.
Don’t deliver into dead zones by restricting your ads to only run when your audience is prime for taking action. Plus you can tailor your creative to the time slot and day of the week once you see what clicks when.
2 Think global
You never know when your app will become popular in a new market, so the only way to know if your game has global growth potential is to dip your toes into some additional markets. With just a few experimental dollars you can see if there’s any traction on foreign soil.
Once you do find a hit in a new geo, you can use lookalike targeting to see if their neighbors might also be interested. Just don’t complain when you have to localize your app for Swahili and Swedish (which is unlikely).
3 Think local
Countries are not homogenous, especially large markets like the U.S. Figuring out which markets are delivering high-value users gives you more data you can use to maximize your returns.
Not only can you double-down on the cities where you see high adoption rates from high LTV users, but you can also target similar cities for similar results. While you’ll face a higher CPI in some cases by narrowing your targets, if those cities are a hit you’ll see lower CPA and ROAS, which are the metrics that matter.
Ready to make a killing with your app?
You’ll need to execute, which is a different subject, yet you’ve got the playbook:
Start strong – invest in quality up-front for early wins and a solid reputation
Math is your friend – let algorithms to enhance bidding for efficiency, speed, and scale
You are not a robot – automate workflows so you can focus on testing and hypersegmentation
Be an early adopter – be the first to try out new ad formats for extra marginal revenue while maximizing CPIs and bumping up the number of quality users you’re capturing and retaining.
Want more details? See the record of our webinar on the topic.