In my role as a mobile marketing and app user acquisition specialist, I have had many discussions with blue-chip company directors or their agencies whom just cannot see the value in running an app campaign. Part of the reason for this is that they themselves admit that they do not understand the market well enough to redirect some of their online marketing budget to an app campaign. Yet in reality, running an app campaign is not all that different from any other online marketing campaign if you follow some simple rules...
Copy Your Competitors
Whatever vertical you may be in, you will be able to find advertisers whom are already running app install campaigns to drive leads, subscriptions, sales, or engagement. Just a basic search of the App Store or Google Play Store will show you the apps that are already out there, and the Google Play Store also gives an indication of how many times the app has been downloaded on the app's description page.
Additionally, you can use a free service such as App Annie to get an overview of the volumes and rankings of any app. Finally, to get an idea of what sort of campaigns are running over the 400+ performance networks, you can visit sites such as OfferVault, or ODigger. Not all apps will have campaigns running with networks, but these sites will give you an idea of what sort of campaigns your competitors are running, and at what rates.
Define Your Objectives
As with any marketing campaign, before you do anything else, you must decide on your objectives. It is not good enough to spend thousands on a campaign to just get users to install your app unless you know exactly what you want them to do with it once they have installed it. You would not believe how many companies just assume that users will interact with their app just because they have it on their phone.
So, just like with any other non-app marketing campaign, set your objective first. The user installs and opens your app. Now what? Do you want them to register their email or Facebook details? Login to their existing online account and get a bonus for doing so? Complete a specific task? Expecting the user to make a immediate purchase or subscription is highly unlikely, so you need to make sure that you have functionality within the app (through in-app notifications), or outside the app (through email or social networks) in order to be able to keep in contact with them.
Decide On Your Strategy
You need to consider the trade-off between quantity and quality for any app marketing campaign, just as you would with display and email. Selection of traffic sources are as critical for apps as they are for a desktop campaign. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the worst quality (and therefore worst performing) traffic in the mobile space comes from some of the biggest and most well-known networks. I am not naming names in this article, but I certainly have my own black list of some very famous companies in the mobile space with whom I will not run ads for my clients!
Just like you would not expect to run a successful Adwords campaign with no experience, you should not run an app install campaign without doing your own in-depth research, or through working with an impartial third-party who operates on a performance basis (whom understands the entire market and which companies you should be working with). This is how I work for my clients as it is easy to spend money on app campaigns, but less easy to make it financially viable. As an example, by understanding the market, in some cases, you can get a better return from running a campaign with an incentivised publisher than you could from running through some big non-incentive advertising mobile platforms and networks. This is why it is critical for you to not only get your objectives fixed before you start, but also to know what sort of users you are exposing your campaign to.
I spend all day, every day, working in the mobile advertising space on behalf of my clients, and I am always surprised when a business approaches me wanting to run a mobile or app campaign without fully understanding these three simple steps. At the moment, there are incredible opportunities to leverage the mobile advertising space, but at the same time it is also very easy to burn through a marketing budget if you do not understand how to do so effectively. An app campaign can be hugely profitable, but only if you are fully aware of how easy it can be to get it wrong.