App Marketing Lessons Learned

A panel on “ Sharing Success and Lessons Learned” took place at this year’s App Promotion Summit in Berlin and was chaired by Andrea Bauer, Founder & Strategist at Digital Surgeries. The other participants that took part in the discussion are Bernhard Falch, Head Of Online & Mobile Marketing at Autoscout24, Frank Thelen, Founder & Ceo at Doo, Stefanie Hoffmann, Co-Founder at Loui Apps, Johanna Brewer,  Ceo & Co-Founder at Frestyl. Now we are able to share audio recordings of the panel discussion video as well as transcription.

You can watch the video or listen to the audio recordings and podcast recording here:

App Marketing Lessons Learned Video

You can find the audio recording below:

App Marketing Lessons Learned Audio/ Podcast

You can find the full text of the panel discussion below:

App Marketing Lessons Learned Transcript

Andrea: So, I would ask for some questions. Who wants to start or should I pick? Hands up. By the way, sorry, I need to introduce the round of course, of course. You know Stefanie Hoffman already. Then we have Frank Thelen who is new on the panel. You already met Johanna Brewer. And also Bernhard Falch. Could you each give an introduction about who you are and why you are here.

Bernhard: I am Bernhard Falch from Autoscout24, the biggest car classifieds website in Europe. I have been in charge of online mobile marketing for three years. I am basically an onliner so maybe I can bring in some online expertise to the mobile round.

Johanna: I’m Johanna Brewer. You guys met me before, but I didn’t really introduce myself since I was just moderating. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Frestyl. We’re a live music discovery and promotions start-up. So for most of you in the crowd, you might know us because we have an app where you can find cool concerts in Berlin. My background is in everything. I have a PhD, I do development and design, and I’m a vegetarian in case anyone wants to know.

Frank: My name is Frank. I am a serial entrepreneur and investor. I am currently doing Doo, D-O-O, a document management app. I co-created Wunderlist with Christian, an investor in myTaxi, Kaufda, and some other quite successful start-ups.

Andrea: A long, long list.

Stefanie: I am Stefanie, and basically I consult from app strategy to app promotion. I am in the moment in developing apps too. I have been doing apps since 2006 when I founded my first start-up, but since then, I have nothing to do with the web.

Andrea: I think we have a really nice mix here on stage right now regarding question, one hand here online, and mobile, and one person together and also with the brand which is already very international. So also the question, how can you really internationally promote your application. Then Frestyl in its very early stage, with a lot of challenges of course, also as a platform for providing content, and also the users bring that together in the right mix.

And also a serial entrepreneur for almost two decades. A person who knows how to boost an application from the early stages into the mainstream. And here as well, I think Stefanie is one of the best PR people ever. She has gotten a lot of press with Gabi, and everyone was really excited about in how many channels she already promoted it. I think that was a good kick-off at that time.

Now I am excited about your questions. Raise your hands or I will pick a table.

Sasha: I am Sasha from Switzerland. I have one question. It’s a pity that [inaudible 00:03:35] guys now, not on the panel because I was wondering for very long how social websites, apps get the first users and early adopters to become actually social. What is a dating website if there are no people?

Stefanie: I can answer. In the beginning we had the same challenge.  So basically what you do, you show again and again the same people of course in the search list. There is always a problem as a woman actually by dating when you have 20 to 30 percent women and you have a lot of men and they’re [inaudible 00:04:22]. People are always searching for a new dating app. They are not only using one, but they are trying to increase their chances by using as much as possible. So by dating, it’s really, “I want to see as many different girls as possible” for different platforms, whatever.

Sasha: But how do you get the people?

Stefanie: You make advertising. When I started in the beginning, a kind of Flickr for mobile, was the people from, what ws the name. Peperonity, they were really one of the first ones. They were all over Romania, everywhere, number one, and they were the biggest ad app supplier for apps, and were super cheap. So you could have a new user for 20 cents. So most of the advertising for other apps who advertised their own apps then to qualified actually as the traffic and then sells their traffic for a higher price.

Andrea: What is your perspective?

Frank: I built a flirt a long time ago, like 15 years ago on the web. If you have built an app, and it’s social, what you have to do is take your own circle, your own friends and then your friends take you friends. And you have to build a great product. You have to encourage them to be engaged. From there, it can grow.

If you have the budget to advertise, great. But normally you don’t have it. So it’s this buzzword “viral”. In the beginning you just have to call your friends, your friends have to call their friends and you have to put in a lot of energy, sorry, that’s exactly how to do it. It’s not some magic. I have built so many companies, and it’s just f*cking hard work. So get on the phone, get on the email, call people, and grow like this. And from there it just has to be high quality so that it finds the viral loop. If you’re already at the place where it can do advertising, great, but then your budget [inaudible 00:06:14].

Johanna: I’m totally on the same page, but I would take it even further down the road. Not just friends but you have to be out there on the ground. If any of you live in Berlin, you have probably seen me on the street, at concerts, I’ll be like “Use my app.” Even though I am sitting here on a panel, and it sounds like I know what I’m talking about, I spend a lot of time out there just trying to figure out in a dirty, scrappy, unholy, lemonade-stand kind of way how will people use this because you are trying to get exposure over people who have massive ad spend. And so if I’m throwing money at the problem, that’s the least important thing I have.

So in any starting phase, even if you’re starting out of the game and you have a huge amount of capital behind you because let’s say you’re a fourth time entrepreneur, that’s not going to be an effective spend if you’re really out there on the ground, you getting the feedback that we were talking about on the panel I was moderating and creating those type loops. There is no magic to getting it done.

Andrea: And what about the social features at that point?

Johanna: It’s about creating a community. I mean there’s an anthropological perspective that one takes on this, especially in urban stuff, right? You look at why there is graffiti in some neighborhoods versus others. And it’s about keeping it the space you want it to become. So part of it is setting the tone through the activity that not just you the founder or you the creator, but your entire community and encouraging how they interact and say, “Hey you know, in a place like Frestyl we don’t talk like that.” It’s really creating that from a top-down thing, to create a community that fuels itself.

I mean, you look at some apps out there, I mean, how many mobile photosharing apps are basically pictures of people’s junk? I mean, it’s like, there’s a lot of them out there that happen because they haven’t set the community. I mean it’s happened, there’s big failures that have happened around nudity and profanity in a social sharing photo app. So it’s because the tone wasn’t set right.

Stefanie: But I have to say dating is a special point because it is not as viral as other communities. Some guys, “Okay we recommend another guy, a dating app,” but what we saw on [inaudible 00:08:09] when you have a problem with the different platforms, people have really trouble to invite their friends to meet new friends. So it’s really not the thing. The best promotional slogan that worked was “Discover New People.”

The problem we discovered after awhile, and this was the reason Aka-Aki was a dating app was because people were there, not to invite their friends, but they missed their friends there. This is the reason it had a very short life cycle because the moment you found someone you were done. When the product is working, it is over.

Andrea: Interesting. Do you have a perspective on that?

Bernhard: Of course from a big enterprise point of view it is completely different. If you are big, then you have to play the full range of marketing, from PR to TV whatever, that’s obvious. But usually the budget is limited and then really the chance of learning. And we have to differentiate between push marketing and pull marketing. That is our experience.

Push marketing is obviously display of Facebook ads. On the other side, pull marketing is when the user has a clear intent. He is searching in the app store or in Google, and you just have to get this user. This user will convert much, much better if you do push marketing campaigns.

Even if you have to pay Google for per-click, and the cost per download, or per install is many times the cost per install from a push campaign. In the end, on the customer lifetime, you are, CPA basis, this  is our experience, performance is better from the pull campaigns.

Frank: I believe the question was a little like, “Hey, there is this super successful guy with this great app that is so viral. They now have not five, but six million users. How are they growing?” When I talk about starting Wunderlist, which is a big tool today, so how we started it, we had this idea, we hacked it together in a horrible way. We put it on a website, and we wrote a lot of personal emails to everybody and said, “This is great. You have to try it.”

Then, in that night that we launched a Lifehacker editor found that tool, liked it, put on MyFactor, and from that moment on, Wunderlist just grew. That’s the spirit of this. If some of you want to start this, it’s hard. You have to be in the streets. You have to work. You have to send personal emails. It is not a fancy, cool thing. It’s hard.

Stefanie: One last thing about the dating apps, as I learned from Badoo, they in the beginnig had a lot of robots too. They designed the user experience from second to second, so you signed up and it was clear that in the first 60 seconds you would receive a message. I was talking to the founder, this very cool Russian guy, and he was explaining to me exactly about the user experience and how he will have it and he said, “Stefanie, sign up now,” and then we were sitting there [inaudible 00:11:09]. He asked me to make a Badoo mobile, but I said no.

Frank: Beautiful, rich sportive guy and just 30 seconds after.

Stefanie: I knew our technology was crap and he would kill me later, so I didn’t do it.

Andrea: Okay, next question. Hands up. Then I will pick the table over there. This was the table with the… what is your question? You have no question.

Audience Member: Hello. We do analytics, and I am interested in how you deal with app portfolios? Normally we have a lot of companies that have one specific app, and then you know the patterns of the analytics. But some of the companies here are publishers and have an app portfolios with different approaches of the app. Do you have an idea how to deal with that?

Andrea: So promoting many applications you manage?

Audience Member: How do you manage many different kinds of apps? You may have one app that is just an e-paper, the second app is really doing some social stuff, and the third app doing utility. So completely different apps, completely different kind of users and to deal with an app portfolio is maybe a big thing.

Johanna: I can speak from a developer perspective. At Frestyl, we have a core app and we’re a small team, we’re seven people. We have two developers, one of whom is me, and obviously don’t have infinite time. We come up with ideas, and this is very early stage way of doing this sort of stuff but we’ll build out mini-apps, that’s usually in the music theme because I work in the music industry, but it could be anything.

I built an app at a Hack Day, where you could make your entire life’s music compilation, one song for every month you’ve been alive, Spotify, HackTool, whatever. A lot of people shared it, and I got a lot of press for what I was doing at my core company. So a lot of ways that smaller enterprises approach the app portfolio kind of in a scrappy sense, is to use those apps as launching moments, light-weight things. So really think of okay I can’t be spending anywhere near what I spend on the core in terms of dev time or marketing time, but throw them out there as marketing moments and using apps as purely marketing for me. And I’m not thinking about maintaining it or really building big lifetime value. Just like a cool thing. Like I wish I had that. Let me put it on the internet, and write Frestyl under it, and see what happens.

Part of portfolio management can start there and say what are the little low hanging fruits that I can pick off and make a single app for it and treat it as a test. If it gets some response, you can change direction. Rather than thinking in a top-down way for me of managing my portfolio I add things into it as experiments and let them stay if they’re active and good.

Bernhard: Obviously, you have to scale if you can, if it’s knowledge, if it’s tools or whatever. I think that’s that’s clear, on the other side of course, that’s obvious, do cross-promotion. But this looks like, if it’s too different, then that may not be possible. Scaling is not the secret, but it is efficient.

Audience member: PuzzleMap. We are an off-line games publisher. I have a question for Frank. We talked a lot of about games and entertainment products today. Are there any things where you would say productivity apps have very specifics in terms of how you recruit your customer base, how you create retention among the users, do you find that very different from entertainment and games apps?

Frank: Totally. I have developed some games, and I also had a game company that I sold, but today for example I stay far away from games. They are a different ecosystem than productivity. If I look at Wunderlist, myTaxi, Kaufda, or Doo, that makes life better, there are different customers and different metrics and different things in there than gaming. So if you ask me about gaming, I have no clue. I believe they are a really different ecosystem, how you monetize, how do marketing, how long they stay, customer lifetime. Everything is totally different.

Andrea: Next question.

Harald: From the panels experience, we have been talking about various different channels and ad networks for driving traffic. In your experience, what has worked and what hasn’t worked, in your experience?

Bernhard: It is definitely changing every year. It is very dynamic. In the beginning it was hard to measure every channel, but now tracking is getting increasingly better, we can now measure CODs and CPAs. As I have said, it is very important to examine the user’s intent. If the user is searching for something, and you have the perfect solution, you have to go into those channels, which is search or the app stores. Generally, it is important to have the full mix, and then optimize the mix according to your core KPIs. And for that you need the best as possible tracking.

Joanna: For us, it’s all about experimentation. We really try to look at the cutting edge in different tools that you can use. We are small, so we have to stand out. I was having some interesting conversations with my panelists yesterday talking about the strategies that Rovio and Angry Birds adopted. Staying at the bleeding edge can be one way of trying to stand out.

But for me, because we’re not necessarily at the bleeding edge of marketing technologically, and I can’t put enough resources into that in my own team, what we actually try to do is just look at what are the most creative new things. So not necessarily technologically advanced in terms of… In my company, we are not doing video ads or cool scratch-off reveal games, because we’re competing at a different attention span. Video games have lots of lightning, so having a video ad is a lot better and more effective than using only a piece of text in the middle of all that.

At Frestyl, we like to use and experiment with a lot of different tools. I am really excited about some of the things happening on Facebook and I am not a Facebook fan in general as a human being. But what’s really going on in their advertising, is surprisingly cool. We saw it slide from 0 to 50 percent market share in a year because they actually have good tools, and we get good data coming back out of it.

When we started experimenting with out early ad platform a year ago, people were telling us not to and it was a bad idea and we should use Google because that’s established. As a start-up, you’re getting a lot of different advice, but we decided, no, we’re going to always try the new stuff and see what’s going on there.

My best advice is that there is never just one right way to go for you. That’s sort of cop-out, but really a lot of focus and small experimentation to kind of blow your own mind. What people respond to in ads is changing incredibly rapidly now compared to five years ago. You probably don’t even know what’s going to be the right thing, I don’t think. You’ve got to try.

Frank: So my thing is just to build a perfect, beautiful product. That’s the best way of marketing. Today we are linked together so tightly with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. For example a week ago there was an app introduced called Knock. It took Bluetooth 4.0’s low energy consumption to go to your Mac, knock on your phone and opens it, so everybody knows it. There was no big marketing. They just had a freaking beautiful website, they took a new technology, made it into a beautiful product, and off it went. There are a lot of great marketing teams that can do a lot in a corporate environment if you have deep pockets, but I am a start-up guy who just tries to build great products.

Andrea: So promotion by accident.

Stefanie: I agree with you 100 percent. I have had the same experience with both Aka-Aki and Gabi. If you make something great, people will talk about it. Then you need a clear plan, a strategy, and execution. [inaudible 00:20:28] emais, whatever, but really concentrated plan. For example, with Gabi, [inaudible 00:20:36] we launched this day. We were at the Apple conference and showed it to the app managers. Apple loved it. We were talking to the press already, so we all the schedules in place.

We were talking to the right people to know that on this day Apple would feature us, Mashable will write about us and at 8:00 TechCrunch will write, and then at 9:00 [inaudible 00:21:04] will go out. You can boost through the product, but then [inaudible 00:21:10] comes afterwards. So then it’s a second wave. So after you did all the sh** and the boom or whatever, then you have to see that your product is working and then you go into the performance based indicators. Then you examine which are the right channels by experimenting and adding new channels. But I think it’s the right product, the right visuals, hard work, a good plan, and good execution.

Audience Member: We saw this great slide about marketing mix when we were talking about cross promotion. I was wondering what are the most important tools that you use in the current state of your products?

Bernhard: For us, from an online and mobile perspective, it is Google Analytics. This is especially true for online marketing because it is the best way to measure the online channels, but it is getting better for mobile channels as well.  For mobile, we also use [inaudible 00:22:40] which is state-of-the-art technology for mobile campaign tracking.

Johanna: For us the best thing we use apart from pulling down our analytics, from we use Google Analytics for a lof of the app stuff. I just use App Annie, which downloads things out of iTunes for me, compiles all my reports in one place, and they don’t ever get deleted by Apple. One of the most important things we have is something that we built, our own admin dashboard that runs in our platform. It looks like Google Analytics, I made it out of Google Charts.

It shows all of our KPIs and allows us to interact and move through our user data in real time to actually see what users are doing. Because I think, people keep saying it, but it’s about engaging with your specific users. Our product is B2B, B2C because we have live music fans like you guys and people who organize concerts and use our services to promote. We have to monitor to very different kinds of user groups, there’s different cohorts within that. So I’m trying to build, the most important tool we have is a custom tool we built for ourselves.

Frank: We use standard tools. I don’t have any magic to talk about.

Stefanie: I have worked with Localytics [inaudible 00:24:03] Flurry in the past. I actually hate Google Analytics for mobile. I don’t know if they are getting better, but last year it was really bad I could kill them. I heard a speech about a new tool that I am totally excited to see in action, but we are still not on the web. We are only on mobile, so there is a lot to do. I’m really excited that new tools are appearing for mobile that look more deeply into the details. The numbers can be very confusing when you are trying to diagnose a problem, but you are not given enough information.

Audience Member: My question is specifically for Frank, but I’s also like to hear from the others. In terms of productivity apps, what kind of metrics and KPIs do you use to track the success of your product and how did these metrics develop over the life-cycle of the product?

Frank: The first thing is growth, so you have to create downloads. Then you need a great registration process so that people create an account. Then you have engagement, which is just usage. How many daily active users do you have? How many monthly active users? Then you see those cohorts and how long does it take until a free user becomes a paying user and what are the triggers and so on. One of the best tools is Evernote because they have a long history, and Phil Libin is very open and communicative. He called it the Smile Graph. This is something we see at Wunderlist now. But they are well-documented. So the product has to work. Then it has growth, engagement, and then monetization. That is the standard way.

Audience Member: I wanted to focus a little more closely on retention and measuring the lengths of time for which people use your products.

Andrea: To develop certain meaningful KPIs?

Audience Member: Yes, by examining the process of the development of your product. You may look at certain things at the beginning, but then switch your focus to other metrics during the development process.

Frank: Absolutely. We also do a A/B testing, for example. There is a simple thing  between log-in and registration, where you have an existing user and you want to have a new user. Is it the best way to display the information as a big registration and a small log-in or to always type in the email address. We do a lot of A/B testing to iron out these details. We put a lot of attention in every single detail to make that process as smooth as possible.

We put Pixel Tracks in there, like how many people go through each route. We also invite people from the streets to test our product. We have 20 people come in and we say, “Use it.” Then we make a video out of it. There are also test birds in other start-ups that will pay people a small amount to try it. It’s not rocket science, just passion and love for the detail. You have to really love the product and make it perfect.

Andrea: So we finished the round. Thank you to the panel and to all of you, thank you for your questions.

Thanks to the moderator and panelists for a great discussion you can find out more about App Promotion Summit here