Jason Conger’s passion for mobile marketing led him to the heart of Berlin and casual game developer Wooga. Jason leads a team of user acquisition experts who bring together a community for story-driven casual games. Before joining Wooga, Jason steered Backflip Studios’ user acquisition and ad monetization team and drove performance marketing at Zeta Global. Drawn to connecting the dots between marketing and data, Jason strives to bring meaningful impact to games at Wooga.
Learn more from Mobile Hero Jason.
As we settle into the new year, many marketing and user acquisition teams will be assessing their resources to prepare and plan for the obstacles lying ahead. One area often discussed is team structure. All organizations face a similar challenge of getting the most out of their staff and trying to match people to marketing opportunities. There’s no perfect solution to how a team is shaped, but in talking with other teams in the industry, we can share our perspectives on how our teams are structured to learn from each other.
In this blog, I share my insights on how app marketers can build high-performance teams that drive meaningful growth to an organization. There are two things to break apart: the team itself and measuring the impact they have.
Build your all-star team of growth marketers
Your task starts with assembling a great team. But great doesn’t have to mean big. In fact, many successful companies manage with a relatively lean UA team. They can get by if they have the resources, trust and support of their management. My career experience thus far has centered around small teams between 3-10 people, and we’ve found a lot of success in this scenario.
A great user acquisition manager spends their career focusing on and developing three distinct areas: Technical, Creative and Business. No matter how you structure your growth team, find people who have these skills. If you expect every UA manager to be well-rounded in each area, you are looking for a unicorn. There will undoubtedly be a crossover between the different skills but seek out people who naturally excel at one or two of the three.
Each of these areas involves different skills to develop.
- Technical – Combination of SQL, data visualization, and for more advanced teams, automation/machine learning.
- Creative – Design thinking, brand/product marketing, creative optimization.
- Business – Statistics and economics when it comes to financial projections, risk management and strategic planning.
Bonus area: a base layer of skills, including decision-making, problem-solving, detail-oriented and analytical thinking.
Some teams are organized by games, channels and platforms, and some by combining all three. I can’t answer how to best structure your team since it depends on the organization, products, and budgets, but we have a hybrid framework with a combination of game, network, and project owners. Depending on experience and expertise, each UA manager has a variety of responsibilities. We revisit this regularly (every six months or so) to ensure we are on the right track. It changes 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.
Foster trust and enable personal, professional growth
After you find key team members and build a structure in which they thrive, start shaping trust within the team, internally and externally. Let’s be honest, if their main task is optimizing Facebook campaigns 24/7, anticipate they won’t be happy in the long run. It is important to create an environment in which campaign optimization is just a part of the job. In an ideal world, we automate many of these so that strategic thinking overtakes manual optimizations.
We have various bigger projects that allow for more creative thinking, technical development, or business impact. Whether it is re-engagement or expansion into new territories / markets / platforms, creative reporting / visualization, segmentation, games, or iOS 14, there are many high-level topics your team will be interested in—all expanding beyond the scope of general campaign management. Allow the team to spread their wings and give them autonomy to be an expert on projects which have high potential organizational impact. Be there along the way to solve complex problems where they need direction. Help provide a vision for the project but allow marketers the opportunity to find their path to the goal post.
Wooga provides an education budget per employee for personal growth to enhance our skills. In 2020, we saw more virtual classes and courses, using the education to beef up our innovation, design thinking and creativity, SQL, leadership and more.
Unite in different areas of the organization
Now, find a way to connect your UA team with other parts of the business. UA should not exist in a silo. When we go back to UA’s three key aspects, you will see each naturally connecting to another part of the business, which app marketers need to facilitate.
- The creative people are fulfilled when connecting with Product Marketers, CRM, designers, and social/community management teams.
- The technical people work hand-in-hand with data scientists, data engineers and product analysts.
- The business-minded connect with product, finance and management teams.
Together, your user acquisition team rounds out a fully-fledged picture connected to the entire business.
Make marketing measurable
After establishing our team and structure, we face the challenge of making what they do measurable to the organization. (Side note, transparency is immensely important—Wooga is an organization that achieves openness better than anywhere else I have worked). This might not be workable for everyone, especially for hierarchical top-down corporations, but something positive can be said about a flat working culture where everyone is equal. Success comes from each individual coming together towards a collective good.
User acquisition has been in a fortunate position (up until iOS14 comes into play). Nearly everything is trackable (outside of organic uplift or virality—which can still be measured, but that’s a topic for another day). Attribution is fairly conventional and involves choosing the right attribution partner and methodology. There are various approaches, but determine this based on what works best for your company and strategy.
My objective is to always attribute everything we possibly can to a source (or a combination of them). While not everything is directly trackable, we account for everything we can to calculate a holistic ROI. This is something you build internally if you have the resources to do so. If you are a small studio with a modest marketing budget, there are options out there that work but aren’t as powerful, flexible and accurate as built internally.
So let’s say you sorted this all out and are rocking and rolling in UA. Now, what happens when you reach the next level to invest in television, radio, podcasts and influencers? Brand, no doubt, has an impact, but what is it?
Start small (or within reason) and scale for channels
Maybe it is my personal cautious, risk-mitigator personality, but I rarely advise going all in. Do not begin with a multi-million dollar TV budget; work your way up to it. We have an experimentation budget set aside monthly, which is largely not performance-driven but learnings, knowledge-driven so we can pave a path for the future. Without experimentation, marketers slowly optimize out of success with best-performing campaigns dying over time. Be innovative and take some risks. Whether it is a new network or medium, these isolated tests focus on learning first and foremost. Perform a well-designed experiment to test out the channel thoughtfully and don’t just dive in without thinking.
For TV, our marketing team started on a small test in a single country. We isolated as many elements as possible and worked internally with our data science team and external agency to determine the impact. Ultimately, we both came to similar conclusions using internal causal analysis and predicted what installs would have been without any campaign compared to the campaign’s actual installs.
For influencers, we know most people don’t click on the link directly when they install the game. Upon isolating variables and markets, we determine an uplift from tracked to untracked. We have a baseline of tracked installs and can then calculate the remaining untracked; so based on our spend, we can calculate our CPIs, LTVs, ROIs.
For more challenging, largely untrackable sources, we worked with our product team to incorporate in-game marketing surveys to figure out how players heard about our game (through friends, app stores, TV, radio). It is a nice way for us to map to the actual source when “fact-checking” or using it as a proxy for certain untrackable channels. This will continue to be helpful in the future as we run more layered marketing campaigns simultaneously.
Overall, it is not a simple solution and involves marketers, data scientists, UA managers, engineering resources and more to crack the code. But it does paint a full picture of blending marketing sources to find a truly holistic ROI.
Last but not least, iOS 14
And now there’s the giant elephant in the room, iOS 14. How will we manage?! How can we overcome this 800-pound gorilla? First of all, be well prepared. If you’re reading this now to begin your preparation, I’m sorry to say it, but you’re very late to the game. That said, better late than never. Find a good checklist (there are a number of resources out there) and start. If you’ve been taking iOS 14 seriously since August and have been long before that, then you’re in the right spot.
As user acquisition managers, go to your marketing friends with more questions than ever before. Here’s some we ask:
- How did you prove that TV worked?
- How did you optimize the channels?
- How did you find out which creative was best?
- How did you measure the uplift from influencers?
- How did you attribute radio when you ran TV at the same time in the same market?
- What did you do when Apple/Google featuring happened at the same time?
Taking a step back from a pedestal of data clarity, all questions marketing teams deal with will become a problem for future UA teams. Aim to piece together the puzzle as best as possible with all the means to make things work. We will have models which can help; we will have directionally accurate indicators, and we will use intuition to make our best guess.
I have three tips to leave you with regarding iOS 14:
- Update your SDKs
- A/B test opt-in messaging for App Tracking Transparency
- Understand and optimize the opt-in rate
- Analyze the impact on in-game KPIs
- Implement SKAdNetwork Conversion Values
In this industry where nothing is ever guaranteed, success with your teams should be celebrated. For those of us who succeeded this far, we’ve been through many ups and downs and will surely have more of them. Mobile marketing keeps things interesting and us on our toes. It is the nature of working in a disruptive environment with many uncertainties.
Keep a positive attitude, build a great team around you, look for solution-oriented approaches to the existing problems and stay calm. The world around us has been crazy enough in our own lives, and fortunately, we are in a position where we market games for a living. This is a real privilege I’ve never taken for granted.