Farzana Nasser, Global Co-President of Women In Wireless, a non-profit organization for championing women leaders in mobile and digital, sits down with Mobile Growth to discuss product and brand marketing strategies as well as utilizing behavioral data and other KPI’s for improved mobile app growth.
Mobile Growth: Hey, we’re here with Farzana Nasser, she’s a Mobile Growth consultant and expert as well the co-president for Women in Wireless! Hi, Farzana, how are you doing?
Farzana Nasser: I’m good, how are you?
Mobile Growth: Awesome! OK, let’s dive right into it and get it kicked off with – if you don’t mind giving us a little bit about your background and briefly about what you’re doing now?
Farzana: Sure! So I’ve spent my career focused on [inaudible] technology to power product and brand marketing. I founded a mobile technology company that uses first party behavioral data to drive predictive audience recommendations. That company was acquired and now I consult with mobile app marketers to help them unlock the power of their user data to drive profitable growth. I’m also co-president of Women in Wireless, which is a global organization that champions women in mobile and digital.
Mobile Growth: Oh, that’s awesome! And we’ve partnered up a lot with Women in Wireless, it’s a top notch organization and we’re really happy and fortunate to have a great partnership!
Farzana: Thanks, Louis. It’s been a pleasure working with you guys as well!
Mobile Growth: Well, look at that, it’s a love fest! All right, first question, the mobile app marketing industry is a rapidly changing one. How has the role of the app marketer specifically changed in recent years?
Farzana: That’s a great question! I started my career in brand management, before the first iphone launched, and at that time, the two skill sets you needed to be a really great marketer was to be strategic and analytical. Now, it’s imperative to be technical as well, and there’s so many skill sets that you need in order to deliver on that. The first is to have the sensibility of the product person.
Farzana: So the third skill set that’s highly critical now is to be technical, and that means having the sensibility of a product person. The best marketing can’t fix the bad product, understanding user behavior and the user journey in your app in order to drive conversion post-install is critical. You also need to have an innate understanding of the engineering process. You have to interface the engineering team. You have to understand your tech staff. And everything from how post-back works, to how different technologies can enable you to track user behavior and more effectively communicate with people, and not only do you need to understand all of that, but you also need to know what’s involved from an integration perspective to make that possible.
Farzana: In addition to that, you have to have the mentality of a data scientist. And you need to understand how to use data to intelligently target and optimize marketing execution. Not only do you need to know all of these things, but the marketplace has gotten so fragmented, and marketers need to be able to do so many things that context shifting and multitasking are more critical than ever. Marketers these days can’t be specialists anymore, they need to be generalists, they need to be channel agnostic. And they need to be able to understand direct response and brand marketing. Gone are the days where you had one agency or one vendor to work with; now there’s like 10-20 partners that you need to work with, due to the fragmented nature of ad tracking and marketing track.
Farzana: And then on top of all of this, what’s happening now, is there’s a recent trend that companies are starting to bring a lot of these capabilities in-house, so having the tools and the skill set in place in order to be able to do that is really critical.
Mobile Growth: Yeah, I think that’s very important. I think it’s also, it’s an interesting point that you made, that I tell a lot of my clients is, make sure that the product actually works, and people want to engage with it and stay with it before you spend all that money trying to get users, ’cause then you’d be wasting your money otherwise.
Mobile Growth: So, actually, that’s a perfect segue into the next question, which is: How can app marketers avoid this race to the bottom with the constant pursuit of cheaper and cheaper cost-per-installs and an apparent focus on cheap traffic over quality traffic?
Farzana: Good question. I wish that we weren’t still having this conversation about the cheapest user possible. I think that we really need to move that conversation from, instead of how talking about how cheap a user is, how valuable they are.
Farzana: We’ve seen the stats: We know that nearly 25% of users who download an app only open it once. So, acquisition truly means nothing with that engagement, and to expect someone to come into your app, so you require someone, to expect them to buy immediately, with nothing at all happening in between doesn’t make any sense, right? There’s a whole funnel, and a user journey that happens after someone downloads an app, and understanding that entire process and that journey is critical for a marketer, whether it’s the landing page or a product feature or something that there’s no reminder for the user to convert after they have installed. There’s a lot of different touch-points that marketers have that they can leverage in order to drive an action that they’re looking for, and the install is really only the first step in a very long journey.
Mobile Growth: Why do you think that is? Why do you think it is that everyone’s so concerned about the cheaper and cheaper installs? Do you think that because they’re only responsible in their jobs for acquisition, or do you think maybe they just don’t see the bigger picture? Why do you think people are more concerned about cost over quality?
Farzana: I think one issue is just having the data in the systems in place to ensure that you’re looking at cost-install metrics.
Farzana: And a lot of times, you can get into this phase of analysis paralysis, where there’s so much data that you don’t know how to digest it, and make it actionable, and CPIs is very easy, simple data point that everyone can understand and everyone can act on, and you can use that to put pressure on your vendors to deliver and it’s really easy to do that, but if you start looking at metrics post-CPI, then you realize, it’s really more about the value of the user versus how cheap they are, because you start looking at things like retention. Day one, day seven retention at the minimum. Are you keeping the people that you’re bringing in? Are you looking at how to monetize it over time?
Farzana: So, your cost-per-monetization. Sometimes, a person can be a dollar to acquire, but over a hundred dollars to convert, versus a more expensive install at $10 or $20 could be less than $30 to convert. So, the value of that user and looking at those metrics is critical. I also think that understanding how to measure a customer lifetime value, to develop a true ROI, is a challenging one, but a really important process to go through, because it’s not even just about the first purchase or the first bit of conversion, but the entire lifetime of that customer and what they’re really worth to you over time. And that makes marketers much more powerful in terms of being able to understand what channels are the most effective, what drives the best users, what messaging is working, what audiences are working, and using that as the metric or the KPI to look at when looking at all of your marketing tactics across all different channels, it makes a lot more sense in terms of driving true business value, versus the cheapest user possible, and then potentially losing them the next day.
Farzana: The attention span of people has gotten much shorter, and there’s a ton of competition, with millions of apps in the appstore. The average user uses an app – only uses I think 4-6 apps a day. So, how do you get into that consideration? It’s challenging! And without engagement and without thinking about what happens post-install, there’s no way to win that race.
Mobile Growth: So in that case, then what key metrics should mobile marketers focus on to kinda judge the effectiveness of their marketing efforts? You mention lifetime value and retention, are there any others, or are those the best ones?
Farzana: Those are the critical ones, at a minimum, looking at retention, looking at cost per monetization, so however your app is monetized, whether it’s a subscription, or in-app advertising, ensuring that the people who are coming into your app are actually growing from a monetization perspective, and actually delivering value and growing your bottom line, is critical. And then the customer lifetime value piece as well, over their lifetime, what are they worth to you? Those are the three key ones.
Mobile Growth: So, you mention lifetime value in a retention, and we talked a little bit about UA. Would you say that you have a percentage that you’d like to stick to for a cost-per-acquisition, must be 20% of lifetime value, or anything like that, do you like to gauge?
Farzana: Really dependent on the vertical. That’s a tough question. I don’t know if I have a great answer to that, because it’s so dependent on the vertical, it’s so dependent on the product, it’s so dependent on the offering. There really isn’t any consistency that I have seen.
Mobile Growth: So we’re going to move onto the concept of behavioral data next, is that cool?
Farzana: Yes, that sounds good!
Mobile Growth: You write and speak a lot about this concept of behavioral data being underutilized, can you please explain what behavioral data is, and why it’s so valuable?
Farzana: Sure! So when I talk about behavioral data, I’m referring to first-party user data. Historically, demographic and geographic data was used to target and acquire users, but what I’ve seen across multiple verticals, whether it be utility or publishing or gaming or large eCommerce companies, as userbases grow and evolve, user behavior is much more indicative and it becomes a defining mechanism for identifying the best users in your application.
Farzana: And it’s generally not targeting based on women 35-45, it’s sort of the past, and looking at the future, the way that targeting is evolving, is looking at behaviors. And you’ll see mobile gaming apps, for example, that are historically targeted towards men, there’s a huge contingent of mothers that are on mobile gaming apps. So to target just demographically and geographically I think is not as accurate or as effective as it is to look at user behavior and you use that as a way to identify not only in terms of acquiring users, identifying users that you should be acquiring that look most similar to your heavy users, but also from an engagement perspective, there’s so much opportunity for marketers to utilize their first-party data, whether it be advertising IDs, IDFAs, android IDs, there’s tons of ways to collect this first-party data that marketers should know about and should get access to.
Farzana: Most analytics tools can collect this data for you, and there’s a lot of vendors that you can work with in the states as well that help with targeting and segmentation, and using that information is transformational, from a marketing perspective. It can inform your targeting and audience strategy, it can inform your creative and messaging strategy, your channel strategy, and once you start to use this data in a scalable fashion, all of the sudden, you’re able to achieve this amazing marketing trifecta, one-to-one communication, where you can get the right message to the right person at the right time, which ultimately drives conversion.
Mobile Growth: That is so true. What tools or SDKs are critical to drive successful growth initiatives?
Farzana: Another great question, and one that I get asked a lot! Because the marketing technology and ad technology ecosystem is so fragmented, it’s really difficult for mobile marketers to figure out who to work with, how many SDKs you really need to install, what do you need as far as vendors, and what tools are critical in order to get off the ground, and get up and running, and which ones should you maybe wait a little while to start to use?
Farzana: And so, I say that the building blocks that are essential are an analytics provider, so understanding user behavior in your application post-install. An attribution provider is critical to measure by channel what’s happening in your application from an install perspective and post-install perspective. And the one thing – the one question I get around attribution a lot is, a lot of marketers start to think about attribution by channel, versus partnering with an attribution partner that can measure attribution across channels.
Farzana: And so, if right now, you’re only advertising on Facebook, just having a Facebook SDK might feel like it’s enough for you, but if you think long-term, you’re probably going to want to advertise on other channels later down the road. And so, setting your app for success by thinking about your longer term initiatives versus just what you’re executing right now is critical. So, looking for an attribution partner that measures attribution across a multitude of channels that you can be plan – you can plan them off for the long term – is critical. You also want a notification provider, and then deep linking is critical as well.
Mobile Growth: Oh, awesome! Does the composition of marketing teams and the environment of companies play a role in enabling marketers to be successful?
Farzana: I definitely think so, on multiple different levels. So diversity of thought is critical, having environment inclusivity is critical – I think that drives creativity and ultimately performance. We’ve seen a number of studies on companies with diverse executive teams that include men and women, studies around companies with female founders, and companies that have women on board.
Farzana: Those companies out-perform, from a revenue and profit perspective. So when you think about your user base and whether your team is reflective of the people you’re targeting, is reflective of the people in the world, it helps I think from an authenticity perspective to enable you to ensure that your messaging is relevant, to ensure that you’re thinking about things from multiple different perspectives. I also think that the culture of the company and the environment plays a large role in enabling marketers to be successful, and so, having a culture of experimentation is really important.
Farzana: I’ve heard a number of times, executive teams ask a marketing team, give me the answer, like the one answer, or guarantee to me that this will work, even with the vendor. I’ve heard marketers say that – guarantee that this will work! And anyone that’s gonna do that is probably not somebody that you would want to work with, because there are no guarantees. I think the beauty of marketing is that it’s all about experimentation and it’s all about creativity, and it’s all about testing, in an intelligent way, using data. So gone are the days of A-B testing, now it’s A, B, C, D, E, and F, and on and on.
Farzana: I’ve been involved in scenarios where you’re testing hundreds, literally hundreds of different iterations, and that – when marketers start to see that, the more you test, the more you are able to get a better understanding of what’s gonna be effective and what’s not. Even if something works one day, the next day, it might not work anymore. Creative gets stale really quickly. If a channel doesn’t seem to be working well for you, it might not be the channel, it might be the way that you’re targeting. It might be that you need to think about sequential messaging versus just a one-time message, any stage in the consideration cycle.
Farzana: So there’s a number of different ways to think about things, and there’s a number of different ways to experiment, to better understand what’s gonna work and what’s not going to work. And to be successful, marketers need to have an innate curiosity and a really high appetite for intelligent risk, and to never stop testing, to never become complacent.
Mobile Growth: Yes. Test, don’t guess, right?
Mobile Growth: Yeah, I love what you said earlier. It’s like I always say, when I do talks, it’s not A to B testing, it’s A to Z testing.
Farzana: I love that!
Mobile Growth: There’s this whole web of things that you can test on. You can test ’til the cows come home, and then test them, when they get there, right?
Farzana: Exactly. I love that!
Farzana: And I’ve seen, sometimes it’s not always very intuitive as well. I’ve seen times where brands have taken big risks and gone off-brand, and done something totally different, and that’s performed much better than stuff that was on-brand. I’ve seen ads that don’t even talk about the app perform better than ads that do. Stuff that you would never even think of, which is why testing is so critically important, because you can use all the data and information, and everything that you have at your disposal, but without putting it into the marketplace, and seeing what the feedback is, you’ll never know.
Mobile Growth: And I would say also, to add onto your point, do thorough testing before you spend a good significant portion of your budget, because you know, a lot of people, they do some sort of split-testing, and then they’ll realize, ‘I just spent 15 grand, and now I kinda learned something.’ Maybe spend a few grand, and keep pivoting and keep learning and keep testing and hone it down, and then once you find the winner, like you said, temporarily, at least, then you can pump out money, knowin’ that you’re gonna get the results you’re lookin’ for.
Farzana: Exactly, yeah. I believe in the 80-20 rule, you wanna spend 20% of your budget testing and learning, and 80% of it on stuff that’s proven. But even that 80%, like I said, channels, creative, audiences, things get stale really quickly, and so even that 80% needs to continue to iterate over time.
Mobile Growth: Yeah, it’s like 80% in 20% increments maybe, or 40%, then 40%, right? ‘Cause you wanna pivot if things aren’t working, or drop the stuff that’s not, and it’s just sucking budget outta you.
Mobile Growth: OK, so we could probably do a whole podcast on A to B and A to Z testing, so…
Farzana: We could talk about that for hours!
Mobile Growth: I know, right? So if you wanna subscribe to that, next podcast! So, let’s see, let’s jump in, now that we’re – let’s have a wide open last question that you can never be too wrong with: What do you see as a future of mobile marketing? Let’s just say, the next 5 years, what do you see coming down the pipe?
Farzana: I’m really bullish on artificial intelligence. I think we’re still in the very [inaudible] stage at the best, with machine learning and programmatic and there’s just so much more opportunity for advances in AI, and AI’s in a [inaudible] stage; AI research continues to develop, and we’re using AI now for machines to be able to drive cars. So machines can drive cars, and I think machines can do a lot of benefit for marketers to deliver highly accurate and predictive recommendations. AI generated content, I think, is a whole open white space right now. And truly sophisticated marketing automation, I have yet to see.
Farzana: We’re getting close, but I think there’s a lot more traction we can make along those lines. Imagine if you could accurately predict what an individual user was going to do before you sent them a message, and if you could have computers use real-time data to determine who to target, with what message, at what stage in the buying process, that was completely channel agnostic, and optimize automatically to drive conversion, that would be a beautiful, beautiful thing, and I think a lot of companies talk about being able to do that, but I haven’t seen anything that has truly delivered on that, and I think that we’re getting close, and the future is pretty positive on that front, so I’m really excited to see the developments in the industry on that front.
Mobile Growth: Have you heard of Game Theory? You know, the basics of game theory?
Farzana: Yes, I do.
Mobile Growth: I wonder maybe if we can incorporate game theory into the AI to kinda have what you’re talking about, where finding the solution’s a lot more quicker based on predictive analysis. So that’s somethin’ for a geek to do, in some other line of work. But I think adding in different predictive formulas would help escalate that adventure.
Farzana: Completely, yeah. If you knew a user was going to turn, or if you knew that there was a user that was at a stage where they could potentially become a heavy user, you’d want to be able to message them right then and there in order to convert them at that point. So it would be great for us to be able to use data in a much more sophisticated fashion to do things and then predict them, in real-time nature.
Mobile Growth: Yeah, ’cause that’s a lot of ways that I tell some of my clients to elongate lifetime values, once they figure out when they’re more likely to churn, like you said, then hit them up with something that can keep them there a little bit longer, so maybe if we could do that artificially, AI-wise, when we can have that all automated, that would save us all a bunch of money and time and effort!
Farzana: Completely. Yeah, and every product has that beautiful moment where you know that when someone does X, Y, Z, they’re gonna become a heavy user.
Farzana: So, I don’t know if you heard the story, Facebook in the early days, what they determined was that for every new user that came onto the platform, if they added more than 10 friends, that was a turning point for them to become a heavier user. So if you could just get people to 10 friends, that’s all you needed to do, then you’d be able to convert them and have a much longer lifetime with that user. So, every product needs to figure out what that is for them, and every marketer needs to embrace that and drive users to do that.
Mobile Growth: Yeah, maybe have a different experience for them, like if we know that they have to do X number of sessions, then give them a different experience up to those number of sessions to help make it easier for them to achieve those number of sessions, right?
Farzana: Exactly. And then from an acquisition perspective, who can you target that’s more likely to take that step, as well?
Mobile Growth: OK, so the last question I wanna let you tell everyone about Women in Wireless, and tell us a little bit about the organization, and how people can learn more about membership, and how we can help you out getting more members.
Farzana: Sure, this is one of my favorite topics: Women in Wireless is my passion project. It’s an organization that champions women in mobile and digital. We’re global, we’re in 12 cities around the world, including North America, Europe, Asia. We have over 12,000 members, and involve over 200 volunteers in this organization to deliver programs that provide a platform for women in this ecosystem to thrive. So we do that by connecting, inspiring, and emboldening them to continue to progress in their careers. And one of the initiatives that I worked on is an initiative to put more women on the stage.
Farzana: So we’ve developed a robust bureau of highly qualified speakers in mobile and digital, and partnered with global conferences to get more women on the stage, and one of those conferences include Mobile Growth Summit, so you guys are a great partner of ours that have similar values, and we’re really into working with you guys and delivering on this mission. So for those of you who are interested in getting involved with the organization, you can go to womeninwireless.org to become a member, to volunteer, you can also sign up for our Speakers Bureau, if you’re interested in getting involved in that.
Farzana: And then, from a corporate perspective, we work with corporate partners as well, to help them retain, engage, and attract smart women to their companies. And so, we’re happy to continue this conversation on that front as well. For anyone that’s interested in learning more, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mobile Growth: Awesome! And with that, I would like to say, Farzana, thank you so much for taking the time to share all your expertise, your knowledge, and it was really great.
Farzana: Thanks for having me!