By Aurelie Guerrieri (Corporate Development, SendMe)
Apps are either hits or misses — or are they?

What if you have a great idea for a safety app, a fitness app, a personalization app, or a privacy app? You build it with sweat equity in your garage, and after weeks or months of agonizing over every feature,  it finally gets uploaded to the app store, and… nothing. Lots of really good, useful apps get buried amongst the mazes of the app stores.

The thinking used to be that if you build a good app, users will come. These dreams were fueled by stories of games turned into overnight hits through word-of-mouth, great press, and of course top rankings in the app stores. Unfortunately nowadays the leaderboards are chock-full of big consumer brands ramping up their mobile presence and of established game publishers.

The days of being able to ignore marketing are over. So what is a small, independent developer to do?

Tip #1: Know Your Metrics

With costs-per-install (CPIs) exceeding $1.50 in the US, it is paramount to ensure that every marketing dollar is a dollar well spent. Ideally, you will want to implement a robust tracking system and measure real-time performance of each marketing channel, although that can be fraught with challenges which are worth another discussion. Then, remember to leverage mobile’s unique targeting capabilities and track the effect of each parameter.

At that point, you should be able to know your CPI by platform, device, time of day and day of week, ad creative type, media partner and media placement type. Use this data to continuously optimize (AB test rigorously) and change parameters dynamically. For example, mobile users tend to be more active consumers on the week-end, so make sure your marketing campaigns are ready to reap the benefits of increased conversions come Friday evening.

Sometimes accurate tracking is a challenge. When a user is connected on wifi, often you can’t tell which device they are connecting from. Lean on the performance marketing teams of your mobile ad networks for tips. And when new entrants or established brands launch “surge” marketing campaigns, the rankings will get disturbed and your performance metrics will change. Stay on top of your data!

Tip #2: Maximize Revenue Per User

Know your retention metrics: apps get used between 5-25 days on average. Track retention all the way from the user acquisition marketing campaign — the results might surprise you!

Likewise, find the best moments in the user’s lifecycle to introduce upsells. For example, if you offer a free version of your app with an in-app purchase option, you should provide just enough value to engage the user and make them want to upgrade, but not so much that there is no perceived value in the upgrade.

Tip #3: Re-Invest Your Proceeds (Create The Virtuous Loop)

Of course, marketing is expensive. How do you compete with the big guys when you’re on a bootstrapped budget? First, figure out how much you can afford to spend per new user.

Tally up all the revenue sources over a user’s lifetime, whether initial purchase, in-app upsell, or advertising. This represents the maximum amount you can spend to acquire a user, or the breakeven point. Then subtract how much you need to cover the cost of your business (someone’s got to pay for the late night pizzas!), and that leaves you with the maximum CPI you can afford to pay.

If your head is not spinning from spreadsheet overload yet, it’s time to include the viral ratio in your calculations: it represents the number of free app downloads you get from each marketing initiative, from referrals or an improved ranking. You will see dramatically different ratios per campaign and over time. A good tip is to choose app names that are very easy to understand and search for in a few words (e.g., battery saver, daily horoscope).

If your math is right, the more you spend, the more you make, and the more you can spend — the virtuous loop!

Tip #4: Stay On Your Toes

Once you’ve mastered rock solid performance marketing for the mobile ecosystem, be ready for best practices to be turned on their head, and new, exciting mobile marketing opportunities to open up.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
Aurelie GuerrieriAbout the guest blogger: Aurelie Guerrieri heads up Corporate Development for SendMe, the largest performance-based mobile content provider in the US. SendMe is leveraging its deep mobile marketing expertise to work with up-and-coming app developers. Aurelie is an executive who has helped digital and mobile media start-ups in the Silicon Valley shoot for the stars for almost ten years. You can reach her at aurelie [at]SendMe[dot]com or connect with her on LinkedIn.