High Impact Creatives, User Acquisition

User Acquisition Marketing: 7 Do’s and Don’ts for Testing New Networks

Feb 14, 2023

A shift in user acquisition marketing strategy

For many years, the best way to drive user acquisition — or UA — for your apps was social media. It was simple math: Millions of people spend time on sites like Facebook and Instagram, and with affordable rates and good uptake, it made sense. But other channels — like mobile ad networks — are proving to provide extra value within user acquisition marketing in the present day. 

While it is still valuable to utilize social media for UA, acquiring users through popular platforms has become more costly and competitive while effectiveness has decreased. For some of these platforms, the numbers stopped adding up.

So what’s the best way to find new users today? Don’t abandon social media altogether, but do test other networks to find new opportunities for growth.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for testing new mobile ad networks to drive user acquisition marketing initiatives.

DO enter testing with an open mind

Every network and every partner is different. All of them want you to succeed and to continue to invest your budget with them. Listen to their recommendations, especially the timeline for testing and campaign essentials to fuel test success, even if their approach to testing is very different from what you’re used to (or what you were expecting). Everything from CPIs to ROAS to the number of installs can vary dramatically from network to network, but you won’t know what does or doesn’t work until you test. Create a testing budget, and enter each test without prejudice.

DO be transparent and reasonable about expectations with networks

If, for instance, you’re looking for a 30% return on ad spend (ROAS) over seven days with a partner, let them know this upfront. Keeping your UA goals front and center is important to making and meeting campaign plans.  

If their network is small, they may never be able to meet that kind of return, and they’ll tell you so. Similarly, don’t exaggerate your expectations – let your network partners know what top 3 networks have been able to drive for you. If other networks are achieving your ROAS goals, it’s most likely possible for them too. By the same token, keep your CPI targets reasonable as well.

DO allow enough budget to test your acquisition marketing adequately

Every network optimizes differently. Some algorithms require 500 users to convert to a certain event before they’re optimized, while others may need 2,000. While 2,000 conversions may take longer and cost more, it’s likely to result in even better optimization. This means that you’ll need to allocate different budgets and different time periods for the networks you’re testing. Additionally, a ROAS-optimized UA model becomes particularly important when gearing campaigns towards acquiring paid users.

DO be patient with testing—because different apps require different tests 

Conversions for different types of apps take different lengths of time. For example, if you’re promoting a chat app, conversions occur higher in the funnel, and you’ll collect data very quickly—you’ll know right away whether your test is a success.

If the new ad network isn’t optimized within six weeks or so, then there’s a problem. The ad network has the data, so optimization should quickly follow.

But many apps have more complex goals. For instance, the goal of a banking app might be a first deposit. That conversion will take longer to achieve and to collect the necessary data. It may be that only two percent of users actually make a deposit, which could take days or even weeks. So not only will conversion take longer, you’ll have a smaller set of users to optimize against.

It’s not necessarily about monitoring a test for a particular length of time, it’s really about the importance of reaching critical mass on your conversions so the network can optimize and work at its best.

DO test different creatives and formats

If you have ads in various formats and styles, upload them all for testing. Most networks use AI and algorithms, and these will help determine which creatives perform best — and show them more frequently than lower-performing options. You can also research what types of ad units have been working well (video, banner, playable, etc) for other apps and incorporate those formats into your test with greater confidence. 

Learn about creative trends for 2023 and beyond: read this SparkLabs report.

DON’T continue tests that aren’t successful

Once you’ve defined a reasonable time period for your test—a few weeks or months, depending on your goals—assess your results. If you’re not able to scale, it’s time to take a careful look at the network. If they have provided transparent information and a competitive rate, and your campaign still hasn’t grown, then the network may not be a fit. Speak to your Account Manager, if you’ve been assigned one, to get details and find out if this outcome is expected with the type of app you’re promoting. A lot of times early on you can tell if your offer will be competitive with a network or not.

In some situations, you may achieve scale, but you’re not hitting your performance goals. Let’s assume you’ve allocated an appropriate test budget and gotten to the optimized campaign stage, and you’ve allowed the optimized campaign to run for the period of time recommended by the network. But you’re still not hitting your targets. In this situation, you need to have a frank and open conversation with your new partners.

DON’T expect your tests to be ROI-positive

When you are testing new networks for UA, make sure you set clear goals with your partners and go in with the understanding that your tests will not be ROI-positive. It’s not that they won’t ever be ROI-positive, it’s just that it takes more time to achieve that goal, and this should be looked at more as a learning phase. So don’t panic if your initial tests don’t get there—there are other important metrics to consider early on. Profit shouldn’t be one of them yet. At this stage, the primary goal is to observe, report, and distill insights for future acquisition marketing campaigns.

Again, the app you’re marketing will determine the tests you run and how you run them, but these rules apply in most scenarios. Stay completely open, honest, and transparent with your new partners, and enter every test without prejudice. Think like a scientist: Keep your mind open as you monitor your results. You may be surprised by which networks perform best for you.

Hopefully, you’ll continue to test and grow your marketing programs across new networks and channels, and find plenty of new users along the way.

Bonus: DO find the best audience for your app with AppDiscovery

AppLovin’s AppDiscovery solution is built to grow and scale your business by achieving ROAS goals with any UA campaign you’d want to run. Access the largest in-app ad network and leverage AppDiscovery’s proprietary machine-learning algorithms to reach new audiences and expand into untapped markets intelligently and sustainably.

Learn more about AppDiscovery today!

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