Struggling to get sub $3 CPI? Our guide to mobile app marketing is going to help you level up your skills and build a system that makes you money while you sleep. We worked on 6 apps in the last years to prove it.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the basics of app store optimization. With more than 2.5 billion smartphones worldwide and that number expected to double by 2020. There has never been a better time to get involved with marketing an app. Plus with Google putting ads in the app store to court mobile app marketers and saying that mobile signals will affect search ranking. We’re truly living in a mobile world.

Mobile Commerce

We may not be seeing tons of transactions occurring on mobile devices but we’re seeing people research, especially in store, and browse a brand’s digital properties while on their device.

Once brands build better mobile experience on smartphones (site & commerce stores), we’ll see that shift in mobile transactions increase sharply in the next 2-3 years. There is pent up demand that needs to be satisfied. Even with tablets usage hitting 1 billion users and people mostly using them at home, instead of a PC means mobile is here to stay.

Today we’re going to look at marketing your app. A lot of brands need to do this to stay competitive or help raise their brand’s awareness in a crowded marketplace.

Now how to spend your money wisely, so you get the best return and stay profitable. Using my experience of marketing an app in the UK and the 6 apps we have worked on in the last year. I’ll cover the four areas you need to consider before marketing your app: Research, Analytics, Spend and Media Networks.


Considering the amount of time and money you will spend building and marketing your app, you want to make sure there’s a strong and healthy demand in the market place. Similar to websites 10 or 15 years ago, this isn’t an area you want to go cheap nor is it an area you want to over spend either. You need to make sure you put a real investment into this business unit right now and for the future. Building and marketing an app is an on going process.

Start by doing some market research and read the reviews of your competitors if they have an app. If you’re building the first app for your vertical, I was in this position, than think about what you’d like the app to do. What issues can an app solve that your customers have. You’re looking for ways to take an unsatisfied and unhappy customers and make them love your brand. What are your competitors weaknesses and where can you take advantage of that?

You can use App Annie to help estimate the number of downloads you can expect by looking at your competitors. Otherwise, look at download numbers for an indirect competitor to see what the opportunity in the market looks like.


There are two parts of app analytics: pre install and post install. An install is counted when a person opens/launches your app within the look back window; usually 30 days. See the last paragraph for post install analytics.
For pre install analytics, you’ll want a vendor that integrates with the media networks (see last section) you’ll be working with and tracks installs, not just downloads. You don’t care how many people downloaded your app, you should only care about installs. I used AppsFlyer, which was a great experience from a marketing and developer standpoint.

You can also research other mobile analytic options including Apsalar, Upsight, HasOffer, Kochava, Branch and App Annie. Mobile app analytics and marketing is a crowded space and you really need to research any vendors you’re thinking of using. Picking the right vendor can be the difference between knowing your app retention rate and not evening know what that’s. Not all vendors are created equal.

You’ll want to pick a mobile analytics package that works with or integrates with your website analytics (MixPanel, Google Analytics or an enterprise platform) software. The benefit of going with MixPanel or Google Analytics is that they both have mobile SDKs to track post install movements/interactions within your app. This helps cut down on load time for your app and how many disparate data sources you’ll need to integrate to track performance across your business and digital properties.

Lastly, at times you’ll see that the Facebook and AppsFlyer dashboards say two different numbers for Installs. This could be for a host of reasons and it’s not unusual. I’d general take which ever number is lower. If the difference is more than 5% I’d worry and double check that you’ve setup your tracking correctly on AppsFlyer and any media network you’re working with.


Generally you’re going to want to spend $5-10K/month (minimum) to market your app. A budget of this size would get you on Facebook or even Twitter. The other option is to use AppLift, which is a media network/demand side platforms (DSP) that would run the campaign for you (that can become costly with vendor fees). Regardless of if you manage the campaigns in-house or not, you should really think about the following:

Incentivized vs Non-Incentivized

I’m a strong believer in not incentivizing people to take an action; be it fill out a survey or install an app in our case. The reason being simple, most people will do it for the prize and not because they really want your app. When talking with media networks, make it clear you want non-incentivized traffic and installs.

Cost Per Install

Cost Per Install (CPI): This is exactly like it sounds.You pay a network every time someone installs your app. The key would be knowing what your cost per acquisition (CPA) costs are and that the install you’re getting is from a qualified user. Since 20% of apps are only opened once, you don’t want to pay for an install by a person that won’t use your app beyond one use.

Cost Per Click

Cost Per Click (CPC): You pay every time someone clicks on your ad. This is how Google Ads and Bing Ads are sold and it’s what I’ve done for 10+ years now. However, mobile is a different beast because of accidental clicks on mobile ads. If you can’t find enough networks doing cost per install than try and stick with the larger size mobile banner ads. This will help cut down on accidental clicks and allow you to produce more creative ad units.

There is Cost Per Impression (CPM) and you generally don’t want this media type. You’re paying for your ad to be shown and nothing else. I’d only do this media purchase as a direct buy on a smaller site to test out an idea I had. You really want to stick with buying your media on a CPC or CPI bases to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Media Networks

We’re already covered search and social with our App Store Optimization guide. Below are the different opportunities that present themselves when you want to put real money behind marketing your app. Test early and test often. Be rigorous and don’t let a slick sales person stop you from asking all the right questions.

Ad Networks: Google’s AdMob, AppLift, TapJoy, and MoPub (owned by Twitter). All the networks above I’ve used or at least did a deep research on last year and would trust using. This is just the tip of the iceberg (see chart below) and you could find a dozen more networks you could research and look at. If you can’t get your app installs with the above, than you may want to rethink your advertising or app.

Mobile Ad Network Comparison Chart

NetworkPlatformModelSupported Ad Format
AdMobiOS, Android,
Windows Phone 7
CPCBanner, Smart Banner,
Interstitial, Search, Table
AdColonyiOS, Android, Windows, BlackberryCPC
Banner, Expandable,
Interstitial, Video
ChartboostiOS, AndroidCPC,
FlurryiOS, AndroidCPC,
Banner, Interstitial, Video, Takeover
InMobiiOS, Android,
Windows Phone
Banner, Expandable, Interstitial, Video, Text, Rich Media
KiipiOS, AndroidCPIOffer Wall
MadvertiseiOS, AndroidCPC,
Banner, Expandable,
Overlay, Video Overlay,
Flip, Engagement
MobfoxiOS, AndroidCPC,
Banner, Video
MoPubiOS, AndroidCPC,
Banner, Expandable,
Interstitial, Video,
ORMMArich Media Ads,
Landing Page
SmaatoiOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry,
Samsung Bada,
Banner, Expandable,
Interactive Banner, Floating
Banner, Video, Text
TapjoyiOS, Android, Windows PhoneCPIBanner, Interstitial,
Video, Offer Wall

Paid Social: Facebook, Twitter. Unless you’re a Spotify or Lyft, advertising on social media is more about branding than conversions or installs. Spend your money with that in mind.

App Discovery Platforms: Quixey. There are many more options to look at through TechCrunch coverage. A rising section of mobile apps and something to tread lightly in.

Your budget will dictate what you can do at the start, so start small and grow your budget over time as you gain more experience in the space. some days it’s going to feel like the wild west of YouTube years and that’s not a bad thing… it means you’re only limited by your imagination.

Bonus: Mobile Marketing Automation

Mobile marketing automation (MMA) provider Braze connects to AppsFlyer and helps you create marketing campaigns when users take an action, abandon your app or lapse as a user. Think of it as Marketo for apps (Marketo has invested in the company). Braze also lets you do multivariate testing and retargeting based on the data it helps you collect.

Other MMAs to look at include: Urban Airship, Localytics, Tapjoy. The latter two also do mobile analytics, so you may want to look at them as a end to end solution for your mobile analytics tracking to MMA. Just do your research if you’re going to put all your eggs in one provider.

The mobile advertins space is still broad with a lot of players to choose from. Do your homework, keep it simple with your teach and double down on anything that is working. This is the only way to launch an industry leading app. That is it for this week. See you next time.