How To Get The Most Out Of User Acquisition Agency Partnerships

Growing a mobile app portfolio is no small undertaking, and sourcing the necessary talent to make it happen can be even more challenging.

For some, mobile user acquisition agencies are an ideal alternative to spending the time and resources necessary to build an in-house growth team. Their reduced risk and à la carte offering let publishers stay nimble, even if it does come with a heftier price tag. That said, choosing the right partner can be just as difficult. Agencies come in all shapes, sizes, and budget ranges - and just like building an in-house team, they require a thorough vetting process before an informed commitment can be made. Here are a few things publishers can do to ensure they get the most out of their UA agency partnerships.

Ask For Mobile-Specific References
There’s no shortage of integrated marketing agencies that bill themselves as “one-stop-shops”. Unfortunately, this often means that you’ll be paying for the time of generalists rather than specialized user acquisition professionals, which is what you should be looking for. In order to narrow down your search, ask for case studies, work samples, and references from mobile clients that they’ve dealt with in the past. These should be exclusively related to mobile user acquisition, and not bundled with any branding or ASO services that the agency may also provide. The more hard numbers an agency can provide, the better. Also, don’t be afraid to contact companies that appear on their client list but not on their list of references. If everything comes back positive, you can move ahead confident that you’ll be choosing from the best of the best.

Set Measurable Targets
Agencies you employ will need to be evaluated. Deciding on two or three quantifiable metrics in advance will help facilitate constructive discussion. You undoubtedly know your business best, but give your agency partners a chance to suggest new measurement methods you might not have considered. Assuming they’re a competent partner, keeping an open mind allows you to benefit from their experience managing multiple campaigns, ideally across different verticals.

When making your final decision, however, it’s critical to choose metrics that are as close to your bottom line as possible. High CTRs and low CPIs mean nothing if they don’t produce returns. Depending on their level of sophistication, integrating with mobile measurement companies (like us!) will allow you to focus on critical metrics like LTV and return on ad spend. Don’t be afraid to grant your agency partners as much visibility into your growth stack as possible. Chances are they’ve seen it all before, and the more information they have, the more you can reasonably expect from their efforts.

With metrics decided on, you’ll need to work together to set targets that you both consider reasonable. This is where building a body of research can be helpful. Invest time in collecting as much publicly available marketing data as possible, especially as it relates to other apps in your vertical (We suggest starting with our 2017 Ad Spending Report). Knowing the average acquisition costs and customer values that similar publishers are seeing will let you set a baseline of performance expectations, which can then be incorporated into your contract negotiations.

Add Performance Incentives To Your Contract
Goal alignment is the single most important part of any professional relationship, and there’s nothing wrong with including deal terms to reflect that. In her article 10 Things A Client Should Demand From An Agency Partner, Katie Brisco, EVP of Client Services at MMGY Global, calls on her client-side marketing experience to articulate the level of investment she would expect from an agency partner.

“I want you to have the same level of passion for my business or product that I do. I expect you to be thrilled when my business grows as a result of our work together. I would also expect you to be disappointed when a program didn’t work as well as we had planned. Indifference is unacceptable. And to prove you’re invested, I’d like to tie some of your compensation to positive performance. I win, you win.”

Getting pushback from a prospective agency on this point is a red flag. One of the most common objections is that performance-based compensation isn’t conducive to building the kind of trust required for long-term relationships, but experienced marketers know better. Account managers are forced to juggle dozens of tasks simultaneously, often having to shuffle priorities multiple times per day. Performance incentives are a way of ensuring your company’s goals don’t end up taking a backseat when things get crazy. Animosity or lack of trust have nothing to do with it. It’s simply a way to help account managers spend their time more effectively in a role that’s given to rapid change, and any agency worth working with should be able to accommodate it.

Agency partnerships can be scary. You’re entrusting a material portion of your budget to someone outside of your organization, which limits your ability to hold them accountable. Look for agencies that recognize and cater to this pain point. The more willing they are to integrate themselves into your team, the better your results will be. Keep communication open, honest, and productive, and you’ll be able to deliver the results your business needs to achieve its overall growth goals.

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