Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Incredibly Simple Android App

Sunday, 15. June 2014 by Anna Billstrom

Just wrote up instructions on how to make the most barebones Android app. A view, a button, and then something happens on the button. In Java, KitKat, works from SDK 8 to 19.

Code here.
Instructions here.

Mobile Ad Service- iAd vs. AdMobs/Google Ads

Tuesday, 27. May 2014 by Anna Billstrom

Recently, I implemented these two services in different mobile apps (iOS) and had to jot down the pros and cons. Enjoy!

iAD- Apple’s ad service that is native to iOS apps. This is easy to implement for developers, but not great for advertisers:
- High cost to entry, for advertisers
- Difficult to include multiple instances on any individual view (top and bottom banner, for example.)
- “in-app” experience- ad pops up as interstitial before “leaving” the app.

Google Ads (AdMob)
- Cheaper to be an advertiser
- A little more difficult to integrate
- Ability to have more ads per view
- More callbacks on click, open, leave app
- No “in-app” experience like iAd; user clicks actually leave the app.
- Nice tie-in with Google Analytics

Mobile Marketing- How to Get Your App Out There

Wednesday, 14. May 2014 by Anna Billstrom

(cracking knuckles) It’s been a long time, but I’m ready to re-invigorate this blog! A question was posed by a fellow developer on an iPhone mailing list: how to promote his app?

My current company – PickAxe Mobile- of which I am a founding partner, deals with this problem constantly. Well not a problem, more a challenge.

The first thing to ask yourself is:

What are my goals for this app?

That will determine your marketing strategy.

- lots of users
- product direction
- cash

Those are separate strategies, by the way.

Lots of Users
Products such as Instagram weren’t out there for the money, they were out there for the wallet-share. Getting onto phones and getting used by as many users as possible. This marketing strategy is going to be viral, with ad dollar and key reviews. Focusing on top placement in the App Store and very aggressive responsiveness to customer concerns. Alpha and beta groups are a necessity, and all product planning will go towards happy customers.

Product Direction
The goal here is to have the users define your product direction. Similar to “lots of users” you are focusing on getting feedback and usage details and highlighting *what people want* versus what you want- basically,Customer Development. You’re evolving a product to an ideal opportunity (which may pivot) or customer. Methods would involve setting up a feedback loop mechanism, a/b testing, and high responsiveness to all feedback. Alpha, beta groups of users that are more along the lines of your ideal customer than earlier adopters or friends. Bloggers, ads, and placement in the store aren’t as critical. It’s not about the number of customers but the quality, defining your product (probably for acquisition, or for your brand).

You’re doing this to make money. So the viability of course depends a lot on what kind of app you’re making. Assume you have a great product. How do you get the most monetarily out of your app?

The very first thing is product uniqueness in the store. Do your competitive analysis.

Next, find out where users* of your app (or competitors) are going to get recommendations. Is it Google and SEO, the Store’s keyword categorization, or blogger and top app sites? Create relationships and try to get your app some visibility. May involve putting some capital forward, where promo codes aren’t enough.

* Find out who/what are those potential customers of yours. This is a hard task, but try to define the ideal customer.

Strategies of monetization include:
- pricing app (revenue from downloads)
- in app purchases
- free version, with upgrade sans ads
- in app advertising

The positives and negatives of each of those monetizations is another blog post, of course!

Odd Ideas That May Make Sense… From Email Campaign Monitor

Thursday, 14. October 2010 by Anna Billstrom

I’m a bit late to this article written in April, but it’s a goodie: Four odd email ideas that (maybe) make sense, by Mark Brownlow. What strikes me about this post, is that we really have to question common ideas and “best practices,” as sometimes they may be a way to get through the chatter and present our message to the right audience, at the right time, with the right content.

One addendum I’d like to add, to the mobile discussion on his post: this is yet another reason to include some meaty text-only content in your email. Mobile readers doing triage will be able to tell quickly what it is about, so they can read it at more leisure on their desktop or laptop. But if you have an image-only message, and no alt-text or copy, they’re going to hit the trash button before the image even finishes loading.

Email to Text Message: Obama Campaign

Tuesday, 12. August 2008 by Anna Billstrom

So Barack Obama’s email campaign asks you to sign up for a cell phone text announcement the minute he decides on a VP candidate. This is a great dovetail from email to text-messaging, two contact preferences that have been slow to meld.

This campaign also creates a subscription base of mobile text readers, and I think you can safely infer that they are interested in more to-the-minute relevant, timely information- thus it’s promoted with a message that is in itself timely, a new event happening in the future, at an unspecified time. It’s a great campaign- as usual the Obama campaign is pushing the boundaries of political emails. Refreshing use of mobile capabilities – and I believe that it’s critical to provide content to readers on the medium they prefer, whether it’s RSS, SMS, or email.

More posts on politics & Obama campaign (mine and other blogs)
- Jane Popick on Vertical Response: Great Email List Building Ideas From a Presidential Candidate
- Email as Web Content Case Study: Barack Obama
- Political Spam

The Complexities of Email Marketing in China

Wednesday, 27. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

After reviewing my notes of Day 2 of the MarketingSherpa Email Summit I noticed that all of the sessions were consistently value-packed and intense, which has left me exhausted, and with a celebratory “last day of school” feeling. The following is a run-down of the session I was most excited to attend,
Danny Levinson, of XZList, “Testing and Segmentation Strategies of a Chinese Weekly.” Danny has written: “The Chinese email environment is much more complicated than being able to send double-byte characters.” Also, while the title was regarding using Flash in a case study- you can read 8-page PDF white paper on his site, this blog post is more about special content he included for the Summit audience.

First, he reviewed the saturation of email and the internet, as compared to what we are familiar with in the US. These rates of communication tools:
-Email is 91% in Korea, and USA, but only 55% in China
-IM, though is 70%, and US/Korea is 39% for the USA, 47% Korea

Good things about email marketing in Asia:
- Anti-spam system is standard, so easy to manage compliance (CorpEase)
- Netease is a large internet company in China with a gaming site and online portal that is very popular (correction from original post comparing it to SpamHaus- thanks Danny)
- 97% penetration of IE (no macs, mostly outlook or outlook online)
- Note from the audience that Japan is big on Eudora, but he says that it’s going out of style

The challenges about email marketing in China:
- Those pesky ISP blocks, ISC, the Internet Society of China, created the CAN-SPAM-for-China, which is called “Green Email Inbox” (I absolutely love that translation). One effect is that marketers must include the word “AD” in the subject line for all business transactions email. Hong Kong requires having the physical address in emails. Depending on regional application from where you operate, unclear as to whether it’s promotion or advertising. If your’e a subscriber, we don’t include the AD, because it’s a “closed list”, but the boundaries are very gray. For example, Danny’s regular Cathay Pacific frequent flier program transactional email, has “AD” in the subject line, and they shouldn’t really have had to.
- It’s difficult for Americans to recognize the reason for blocking, which is usually clearly stated in the bounce email, because it’s in Mandarin characters, and if they don’t have the installed language pack in Microsoft operating systems, it won’t be rendered- just shows up as empty boxes. Also, then, if you don’t understand Mandarin, which you probably don’t since the language pack isn’t installed, then it’s impossible to forward to someone who does speak Mandarin for a translation.
- There’s a general low sophistication in online sales and negotiations, and general online skills, which can be truly felt when negotiating ad buys. He elaborated on this later, in regards to ad buys. On an email development level, it’s a constant challenge to find talented skilled local folks who can then help recruit and train others for short periods of time during boom projects.

He made an interesting point before diving into the case study about how China is not ONE market, it has distinct regional language and written language differences: In email, simplified Chinese- the block style looking basic Chinese that most of modern mainland China has embraced, including Shanghai, whereas you want to use the the traditional Chinese characters- more flowerly and ancient- in communications with Hong Kong.

Basic methods of campaign mechanics in Asia:
Pay to send
Fen (roughly a cent, 100th of a RMB)
- You can buy individual emails: 1-5 fen per user
- You can use a third party opt-in list: 4 fen to 1 RMB
- Or, you can send to isp/portal users 4-6 fen per user;
In general there are issues with co-registration, and combined registrations. For B2B, it’s also more expensive. See questions & answers below for a recommendation on B2B list acquisition. This seems to be XYzine’s main offer- managing list acquisition and list management in China.

Develop Relationships
- As compared to America where the occasional business dinner solidifies things, in China, the good meal does wonders. Danny noted that he had to become a tee-totaler and vegan due to the massive amounts of alcohol and meat and pork that were constantly part of his business lifecycle. This reminded me of a book I read recently about China, where you have a 3 hour meal to ask for a reference, which, as you can imagine seems a bit over the top to American business people.
- There is a high turnover in IT staff. It’s difficult to source staff when you need it, so creating relationships and leveraging resources, connections & interconnections, really helps localize American products.

Use Publication-based Lists
Stay away from dime-a-dozen lists, better than optin lists. The publication lists can also target your demographic.

Flash Case Study
It may make you squirm, the idea of embedding flash in American email campaigns, with our diverse varieties of email clients, operating systems, and browsers. In China, though, with a consistent use of Internet Explorer, Microsoft operating system, and the popularity of web portals, Danny as able to segment out his customer list and target according to their web client, and demographics of corporate clients, tailor the offer and technology (embedded flash) to that audience. They did layout testing- leveraging known issues with preview panes in some of the web clients- to further serve the client and create exciting creatives. Flash case study PDF is downloadable here.

Some of his domains to check up with:, (“now” in Mandarin), and His last note on the talk returned back to his theme, “Keeping up with the needs is the best thing to do, and that is by having a good meal.”

In general I thought it was well-delivered, concise, focused, and included very valuable tips on email marketing in China.

Questions from the audience…

Q: How do we manage optin policy across countries? We have only opt-in system
A: BBS social networking very large, recommendation is to partner with them, the co-reg’s (co-registration sites). There is always the issue of “who owns the data” with co-registrations, though, and how will they market to it, vs. your marketing. You never know how they will muddy it up. Also, the can-spam in china doesn’t require double-optin, just optout. Do site acquisition, the cleanest way to manage the list without co-reg’ing.

Q: What is the email regional size
A: Guangdong is the largest, internet population. Check where you can get the info.

Q: What is the distribution of the main webmails across China? Yahoo, hotmail, etc.
A: It’s hard to audit, so they all say they’re the largest, good statistic to remember: the average Chinese user has more than 5 email accounts.

Q: B2B question: are corporate users using these providors?
A: has a “VIP” area, which is fee-based, the marketer has to pay Cina, problem with emailing work email is that you may get blocked by a Chinese isp.

Q: Can you talk about the rise of pinyin as an input method in SMS, and campaigns integrating SMS and email, since the growth and use of SMS is so high? (My question.)
A: Yes- Everyone is using the Latin pronunciation of Chinese for modern devices as an input method. It’s an entire medium too- there are IM novels, mobile SMS & web-based instant messaging, and campaigns that integrate them, B2C use is great for IM, but B2B is great for corporate, mobile- and used more for point of sale interactions.

Comment from the audience: our company found a successful campaign was to SMS a demographically young engineer base with special the event information.

Q: How effective is text-based email, also her clients want more image and flash, any surveys/research on whether the simple works vs. images

A: Yeah, that’s the old question “why have such frilly subect lines in China?” that we had last year at this conference! There are lots of Chinese studies on how the sites are more text-based. Compare the Chinese sites to toolbars try to keep to 4 characters in navigations, for aesthetic reasons that he doesn’t quite get, but he trusts his designers. In regards to the text vs. HTML question, it’s a great question. He does multi-part, nobody sends text, and multi-part almost never understood nor used. Nobody understands the multi-part because it is so hard to demonstrate to the clients and users. This goes back to my earlier comment on low level of sophistication in skills. The banner ad sales are also not CPM, low sophistication again, because the folks making these deals can’t understand “pay per view.” Thus, ads are sold on a beginning and ending time frame, and manually swapped out of the page when the time ends. Remember, there’s only a 15% adoption rate for the internet in China. Their print newsletters make a lot more money because the contract negotiation is with something really tangible and that works the ad sales. Funny. Despite email marketing having a much higher penetration.

Q: How do I create a engineering B2B list?
A: Setup a microsite based on this, or access a portal- which are more popular there than here- in the US we have engadget and other vertical sites, but not like that in China. Folks really go to portals and spend all day there. Some have a business section there that would cater to your needs, so just go there and sell the ads.

Email Marketers: Get a Data Phone, Please

Wednesday, 20. February 2008 by Anna Billstrom

iPhone I got a real nugget of truth recently from a study by MarketingSherpa on iPhone consumer use. Got the link from MailChimp, a key blog by a real ESP.

For such a long time I didn’t read the tons of blog posts and information about mobile issues, even though I sat next to someone who had a bag of about 100 phones and talked constantly about phones rendering email. Why didn’t I care? I had one of those Nokias that cost -$5, yep, that your wireless provider pays you to get. So when I upgraded 2000% to an iPhone (slight exaggeration!), I suddenly was all ears. MarketingSherpa has clued in on this idea of “don’t-care-because-can’t-see-it”, a phenomenon that applies to many things in marketing, such as Image-Off Issues (“Why don’t you just turn images on?”). When I talk to clients about iPhone rendering issues, they say “send me a screenshot” because true, that is in almost all cases a great way of showing the issue and communicating the problem. But not with mobile.

- Our research reinforced what we’ve been telling readers for more than a year: If you haven’t yet, you need to go out and buy all of the widely used mobile devices. If you can’t buy all of them, at least get an iPhone and BlackBerry Curve and Pearl because of their popularity.

Why? You need to be able to see first-hand what you are marketing to when it comes to the mobile demographic, which usually has both disposable income and little time to waste.

MailChimp has a great video of iPhone accessing mail, too.

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