What does a Mobile Growth Team do, exactly?

July, 3 2017

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Thomas Petit is part of the Growth Team at 8fit, a Berlin based app that acts as your personal trainer. He is one of the most vocal mobile growth specialists out there and has spoken at Applause, various App Promotion Summit events and TargetSummit.

I chatted with him about what working in 'growth' means, digging into device level data and holding your own in the Health & Fitness category.

This is the first post in a series of interviews with Priori data partners - incredible app developers who share data with us and get access to our app data, for 12 months, for free. (That’s a $2,400 value.)

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Can you explain to me what a Growth Team does? It has never been that clear to me.

It's kind of a big term... At the moment, my main personal focus is on user acquisition [UA] - both organic and paid - but “mobile growth” includes many other activities that don't fall into traditional marketing categories. The way I see it, growth teams work across various departmental areas - marketing, product, data - and decisions are driven by experiments and iterations rather than some top-down strategy.

Growth teams know that acquisition isn't enough. What happens after acquisition is something that good marketers need to focus on and that means diving into usage and friction points within the app itself.

I would even argue this should be treated before acquisition, I recently published some slides to reshuffle the AARRR pirate metrics approach.

What sort of experiments?

On the marketing side, we would of course test copy and graphics and CTAs - things like that. On the product side, 8fit has a strong culture of A/B testing everything. We would almost never release a new feature without having solid data showing it’s a significant improvement on our north star metrics.

We always keep an eye on both monetization and retention and trying to maximize both can be tricky. You might try something that increases monetization but hurts retention, so now you have to iterate further and try to find a way that keeps the gains while at least mitigating most of the losses. It is a more complex way of running experiments but eventually means the results are really moving the bottom line for both the short and long term.

How does a Growth Team measure performance more generally? What does success look like for you?

Essentially, there are three things we're looking at. On the marketing and monetization side, our main KPI is return on ad spend : we need to be bringing in more money than we spend.

We also try to increase “customer happiness”, which isn’t as easy as some other KPIs to measure accurately. Importantly, we always add a non-measurable component which we define as “learning”: have we actually made progress regardless if the test was a success or not? Many experiments will fail eventually. Whether it’s about our hypothesis, about our processes, about the mobile markets, about our users - we should always be learning more and optimizing based on what we learnt before, so we can keep moving in the right direction in the future. That’s for the marketing side.

On the product side, I don’t think measuring app opens indicates if people really use your product.

We analyzed which early proximity metrics correlate with our mid/long term retention, and measure our Product efforts based on this criteria.

What is your data diet within the team? How do you keep track of these metrics?

For the stage our company is at, we've built a pretty sophisticated internal infrastructure that tracks revenue, user behaviour, among other things, so that we would have everything in one place and avoid having to reconcile a variety of data sources. Not only the data/insights team, but from Product to Marketing to Execs, everyone spends a lot of time digging into that data, revisiting past assumptions, looking at different segments, challenging past findings, delving down to spot interesting patterns and trying to make sense of it to formulate further hypotheses to improve our product.

8fit has been involved with Priori Data since the very beginning. You're a data partner and that gives you access to a lot of our products for free - what do you use the most?

I like how trends in our vertical are easy to display and tweak on the go. Probably once a week I would check into Priori to keep up to date on our vertical. More than the category as a whole, I track a shortlist of directly competing apps and try to understand what’s going on. I don't really focus too much about the raw numbers, per se, but I don't want to miss any big trends.

It's important to keep an eye on major moves other players in the market are making.

Have their new features affected their performance? Are they changing strategies? Dropping a country or a platform? Is a spike in downloads related to an event or is it something deeper? Are they using recent VC funding to push UA campaigns? Did they get temporary Apple love, or diversified to offline marketing maybe? There are a lot of things to look out for.

We aren't looking at these trends to tell us how to move our future roadmap. We just don't want anything big to surprise us within our market segment.

You joined 8fit just over two years ago. What would you say has changed the most during that time?

Well the company was a lot smaller back then, in many aspects. I’d say what changed most is the scale of operations, meaning every mistake can potentially cost us a lot more money.

Every company aims at hockey stick trajectory, but that unavoidably comes with some “growth pains” (arguably the best problem to face!). For instance, it’s a constant challenge to keep a strong company culture as headcount grows - have a look at this great post on this topic.

Regarding the UA area most specifically, when I came on board one of the big challenges was diversifying our acquisition channels - we were really only using Facebook Ads back then. After that, it was about scaling and going after larger and larger audiences while keeping core KPIs high.

There will always be new obstacles on the way, but as long as every new user is bringing us more revenue than we're spending to acquire them, and they retain decently, we know we're on the right track. The company can live and grow further, while users get value in the service we offer.

I noticed that 8fit's download and revenue numbers have been taking off for the last six months or so, what is behind that?

Just a few months before that, we changed up our subscriptions structure a little bit after several experiments. As average revenue per user increased, we could reinvest more back into UA which then pushed the downloads further up, which, in turn, pushes up revenue and so on... Hopefully, that process can keep going forever!

That's the dream! Do you spend a lot of time trying to stand out? Obviously, there are some huge names in Health & Fitness and even those ones can struggle.

Even though we look at trends with Priori and other datapoints, we try not to get too distracted or obsessed much by what other apps are doing. We have our own pipeline,vision, value proposition and positioning.

If you keep looking at competitors and copying, you’ll always be playing catch up and end up late or even copy other people’s mistakes.

We also think we have a value proposition that differentiate us and that we should create our own way of solving the problem we’re tackling. Until about a year ago, having workout and nutrition plans bundled in the same app was quite unusual, so that was a strong initial differentiator for us. We believe the change our users are looking for can’t be solved only by one change of habits.

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