Industry Insights
Leading the Pack: An Interview with Leadbolt Founder Dale Carr

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Dale Carr
Founder & CEO
Leadbolt

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If you can, please give us a little background into the genesis of Leadbolt.

Leadbolt was established in 2010, back when most advertisers who wanted to reach mobile users simply re-purposed their online creative and placed them on mobile devices. Simply re-sizing banners was ineffective and couldn’t take full advantage of everything mobile devices could offer. Leadbolt was created to demonstrate the full potential of mobile advertising – we wanted to elevate the performance of mobile advertising by delivering ads to precisely the right audience at precisely the right time, and in the ad format that best matched how the user was experiencing the device.

 

If I can recall correctly, Leadbolt was one of the earliest players in the mobile retargeting and user acquisition space. How has the vision evolved since?

Your memory is sharp! Leadbolt is still focused on user acquisition, and we’ve grown significantly since 2010. With a network of more than 65,000 apps globally, we are now able to help app marketers and mobile advertisers reach and acquire quality users at scale. We grew from serving 5 billion ads a month to delivering 10 billion ads a month.

One important way we have evolved since then is through the direct relationships we have in place with our publisher and marketing partners. Our Direct Deals Marketplace now allows app publishers and premium advertisers to connect directly, activate campaigns and prosper faster. We’ve proven that our Direct Deals yield 300% better returns for participants, which is something we are very excited about.

 

The market has really exploded over the years, with now hundreds of mobile ad networks & platforms offering solutions that range the entire gamut. How has Leadbolt managed to remain a market leader in mobile UA even with this hyper-competition?

We’re constantly refining our analytics-based algorithms so that we are able to match best-fit audiences to achieve deeper user engagement. Our high performance video and rewarded video ads ensure a captivating, user-friendly experience. Our integration team works closely with our app publisher partners on in-app ad placement strategies, and other quality control practices to ensure our network of quality users with high LTV.

We also understand that our app developer and marketer needs evolve constantly and the ecosystem is vast. We want to be available to our customers how and where they need us, so we continue to partner with top mediation networks (such as Google Admob and others) to ensure publishers and marketers have the ability to tap into our Direct Deals Marketplace.

 

There are always challenges to starting a two-sided marketplace, with developer supply-side partners, and advertiser demand partners. How did you initially jumpstart your network? 

We built up our network of App Developer and Publisher partners first. Interestingly enough many of these developers were actually trying to find more users for themselves and started to use us for their UA as well. This meant as we built up our inventory sources with similar types of developers, these very developers were using us to get access to the exact type of users they were seeking thereby further growing the network. At the same time more and more people were seeing our brand on every ad being served and advertisers looking to get in on mobile reached out to us.

 

As for your geographical offering, did you just start off with apps/inventory in Oceania & APAC, and then expand to the rest of the world? How long did it take you to scale inventory availability to the over 165 countries that you service today?

We didn’t have a geo-specific expansion strategy, it kind of grow organically. You must remember mobile apps is an international business and it was really from day 1 that we went global. In fact, contrary to all common logic, our first client was actually based in the UK. In quick succession, we were speaking with and signing on app publisher partners in Finland, Japan, then the US, Europe, Russia, South America and Asia. We showed our capabilities to the app makers we believed in, regardless of region, and started to gain traction by word of mouth. We watched the inventory spread like wildfire as the app economy took off.

 

As it currently stands, what is your breakout of developer partners by app genre?

Leadbolt is the only Direct Deals Marketplace to work with all app genres including music apps, utility, educational, photo and video apps – not just games. Today, our network is roughly 70% games, but that is a reflection of the overall ratio of game apps in market.

 

Any recommendations you can make to an indie app developer looking to just get started with paid user acquisition?

Lean on your advertising platform partner. Remember you get what you pay for. So many UA newbies care only about the cost and not the actual return. It’s vital you don’t view UA as a pure eyeballs activity. It’s no longer about just getting “any user”, its about getting “the right user”. The right user is the one who engages with your app and does what you as an Indie actually want them to do, which most times is beyond just interacting with your app once. These things may include – returning regularly; interacting with certain elements in your app (read rating; commenting, recommending, posting, submitting, etc); using IAP; clicking on ads or even upgrading from a Lite to a Full version.

Your advertising partner should help you achieve your objectives, not just be there to give you pricing!

Of course there are some obvious brass tacks that can help app marketers stand out before you even go to paid user acquisition, including making sure your app design, icon and ads are eye-catching and effective from the start. Successful apps are on display in the apps stores, and these app makers have figured out what works best – so study the competitive apps within your genre to see what can be done to be creatively on par with the best, with a distinctive touch to stand apart.

Researching, and then emulating successful strategies can help give an advertiser an initial roadmap. There are several great resources to help you collect competitive intelligence:

Pose questions in forum communities such as Facebook’s App Entrepreneurs; good websites to check are gamesource.com, techcrunch.comgamesbeat.com and pocketgamer.biz; and many ad networks also publish whitepapers and case studies that can be quite handy.

 

From your wealth of experience and data you’ve gathered over the years, what seems to work best for acquiring new users?

The art and science of successful user acquisition is impossible to summarize in a single answer, because it depends on a variety of factors that are unique to each app. That said, the cost of acquisition continues to climb, so there’s even more at stake while trying to getting it right.

The thing to remember is that it takes more effort for a user to download an app, but it can be deleted in a millisecond.   What happens AFTER the install is arguably more important than the install itself. Focusing on attracting high LTV users is key, and there are ways to accomplish this goal via the right targeting strategy that takes into account user behaviors, app environments, geography, timing, and more. Ultimately, pursuing, creating and keeping a super-engaged user is the most important.

I think it comes down to respecting the balance between Acquisition and Retention. While you acquire, stay mindful about who is using your app, what they want from it, and then cater to their experience.

More isn’t always better – if the users don’t use the app, they simply delete it.

 

Lastly, what do you see as the future of mobile user acquisition?

Creative trends may come and go, and technology changes are constantly evolving. The underlying truth that will not change is that app makers must first focus on developing a mobile product consumers actually want. Especially given the saturated app stores. The app must deliver a quality experience and meet the needs of the users. It’s possible to ask your users/players about what they want to see – so take a poll. If you do what is right for the customer first, your app business will grow.

Secondly, never “set it and forget it”. To my earlier point, the mobile advertising space is constantly changing. Involve your ad network partner to get the most from your efforts.

Lastly, it’s important to test your campaigns – try an A/B test to discover the elements of the campaign that are performing well (e.g., simple changes such as the color of a button or word-change in the headline can have a huge impact) – and optimize as you go.

 


 

Leadbolt is a high performance mobile advertising platform for user acquisition and in-app monetization. Powered by direct relationships and dynamic ad-serving technologies, Leadbolt allows mobile advertisers to reach and acquire quality users at scale. Leadbolt’s analytics-based algorithms assist advertisers with advanced targeting that captivates best-fit audiences to achieve deeper user engagement with maximum ROI.

For app developers, Leadbolt’s award winning Direct Deals Marketplace optimizes inventory and partner matching delivering high impact ad solutions in real time while maximizing in-app advertising performance.

Recently named “Most Innovative Company of the Year” and “International Technology Company of the Year”, Leadbolt delivers over 10 billion ads per month across 65,000 apps in over 165 countries for companies such as Zynga , Disney, Warner Brothers, Pandora, eBay, Walmart, Outfit7, Tencent, Gree, Glu, Dominos, M&CSaatchi, Baidu, and many others. Leadbolt has offices in Los Angeles – USA, Sydney – Australia and Mumbai – India. For more information, visit www.leadbolt.com

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