Blog From acquisition to referral: 10 ways to...

From acquisition to referral: 10 ways to boost mobile growth at every stage of the funnel

How do you know if your app is growing at a healthy rate when there’s no single, all-important metric to rely on? On mobile you can take a holistic view to determine how robust your pool of users is, which means going beyond the install. To do this, it’s helpful to envision your startup metrics along a funnel of four different user behaviors. Each step of the funnel is an opportunity to optimize for user satisfaction, maximize growth and pad mobile app revenue; here are our suggestions for where to start at each stage.


Getting your users to install your app is where most app marketers concentrate their focus, and with good reason. The first two days of your app’s life are the most important for acquiring new users. Success in this window is vital for long-term robust growth.

Create buzz

Get out ahead of your app and create a sense of excitement before you hit the app store. How do you wrangle press coverage?

  • Make a list of all the outlets that covered your competitors and reach out directly to the journalists who wrote those stories. Get your homework done: give them a set of hit points that show how unique your app is by comparison.
  • Use your first piece of coverage to leverage more. Offer exclusive coverage or a private invitation to experience a beta version.
  • Lastly, get talking with your target users. Build granular anticipation on the forums where they’re already engaged. If your app offers subscription boxes to new parents, for example, head over to YouTube, where 86 percent of millennial-age dads turn to parenting videos for guidance.

Hone your paid UA strategy

Different types of ads are used to support specific KPIs in paid acquisition campaigns. Static banners drive volume, whereas native ads, which are designed to blend in seamlessly with the environment of the app, are geared towards engagement. Interstitial ads, which pop up across a full screen, offer more real estate than a banner. Video ads offer unique chances for localization and personalization and have a much higher engagement rate than both banner and interstitial ads. Cross-promotion, or promoting your app in a relevant but non-competitive app, is most successful when run across related verticals or geographic regions. Know the bonuses and challenges associated with each type of advert. Read all about our top paid user acquisition strategy methods.


A hefty chunk of users install your app, look around for a few seconds, then close the app and leave forever. Why? Many users take a high-friction journey to arrive at your app; the many decisions they make to get there are typically cluttered with options. By the time they arrive at your app, they want a smooth on-boarding procedure that gets them up to speed and excited as quickly as possible.

Education + Engagement

When it comes to on-boarding, there are two competing schools of thought about how to design the process.

The first option is to take the time to explain the ins and outs of your product to your user:

  • Show them the various features.
  • Ask for any information you might need from the user and explain why it’s required.
  • Encourage them to rate and share the app with friends.

The logic behind this is that the first few screens of the app are when user attention peaks, and giving them all of this information ensures they’ll receive it (so they don’t stumble into the app unsure of how it should function).

The second approach is to keep copy to a bare minimum and get your user engaging with the product as soon as possible:

  • Keep each screen limited to a single action or reduce copy to be as minimal as possible.
  • Design each screen so that even without a single word - the user would know what they’re supposed to do.

Here, the idea is to reduce the on-boarding experience to a few seconds, eliminate friction and get the user enjoying the features they expected to find. It’s worth considering both approaches when designing your app’s onboarding.

Reward every step

Find ways to positively reinforce a user’s behavior during the on-boarding process. This could be anything from check boxes that turn green after a form is filled to a thin progress bar that fills with color as the user moves through the process. Even small rewards go a long way to keeping users happy and informed about what’s coming next.


Boosting mobile app revenue isn’t just about the users you find. If you can’t hold on to them, it won’t matter how many you acquire during the first days of a launch. If you’re losing potential high-value users – those who come to your app because they are genuinely interested but have a sub-optimal experience – that’s even worse (as the likelihood of them returning is slim).

Also, it’s less expensive to retain existing users than acquiring new ones. As such, getting retention right is an equally necessary cornerstone for mobile marketers.

Focus in on key channels in the first 30 days

Your top channels are those that send you your highest value users. If channel A sends you 10,000 low-value users and channel B sends you 150 high-value users, double down on channel B.

Measuring short-term retention is also key, and app marketers tend to follow users through a 30 day period. During this time, measure where the drop-offs occur, and consider activating retargeting campaigns to attract certain users who could become high-value. Also, consider the lifespan of your app - what do the first 30 days look like for your highest value users? How can you steer those who are churning to behave more like these users? Check and see if there are ways to highlight this pathway for the rest of your users.

The most important metric after all

There’s no magic formula for supersizing mobile app revenue, but your app can focus on the one event that you define as to your success. Ask yourself – what is the action that every user takes when they’re on the way to becoming a loyal customer for life? Is it their first conversion? Becoming a member? This one event is the sun around which the rest of your metrics rotate.


There are multiple ways to go viral, but word-of-mouth recommendations produce high-quality users. It’s easy to burn through your war chest when you embark on a referral campaign, but there are ways to encourage users to share your app with their friends in ways that feel original and make economic sense.

Make it a win-win

Referrals work best when both parties get something out of it – the new customer as well as the existing user. In practice, receiving something also works better than receiving a promo code.

Create content that users love to share

Many music apps excel at creating moments which users love to send on to their friends. When apps go viral because users are sharing the content they’ve created themselves, this is called demonstration virality (and is particularly excellent at winning high-value new users). However, this type of sharing only happens if users exchange content that happen authentically and naturally in your app.

Driving genuine, meaningful growth happens at all points along the user behavior funnel. Feeling almost ready to launch? You might want to check out our paid user acquisition guide before you do! There you’ll learn about soft launches, and how they could benefit a user acquisition strategy instead of jumping in head first.

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