How to optimize your app monetization by selling to brands directly

Draw in premium campaign budgets by finding the right brands for your audience.

Emma Raz

Aug 25 · 3 min read

Audio app publishers, following their roots in AM/FM broadcasting, have always worked directly with brands to monetize their inventory. Now, following the loss of identifiers and the disappearance of third party data, many other app publishers are asking the Big Question: is it time to take a leaf out of the audio book and go direct?
As you may know, the main benefit to selling your inventory to brands directly is the ability to win premium campaign budgets, by approaching brands to whom your audience is hyper-relevant. While a programmatic approach can allow publishers to start building their ad revenue with minimal resources, for established publishers with large aggregate audiences a direct sales approach can be a lucrative investment.
If you think it’s for you, here are 3 tips that will help you get a direct sales strategy right.

1. Get to know your user by building a first party data strategy

The quality of your user insight sets the baseline for your ability to attract premium brand budgets. While you could use third party data, this data is limited in scale - and increasingly difficult to access. Building your first party data strategy will put your direct sales efforts on steroids.
Kick your first party data strategy off with low hanging fruit: the data you can gather from within your app. This may be systems data such as age verification (under/over 13) and profile settings (currency/location, wishlists, communication preferences), as well as richer insights gathered from an onboarding flow (e.g. favorite artist, food or brand preferences) or rewarded surveys (e.g. “Answer a question to get 10 coins”, “Tell us about yourself to get 10% off of your next order”).

On top of this, you can leverage mobex (mobile context) to create insight into your users’ behavioral patterns and live context while using your app. Our product Euclid predicts behavioral audiences (eg. Fitness Fanatics, Regular Shoppers Housework Heros) and live user contexts (eg. working, at a park, running).

2. Select the right brand for your audience

Once you’ve developed a thorough understanding of who your users are, you’ll start assessing brand suitability. Getting this right is key, not only because the quality of the fit will define the size of the campaign budgets you’ll be able to draw in, but also because ads have a big impact on the quality of your users’ in-app experience. A strong in-app experience is crucial to your retention rates, especially in freemium app economies since users have a low switching cost.

Assess brand fit by asking yourself questions such as:
  • How similar is the brand’s audience to my app audience? (Reviewing which other apps the brand is publishing to can give you a good idea)
  • Which product categories has my audience failed to connect with, in previous campaigns? Which categories performed well?
  • Can campaign goals be achieved within the context of my users’ behavior and do the campaign’s KPIs match my ad units?
If you’re going the mobex route, you’ll have a leg-up here: knowing that your userbase has, for example, a large number of Fitness Fanatics and Foodies, would suggest that brands such as Nike, New Balance and Uber Eats are a strong fit.

Curious which behavioral audiences and live context can be accessed? Download our taxonomy

3. Find a door opener to help you work with brands

Once you have an idea of the type of brands you’re after, you’re ready to kick off your BD efforts. Before you start selling on your own, it’s advisable to hire a specialist (in-house or as a consultant) who can:
  1. Advise your internal team on which customer personas and media agencies you’ll want to target and which metrics they’ll want to optimize for;
  2. Introduce you to the right POCs at relevant brands and agencies.
Make sure to look for someone with previous experience selling to brands and media agencies, and confirm they have the specific connections you’re after.

Getting started

If you’ve decided to make the leap into selling directly: congrats! We won’t say it’s easy, but you may find that investing in getting to know your users will open doors you didn’t know existed.
Here’s a few steps to help you get started:
  1. Confirm that a direct strategy fits with the wider company strategy
  2. Assess internal resources (depending on your execution, key resources may include product, BD/sales, creative, data management, and compliance)
  3. Select an ad server (Google Ad Manager is a good default, and AppLovin’s MAX is a favourite among gaming apps)
  4. Develop your first party data (mobex is private by design, but be sure to review the management of all other data against data protection regulations)
  5. Build your team
  6. Create your first case study

Get a mobex (mobile context) demo

If you’d like to see how live user context and behavioral audiences work and learn how they can help you get your direct sales strategy off the ground, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

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