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LiveOps Essentials Part 5: Marketing + Monetization

Mike Moran

Written by Mike Moran on April 29, 2021, LinkedIn

19 minute read

Table of contents

    LiveOps Essentials Part 5: Marketing + Monetization

    Welcome back, reader.

    I’m pleased to be back here. With you especially. Today, we’re getting into something special. In our meetings’ past, we’ve laid the groundwork for our LiveOps foundation. We covered the content and the cadence, we’ve broken down the observation and the analytics and we’ve examined the component parts. We’ve talked in general terms. We’ve peeled back the layers of the specifics. But today?

    Today we’re getting involved with the finishing touches - Monetization and Marketing.

    But they’re really and truly so much more than that. They’re the ramp you take when your game’s looking to meet its fullest potential. They’re the button you press when your game’s looking to revolutionize what profitability and reach even mean.

    They’re the path forward -- the way forward -- that enables you to do more, be more, and stick around for longer. And it’s about time you got acquainted.

    So, without further ado, let’s kick things off with the first ‘M.’ Monetization.

    The Monetization 

    If you’ll recall from our last time together, getting your players spending is your second most important goal. (Second only to getting them onto the app consistently.) So… what are you going to do about it?  

    The answer: you’re going to get creative, intentional, and downright determined with your monetization tactics. This section’s going to be quick and to the point -- I’m going to give you a handful of ideas to get you thinking, and then we’re going to get into how you know they’re actually working. Or not working. Because in either case, you need to know.

    Ready to charge full steam ahead? Onwards! 

    Monetization: The Tactics

    The Game Within A Game: Your game has enticed your audience into the app. But now that they’re there, how are you going to give them new opportunities for greatness? How are you going to provide thrilling complexity, unpredictable turns, and offers they can’t help but feel urged to participate in?

    By adding layers.

    A game within a game means a new, exciting way to play -- just for a moment, just for a breath of fresh air. Whether you offer the chance to play a slot machine, a matching game, or a shell game -- with exclusive and meaningful rewards on the line -- your audience will respond to it.

    And not only will they be dosed with a shot of rejuvenation from the unexpected content, but they’ll also get a nice breather from the intensity of the game -- so that when the game-within-a-game is over, they’re ready to dive back into the real gameplay.

    The Come-Back Offers: Odds are, a big chunk of your playerbase isn’t active regularly enough for your taste. Whether they downloaded and played once, played nonstop for a week or two and then disappeared, or played loyally for a while until something turned them off -- you have stagnant users. Users that aren’t actively impressed by what you’re giving them. Users that aren’t motivated to come back.

    So? Motivate them. Impress them. Give them a reminder of how much value your game brings to the table. Give them a well-timed nudge that shows off its strengths, its uniqueness, and its commitment to being there for its people. Come-back offers are your way of doing that.

    “Come Back Now & Receive a Weapon Upgrade, On Us.” “Free Access to Our Next Exclusive Event Inside.” “We Miss You… So We Gave You An Extra Life (But Only If You Play Now).” See? The options are endless -- what matters is that you’re upping your visibility in a purposeful and unmistakable way, and you’re proving your own worth by demonstrating what you can do for their enjoyment.

    Okay… but how do you actually monetize them once they’re back in? Simple. Give them a basic weapon upgrade for free...  but offer them a premium weapon upgrade for 75% off. Give them a basic event ticket for free… but offer them a VIP event ticket (with complimentary cosmetic add-ons) for cheap. Give them an extra life for free… but offer them a subscription plan for an extra life every week -- at half price. Creativity. Intentionality. When you have ‘em both, magic is inevitable.

    The Viral, Must-Have Moments: An in-game tournament backed up by a marketing campaign that goes viral. A group vs. group event where each group’s stacked with celebrity gamers. Real-world musicians showing up to perform in the game universe. When you spark exclusivity -- when you promise bragging rights -- you’re not just exciting your audience to the point where they reach into their pockets.

    You’re actually spreading the word beyond them. You’re exciting new people. You’re generating new loyalty. And you’re developing new sources of paid interest.

    People like what other people like. The more you expand your reach, the more you verify to your existing playerbase that they were right to believe in you. That means you’re boosting your acquisition rates while increasing the satisfaction of your current players… while still upping your profitability potential. A triple win-win-win indeed.


    The Localized Goodness: Ready for some unfiltered wisdom? The secret to luring people in sustainably is… speaking their language. Obviously that’s true in a literal sense, but if we look at it figuratively -- I’m talking appealing to their cultures, their interests, and the idiosyncrasies that define their communities. And that’s where localization comes in.

    Localization is the process of taking your game and molding it to attract players in a specific region. Singapore, India, Switzerland, or the Bahamas -- wherever it is, wherever you’d like to boost your playerbase, that’s what your localization technique will zero in on. You’ll focus on things like language nuance, content particulars, and even play endurance and pricing. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t -- I’ll break it down.

    • Language nuance. I’m talking slang. The sayings and details that make local players feel like the game is one of them, rather than a clueless outsider or a nameless global entity. While automated translation tools can get you pretty close, having access to locals (who can confirm quality and add in their human touch) is always a good idea.
    • Content particulars. If the target region doesn’t celebrate Christmas en masse, don’t send them your Christmas events. If their popular play time happens on the weekends, don’t implement a mid-week release cadence. Craft your content around their needs, their likes, and their behaviors, and they’ll respond with way more fervor.
    • Play endurance and pricing. Some regions will have more energy and money to spend on games, and others will have less. Some regions will have more energy and money in specific seasons, and others will stay more or less consistent throughout the year. The more you know about your region, the more you can shape your content, cadence, and monetization tactics in ways that are actually fruitful.

    Okay, so you understand what localization entails -- but how does it equate to tried and true monetization results? Look at it like this: you want to increase player spending in the Bahamas. You investigate the most popular games in the region, taking in their pricing structures, their offers, and the cadence of their new content releases. And then you come up with something better: pricing structures that reflect players’ comfortability while offering them more value. Offers that go beyond what they’re used to. Content cadence plans that deliver them more of what they want.

    You do that, and you earn the excitement, trust, and loyalty of your audience. And since they have a finite amount of money they’re willing to spend, you’ll be redirecting their payments -- away from the popular games and over to yours.

    There -- those ideas should get you thinking. But once you’ve done the thinking, and the tweaking, and the implementing… how do you know if your methods have worked? How do you know if you’re on the right track, and how do you know if your target audience is really responding to what you’re putting out?

    Monetization: The Measuring

    Maybe you’re sick of the word ‘metrics’ by now -- trust me, I get it -- but this is where you can really have fun with your analysis. This is where you can figure out, in exact terms, which offers are hitting the mark, and this is where you can cut or change the tactics that aren’t proving their worth.

    Because yes, you can be looking at the overall metrics: the conversion rates, the cost of acquiring customer rates, the time to first purchase rates -- these guys are all useful. And you should be leaning on them, without a doubt, to contextualize your efforts and pinpoint your story.

    But you should also be getting a heck of a lot more specific. You should be reducing your to-measure interval at the right times, and you should be taking a magnifying glass to the scope of your metrics in the right ways. Let’s break that down.

    • Intervals: While it’s fantastic to have an analytic cadence in place so your team knows, with certainty, when which elements will be actively looked at, it’s also crucial to have analytic intervals that vary based on the content that’s coming to fruition. Here’s what I mean: if you’re consistently releasing the same range of events on the same scheduled basis, checking in with the resulting metrics a couple of times a month (to note any general changes) is fine.

      But what if you’re trying out a new type of event? What if you’re bringing a celebrity into the mix for the first time, or you employed the help of influencers with your first social media marketing campaign? What if you made a gnarly offer available for all players -- or you invested in something on the backend and you’re not sure how effectively it translated into gameplay?

    These are all instances where you need to insert new times for analysis. Before the change and after it, you should be implementing analytic checkpoints that ensure your team is bearing witness to how your audience is responding -- so you can determine whether the effort and investment were worthwhile. These event-specific intervals can be utilized as frequently as it makes sense for your game and your cadence. Because while it’s great to have a consistent analytic framework, it’s even better to have a flexible one.

    • KPI’s: Like I said -- having a big-picture framework with which to see your game through is valuable. Looking at overall metrics like Average Revenue per User and Time to First Purchase is great. But it’s also valuable to be getting way more focused -- through KPI’s that give you a better sense of the day-to-day details.

      Such as? The Daily Active Users numbers. The Daily Conversion Rate numbers. The Daily Revenue numbers. The metrics that show you, on a totally-zoomed-in level, exactly how your game is performing for the exact interval you’re curious about. This gives you the certainty you need to truly understand your game’s day-by-day performance, while giving you the freedom to compare any days against each other.

      Have a change you’d like to track? A bug you’re trying to deduce the impact of? A dip in more general metrics that you’re trying to pinpoint the specifics of? Daily numbers can help you do all of that -- without detracting from any of your more general analytic processes. It’s another way for you to glean the insight you need to take your game to new heights. And it’s ready whenever you are. 

    The Marketing

    Phew, we made it! Component #4 is here -- and while many find it daunting, many more find it to be a whole lot of fun. The key to ensuring you fall in the latter camp? The right intel.

    And you better believe that’s exactly what I’m about to throw your way. 

    Now, before you come at me with your apprehensions -- no, you do not have to be a marketing expert to benefit from this breakdown. Anyone can extract real value and actionable steps from the insight you’re about to read.

    And whether you already have a whole department dedicated to enacting the right marketing strategies, or whether your team is double- and triple-dipping on their areas of specialty, this section will help you take your LiveOps to the next level. It’ll help you understand more, implement more, and measure more. That’s a promise. 

    So, without further ado...

    Marketing: The Context

    The truth is, if you’re putting 100% into developing the right LiveOps content and 100% into developing the right cadence strategies and you’re not putting that same high-powered energy into your marketing tactics, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

    Not abject failure where everything was done for nothing, but the kind of failure where you’ve left stuff on the table without knowing it. You’re holding your game back from meeting its true potential. You’re doing two-thirds of everything right… and then you’re leaving that last third hanging.

    But when you open your eyes wide enough to see the true power of marketing -- and you embrace the tactics into your operational fold -- that’s when you’ll see the real wowza possibilities of your LiveOps. Because content, cadence, and marketing -- when handled together -- create the perfect storm.

    That’s all of the context you need to know. Now? Let’s jump into the pool.

    Marketing: The Possibilities

    As a human alive in this century, you’re almost certainly already familiar with marketing -- and specifically digital marketing. You know that businesses rely on social media and search engines to help spread awareness of their value, and you know that communicating with customers consistently is a key way to leverage the power of loyalty. (Need daily proof? Just look at your inbox.)

    In the same way that businesses of all kinds rely on marketing tactics to retain their staying power, so too do games of all kinds. Direct communication with players, indirect communication with potential players, celebrity tie-ins, crossover events -- all of these tactics are linked by their foundational purpose:

     

    To drive awareness of, and interest in, your game.

     

    Without marketing, your reach wouldn’t expand. Without marketing, your acquisition rates wouldn’t budge. Without marketing, your profitability would drop off -- because eventually, your current playerbase would move onto the next big thing.

    💡Remember: people like what other people like. When your marketing tactics prove your value, your appeal, and your of-the-moment, ultra-shiny sparkle, you’re not just compelling new users to join the party -- you’re also ensuring that your old users keep coming back.

    So, yeah, marketing is integral. And probably a lot less complex than you think. Here are a few cornerstone categories of marketing tactics that will help you familiarize yourself with the basics -- and start brainstorming ways to take them to the next height:

    • Email: If you require an email address from players before they can start playing, then you’ve already done your marketing a huge favor -- because you’ve given your game an automatic and direct line to its players. That means you can spread awareness about upcoming content releases, generate excitement when certain metrics are lagging, and even reignite stagnant players with special offers. The freedom is yours.

      Maybe you choose to send out content update emails on a regular basis. Maybe you strike up an event-specific email campaign to get as many users onto the app as possible at the same time. Or maybe you send out an exclusive discount to players in one region -- in order to amp up your traction there. Emails are a classic tenet of digital marketing because they work, they’re flexible, and they’re low key. (They don’t require much -- but they do require creativity.)
    • Social Media: And on the note of creativity, we arrive at social media -- the most ubiquitous, crowded, and relevant platform for marketing in 2021. Because the world of social media is so crowded with brands -- and, for our purposes here, games -- trying to stand out, getting your target audience’s attention requires some finnagling. So: make sure you’re dedicating energy to that finnagling.

      Maybe that means creating profiles for your game and interacting with other platform users. (If you do this well, it can earn you viral notoriety.) Maybe it means penning well-crafted Facebook ads, or maybe it means creating events and posts that incite engagement. The stickier your activity and the deeper your presence, the more people you’ll reach -- and when every person is another potential player, reaching more is an eternal win.
    • Websites: In order to carve out its place in the world, your game needs to carve out its place in the digital sphere -- and that means having its own website. Not only does a website help legitimize your game, but it also helps with brand exposure: giving you a leg up with search results, shareability, and being a part of the digital conversation are all benefits. (Not that you should need added benefits… because in 2021, having a website isn’t up for debate.)

      But beyond just using your game’s own site as a pocket of marketing potential, you should also be considering using other sites to show off your value. Sites like community discussion boards, industry databases, and games-specific publications help you catch the eyes of new prospects in a way that validates your existence -- because if other respected sites are backing you, then you must be worth a shot.
    • Digital Ads: Here’s where things can get experimental. Digital ads are one of the most relied upon marketing tactics in today’s world -- because they can be shared anywhere, and they can be whatever you want them to be. Whether you’re putting out a 15-second text-and-music-only ad for Instagram or a three-minute long high-production-value showcase for LinkedIn, the tactic is more or less the same. You’re looking to engage, excite, and spark action. And you’re looking to keep your audience watching through to the end.

      There’s a ton of room for variability, for customization, and for getting creative (and dare I say -- wacky). The most absurd tends to win today, so don’t be afraid to test the borders -- but also keep a close eye on your game’s identity. Because hitting the notes of your game’s core appeal is priority #1. A well-crafted digital ad has the power to blow up your acquisition and retention numbers -- so keep that in mind as you explore the strategy.
    • App Store Promotions: And finally, we arrive at one of my favorite tactics -- promotions that present themselves inside the app store. Why am I so drawn to this one? Well, when you’re marketing through sites, platforms, and email, you’re aiming to push your readers/viewers over the big conversion hill. But they were on those sites and platforms -- and checking their inboxes -- for a reason other than to be persuaded by you and your game.

      But, when you’re talking to them through the app store, they’re already interested in downloading an app. They’re already in the ‘I have time for this’ headspace, and theyr’e already actively looking for something that will move them.

    So move them. Throw out an offer they can’t refuse. Highlight an upcoming event in a can’t-ignore-this sort of way. The hill is more of a bump, and they’re so close to the top -- so focus, wow, and earn yourself a new player. (Over and over again.)

    Now you’re probably thinking, okay, how do these well-explained tactics relate to the pillars of our LiveOps know-how? What does an email campaign have to do with my content, and what does a digital ad have to do with my new release cadence?

    The short answer? Everything.

    Let’s bring back the notion of the perfect storm: you might be spending all of your operational resources on constructing the perfect event, on getting everything in order to have it ready for its perfectly-planned release date… which is all fine and good.

    But what if nobody opens your app on that day?

    What if your expected playerbase is busy? What if a fraction of the audience you expected shows up, and all of your hard work goes unnoticed? What if all of your potential goes unmet?

    It’s scary, isn’t it? Knowing you have no insurance policy on your expectations? 

    Except, with aptly integrated marketing tactics, you do. You can tell your active playerbase about every content update -- right before it’s released. You can pull new players into your game for special events -- by promoting the events in places they’ll see them. And you can even pull users away from the competition by tossing them crazy offers, exciting opportunities, and exclusive happenings -- in the platforms they’re already in.

    The marketing of your LiveOps is the second kick in the kick-punch-kick combo. When you deploy it right, you’ll see the results immediately -- and your competition will feel it in the morning. 

    Marketing: The Impact

    You’re feeling good about the tactics you’ve leaned on for the past couple of content releases, and you’re ready to dive in and analyze the impact. But how do you know where to start?

    How can you tell what the marketing is doing and what the content itself is doing? Whether it’s your emails that are generating results -- or your killer events? Whether it’s your use of social media influencers that are bringing swaths of new users into the app -- or whether it’s the quality of your release cadence that’s keeping them happy?

    Are you ever going to be able to deduce what -- in specific terms -- is working? 

    The answer is one part yes and one part no. 

    Let’s get into the ‘yes’ first -- because there are a couple of baseline ways to measure whether it’s your marketing that’s working, specifically. Here they are:

    • Tactic Engagement: The first way to measure the success of your marketing tactic is to check in with audience engagement of the tactic itself. If you’re running an email campaign, that means tracking the open rate and the click-through rate; if you’re running an Instagram giveaway promo, that means staying on top of how many likes, shares, and reposts your post earned. Obviously, the higher the engagement, the more successful your tactic.
    • Game Engagement: But if engagement with the tactic doesn’t lead to actual engagement with the game, what are you really accomplishing? In order to make sure you’re seeing the marketing results you want to be seeing, you need to be keeping a close eye on the after of tactic engagement -- after they’ve opened the email and clicked onto the link, are they downloading the game? Are they playing it? Are they reopening it daily, or weekly, or bi-monthly?

      But… how can you determine that information? Through a little thing I like to call audience segmentation. And the wherewithal to use KPI’s that tell me a story.
    • Audience Segmentation: With the right backend tools, you have the power to divide your playerbase into segments based on key factors -- like their region, history with the game, and behavior.
    • Relevant KPI’s: Used to fuel audience segmentation capabilities, metrics like demographics, geometrics, behaviorial metrics, and cohort analyses give you the insight you need to make overarching connections.

    So now let’s look at what using those factors look like in practice. You ran an Instagram ad campaign throughout Germany, and you need to figure out the impact it had on your user acquisition rates. You’ve already checked out the tactic engagement levels -- you know how many views the ad got, and how many click-throughs there were. Now you need to know what that translates to for your game.

    So first, segment your audience. Look at how many new users downloaded the game within the time-slot your campaign was active -- and then divide that group by region, so only the new users in Germany are visible. If your ad campaign included a special coupon code for an exclusive offer, that’ll help you get even more specific with your findings -- by giving you a clear-cut way to ensure you know where your users came from.

    By using KPI’s to understand and segment your playerbase -- and tactic elements like unique codes, offers, and click-through links to zero in on further specificity -- you’re setting yourself up to be able to measure marketing success more accurately and more easily. So, that’s the ‘yes.’

     

    Now, for the ‘no.’ The truth is, for all of the tools and all of the approaches we have for understanding numbers and nuances, we simply can’t be absolute in our insight. There will be Germans who don’t see the ad campaign but download the app anyway. There will be people who get a coupon code but don’t input it into the app. There will be users who click onto the link by accident and then get away from the page as fast as they can, and there will be long-time players who get a new phone -- and create a whole new game profile.

    There will be outliers. There will be uncertainty. And so, like with the rest of our analytics, we will prioritize our big-picture trends. We will connect the dots and deduce general findings, and we will determine the efficacy of tactics and game-wide KPI’s based on what the majority of insight is telling us. 

    We’ll observe the exceptions and then stand by the rule. 

    So as you get to measuring the impact of your marketing tactics -- with an eye on the in-game results -- make sure you’re doing it with grace. That you’re not getting caught up with the small stuff, and that you’re not letting minor inconsistencies incite chaos. Identify them, watch them, and then let them do their thing while you do yours. 

    It’s an ongoing process. But it can, when done right, change everything for your game’s staying power.

    The Tools


    Ladies and gentlemen, you did it. You made it to the final building block of this article’s foundation. You stuck around through the Monetization, you kept a trained eye during the Marketing, and now I’m here to bring you the key to it all.

    The key to how you can actually take these principles and run -- with ease. The key to how you can set yourself (and your team) up for smooth, effortless, predictable results -- over and over again. 

    Because theories and best practices are great, but they’re only realistic if you have the power of the right apparatus behind you. Without every element working in your favor, every aspect of the strategies we’ve discussed becomes harder. More strenuous. Less certain.

    So now, it’s time to take in the tools. It’s time to learn about the key components every successful LiveOps team relies on, and it’s time to acknowledge what you’re missing. Are tools the be all and end all of LiveOps? No -- where there’s a will, there’s a way. But, do they make things a heck of a lot easier?

    You’re darn right they do.

    Here’s what the right tools do for you:

    • People: We’re only as strong as our people, and with a teamsport like LiveOps, having the right people behind you is even more important. Tools give you the power to hire the people you want to hire -- without stressing about their technical know-how, their development background, or their interest in spending 8 hours a day plugging code into a keyboard. Instead of needing technical talent, the right tools mean you can just look for talent -- the game-obsessed, high-energy, super smart team players that will help you take your operations (and your game) to the next level.
    • Capabilities: From analytic processes to audience segmentation to in-game offers and LiveOps calendars, there are a lot of pieces to the LiveOps puzzle -- and not only does going the manual route make things tougher than tough, but it also makes certain elements impossible. Don’t forfeit the game because you didn’t want to invest in your operations. You can’t build the perfect house without a sturdy foundation. I have about a thousand more analogies I can throw at you, but instead, I’ll just say:

      Give your team the gift of digital tools that make their lives easier.

      Analytics, marketing, content development -- the right tools will give you a valuable, reliable, and centralized helping hand. With all of it.
    • Success: And that takes us to success. With the right tools, you’re taking your team from overwhelmed and stressed to confident and serene. You’re shortening the time needed for tasks, minimizing the risk of human error, and upping productivity as a whole. You’re getting more done and leaving more time for big-picture brainstorms, and you’re able to try more ideas, attempt more innovations, and generally blow your competition out of the water.

      The right digital tools means setting yourself up for success. It’s really and truly as simple as that.  

    You know I’m not one to have an angle here -- I’m all about giving you the information you need to drive your own killer LiveOps, with no strings attached. But since we’re on the topic of digital tools, I’m going to give you everything I know about them. 

    Including why I’m such a heavy believer in UserWise. 

    Look -- there are some great digital LiveOps tools out there, and if you were to choose any of them, I’d be happy. But from where I’m standing, with the expertise I’ve accumulated over the years, I just know -- in my heart of hearts -- that our product will give you more. More bang for your buck, more simplicity for your operations, and more impact for your intentions. 

    So if you want to get to know it a little better, click here. That’s all I’ll say. But whether you do or you don’t, you 100% should have digital tools in your corner. Because if you don’t have them, you’re throwing in the towel before a loss is even on the horizon.

    Invest in your team. Invest in your game. 

    The Conclusion

    Hey, you -- yeah, you. You made it!

    The content. The cadence. The observation & adjustments. The components. And, my oh my, the monetization and the marketing. 

    It’s been a long journey. A marathon, if you will. But now we can say with absolute certainty that you’ve seen all that there is to see. You’ve gleaned the principles, you’ve absorbed the reasoning, and you’ve weighed the (countless) different tactics. You’ve understood all of the fast-moving parts, and you’ve transported the wisdom from the page into your mind.

    You’re a LiveOps Essentials mastermind. Officially.

    So while, yes, congratulations are in order, there’s something else that’s in order too. Something a bit less final, and a bit more promising. Because, well… you have the foundation down. There’s no question about that. But the higher level problem-solving?

    The tips and tricks that the most insightful in our industry have been keeping a tight hold on?

    I’m guessing that’s still no more than a mystery to you. And whether you’re just starting out on your LiveOps journey, you’re midway through and tweaking for improvements, or you’re a veteran that’s looking for sparks of new inspiration, it’s helpful. 

    It’s necessary. It’s fruitful. And in simple terms: it’s insight gold.

    I’ll stop waxing poetic about the merits of our industry’s best tips & tricks for now, and just leave you with this instead. If you’re ready to get ahead of pitfalls before you hit them, if you’re ready to walk into the room already knowing where the dangerous parties sit -- then this is the article for you.

    It’s insurance, it’s a safety net, and it’s the best risk roadmap for LiveOps that has been created yet. So, if you’re someone who cares about the safety and success of your operations -- and your game -- I’ll see you there.

     


     

    PS 

    We recently launched the UserWise Academy - a place for you to go and take free online courses taught by some of the brightest minds in mobile gaming. 

    The courses are 100% free and include:

    • Unlimited access to exclusive video tutorials presented by top gaming experts.
    • Tips and tricks from people who have “been there, done that.”
    • A community with people just like you who are excited to learn.

    Click on the courses to start watching. Easy peasy.

    The New UserWise Academy