Q&A: George Sharpe, Favoured Co-Founder

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Mobile Marketing Magazine sits down with George Sharpe, Co-Founder of performance marketing agency, Favoured to discuss mixing art and science to deliver results for app companies, his career at Apple and the potential impact and benefits of TikTok campaigns for mobile apps.

Could you  tell us about yourself?

“I’m the Co-founder of Favoured, a performance marketing agency that blends art and science to deliver results for app companies.

“Before establishing Favoured, I worked at Apple as a marketing lead. My role spanned a variety of businesses including the App Store & Apple Music, and I managed campaigns for over 150 apps, including Pokémon Go, Clash Royale, and Netflix.

“I have now been in marketing for over 15 years. Prior to Apple, I was with Universal Music, where I delivered campaigns for Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, as well as spearheaded the digital transformation of Universal’s marketing across the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia.”

Tell us more about Favoured, what was the spark that lit the flame?

“After my son was born, I took six months of shared parental leave, which gave me time to think more about my future. It was during that time that I decided it made sense to establish my own company, leveraging my experience to support other app companies.

“In my first month after leaving Apple, I had already secured my first two clients. Over the last five years, we have grown to a team of 30. I noticed initially that many agencies tended to specialise in one area, such as being a PPC agency, a social media agency, an influencer marketing agency, or an email marketing agency.

“I was deeply aware that to drive success in the app space, it’s crucial to understand that your app, like any business, has a customer funnel/journey involving multiple touchpoints required to grow, engage, convert, and retain users for the long term.

“Therefore, I wanted to build an agency that offered a comprehensive range of services, not just focusing on acquiring new users through advertising.

“By our second year, we had assembled the full team necessary to completely manage an app’s entire marketing strategy. By this point, we were not only acquiring users through multiple channels, but also engaging, nurturing, and converting them in the mid-funnel through email, push notifications, and in-app pop-ups.”

How did you go from the initial idea to operational business?

“It happened quite quickly. After I had the idea and left Apple, I reached out to some contacts in my network. Within the first month, I had secured my first two clients.

“My goal for the first year was to expand the acquisition team, as this is the area that most startup apps tend to prioritise. We achieved remarkable success with apps like Wombat Invest and Your Parking Space. After the first year, we focused on developing the mid-funnel aspect of the business. That’s when I met Dannii Crossley, an exceptionally talented customer lifecycle marketing specialist. She enabled us to start implementing app marketing tech stacks, which allowed us to market to users who had downloaded the app via email, push notifications, and in-app pop-ups.

“By combining cutting-edge performance marketing techniques to lower acquisition costs with lifecycle marketing tactics, we were able to convert more users. This ultimately brought acquisition costs down further and increased active users, subscriptions, and revenues for our clients.

“There was one final area we were missing: a best-in-class creative team. Then, after a few pints with my best friend Andy, who ran a creative agency, we decided to merge, and Favoured was born!

“Creativity is the key variable in delivering performance for acquisition campaigns. Since then, we have trained the creative team to optimise creativity based on performance in the campaigns. This allows us to make incremental optimisations over time, reducing acquisition costs.

“Now, we had everything necessary to deliver the best performance for our clients.

“Over the last few years, we have continued to develop our team and bring in resources to enhance our performance. This includes offering full video production as well as employing two full-time TikTok content creators.”

How did your experience at Apple running global campaigns influence your journey to becoming co-founder of Favoured?

“In all my experience, including my time at Apple, I led digital and marketing strategy. My expertise stemmed from developing full-funnel marketing strategies. When working on campaigns at Apple, our strategies encompassed advertising, email marketing, push notifications, organic social media, and creative elements.

“The largest and most successful companies have teams that cover the full customer lifecycle – that’s what I aimed to replicate.”

How did your time at Apple influence your approach to app marketing for startups and scale-ups?

“Something I often say to startups is, ‘Just because you’re a startup, doesn’t mean you can’t run campaigns just like I did at Apple.’

“I would constantly encounter startups putting all their eggs in one basket while ignoring everything else. They would run ads but not send emails, or, even worse, run ads without injecting any new creative into their campaigns every week. They often cut back, thinking they couldn’t afford to do everything.

“At Favoured, we have created a full-funnel system that works with startups. This means they can access strategy, advertising, influencers, ASO, email, push notifications, in-app pop-ups, tech stack implementation, graphics, animation, motion design, video production, and TikTok production, all in one place.

“In the early stages of the agency, when speaking with app founders and various startups, I noticed many apps focused heavily on driving downloads but gave little thought to how to market to users after they downloaded the app. There was a lack of strategy on how to turn them into active users, how to convert downloads into subscribers, and how to keep them paying. Many seemed to think that just because a user had downloaded the app, they would intuitively become a customer – this rarely happens.”

Can you elaborate on the significance of combining the top-of-funnel acquisition campaigns with middle and bottom-of-the-funnel strategies in-app marketing? How does it contribute to reducing acquisition costs?

“It’s quite straightforward, really. You have to look at all the metrics throughout the full app funnel to understand that optimisations at one stage, in the middle or bottom of the funnel, can ultimately reduce your acquisition costs at the top of the funnel.

“For example, if you’re running ads, your cost per install (CPI) can only decrease to a certain extent. It might drop from £4 CPI to £3 CPI, then perhaps to £2 or even below £1 – but it’s never going to be as low as 10p.

“This is because CPI is simply the outcome of your cost per click (CPC) and click-to-install rate (the percentage of users who click on the ad and then go on to install the app from the App Store). Your CPC can also only decrease to a certain point, as it is the outcome of your cost per mille (CPM, the cost to reach 1,000 users) and the number of people who decide to click. Therefore, you need to work on optimising your campaigns to improve your CPC based on the CPM you are paying.

“For instance, if you drive 100 app installs on a spend of £500 with a 2% conversion rate, you have a:

  • £2.50 CPI = 4 customers (£125 each),
  • £2 CPI = 5 customers (£100 each).

If you work hard and are extremely lucky, maybe you will achieve a £1 CPI, giving you 10 customers (£50 each).

“However, if we also focus on increasing your conversion rate within the app with the same spend of £500 but a conversion rate of 4%, you get the following numbers:

  • £2.50 CPI = 8 customers (£62.50 each),
  • £2 CPI = 10 customers (£50 each),
  • £1 CPI = 20 customers (£25 each).

“This results in a 50% reduction in acquisition costs for every customer.

“Thus, it’s the combination of optimising your advertising and conversion rates within the app that will ultimately reduce the acquisition costs of your campaigns.”

What exactly is a milestone strategy, and could you provide insights into the process of creating one for app marketing?

“We view the app funnel as having multiple conversion rates. For example:

  • Conversion rate from seeing an ad to clicking on it.
  • Conversion rate from the App Store to download.
  • Conversion rate from download to sign-up.
  • Conversion rate from sign-up to free trial.
  • Conversion rate from free trial to subscription.

“Every important stage within your app is defined as a milestone.

“The way we develop strategies to increase conversion rates within the app is by creating campaigns tailored to who someone is and their current milestone.

“Rather than simply sending emails to everyone in your app, hoping they will leap from milestone 1 (an app download) to a conversion, which could be milestone 10 or beyond, we break it down. We run campaigns to move people from milestone 1 to 2, then from 2 to 3, 3 to 4, and so on. By increasing the conversion rates between each milestone within your app, we can boost your overall conversion rate within the app.”

Could you discuss the potential impact and benefits of TikTok campaigns for mobile apps?

“We have been an early adopter of TikTok, back when clients were questioning, ‘Isn’t this just for kids to share their dancing videos?’ Now, over 50% of our client budgets are allocated to TikTok. The platform presents unique opportunities due to its significant user base, competitive CPMs (cost per mille), and the extensive amount of time users spend on it. People spend over two hours a day on TikTok, scrolling the equivalent length of Big Ben.

“One of the key benefits of TikTok is its highly engaging short-form video content. This format allows us to showcase an app’s features and user experience in a manner that is not just informative, but also highly entertaining and appealing. The potential for content to go viral on TikTok is unparalleled. We have seen campaigns gain significant organic reach, thereby increasing brand visibility and app downloads without substantial advertising expenditure.

“Working with influencers and content creators on TikTok has been a game-changer. They bring authenticity and a wide reach, creating content that resonates with their audience and drives higher engagement and conversion rates for the apps we market. Almost all of our acquisition campaigns now feature content creators, whether filmed in-house or through external partnerships.

“In terms of cost-effectiveness, TikTok stands out. The CPMs are much cheaper than those on META platforms, allowing you to reach the same audience for less. It provides a high level of visibility and user engagement, which is crucial for apps, especially those with limited marketing budgets. Overall, leveraging TikTok in our marketing strategies has been instrumental in building a loyal community around the apps we promote, driving not just downloads, but also sustained user engagement.”

In your opinion, why is the use of content creators in ad campaigns such an effective strategy, and can you share specific examples of how your agency implements this approach?

“Using content creators in ad campaigns is highly effective, primarily due to their authenticity and the trust they command from their audience.

“They can engage a targeted audience with creative, relatable content, often resulting in higher engagement and greater cost-effectiveness compared to traditional advertisements. At our agency, we focus on selecting creators who align well with the brand’s values and the profile of its target audience. We collaborate closely with content creators to produce videos for the ads we run. Additionally, we encourage them to film B-roll footage. This allows us to repurpose the videos, creating multiple versions from the original footage, thereby extracting more value from it.”

Could you share some highlights or case studies from your agency’s portfolio that showcase successful app marketing strategies and their outcomes?

“We were delighted to have been shortlisted for the best TikTok campaign for small businesses. We have also won countless awards for marketing in the app space which we’re grateful for including Business of Apps and Clutch.

“Some that stand out would be how we increased the DAUs and MAUs by over 145% for Your Parking Space as well as decreasing the CPA for Wombat Invest by 90% through full funnel optimisation.”

What trends do you predict in marketing in 2024?

“One of the aspects I love about marketing is its constant evolution, marked by innovations, ideas, and tactics. Some areas that I believe will continue to gain traction in 2024 include:

Rise of AI and Machine Learning: AI and machine learning will continue to revolutionise app marketing, offering more personalised and efficient user experiences. This might encompass AI-driven content creation, predictive analytics for user behaviour, and automated customer service.

Influencer and Micro-Influencer Collaborations: Influencer marketing is expected to keep evolving, possibly shifting towards more authentic, long-term collaborations with micro-influencers who boast highly engaged audiences.

Increased Use of Short-Form Video Content: Platforms like TikTok have popularised short-form video content, proving to be an effective way for apps to engage users, especially younger demographics. Back in 2021, we hired an in-house TikTok content creator who now helps us develop over 20 short-form videos a day across our client base. At the time, it was a risk, but short-form video has since become the most consumed type of content.

Increased Focus on Privacy and Data Security: With growing awareness and concerns about data privacy, apps are likely to prioritise transparent and secure data practices. This may result in more privacy-focused marketing strategies and a move away from invasive data collection methods.”