Six essential skills every UA team lead needs
Leading a user acquisition (UA) team is a fast-paced and demanding role. At any minute, you need to know which campaigns are performing well and which aren’t, and how to make adjustments to get to your target return on investment (ROI).
Since the field of UA is young and growing rapidly, UA team lead roles are hard for companies to fill. Successful UA team leads need a firm grasp of analytics and team management, but also what makes ad creative work. It can be an exhilarating job with long days, big wins, and even bigger salaries.
To improve your chances of getting promoted or hired in a team lead role, build up these six skills.
Of course, analytics are the heartbeat of any good UA professional. To reach management level, you need a mastery of statistics and mathematics as they relate to user acquisition. You should also be fluent in all of the industry-standard KPIs: ROAS, CPC, CTR, CPI, CPM, CAC, ARPU, ARPDAU, and LTV. (The AppsFlyer glossary is a great place to start if you need a refresher.)
Read up on industry benchmarks, get to grips with spreadsheets and tables, and do a deep dive into your own data to become an expert in UA analytics.
2. Project management
As a UA team manager, you’re the command center for everything UA for your brand. You oversee hundreds of pieces of creative that may be running in different languages and countries all over the world.
You need to know enough about your team’s portfolios to be able to jump in and help a campaign manager troubleshoot on the spot. The best UA team leads set themselves up for success with tools and systems to track all their campaigns, evaluate their performance in real-time, and keep their team connected.
3. People management
It’s not enough to be good with numbers and managing projects as a UA team lead. You’re also a people manager, and your performance is only as good as your team’s. But there’s a lot more to it than just telling people what to do — let’s look at some of the skills that make you “management material”.
Campaigns are built by people — and campaign problems can stem from human problems. Team leads need to understand their team’s motivations and factors that may be affecting their performance outside of work. That’s why it’s crucial to check in with your team regularly and provide guidance to improve their campaign management, performance, and wellbeing.
“Don’t fall into the trap of only looking at Excel sheets as your measure of success. There are stories and people behind the numbers,” says Gai Van-Straten, Head of Demand Generation at AppsFlyer. Van-Straten has managed UA at multiple companies, growing one UA team from two to 15 people.
You’ll need to decide how to hire and onboard and how to structure your team. Building a team is more than filling it with all-stars: find ways to play to their individual strengths and motivate them to work together as a unit.
People management also extends beyond your direct reports. You need to “manage up” with your leadership team and the many agencies you’ll be working with. Presenting to leadership and giving real-time ROI reports is an important part of a UA team lead’s job.
“Managing up can be intimidating,” says Van-Straten. “You need to know your stuff and have the confidence to defend your strategy. Don’t just be a ‘Yes’ man (or woman).”
Beyond leadership, you must also build relationships and work collaboratively with your peers in other divisions across the company.
Budgeting is an area that most UA team leads don’t have formal training in and have to learn on the job. Your budget touches all areas of your work — hiring agencies, buying in tools and software, building a team, and ad spend. Your leadership team is looking to you to recommend what your budget should be and how to break it down between channels. So, how do you learn how to do it?
- Familiarize yourself with spreadsheets and basic finance terms.
- Use your UA experience to predict which channels will produce the best results based on history and current trends.
- Do research to compare budgets, ad spend breakdowns, and trends in the industry.
- Maintain good working relationships with your finance department.
Once you have a draft budget, the next critical step is pitching it to your leadership. Prepare your rationale for each line item and be ready to negotiate and adjust — change is part of the job.
5. Vendor management
Managing agency partners is an important part of a UA team lead’s job.
First, you’ll have to flex your negotiation skills to get favorable pricing and terms when putting together RFPs and contract terms. Establish a good relationship and rapport with agency partners for valuable long-term results.
And remember, when the campaigns aren’t producing good results, it’s up to the UA team lead to hold agencies accountable or decide when to make a change. If your agency partners aren’t contributing to your ROI, they’re dragging it down.
In UA, the only constant is change. Take a look at the past few years: ATT privacy changes, the rise of TikTok, and the implosion of Twitter. While a big part of mobile acquisition is making data-driven decisions, you can’t only look at historical data to predict what will work in the next year. As they say in investment marketing: “past performance is no guarantee of future results”.
“UA team leads need to be open to testing new things all the time. When things are good, start preparing for the next change,” said Van-Straten.
Of course, some companies have a higher risk aversion than others. Adjust to your company’s risk appetite and look to the horizon to see which trends are emerging. Start small with investments in new channels and tactics to keep your app on the cutting edge.
Prepare for a UA team lead role by building your leadership skills
Becoming a user acquisition team lead doesn’t always follow a linear path. UA team leads innovate, adapt, and learn from their failures to lead a team to high performance.
Many skills of a UA team lead are learned on the job, so start working today for the job you want tomorrow. Here’s how:
- Get a wide variety of on-the-job experience. UA team leads need at least a generalist knowledge in all the different channels. Ask curious questions and try your hand at multiple apps and media platforms to get direct experience in different areas. If you don’t have this chance at your current job, ask to broaden your portfolio or job-hop to a different company to widen your experience.
- Educate yourself. There are many resources to help you strengthen your knowledge of user acquisition best practices. Listen to podcasts, join industry groups, and read up on UA topics. For example, learn how to create an app marketing strategy or create an app user persona.
- Take initiative in your current role. Let your management see you take ownership among your peers for new strategies — even if it isn’t an overnight success. Once you start taking initiative, learn from your mistakes and move forward.
“Every little step you do on this path leads you to where you are today, including your mistakes,” said Van-Straten.