War & Peace: Tips for Creating Good Product-UA Synergy [MAMA Board]
Welcome to Edition 29 of MAMA Boards, an AppsFlyer video project featuring leading mobile marketing experts on camera. For today’s mini whiteboard master class, we have Arthur Chin, Senior User Acquisition Manager at Wargaming, a free-to-play games publisher and developer with popular titles such as World of Tanks and World of Warships.
Behind every great app is a system of hardworking teams that turn ideas into high quality products and compelling marketing campaigns, all built on a foundation of strong communication. The trouble is, not all companies manage to get it right. Arthur discusses why good Product-UA synergy is critical for success, covering dos and don’ts and later offering recommendations on best practices.
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Hello there and welcome to the latest MAMA Boards by AppsFlyer. My name is Arthur Chin and I’m a Senior UA Manager at Wargaming. Wargaming is known for popular titles such as World of Tanks and World of Warships. The team here in Berlin is committed to delivering that unique experience to players on mobile. Today, I will talk to you about creating greater synergies between the product and the UA teams.
Why is communication between Product and UA teams important?
Now, before we deep dive, a short overview of the product team. What they do differs from company to company, but essentially, they’re the major decision-makers for a particular game or project. They have to decide what kind of KPIs to move, whether that’s more longevity-based or more monetization-based.
They basically have to come up with a hypothesis on what kind of features to prioritize, which requires a great deal of transparency and understanding from different departments, such as the UA team, because there could be a misalignment in objectives. What UA is trying to do and what product is trying to do may not be self-supporting of each other.
So I’ll give you an example: if the product team is not aware of the UA strategy, then they could come to the wrong conclusions because the users being brought in from the UA strategy may lead to a false understanding of the player base currently out there.
On the other hand, if the UA team is not aware of the product pipeline, then they may not be aware of the right strategy and may default to optimizing towards KPIs that may not necessarily be able to test out certain hypotheses. All of this together can lead to a bit of tension and possibly even a threat to the project itself and to people in the company, as well as create unnecessary antagonism between the UA and product teams.
Model Company Example
So let’s give an example of our little test company here. UA Manager Joe has a certain CPI that he needs to reach and a certain scale in order to achieve, but he’s finding it very difficult. He may resort to certain media sources where the quality may not be as good as others. On the other hand, Product Manager Heather wants to prioritize contents that cater to the top 10% because they’re driving monetization.
Both are valid strategies in their own way, but you can see that the users that are currently in the game may monetize better from the new content. However, because of the type of users being brought in and the misalignment in values, that bucket of users is not filled in, leaving the game in a much more precarious state at the end.
Product-UA Goal Alignment
So the most important first step here is aligning on goals. Product and UA should ask how they support the company’s broader goals. To do that, they need to figure out what the KPIs are that they can measure against and how they support the broader goals.
Note that, by KPIs, I mean both teams really need to dig down and deep dive into something more specific. For example, what does the LTV need to be after day 180 or what proper retention rate should be broken out through time? This is all important. At least from the UA side, it helps us to build media plans, validate hypotheses, and challenge the assumptions that Product may have about what a typical user in their game should perform like.
Second, by aligning on goals, it helps create a common language that we can go back and forth on. In our little example, if UA Manager Joe realizes the goal of monetization, they may simply have to decide that the media plan needs to include higher quality traffic sources, whether the CPI is more expensive or not. However, if Product Manager Heather realizes difficulty of scaling up at this particular level, she may realize that features have to be prioritized that increase the early funnel retention of users in the game.
Now, this is just an example. In the real world, it’s not often very clear about what the valid strategy ought to be, but more generally, by aligning on clearer goals, it creates a way for people to talk to each other.
How can Product & UA communicate more effectively?
Let’s talk about how we can communicate more effectively. You should ask yourself, are you having too many or not enough meetings and emails? In either case, this is inefficient communication and here are a few tips to make that a little bit easier.
Firstly, I believe that there should always be a communication owner. Someone who can summarize the meeting notes, someone who can follow up on actions. Note that ownership doesn’t mean all the responsibility falls on their shoulder. It does mean that they are able to delegate responsibilities and that people they delegate responsibilities to should follow up in a reasonable time frame on those action items.
Second, it is important to prepare before every sync as far in advance as possible. If it’s a regular sync up, then there should be a template that should be adhered to, and which is sent out so that the other party has a chance to look it through and come to the meeting already with questions and comments.
Third, it is very important to always follow up on the action items and check if they’re being fulfilled or not. There could be any number of reasons why something was not accomplished for this week or the next. We should always re-evaluate if it’s because we didn’t dedicate enough time and resources on it or if it’s just not important enough to focus on, in which case we should always re-evaluate its overall importance and assign an owner accordingly.
Fourth, of course, we also have to have to talk about plans. A good plan helps to improve transparency and reduce the back and forth discussions because it functions as a central point on which everyone can align.
In this example, a good plan will show a product manager like Heather when exactly a new media source will come up, how long it will take before she can optimize, how many users she can expect within a certain frame of time, and when exactly they can sync up on the UA activities. For Joe, the UA Manager, he gets to see what in-app events are coming along, as well as when the next update will be so he can prepare a media strategy that best address these hypotheses that the product manager is trying to solve.
What about the human factor?
I want to make one point here. We work with numbers every day and try to make logical decisions based upon them, but our interactions with other people are still going to be emotional because human beings are emotional. I see this as an opportunity and not necessarily an antagonistic sort of thing.
One possibility in terms of building trust is to learn from each other because capabilities are not obvious. In my experience, it’s usually never a secret what someone does or is responsible for, but it can still be intimidating to an outsider. However, if you sit down with each other, UA and product and whomever, you’ll also get a look at the bigger picture. In this case, it would be the full life cycle of a user, from the first impression to their drop-off points. This perspective will help understand both sides understand the strengths and limitations of the other.
What are some challenges for creating a successful game?
Now, I would also be remiss not to discuss the challenges of creating a successful game. There are a lot of people who have invested a lot of time and emotions into a particular product, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it has a business case. This is perfectly normal thing in our industry.
From the UA perspective, I believe that the ultimate responsibility of what our product should continue or not lies with the product team, but it is UA’s responsibility to be proactive and ask the right questions to provide the right data and inform these decisions.
Some examples of good questions would be, how does the product stack with the experience of other games in the genre? How large is the target audience actually? And in addition, is it reasonable to expect the CPI to increase by only 10% when you increase the budget by 1000%? UA should trust that Product is making the right decisions and Product should trust that UA is providing them with the right information to make those decisions.
Tying it all together
In summary, when we can align on our goals, be a bit more efficient of communication, and be mindful with the human touch, we could have a much more transparent and more productive communication flow between product and UA. I fervently believe that Product plays a critical role in aligning UA. Don’t ask us why we’re not scaling up on this particular golden cohort, but rather show us how these particular users are performing in the later stages of the game.
One of the worst things that can happen is if Product simply takes the UA strategy at face value and UA simply does what Product tells it to. Instead, I’ve seen that there is a very critical role that UA can play in terms of validating whatever hypotheses Product is able to put out.
Finally, if there’s one thing to take away from this talk, it’s to know that both sides have expertise in their respective fields. Therefore, when both sides are aligned in communication, we both understand the strengths and limitations of each and be able to communicate the effectiveness of our actions better to one another.
So that’s all for today. For more MAMA Boards, click the link above. Thanks a lot!