Learn how to expand your personal brand through networking and extend your appeal through TV advertising with Gessica Bicego, Director of Performance Marketing, Blinkist, a microlearning company–and top-rated app–that offers users key ideas from bestselling nonfiction books in 15-minute text and audio. Gessica,  a Mobile Hero recognized by Liftoff for her app marketing achievements, shares how she became a leading voice in the mobile space and offers solid advice for other women in mobile and marketing eager to do the same. She also draws from her first-hand experience to map the do’s and don’ts of TV advertising and media buying, and weighs in where and how you can use marketing automation and AI to be more effective–even if on a tight budget.


Hello and welcome to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, with Mobile Groove, where I plan, produce and promote content that allows my clients to reach performance goals and scale growth.  And speaking of growth, that’s what it’s all about here every week at Mobile Presence because we either have a guest who’s going to give you the inside track on how they’ve grown an app, so you have a UA expert or ninja because it’s their daily job, we talk to vendors and companies that are enabling growth.  We’ve talked to other companies that are sharing some of their secrets around growth and of course today we’re going into our bi-weekly series where we talk to people who are growth experts because they have achieved success that has earned them the title of “Mobile Hero” as chosen by Liftoff, a full service mobile app marketing and retargeting platform.

So, we’re into the Mobile Heroes series and really excited to have a different look at Mobile Heroes, in particular not just what you can do to grow your app but what you can do in this case to grow your personal brand and footprint.  And my guest today is Gessica Bicego, she is Director of Performance Marketing at Blinkist.  Great to have you, Gessica, how are you doing today?

Thank you so much for having me, I’m great and what an amazing intro, thank you so much.

Well, you have done it, I mean you have really succeeded in sort of growing your own footprint in a way.  We talk about growing the app footprint – well, this is your personal footprint but I want to take a step back just for a moment for our listeners – tell me a little bit about Blinkist and also what you do there as Director of Performance Marketing.

Okay.  So, Blinkist is a mobile app, what we do is that we take all the best no fiction books out there and we create a 15 minute version that condenses all the main points from the books so you can read or listen to in just 15 minutes.  Our mission is to inspire people to keep learning and I’m actually sure you’re one of those people that have a lot of books that you want to read but you don’t have the time, and that’s where Blinkist can come in.

I joined the company three years ago actually, a lot of time, and as Head of Performance Marketing and then Director of Performance Marketing.  So my main goal, I take care of user acquisition together of course with the Performance Marketing team across all the different channels.  We started with digital channels, the usual ones that we all know but now we are also taking care of offline channels as well such as TV or podcast advertising.  So, yes, it’s been a fun journey as you say, I really love my job and every day there’s something new to learn, so it’s really, really exciting and exciting time to be at Blinkist right now.

I can hear it in your voice, that’s why I’m also excited to dive into just that to start.  We’ll get to offline advertising and how you grew the footprint of Blinkist in a moment but I was talking about personal brand and you are a woman in mobile and this is the month, this is a dedicated holiday, a dedicated month to women – women in tech, you know, I’m like you, I hate it when they say “So, how do you become a woman in tech?” as if there’s like some huge, huge obstacle.  I mean, it is possible, guys, we’re both here, Gessica and I – we made it, but what I want to hear from you is like how you did make it because rather than talk about the obstacles, let’s talk about the opportunities.  I mean, you are, for one, a Mobile Hero – I’d like to just hear in your own words what you think earned you the title in the first place.

Yes, it’s not been easy and sometimes I keep reflecting on this and I’m like, “How did I do it exactly?” and it’s really hard to get out some specific points.  But I can tell you a little bit of my story.  Five years ago, I decided to move from Italy to Berlin where I am right now and in Italy I was doing a different job, I would say, I was more focusing on social media and it was more of a brand role, I would say, and I moved to Berlin and I really changed completely my role, I finally leveraged my technical knowledge and so on.

In Italy, I had a really good network, I mean, I love talking with people, you know that, and so, yes, I wanted to build like for me a network of people that I knew but I also wanted to get out more and just go to conferences and talk to people but to be honest, I had no idea how to start and I remember when I moved here and I decided to join some Meet Up and I was by myself and I was trying to interact with people, get to know them.

And so at some point, I ended up in a panel organised by a company in Berlin and all the panellists were men but I know for sure that there’s a lot of women working in marketing and it was so weird to see only men on the stage and so I went to the organizer ten minutes after the panel and I told him “Hey, why don’t you have more women on stage?” and he told me he would love to have them but, yes, no-one proposed themselves.  And so I said, “Here I am” and the week after, I was in a panel discussion and after that, I started to push myself out there.

I asked for the people that were in panel really often and if you go to conferences, you see that the name usually more often, they come back again and again, and I get to know people and I asked them for help, like, “Hey, what are the main conferences?”  And then at the same time, I was also growing with my role at Blinkist and so I decided to experiment much more and I had a lot to say.

I think one of the main problems that we have as women is that we always doubt ourselves, we always think that we don’t have enough to say but I can tell you if you’re out there, if you’re working in mobile marketing or whatever other things that you’re doing, you have something to say because your experience is unique and I’m sure that out there, there are a lot of people that are interested in that.

So, for me, the steps that took me, let’s say at this stage as a Mobile Hero that I’m really excited to be, is forcing myself to go out there and share my knowledge and really be open but also force myself to be in an uncomfortable position because presenting in front of a lot of people, it’s never easy – for me, in particular, it was not easy because I am Italian so English is not my first language so I always felt a bit uncomfortable but at some point I was, you know, whatever – I have so many interesting things to say, let’s just go out there.

So that would be my recommendation for everyone – build a network, put yourself in uncomfortable situations and also be sure that you have something to say, what you do is really interesting – maybe not to everyone but at least for some people out there.

So, I’m hearing a lot of really good tips there, Gessica.  It’s like figure out the conferences and there are places to do that.  I mean, I don’t know, do you have like a one-stop shop for our listeners, if you want to figure out where you need to be, check out this list somewhere, maybe?  No?

I have a list actually that was published by Peter Fodor of AppAgent in his blog.  I know that he has a list with all the conferences so you can find them all there, at least, the ones in Europe and a little bit of US as well.  Or, you can just reach out to me and I can tell you more.

Well, that’s wonderful because you are such a sharing person and that’s the other point, you know.  Share your experiences – if you’re in mobile marketing, if you’re dealing with campaigns and you’re learning things, even for smaller companies, how to grow your app on a budget is a great topic to talk about – we’ll never hear enough about it actually and you talked about your experiences there.  And putting yourself out there, getting out of your comfort zone – this is like the groundwork of what you need to do to, you know, build your brand or be a Mobile Hero candidate even.

But is there something structured around that, are you, for example, do you believe in speakers agencies and those types of approaches or how do you get yourself out there?  Maybe you have some additional tactics to offer beyond the strategy?

I think the content is the most important thing, you don’t need agencies, you just need to know the people that work in the same field so that they can recommend you, for example, and you need to do a great job.  At least, that’s what I did, you know, at the beginning no-one knew about me and Blinkist was not as big as it is right now.  So, I just found like a really good piece of content, a really good end goal to talk about and then I just went out there and when you succeed and when people love your content, more people will recommend you and they will call you to their conference.

So at the beginning, I was applying to conferences, and now the conferences approach me to ask me to be there, so really think about how to put your content in the right format so that it’s sexy, so that’s interesting and you can give something to the audience.

And of course that’s also, as you said, in marketing even for Blinkist, I’ve read recently and you can tell me yourself, what is it, a top rated app in the Apple App Store – that might have been the 2018-2018 figures but you’ve really done quite well.

Yes, we’ve done really well.   It’s like it’s one of the best apps for 2018, so yes, really, really good time.

And a lot of that’s also content, isn’t it?  Just to go full circle, you’re talking about content has to be at the core of what you do when you’re promoting yourself as a speaker or someone out there in the mobile marketing industry but you’ve also done a lot with that internally, I think, at Blinkist, certainly innovating for audio content, podcasts, for example.

Yes, that’s funny because at the end, Blinkist is a company about content and learning and if you hear me speaking, I’m always talking about learning and content, so I think my life as a speaker reflects also the values of our company as well, that’s why I’m so into learning.

I mean, that’s also a part of this, it’s about walking the talk.  I mean, you know, to your point about building up a presence out there, it’s about sharing, it’s about having content, understanding content, putting that together.  Just curious, how do you come up with your ideas for your panels and your presentations?  Are you just thinking about what you do as your daily job, you know, in performance marketing or do you think outside the box?

Good question.  It really depends.  It depends on what I’m talking about.  For example, one of my first talks, it was about I guess you remember the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Marketers and I got the inspiration from that from one of our best books in our app.  And so I got the inspiration there and then I applied it to the marketing world and it was like more general presentation I would say, but then most of the time I’m doing a project, it’s really interesting and then I decide to talk about it.

So, I don’t know, for example last year I was talking about paid content in mobile because not a lot of companies are doing that – we are doing it so I thought like, “Well, why don’t you share it?”  In May, I’m going to be in Las Vegas talking about podcast advertising because it’s been a really big channel for us.  So, it really depends on what I’m doing, the project that I’m working on and so on.

Well, that’s a lot of good tips for the moment and we do have to go to a break but don’t go away, listeners, because when we get back we’re going to talk about some of the channels you might not have been thinking about, or using as much as you should, to get the reach for your app that you can so don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break.

And we are, welcome back to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and our guest today, Gessica Bicego, she is Director of Performance Marketing at Blinkist and a Mobile Hero, which is why you’re on the show, Gessica.  And you were very open, very sharing of some tips around how women in mobile, women in mobile marketing, can sort of grow their footprint.  And now we’re going to talk about how you grow the footprint of your app which is what you do for a living.  And you mentioned podcast marketing, mentioned other forms of marketing, content marketing, paid content, so obviously you’re looking a bit ahead of the curve and another area where you’re having some success, and I’d like you to share that, is traditional media – TV, TV for apps.  Makes sense because you’re reaching an audience but how do you go about that because you’ve pretty much had to teach yourself from step one in that one, right?

Yes, it was an interesting journey, I would say but I mean I love to learn new things so it was perfect for me.  First of all, why did we decide to experiment with the offline media in general because there’s so much to do with digital?  The thing is that we want to grow aggressively, of course, right now we are at 9 million users and we’re going to grow even more and for us user acquisition is our engine of growth, let’s say, that’s how we grow our user base.

So, for us, it was really important to find a broader channel that could work to deliver our message and we started with the digital channels, as I said, first channel was of course Facebook and Instagram, and we scaled from there.  And then we started slowly to approach all the different channels.

Now, I know really believe in this product, I think we will change people’s lives with our content and I think we are at the perfect time because we are audio and we know there’s a lot of things going on in the audio industry and also because we’re about learning and people don’t have to learn but they want to learn more.  So, it’s really the perfect time to be.

But if we want to have more people talking about our product, we need to go broad and digital is of course – it’s hard to reach the bottom of digital to say like, “Okay, I’ve done enough but I don’t want to end up in that situation that I can’t grow anymore because the channels that I have are simply not scalable enough”.  And it makes sense also to be on TV because, you know, it raises your awareness about the product, about the brands.  Blinkist is still considered as a new brand and we need to be out there to show people what we are and what we do.

So, we decided that we wanted to test TV, I had zero experience with TV, of course I’ve been working in a bigger company before so I knew a tiny bit, what I grasped from the experts and I decided to give it a test.

I’m just curious – just stepping back for a moment there.  When you say you weren’t there ever before and many of our listeners are going to be in that same position – just tell me then, what do you do, do you decide the test, do you decide the channel because TV is many, many multiple broadcast channels?  How do you really just set out?

Yes, so first of all, I have a list of all the channels that we want to tackle and usually together with the channels, we have a list of how – let’s say a rate that tells you how complex it is to tap into that channel and how scalable it is.  Now, TV is a bit complex but the scalability, you know, it’s insane, you can scale it so much.  There’s a lot of different contents that maybe could be interesting but you can’t really scale, you cannot make a difference.  So, I picked TV, let’s say, out of them because to me it seemed reasonable, it seemed like something that yes, you have to put some effort at the beginning but then you can get a lot out of it.

And then since I don’t know enough, I did what I do at all the time when I don’t know about a topic.  I reach out to my network, I reach out to the people that have already done it, to the companies that are doing it right, that are similar maybe to us, that are a mobile product and I ask them, “Hey, can you share some tips?” and this is like how I always approach challenges or problems or new stuff that I have to do.  And by talking with different people, I realized that there was a lot of potential on this.

I also realized that TV is not a channel that you build in one day, it’s not a channel when you can put 10k and say “Oh well, let’s see if this is working or not” – it’s a channel that needs time, you need frequency, you need to reach people over and over, you need to build the trust.  And so I decided this is a channel, was a channel where I wanted to invest more.

So, how do we invest?  I decided to hire a person to take care of this channel but in the meantime, I wanted to start testing.  Why? I wanted to start testing because I wanted to just get an idea on the basic prices, so without too much knowledge, without too much optimisation, what is the basic cost per sign-up or cost per install that I can expect from this channel?

So, while we were really busy on hiring, I also started to reach out with agencies, so one thing that I realized after tapping into this new world is that on TV, you almost never buy directly from the TV channels, you always go through agencies because they have access to bigger, big, big discounts.

So, first of all, it was like selecting the agency and actually even before that, selecting the market.  How did we do it?  Well, we had English and German and so we decided to go with Germany because it’s our – we’re based here, makes a lot of sense, we have a strong brand and also we shared with some other English markets as well.  We didn’t want to go to US although that’s one of our best markets because US is really huge and so we were a bit lost to be honest, so we started from some European countries first.

So, as I said, first of all identifying the agency and again, how did I do it, I just asked my network, I asked what they thought about the agency and then we went to the agency and we asked them like, “Hey, we have this budget, this is what we want to learn, let’s do it”.  That was the first step, after that and after identifying the agency, and I tell the good agency will make a difference for your media buying acquisition, it was the time to think about the spot.  And, you know, we have a lot of experience internally with spots for, for example, for digital, but for TV, again, not a lot of knowledge.  We decided to go with an internal production and we just talked with them what we wanted to get out there.

So, long story short, it’s a really long story, I’m not going to tell you all the details but we set a test and at the beginning, it was kind of a disaster.  In some markets, it’s still a disaster and I’m not going to mention which ones but let’s say that if you’re out there and you’re listening to this podcast and you’re trying TV and you see four or five times higher cost per sign-up that you see on your digital channels, that’s normal.  You can optimize them.  You will never get to, let’s say, to a cost per sign-up that is as good as your digital channels but what you have to understand is what is the real value of these TV campaigns that you’re doing and now we go to a hot topic that is the attribution part.

I’ve been talking to different people and there’s a lot of different ways that you can do attribution.  The most, let’s say, famous one is attributing to let’s say the uplift in organic sign-ups or organic installs that you see 8 to 10 minutes after the TV spot went live.  This is like usually how you do it and you can use – there’s a lot of different platforms out there that can help you.  But then they also recommend having a survey where you ask people where they heard about you and you can use that to identify how many more installs you’re getting.

And what I can tell you that we’ve seen, there’s really a long-term effect of TV so you can’t just measure it, you know, on that single 8 minutes where you go live in the TV slot because, as I say, this is a channel that you have to build.  This is a channel that will have an impact in the next one or two, even three months, even after you turn off the spot.

So, yes, we started with the test last year and then the person that is now managing offline marketing at Blinkist joined, so now he’s helping us to build an entire infrastructure.  It’s been fun, it’s been not so easy especially if you’re used to the digital channels and you put TV in the mix, it’s really, really hard to understand what is the effect also on the other channels as well.  We’re still experimenting with that but what I can tell you is really the reach that you have, yes, it’s insane.

It’s absolutely worth the effort you put into it.

It’s worth the effort but what I can tell you also is if you expect to have a channel like Facebook where you put 10-50K to that audience is like super-highly performing, forget about it – this is not a channel for that.  It’s a channel that needs time, it’s a channel that needs big channels, big stations that will give you the reach and maybe smaller stations that will give you the performance and all together, they build the success of that channel.  So, yes, it takes a bit of time.

You’re also building a brand so there’s something to be said for these campaigns together with all the other channels and digital channels, and I did hear a little bit of a difficulty about measurement and attribution so I would like to touch upon that in the next segment.  Right now, we do have to go to a break but as I said listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back, we’ll talk about attribution and we’ll talk about AI.  So stay where you are, we’ll be back.

And we are back to Mobile Presence.  I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz with Mobile Groove and we have Gessica Bicego, she is Director of Performance Marketing at Blinkist.  Gessica, before the break we were deep diving into an amazing story around TV advertising, you know, what it’s worth and it’s worth a lot, as you said – insane engagement and reach if you get it right.  But, of course, measurement is a problem, we won’t solve it on this show but is there something you can share, something that if you had known it then, what you know now, you would have done it differently?

That’s an interesting question, not so easy question.  About a TV attribution or in general about attribution?

About TV because that’s a different one, you know, in digital, you sort of know all the channels because they’re all in the digital realm.  In TV, you’re starting out in the physical realm, granted, it’s tough but is there something that you can share about how to approach that?

Yes.  I mean, what I can say is that when you talk about attribution, there’s a lot of companies out there say they can help you first of all.  You should not go too crazy with the system that you use or the complexity that you use for your attribution system.  At the end of the day, if something has an impact, you will see as an uplift in your numbers.  Maybe you won’t be able to give a specific multiplier to it, you’re not going to be able to say, “Okay, I need to increase this amount” or whatever amount, a specific number” but you can give it a range.  What I can tell you, the range is good enough to understand if you are moving to the right direction.

So, do not create a complex system, really keep it to the basics and just run with what you have.  The only thing that you need is the survey where you ask people how did they hear about your product?  That’s all you need, everything else can be based on estimation and for everything else like optimization of a specific channel, you can use specific tools that are doing that.  So, keep calm, you’re going to do it.

I like that, keep calm, that’s a great piece of advice because people do get into it.  It’s performance marketing in the app space – it’s so data-driven and then you take it out to TV and it’s like – we can’t have these models.  No, it’s okay, you have a range, you have a benchmark, you see the general direction and that is good news. 

Yes, exactly.

So, TV, hot channel, obviously worth examining in 2019, worth taking advantage of if you’re an app marketer.  Another hot topic, particularly one that’s headlined at Mobile World Congress and pretty much all the conferences I’m going to – AI, marketing automation.  Now, you have written, again, you’re sharing, a great article and I’ll give the url later over at the Liftoff Heroes blog all about marketing automation, but if you could give me sort of like the condensed version of like maybe the question you need to ask yourself, you know – what are you going to automate first?  Can you give us some idea because we know we have to automate, it’s coming, it makes sense, it frees up our time, but you have to start somewhere.  Where do you start and why?

Well, so first of all there are some tasks that you want humans to do because we know we have that things are really, really useful – you have stuff that is boring where you can easily make mistakes and these are the ones that you want to automate.  So, first of all, you need to identify what is it that you exactly want to automate and for that I would say just write down depending the channel – so let’s say you know already which channel you want to work on.  Identify all the tasks and put for example numbers that identify how much time it takes right now to do that and how much time you’re going to save.

Then order the tasks by time and maybe look over the top 30% of the list, I would say.  You exclude the tasks that require humans because you will go back to them later and then you arrange to each task to take into consideration the time that you’re going to save but also the complexity and the opportunity.  You order depending on these values and you identify where you should work on.

It makes perfect sense because time is money, makes sense to save it, also frees you up to do more exciting things as an app marketer, in creatives, campaigns and strategy.  And unfortunately, Gessica, I really am bummed about this, our time is running out.  I could talk with you for a much longer period of time, seriously, but we do have to come to a close.  How do our listeners stay in touch with you, you were so gracious at the beginning of the show to say yes, you’ll share ideas, you’ll share tips particularly also to women in mobile marketing – what’s the best way?

Well, you always find me on Twitter, my handle is @minigloo, otherwise you can find me on LinkedIn, of course, always there, otherwise you can listen to my podcast, Mobile Growth Nightmares, or you find me in all the conferences about mobile marketing, I would say, all around Europe and sometimes also in US.

Absolutely, you’re going to be in Las Vegas, correct, so we’ll see you there.

Oh yes, in May.

There you go.  And that my friends is a wrap of yet another episode of the Mobile Heroes mini-series within Mobile Presence.  Of course, you can read up on Gessica and all the other Mobile Heroes in the series by checking out their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io. 

And if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, peggy@mobilegroove.com, that’s also where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services. 

Of course, you can check out this and all earlier episodes of our show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence.  So until next time remember, every minute is mobile, so make every minute count.  We’ll see you soon.