Let’s face it. The high cost of acquiring new customers has made engaging and retaining customers crucial for mobile strategy. The focus is on the user experience. The pressure is on marketers to understand the customer journey and map the sequences of actions and interactions that will turn app installs into loyal users. Why is it a must to think more holistically about your users? And how do you leverage this approach to construct an app install flow? In episode #394, our host Peggy Anne Salz talks with Annica Lin, Director of Performance Marketing and CRM Finance at Thimble, a leading on-demand insurance service provider. Annica, a Mobile Hero recognized for her accomplishments, draws from her impressive track record in marketing and running marathons, to talk about the skillset and mindset marketers need to achieve high performance.
It's a journey and we have the perfect guide for the journey because this is our bi-weekly feature show where we talk to marketing experts, it’s their daily job, and they’re amazing at it, it’s expertise that has earned them the title of Mobile Hero, as chosen by Liftoff, a full-service mobile app marketing and retargeting platform.
So my guest today I should say was my guest before because she was on Mobile Presence, a Mobile Hero in 2017 - at that time she was a Senior Acquisition Manager at Stash and then she moved over to Policy Genius as Associate Director there growing paid acquisition - through the years, she’s learned the ins and outs of engagement, retention, improving LTV, looking at CRM, all of this and more. And my guest is now Director of Performance Marketing and CRM at Thimble, a leading on-demand insurance service provider, been there, done that - with us here today, Annica Lin. Annica, it is great to have you here today, and especially having you back.
AL Thanks for having me, always love to talk to Peggy.
PAS Oh yes. I love it too, Annica, and where are you now, these days? Has it been New York straight through or have you been traveling around?
AL I wish I could travel around now, I have been stuck in my apartment…
PAS You sort of think this is great, I’m becoming the equivalent of, I don’t know, a couch potato or something just hermit, whatever it is that we’re all becoming, we’re all working at home. And you’ve been working in the industry for a while here, I rattled it off here but how long have you been in the industry actually, Annica, it’s been quite a career. I mean, you’re not old, you’re young and you’re amazing and I’ve seen your picture and you’re looking great but you’ve been in there for a while – how long has it been?
AL So, I want to know if you talk about just performance marketing or like app side of things, so for performance marketing, I think I started my job as a marketing – I think after I graduate from NYU in 2007 but performance marketing is starting more on the agency side which is about, you know, like, 2014, 13-ish. And then the start-up side, also like a very dramatic change in terms of like working environment, it started when I was at Stash which was 2016. So I have like a very, various milestones in terms of timelines.
PAS So, you mentioned something that, you talked about, you know, it got you going the journey, everything – journey makes me think of the other part of what you do, you know, you’ve been a marathon runner, that’s high-performance sports, you’re a high-performance marketer. What are some of the traits that you take with you, maybe just in a word or two, not a long answer because of course it’s about discipline, it's about doing your best, but maybe there’s something you take from marathon training and running to marketing, or vice versa.
AL Yes, so, I ran like about 15 marathons and CO trials, I also ran like 60k, 100k and 50 miles, I forgot it’s so long ago. So, for this type of sports, you need a lot of discipline, right, you have to follow that schedule of training, some days you don’t want to do it but you have to do it, suck it up and do it. So that’s so important. And then stay focused. You know, life has a lot of temptations, right, you want to go out, you want to drink, but you have to stay focused, you know what you want and then you have to just remind yourself, stay focused, you know.
And then the third one is, you know, we fell many times, you know, doing the training, we may have some small races and it may not go as well similar to work and life, right? Like, things may not be as what you expected, right, so you need to have that courage to motivate yourself to get up if you fall down and get back up again.
PAS I was going to say that sounds exactly like what you hear a lot, you know, it’s about learning, fast learning, fast failure, you know, there’s a lot in common between marketing, marathon and you did say focus – we do have to stay focused because we are coming up to a break, Annica, but we are going to come back. So don’t go away, listeners, we’ll be right back.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. We have Annica Lin, Director of Performance Marketing and CRM at Thimble. And Annica, before the break we were talking about your career basically, marketing and marathon running – a lot of different parallels, some great advice there. Speaking of advice, you’ve also written a blog on your Liftoff Mobile Heroes page with some great advice as well, you know. It’s like you have to start somewhere, you have to start thinking holistically, for some marketers that’s really knew because they’ve been focused on UA, and you have to start somewhere and your piece of advice in that blog that I’d like to deep dive into is that it’s all about, I’ll quote it, actually, ‘The first step in achieving the desired action from users is an install engagement flow’. So what is this, I haven’t heard about that one, sounds like a need to be build something – what do I need to do?
AL Yes, so, a lot of app companies, they definitely have a lot of people who installed the app but haven’t done anything else yet, right, and I know a lot of tactic from UA managers is actually to hit them with re-engagement ads, right? But I want to take this internally, it was external, like through this advertising push but internally you can still do something with these installs that haven’t done anything yet, right?
So you have to set a goal, not a big goal like install immediately, tell them to buy something, right, maybe have them to get quote or sign up for an account, right? So, the goal for this engagement flow is, okay, quote, if I have them open the app, right, because we are insurance company, we want them to look at the quote and then give us email address, right, that’s the goal for this engagement flow, right?
And so you know that at least this install, people who install, they already do something, better than before, before they just dabbled in the flow, right? And then once they achieve that, you have another flow carried on through, once they sign up and view quote, you have another flow as in email engagement. You tell them, okay, email, you have a lot more things you can tell them, you can perhaps design by email touchpoint throughout the months, hit them every week, once a week, and to communicate with them like what’s the value proposition, what kind of features do we have that differentiate from other competition, right?
This is some sort of like education journey, engagement education journey that you can educate with the second segment of people and then they will be more likely to actually buy something from there, do you get it?
PAS Yes, I get it completely. So it’s like not hard sell, it’s not here, do all of this, it’s like just sort of ease into it, you make a quote, we get your email, we engage, we engage a little bit more. It’s really like real relationships in many ways – you don’t go up to someone and say, hey, I just met you, let’s get married, you know. It’s dating.
AL Yes. So, the first date, what we want to achieve on the first date, and what we want to achieve on the second date and third date, it’s very simple, yes, metaphor, I like it.
PAS Got it, got it. I’m just curious, this isn’t something you wrote about in your blog but I’m wondering if there are any sort of models or frameworks or thinking that help you? Maybe it’s just the metaphor around dating but maybe you say to yourself, you know, Oh, I’m going to try and timeline this that over the first week I’m doing this, or is this really case to case different? I’m just trying to understand how you architect the flow because people are listening in, Annica, and they’re going to say yes, I’ve got to build a flow and from what? Just looking in the app or is there anywhere else they can look for models, frameworks, blueprints?
AL Right, so I think establish a baseline is important, right, you look at now, like, okay, this is the status now, right, you have so many installs that I haven’t done anything yet, and this is the baseline and you have a kind of like a desired outcome that you want to achieve from these installs, right? Have like at least 30% of the people who actually start viewing quote from this engagement flow and at least you know what outcome you want and then you can start design.
Like, okay, maybe I will have like three push notifications first at what time and then second, what time and then you have to tie this information with your other platform which is more like a behavioral purchase platform, like it is another data platform, we use Amplitude. So we know that people who open the app, if they download these are actions.
So, those are very important things to set up when you decide to start with this engagement flow, like, what’s the baseline, right, how you want to look at the data and then, you know, how often you want to optimize, like what’s the milestone that tells you it’s time that you should optimize your campaign again.
PAS I like the way you’re talking about milestones and optimizing because that’s just it – it’s little incremental things, you want to make almost like in sports, right, you want to make improvements, get better on your time, get better over time and in your article, again, in your blog, you say, as you build the infrastructure of your acquisition and retention strategies, which this is what it’s about, retention, engagement, you can start to make micro improvements from conversion and create real compounding growth. That’s a key right there, I like that because it says it’s cumulative.
Is there anything that you can offer me around how much patience I maybe need to have here, how much effort, how I’m working, that this is cumulative, that I am actually really creating growth?
AL Yes, so it starts from like we have that baseline, right, we know from the start, what current status looks like, right? And then we set up like each engagement flow has this milestone, like, what’s the desired outcome for each engagement flow? So, imagine if originally those installs, they’re just dead installs, they haven’t done anything – if 30% of these are doing quotes, you are gaining those 30% incrementally, right? And then if these 30% enter the other flow and then that’s another gain for your enter flow, right, and then when you also do like 1%, like 5% improvement is first flow and then 15% improvement on the other flow, those improvements look micro individually but when you look at them holistically, it actually is a compounding and growing improvement. Do you know what I’m talking about?
PAS Yes, I get it, I get it – it makes sense. It’s like anything, it adds up over time, it’s more than the sum of the whole, you know, the sum of the pieces, rather. Just curious because I hear so much about what I can aim for, right, again, we’re back to sports – how hard can I push myself, what can I aim for? I mean, do you have any thoughts around improvement or uplift or, you know, because we’re trying to help people set goals here, the same again as in sports, right. I want to know that I’m doing this right, my acquisition retention strategy, I’m improving it – what can I hope to reach or how can I even figure out what those goals can be? Is the data going to tell me or do I need to think this through in a different way?
AL So, first of all, like, sky is the limit…
PAS I love that, yes.
AL So, never-ending improvements, that’s my mentality, right? The second question is you have to go back to your fundamental, right, what’s fundamental, like, the unique economics, right, is CAC and LTV for most of the company, right. So all the goals you set out for, this engagement flow has two types in economics, right? If it can improve my LTV or if it can lower my CAC. And then you set up like, okay, what should we set that goal for this flow, you know, to achieve that higher LTV and lower CAC?
PAS So it’s about those measurements, about those key metrics. What about the measurement itself? I mean, we won’t go there because things are going to get a lot different in measurement and understanding and retargeting – it will just get, it will be different but it will be possible – marketers will always find a work around, I’m sure of that, but is there something about the measurement that you’re using or some sort of fine-tuning there to understand when you’re getting close to your goal or is it really just these two metrics? Because some people are talking about break-even, for example, which is a little bit of a hybrid between it all. Others are really…
AL So, you know, we actually talk more about LTV to CAC ratio, right, and we wanted to make sure that the ratio is, you know, like we have higher LTVs so we need to break even within a year or two. Those are like a very similar concept, right? And the measurement, it’s a lot to talk about, you know, like, the measurement for acquisition, the measurement for engagement, they are different but it has a goal, the conversion, how do we convert people from point A to point B, how we upsell people from, you know, from buying A to buying everything, right?
So, I would say measurement is a big topic, it just depends on like, you know, what your company’s goals are so that’s my overall conclusion – it just depends on the company’s goals.
PAS Yes, it depends on those goals, it’s about being consistent. I love the idea that the sky is the limit because then again that push that marketers need to have because, hey, you can achieve a lot when you have a holistic view and stop looking at just one figure, one action, look at the entire journey. I need to get us on a journey that we have to go to our last break, Annica, so hang in there, we’re going to be coming back. We’re going to talk a little bit more about personal advice here, something that you can offer our listeners as well, so listeners, friends, don’t go away, we’ll be right back after the break.
Hey, we are back at Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, we have Annica Lin, Director of Performance Marketing and CRM at Thimble and also a Mobile Hero who’s here with us today, telling us about everything you’ve been seeing and doing. I mean, thirteen years in the industry – Annica, and if you look book and say to yourself, okay, you know, what is it that keeps you motivated or what is it that helps you grow because it’s about personal growth at the end of the day, you know, personal growth, career growth, they are very intertwined particularly in times, if you think about it, when you don’t leave the house. So I mean, personal career, they’re one and the same – what are some advice or what are some thoughts that you can offer to help us in our own personal growth and journey, Annica?
AL Yes, so I always tell people you are in charge of your own growth, not your company, not anyone else but you, right? So, you have to go out there, like, you have to first examine yourself, what skill set do I need, right? You probably need to have a role model in your head, like, okay, I want to be like this person in a few years, right, and what this person has achieved, right? And then what skill set he or she has, what do I need in order to achieve that level and how can I get learning on those skill sets or experience or whatever you need?
So those are like how I’ve been thinking throughout the years, I know what I want to be, who I want to be, I know what I don’t know – that’s also important – and then find a way to make up for whatever you don’t know and learn.
PAS So speaking of learning, that’s probably what took you to Reforge probably, when did you do that?
AL I did that last year, in Fall, that was my first, you know, cohort with them. I was so lucky because I actually missed the deadline, they sent me, like, hey, welcome and I missed it and I emailed them, please, you know, let me and Brian was kind enough to let me in. So, it’s just changed everything. I was, you know, it was the best decision I ever made to be honest, yes.
PAS Well, it goes in with that advice about learning, being open, having a role model or having an idea of what you want to be as a career and maybe a little bit of an advertisement here for Reforge but I’ve heard great thing about them, I had them on a show a while back on retention masterclass and, you know, it is about continuing to learn. I just want to let us leave with a thought about where else you’re sort of learning from. I mean, if there’s anything – I remember speaking with you before, you just devour information and data – it would be great just to understand, yes, what are you reading, what are you doing these days because that’s all we can do right now is sort of feed our minds – so how are you doing that, how are you staying so fit, so to speak, in marketing?
AL So, you know, I actually subscribe a lot of podcasts so I like to listen to a lot of podcasts and then those are very growth-focused and entrepreneurial podcasts, and those like keep me motivated because, you know, I hope one day I can be an entrepreneur as well and I want to learn from them, right? What do they do to take them from, you know, not being an entrepreneur to being an entrepreneur? So, yes, I do that and then obviously, you know, reading and participating different courses, engage with different people and also what opens your mind as well.
PAS Love it, open your mind and feed your mind, and if I know you, Annica, we’re going to see you out there somewhere, one of those start-up stories, it’s in the stars for you, I can feel it. In the meantime, how can our guests perhaps stay in touch with you if they wanted to connect with you? LinkedIn, Twitter, what works for you?
AL One last piece of advice – please stay active, right, you have to stay active, exercise your body, exercise your body, exercise your mind, exercise your brain. They are all connected. So I’m hoping that everyone gets stuck at home, I should turn my home into a home gym because I just do all the workouts at home. So, stay active.
So, how to stay in touch with me, LinkedIn is the best way, Twitter, I'm not really active on Twitter so I think LinkedIn is the best way.
PAS Alright, and we have those in the show notes so Annica, thanks so much for being here, thanks for sharing your story.
AL You’re welcome.
PAS And that my friends is a wrap of yet another Mobile Presence. If you of course want to read up on Annica or any of the other Mobile Heroes in the series, you can check out their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io.
And if you want to stay in touch with me throughout the week, find out how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, email@example.com, mobilegroove.com is where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
As of course, you can check out this and all earlier episodes of our show by going to wmr.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. Keep well, stay safe and we’ll see you soon.