The gaming industry is one of the most profitable entertainment businesses in the world, and marketers can learn a lot from it. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Melissa Lertsmitivanta, Marketing Director at national real estate portal Realtor.com. She draws from her impressive track record at Electronic Arts to highlight some top tips all mobile markets can use to reach and exceed campaign goals. Melissa, a Mobile Hero recognized for her user acquisition expertise and accomplishments, also talks candidly about where she sees the low-hanging fruit in the fast-moving app marketing space. Finally, she refreshes the advice she offered women in marketing (which appeared in Forbes) and tells us how women can help themselves and other women in the Covid-19 era.
So we continue our world tour of Mobile Heroes around the world and across a lot of interesting verticals, we have today my guest, Melissa Lertsmitivanta, she is Marketing Director of realtor.com. Melissa, it’s just great to have you here on Mobile Presence. How you doing?
ML Grand, thank you, Peggy, for having me, I’m so excited.
PAS And where are you coming from today, where are you based?
ML We’re based in Santa Clara.
PAS Oh, okay, right.
ML The Bay area.
PAS So you’ve got weather, right?! Exactly. Well, we have you here on the show, as I said, it’s all about talking about your accomplishments and understanding a bit more about you. Now, I have the pleasure, full disclosure, of having had an amazing interview with you which is also in Forbes but other people, our audience, won’t know about that so why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and above all how you got started in mobile marketing.
ML Sure. So, I’ve been in marketing for almost the last decade and within mobile for most of it, so through time I was even more confident that I wanted a career deeper in marketing and the opportunity in mobile just happened to pop up so I went for it. That was actually my first foray into mobile and what’s now more commonly known to everyone as performance marketing.
So I started there and then moved up to the Bay area for that mobile gaming role at Electronic Arts and from there I just learned so much about gaming and mobile, met some incredible people within the company and the industry that have inspired me so much and just taught me so much of what I know today. And then now at realtor.com I’m glad to still be within mobile but instead of games, it’s helping people find their homes. So that’s pretty cool.
PAS So obviously, you know, a track record in marketing and the point about marketing is also the journey, every app, every website has a journey. Can you tell me a little bit about the user journey for realtor.com? I mean, how does the app and the experience work or what does it offer, what do you find, you know, amazing or exciting about it? What can you share?
ML Yes, so realtor.com is a nationwide real estate aggregator, so we’re collecting information from the MLSs and aggregating them so that users can go into our app or mobile web or desktop actually and as you’re browsing for the homes that you’re interested in, you can get connected with an agent but it’s also a way to just browse and find all the information that you would need to really help you through your home journey process.
So, within our app, we provide a variety of different tools, you know, right now with COVID going on, there’s a lot around tours, virtual tours and our newest live-stream virtual tours. So, an agent will go in and actually stream it live and people can go and ask questions and so part of our app experience is building a variety of different tools to make it easier to find the homes that you want and also help you get connected to an agent if you’re not already connected.
What’s next for our company is just really being focused on getting through these uncertain times. We’ve put together a COVID real estate resource center on our site so this is help in how to navigate real estate during these times. It includes some of the latest news that’s impacting the real estate industry and there’s a bunch of resources for buyers and sellers, how to continue the home search safely whether through video showing or our newest live stream open houses. You guys can check it out at realtor.com/covid-19.
PAS And that’s a great experience, I mean, it’s wonderful to use technology for the purpose that we need it right now which is to make the experience engaging, immersive and keep people out there doing what they need to do to have sort of their daily routine is not disruptive, it’s actually perhaps even enhanced. Speaking of what adds to value to an experience, you were telling me about your background in marketing, in user acquisition and of course gaming marketers, I love them – they understand, they wrote the book on performance marketing, as far as I'm concerned. And I have a lot of people, even here on the show, they ask me, ‘So what can we learn from them?’ The gaming marketers are the pioneers.
I’d be interested in understanding what you’ve taken with yourself as lessons or key learnings that you say, ‘okay, I was in this vertical but now I'm here but these things apply’. What are they?
ML Sure. So, yes, I think there’s a couple of things. Within gaming, first of all, it’s extremely data-driven, two, there’s a heavy focus on user experience and onboarding and then, three, it’s really a focus beyond the install. So, let me start with the first thing which is being extremely data-driven. So the feedback loop within gaming is much, much faster and because it evolves faster, you’re constantly looking at that data and you’re able to iterate really quickly. With other industries that feedback loop might be a little bit slower because maybe you have to wait for people to buy a product or take a certain action and then you can tweak and optimize it.
So, with gaming, I think because you have all that data, you can quickly make data-based decisions, creative testing and then build those predictive models.
And then with the second, you know, gaming puts a lot of emphasis on that first-time user experience and onboarding, I think that’s super-critical because you spend a lot of time and effort getting a user to install your app whether it’s through a paid or organic channel and if there’s a lot of friction or confusion, then you may lose that person, right? So instead of throwing you into the app, they always really guide you through the steps of what you need to do, you know, how the features work and basically get you acclimated so that it’s not super overwhelming.
But what I want to say is even before that, even before launch, there’s a very rigorous process so game teams working with acquisition teams to test out the game, it’s very common to have a soft launch to fix some of those issues and so outside gaming maybe you’re not releasing new apps as regularly but a key lesson there is to keep those app sourced screenshots updated and constantly test them so that they reflect the product value props accurately.
And then the last thing that I mentioned which is a focus beyond the install – you know, gaming really looks beyond that. So what makes high quality users, like, what are the actions that they’re performing and at what time period so they can better understand and then of course try to automate that as much as possible. I think with gaming, it’s really looking into not just cohorts and revenue per user but like working off really robust LTV analyses so that you can make the right decisions today for future behavior.
So I think those are some of the key lessons that every industry, gaming has always been at the forefront of things, developing these technologies and taking that first stride and so there’s a lot of good nuggets there.
PAS Absolutely, and as you pointed out in those learnings, I mean, it’s a lot that can be applied to work in all forms of app marketing and all verticals. And at the beginning, we talked also about, you know, you’re here because you have been chosen as a Mobile Hero and I love that, to have them on my show because you bring such great stories, there’s a reason for that, there must be some accomplishment or some campaign that has earned you that title or that you’re particularly proud of and you like to show. Sometimes I’ll also ask people to share their personal failure, we might get to that in the second half, Melissa, but I’d like to hear about your personal accomplishment – what is it that you have done that we can learn from as well?
ML So, building a full retargeting program at realtor.com for the app side has really been rewarding, I think with any new program, there’s always of course questions around what is the purpose and how can this drive value to what we’re currently doing especially with paid reengagement, the topic of incrementality pops up quite a bit. So being able to build out this type of program from the ground up and really make it become a part of our normal acquisition marketing strategy has really been nice.
I had to really think through how to structure our campaigns, like, the messaging and the different types across the different audience segments that we have and then really working with the analytics to understand the value and using that information to inform our retargeting segments. So still a lot to do there, you know, we haven’t figured it all out but we’ve definitely expanded through the years to new test partners, increased our budgets, built out some more deep links and personalized the ads so there’s a lot that’s been going on but I feel like that project I’ve really been proud of because I think retargeting is a really important aspect because a lot of the times you’re acquiring users, a large chunk probably are not really doing much, right, in today’s world where there are so many choices, people are using multiple apps for their home search similar to how they’re playing multiple games and using a variety of different apps.
And so, you know, sometimes it could be as simple as they forgot and they haven’t been back and so giving them kind of those gentle nudges and being helpful is really key. So, yes, I think this is a great program that I’ve really been proud of.
PAS Absolutely, I mean, incrementality is such a tough one, it’s a hugely important and very hot topic now because we’re thinking how are we going to be smart with our spend, how are we going to be smart with acquisition and keeping track, keeping a lid, keeping control on incrementality is really important. You mentioned nudges and I have to give a small nudge here because we do have to go to a break, Melissa, but listeners we will be back after the break and talking about a lot of things – Melissa has an amazing blog she’s just written recently, and going to give us some tips about the channels where you can get a big return so don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz, we have Melissa Lertsmitivanta, she is Marketing Director of realtor.com and also a Mobile Hero. So Melissa, the question always comes, you know, what is, if you could have a super power? If you’re a Mobile Hero, then obviously there’s something you could have as a power or which you would want to have – what would it be?
ML Yes, I’ve thought about this and I think wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to harness the power of Excel and be able to index and match the right ad to the right user at the right time so you would basically be able to make any ad a hit. I think that would be amazing. So, I don’t know, I guess I would call that power an instant accelerator.
PAS Instant Accelerator, I like that, I like that, and you would excel at Excel. So, I get it, I get it completely, and it’s probably like the dream of every marketer, like they’re listening and saying, ‘Yes, yes, I want to do that, that’s good’. That would be the dashboard of a lifetime. So, we talked about your blog before, I’ve read it, I’ve been including it in the newsletters that I curate because it’s just a straightforward blog and those are the best ones where you just say hey, here are opportunities, here are pockets of performance outside the top media channels, people want to hear about that particularly now in our times – I mean, I’m seeing the prices, the CPMs are looking okay but people also want to experiment, this is a time to look for other audiences elsewhere.
First of all, what inspired you to write it where you were just thinking, ‘hey, I want to think outside the box, I want to do things outside the usual suspects’?
ML Yes, so I’ve always just been a firm believer of maintaining a diversified media portfolio I think because I’ve seen in my past experiences where you either dump all your eggs into one basket or very few baskets and if something fails or suddenly there’s fluctuations in performance, it can really throw off and keep you from hitting your month’s goals, especially if you have like large budgets and you are not diversifying.
And so I think it’s then harder to pivot and course correct, so that’s kind of why I believe in that approach and I think that, you know, in today’s world where there is a couple of the large advertisers, Google, Facebook etc that really dominate the space, there are a lot of great opportunities outside to really drive your overall portfolio.
So, as you know, not all media’s going to drive high volume plus low cost plus high quality because that would just be the perfect media for us and life would be perfect but what a diversified portfolio might look like is you have some low cost, high volume channels that maybe some lower quality channels mix with high quality, high cost and so you – and maybe you have some acquisition drivers and some that work better at the bottom of the funnel, so basically you have to work it like a big puzzle piece and get the pieces to fit into the right areas or the right media mix in this case.
And so, like I said, as Facebook and Google kind of continue to dominate and we all pour our dollars into them – don’t get me wrong, they’re great performance channels and we contribute to them heavily but, you know, some of the smaller companies are super nimble, they might be able to build some ad units for you, you know, some of the quality that you’d have to pay a creative development agency to do and it comes as part of the campaigns and so I think with some of these opportunities it’s not just acquisition but it can also be a branding play.
PAS And that’s also important in these times because people need to build a presence, you know, it’s not just about acquisition, it’s going to be very, very much about retention particularly in the COVID-19 era. I mean, it is about the full marketing picture, you know, and you can’t just look at the top of the funnel but you have to look at all of it and you talk about pockets of performance – I mean, it’s five of them for our listeners, they have to go read it, we don’t have time to go through all the channels but we can always go off with the top three. I like that, so in the time that we have, let’s go as deeply as we can… pick three for me, what are the three that you would say have some hidden value, maybe a little heavy lifting but definitely worth it for marketers to check it out and give it a try.
ML Yes, so audio ads, I think, one great one, immersive ad units or playables and then pre-load – I think those would be my top three. I think most of these partners are fully integrated with all the major MMPs so that makes it easy and then, you know, so set up and all that would be pretty simple and, you know, pretty low barriers to testing.
PAS So would these be something also for, you know, specific verticals because I can see, for example, playables – I’m thinking of games, that’s the first thing I think about, I’m not thinking about it necessarily for other verticals but, hey, I was wrong because I’ve seen entertainment companies using reward video so it all depends, right? Are these specific use cases you’re thinking of when you think about these particular formats and these opportunities?
ML I think they can apply to a variety of different industries, I mean, I thought that too coming from the gaming side because it is so common, right, but it’s a way to kind of gamify an app that isn’t already a game. So, for example, within real estate, we can create like a mock home tour where we can show you the value that our app can provide but all in a very quick way. So, you’re basically demonstrating some of the core value props and the functionality of your app but doing it in a very immersive way. I think nowadays we see so many ads, there’s a lot of banner blindness, you kind of ignore them, right, but when you have an opportunity and it could be something as simple as like a little quiz and kind of walking the users through, are they interested in the home, you know – it’s just a way to make an ad even a little bit more fun.
PAS That does sound fun though, now I can totally see it, totally get it. Audio is one I’ve heard a lot about for different guests I’ve had on the show and obviously Mobile Presence, we’re a podcast so we’re going to have to say that works, no question, no question here, but there are, you know, there is a way to approach it. Could you give me a better idea of, again, the format, the strategy works but there’s always a hack, there’s always a tweak – what would it be for audio?
ML Yes, so audio, you know, the reason why we decided to test it was we’re looking to drive newer audiences, right, like so many of millennials are on audio and listening to podcasts and so it’s a great medium and it’s kind of a mix between video and static banners where you get the sounds and that kind of listed emotion but you also can have a very clear direct response message. The thing about audio is you don’t have to always be buying a premium inventory the way a brand advertiser might do but, you know, if you can buy the remnant inventory, you’re buying it obviously at a much cheaper cost and you can do broad targeting and then kind of optimize off of that.
So that’s kind of the approach that I recommend and I find it very effective in a way that, you know, you’re broadening your audience space but you’re also still optimizing your media as you would any other channel in a sense, right, you have all the tracking in place if you’re using a mobile attribution provider and they’re still tracking all the activities that they would be doing to try it on the mobile device.
PAS Okay, we got audio, we got playable – tell me about your reasons for your third choice.
ML So pre-load campaigns, there’s a couple of providers out there. I think these are really high quality display ads, I know with fraud being really rampant in the industry and been a huge part of conversations the last couple of years because obviously it’s wasting marketing dollars and if you really wanted to waste money, but pre-loads, these come as the name would entail, they are apps that come pre-loaded directly from the carriers on brand new devices themselves.
So there’s a couple of direct carrier partnerships and there’s just more trust when people are opening up their phones with apps that are already pre-installed to their device. So, here’s just a great way for us to get the attention of someone who is just opening their device for the first time and we only get charged when someone’s actually interacting and downloading the app.
PAS That also gives, I would imagine, some predictability for when you’re doing your calculations, you’re seeing exactly what’s happening and you can also backtrack it and figure out, okay, so the calculations must make sense, you’re not paying for what – you can’t pay for what you don’t have.
PAS So, just curious, we have to go to a break right now but if you could choose – we talked about the top three but is there anything that you didn’t have on the list, are we going to see a volume 2, another part to your blog or were there just five that you found?
ML I think these are just, you know, a couple that I wanted – I didn’t want to go through a laundry list, I think outside of the major players which a lot of – the majority of people’s marketing budgets are placed in those channels, this is just a couple of other ideas to look into. Some are going to be a little bit lower barriers to entry than others, I know everyone right now with COVID times is being a little bit more careful with their marketing budgets and rightfully so.
PAS Well, it’s also very, very positive to know that there’s more than five, there’s more out there – probably another reason to have you back but right now we do have to go to our final break so listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. We have Melissa Lertsmitivanta, she is Marketing Director of realtor.com and a Mobile Hero and our guest today so, how can that not be a cool thing, to have all of that in one? And I’ve interviewed you before, Melissa, full disclosure, I did an article in Forbes back in March, I was looking at women, I was looking at topics around just not being a woman in tech, because we’ve sort of been there, done that one, and you’ve given great advice in your blog for marketers to follow and we talked about great advice for that article for women, for women to follow, to help themselves, to help others up the ladder and I’d love to continue that conversation with you, give us some ideas because we’re looking at maybe some – I wouldn’t say necessarily some downtime but maybe some time as we’re having a re-set, the big pause, maybe there’s more we can do for ourselves or for other women. What would you recommend?
ML So, yes, and I loved that article that you wrote, I was so thankful to be a part of it, thank you for having me.
PAS Thank you.
ML So, I think the one thing is don’t be afraid to stand out and really be able to speak up, basically have an opinion and a valuable perspective, you know. Some of the times we are scared to voice what we think but that doesn’t really help anybody. So, I think that’s really important just to be able to speak up and also teamwork makes the dream work – no-one can really do it all by themselves and so breaking down silos and letting people not only be the experts in their own areas but getting to know the people that work around you, across different teams because you never know when a great idea will come about or when a simple conversation can spark, you know, a great idea for a project or a collaboration.
PAS And back in March, it seems like so long ago because so much has happened, but that rings so much more true now even than back then because it’s going to be about finding good ideas, giving people a voice with something different because I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily rewriting that playbook but we are certainly opening the aperture of how we see marketing, how we see ourselves, how we see other women, how we’re helping them, mentoring them. I’m just curious, I mean, here we are, working from home – okay, I have my home and my studio as one but for you as well I can imagine that it’s more now about conversation than before, more about connecting than before.
ML Certainly, and I think we have to just, you know, maybe it’s more video conferencing now, right, I try to always get on camera whenever I can so that it feels a little bit more personable, you’re not just talking to your own monitor, right, so it has a little bit – because we’re not able to see each other in person, at least it makes you feel like you are a little bit more connected to whoever you’re talking to.
ML Yes, and I think when we all go back, we’re definitely really going to appreciate being in the office and being able to collaborate together like that because it’s definitely different being remote.
PAS Absolutely, it gives you pause to think a little bit. And you’ve given good advice there, also in your blog, I love to ask people like you because I know I’m going to get an interesting answer – no pressure, Melissa, but I can imagine that if you had a billboard for a motto for our times, for our marketers, for our audience right now, something to leave us with, what would it be?
ML You know, I guess I would just say ‘Make it count’. We get so caught up in not just being busy, having so much on our plate, this is both inside work and outside but whatever projects we’re working on, just make sure that we have I guess our priorities aligned and just make it count.
PAS Absolutely and now more than ever, absolutely. Melissa, delightful to have you on the show today, thank you so much and I can imagine that people are going to say, ‘Okay, got to check out that blog’ but how do they stay in touch with you, maybe you’re writing elsewhere or speaking elsewhere or just sharing your thoughts and listening on places like LinkedIn – what’s the best place?
ML So, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m also on Twitter, my handle is @mellyalert, I guess you can find me in either of those places.
PAS Awesome. And of course, if you want to read up on Melissa’s blog or any other of the Mobile Heroes in the series, check out their dedicated page over at heroes.liftoff.io.
And if you want to keep up with me throughout the week, find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, mobilegroove.com is where you can also find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
And you can check out those other earlier episodes, as I’ve told you, it’s a bi-weekly series, you can check them all out over at wmr.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence and I have to say, a little newsflash, I know you’re doing this in massive numbers because we have broken 20k listeners a month mobile marketers, a very specific audience per month, so it’s amazing – continue to go there, continue to listen in and continue to check because – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. Keep well, stay safe and we’ll see you soon.