Alessandra Sales

Director of Marketing
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Q&A with Alessandra

Alessandra Sales is the Director of Marketing at Smule in San Francisco. Her focus on gaining a deep understanding of her users helps her develop the right message for her audience and provide an awesome experience that leads to loyal customers.

How did you get into mobile marketing?

When I first moved to the US, I started working at Nextag, a shopping comparison site, to help them launch their marketing presence in Southern Europe. Nextag was limited only to desktop search at the time. In early 2010 I moved to Zoosk, where our marketing efforts spanned across both mobile and desktop.

What do you like most about mobile marketing?

The great thing about mobile marketing is how dynamic it can be. New products and apps are being released every month, performance numbers change everyday, and you always need to be on your toes. It gives me adrenaline and I love it!

What is the biggest mistake you made as a mobile marketer?

Early on, I used to optimize for good performance/ROI without considering the ramifications of where we were advertising and what message we were sending about our company. Spending millions of dollars on advertising means that millions of people are seeing your ads. It is important to establish your brand and messaging in this type of mass exposure. Giving off a poor brand image early on could not only stunt your future growth efforts, but could also be an irreversible mistake.

What does it take to succeed in mobile marketing?

A positive attitude goes a long way in this industry. You are going to run into many daily challenges and issues, so it is easy to be overwhelmed with stress. Focus on long term, high-level goals. What makes mobile marketing so engaging is that it also requires a blend of critical thinking, creativity and dedication.

What does a quality mobile user look like to you?

At Smule, a quality user is not necessarily someone who becomes a paying subscriber. We also highly value engaged users who play or sing songs at a high frequency, and users who are socially engaged with our community. We discovered that content+social=retention and this also improves our revenue per user overtime.

What strategies work best to convert installs into engaged users?

Above all, you should figure out and understand your audience. The other important part is to offer a smooth and clear first time user experience. Once you can segment your users, you have the ability to offer a more personalized app experience, which typically leads to better retention. For Smule, social features are a strong driver of engagement/retention. We have found that users who feel a sense of belonging (joined a community, sang a lot of duets) tend to engage, retain, and monetize better.

What is your biggest challenge in marketing Smule?

One of the biggest challenges is trying to scale your apps efficiently without having to rely heavily on the “usual suspects,” Facebook and Instagram. We have a dedicated person on our team who is in charge of looking out for new opportunities. Our general rule of thumb is to continue testing new partners and products, and if your app is global, go after regional opportunities.

How do you stay ahead of changes in technology?

I read a lot and I ask a lot. My morning ritual goes something like this… coffee, run, coffee, TechCrunch. I also like to discuss the latest marketing trends with friends and colleagues.

How important is diversifying user acquisition outside of Facebook?

Diversification is key and it is imperative to find good users outside of Facebook. Nobody should rely on one source of traffic to drive user acquisition, because your performance would be strongly tied to the performance of that company. It is also important to remember that your users are also engaging with other apps, and that different networks offer different pocket of users. For example, if your audience skews on the younger side, you might find other social networks and gaming apps to be more effective in driving new user acquisition.

How important are the holidays to your business?

Holidays = new devices, and new devices = more users who are willing to download apps. Smule is a subscription-based company and we measure the quality of our users based on their initial ROI as well as their retention rate. What we have discovered is that during the holidays more people tend to subscribe using gift cards and consequently their retention rate tends to be lower than that of customers who subscribe using credit cards.