Growth Hacking Apps: One Indie Developer’s Success Story

We recently caught up with Michael Patzer, an SDK engineer at Millennial Media and the one-man shop behind Orange Group Apps, to find out more about his recent app marketing success, and how he’s been navigating some of the biggest challenges app makers face today:
 how do I get more people using my app, and more importantly, how to focus on getting valuable engaged users?


Michael’s marketing approach and strategy has changed drastically over the last 8 months and he’s opened up like a book, numbers and all, to share what he’s learned with you. Over to you Michael…

How were you marketing your apps 8 months ago?

I tried a variety of promotions: Admob ads, cross-promoting my apps with house ads and a “More apps” view inside of my apps; posting updates to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; a newsletter sign-up on my website; creating websites for each app; writing press releases and even building in-app sharing features. I had no idea what was working.

I would take my best guess at which ad campaign, newsletter or Facebook post was driving downloads but had no luck correlating them. I couldn’t determine which sources were helping me acquire users, let alone which sources acquired higher quality users – i.e. people that spend more time in-app or make in app purchases.

What changed your approach?

I saw Tapstream advertised on Daring Fireball and decided to sign-up. I really couldn’t believe that someone had solved the issue of “Where do my users come from?” and “How effective are my promotions?” since Apple and Google seem to have that sort of conversion-tracking inaccessible (unlike the Web). I ran several tests on Tapstream with different accounts, devices, and sources – Facebook, Twitter, my website and other apps – and was able to see conversion tracking from source to destination with 100% clarity.

I decided to take all of my existing marketing tactics and use Tapstream to measure them. I also made it a rule that I would use Tapstream to measure the performance for any new marketing efforts I tried. This setup has been greatly simplified by Tapstream’s taps.io shortlinks and smart redirectors, which allow me to send users to the right app store based on their device type (iPhone, iPad, Web, Android), since I have some cross-platform apps.

What have you learned about your app marketing through this new approach?

I arrived at a lot of useful conclusions very quickly.

1. For me, social advertising is a huge waste of time. It’s obvious in hindsight, but I think a lot of people buy-in to the fact they need to use Facebook and Twitter to be successful. My conversion rates were nothing compared to the work I had to put in on these social channels:


Social media is useful if you have time to produce great content related to your product, but as a one man shop I don’t have time. It was a huge relief to know that stopping my social efforts would have zero impact on growing my app business.

2. My website had decent conversion rates, but everyone was skipping the “Apps” section that I spent so much time maintaining and just clicked the big blue button that linked to my apps on the App Store. Here’s a look at the conversion rates from my old website to each app:


I was wasting tons of time on my website with very little benefit. I made a radical decision and went with a text-only website (http://www.orangegroupapps.com) with just two links: one to my App Store showcase and the other to my most popular app, Travel Altimeter. Here it is:


3. House ads had great conversion rates, especially when I cross-promote similar genre apps (Duh!). I decided to go from a general strategy, where every app promotes every other app, to only cross promoting relevant apps: Hawaiian Words <=> Hawaiian Names, Travel Altimeter <=> Travel Compass, and my three card games promoting each other.


4. AdWords is the single best way to advertise mobile apps. I had no idea how effective these ads were until measuring them with Tapstream. This is another one that’s easy to explain in retrospect, but I didn’t know until I saw the data. AdWords let’s me specifically target iPhone, iPad, or Android devices so I don’t waste any impressions or clicks showing ads to the wrong platform. Search captures a user’s intent to find or purchase something and I was able to target ads tightly to specific keywords to find users looking for the exact functions of my apps. 

I now acquire about 80 – 100 new users each day via AdWords and spend only about $10 – $12/day.


Unfortunately just raising my budget won’t raise the number of users I acquire proportionately. There is an unwritten rule that if you target more people, your ad will be relevant to a smaller proportion of them. The users I acquire with AdWords are very high quality and tend to spend more on in app purchases than users from other sources.

Because of Tapstream, I went from a sample AdWords campaign here or there to running campaigns for all of my apps, all of the time. I now have nearly 8,000 users attributed to Tapstream shortlinks. 


As you can see from the Shortlink Performance picture, my Shortlink Hits (blue graph) have increased over time as I’ve used more shortlinks and run more campaigns. However, the really cool graphic is the Shortlink Converting Hits (green graph) which is very clearly on an upward trend and increasing disproportionately to Shortlink Hits, because I’ve optimized my marketing over time as I’ve learned from the data Tapstream gives me. 



It’s pretty amazing to see the best performing shortlink which is the AdWords advertisement for Travel Compass Lite. About 8,000 hits and 34% of those people become customers.

Many thanks to Michael for sharing his app marketing experience. To check out his apps just head over to his website.