Trust, Over-Communication & Fewer Meetings. How to Manage a Remote UA Team.
Björn Videkull is Director of User Acquisition at PikPok, a leading publisher of fun and compelling games. After getting his start in user acquisition on the agency side, Björn moved to the publisher side, working at app advertisers including Playtika and Yousician. Fast forward a few years of consulting for various companies, Björn now leads the UA team at PikPok.
Learn more about Mobile Hero Björn.
PikPok hired me to remotely lead their New Zealand-based UA tea from London—with the idea of relocating to the country within three to four months. So when the pandemic hit and we had to adjust to a long-term remote work environment, we adapted—and I picked up a few lessons along the way.
Trust Your Team
It is crucial to have a high level of trust with your UA managers in a remote work environment. Let them make autonomous decisions without management approval, especially when there is a significant time difference (in my case between 11h – 13h), to reduce the chances of a bottleneck. At PikPok, the UA managers are in charge of a title/channel and as long as they remain within budget and make sure that the ROAS is in the repayment window. We look at D1 & D7 ROAS trends, compare them to a D60 LTV curve to gauge campaign performance, and take action accordingly. Budget-wise, I like to break it down into a profitable business-as-usual (BAU) and testing. BAU budget can be scaled indefinitely as long as the ROAS goals are met, whereas the testing budget is fixed.
At the start of the pandemic, we had many stakeholders involved in user acquisition (products, analytics) and my team was more reactive than proactive. I encouraged the team to preemptively make optimization decisions rather than waiting for feedback. I also had each UA manager work with at least one new network per month with an ear-marked testing budget which helped us scale growth. We successfully tested with networks such as Liftoff but also had to discard many networks that didn’t work out for us in the end. In other words, be willing to test to find what performs best.
Limit Unnecessary Meetings
In a remote environment where you work from different time zones, you must be careful with scheduling meetings that don’t lead to actionable decisions. At PikPok, I limit discussions to weekly “1-2-1’s” (catch-ups) with UA managers. We use these meetings to discuss performance and give feedback. Try combining specific meetings with the product and analytics team to get their input on performance and make sure everyone is on the same page. With constrained time to collaborate, I always focused on triaging meetings in order of importance. Other tips to fostering productive team meetings:
- Give full attention to a specific title on a certain day.
- Catch up with the UA manager on the same day as an all-hands on deck product meeting.
- Schedule regular calls with the whole team at the beginning of the week to run over updates from the previous week and what tasks are due this week.
Without real-time insight into what decisions are made or what was discussed in meetings you are unable to attend, it is important to enforce a consistent communication loop. Have your UA managers communicate decisions they’ve taken, report on the results, and ensure that nothing important goes under the radar. The same goes for cross-team communication on joint tasks that affect both product and UA. At PikPok, we have bi-weekly meetings involving all stakeholders to discuss all open issues related to UA and overall business (looking at you iOS 14.5!) We make sure everyone is aware of who is responsible for pushing a problem through the resolution line.
In the beginning, I ran into a few bumps due to lack of communication—all of which would have easily been spotted if we were all in the same time zone. I resolved this by having the team review campaign setups before going live, conducting regular audits of title performances, and providing improvement feedback to the UA manager. This communication loop helped us avoid mistakes and also spurred a lot of ideas for improvements.
Focus On Adding Value
When joining a new team as a UA leader—whether it’s remote or not—focus on adding value to the organization from your previous experience at other companies.
Since PikPok already had a fully operational UA team, I began focusing on channel diversification by adding Google UAC into the mix. Google UAC was not successful in previous tests but had developed along with product KPIs becoming stronger. Google UAC is a challenging channel since it relies heavily on machine learning which is time-consuming and costly. However, it is a highly scalable channel after the initial learning phase (2-3 weeks) when done correctly. This was true for PikPok as it quickly became one of the top-performing channels. One caveat is that any major changes you make in the campaign can take you back into the learning mode and force you to start over.
I also focused on improving the workflow of the team by implementing automation for optimization and reporting. I had been away from mobile games for a few years when I joined PikPok and mainly worked with subscription-based apps at the time. So I began by improving the team workflow and catching up on mobile gaming UA practices (unfortunately, not all of my learnings on subscription-based apps translated to gaming). This proved valuable for my team because members did not need to change how they managed their channels. Instead, UA managers focused on hitting high-level goals to improve overall performance.
Be A Leader
You must fully take on the leadership role of mentoring, supporting the team, and making sure members feel valued and motivated. A large time difference can be challenging for the remote worker and the local team. This is a challenging soft skill to build but benefits all marketers in the long run—a happy and motivated team does their best work.
Although I worked in senior UA roles before my job at PikPok, this was the first time I was responsible for leading a dedicated team. If you are in the same situation, start learning from senior management at other companies and applying your own personal touch. It could be useful to look back at past negative experiences and do the opposite.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for many people, not only UA teams—especially for companies who did not already have a remote working culture. The lessons I learned from leading a UA team remotely—trust your team, limit unnecessary meetings, focus on transparent communication, add value and leadership skills—have inevitably helped me in my career as Director of User Acquisition. As many people are returning to the office, I recommend leaders provide your team flexibility towards remote working. It can help improve your workflow and keep the motivation and happiness of team members high.