James Peng

Head of Mobile App Acquisition

James Peng was formerly Head of Mobile App Acquisition at the Match Group in San Francisco, CA. His analytical and creative talents have helped James grow the Match Group’s 45+ brands – including Match.com, Tinder, and OKCupid – but his willingness to take risks and be an early adopter of new technologies has made him a true leader in mobile marketing.

Check out the latest MH Comic.

How did you get into mobile marketing?

After 4 years of investment banking and private equity investing, I decided that I wanted to get off of the beaten path of finance and apply my skills in a completely different way to a different industry. After a year of networking, interviews, and soul searching, I discovered that mobile marketing was the ideal mix of analysis, business development, and creative thinking for me.

What do you like most about mobile marketing?

I love that mobile marketing is in its infancy and evolving more rapidly than almost any other industry in the world. Because of these dynamics, relationships are critical and it is imperative to adapt quickly or be rendered irrelevant.

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

My biggest mistake was early on when I spent my time testing as many channels as possible. I could have used my funds and time more wisely by conducting more diligence on top channels and exchanging notes with other industry professionals. Before you try the next new solution or ad network because it sounds interesting, I’d recommend polling peers and understanding the investment thesis thoroughly prior to testing. 

What does it take to succeed in mobile marketing?

  • The analytical horsepower to assess each user as an ROI opportunity and to dynamically optimize toward your goals.
  •  The ability to think creatively about marketing. CPIs are always increasing and that shouldn’t surprise you. Be able to think outside the box about ways to increase your purchase power or better access your target audience.
  • Good karma. Be generous and don’t be a jerk. The industry is small and the people you meet will be your de facto coworkers for quite some time, whether you like it or not.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about your profession?

That mobile marketing is made up of people with marketing experience and degrees. I more often see people with technical experience and business majors in our industry. With the number of moving elements around campaign ROI and the breakneck pace of change in the industry, there are definitely advantages to having skills such as financial modeling and database querying.

What does a quality mobile user look like to you?

A quality mobile user is one that that not only drives economic value, but also community value through deep interactions within the virtual ecosystem. An engaged user that drives compounded network value can easily be worth several times more than a standalone user. However, you’ll also need the ability to measure and attribute this value accurately.

What strategies work best to convert installs into engaged users?

Bringing a user into your app isn’t the hardest part – you then have to engage and retain them to drive value. I recommend understanding what your CRM team is doing to boost user value through unpaid means such as optimizing push notifications and emails. If it makes sense for your business model, you may want to create custom offers to drive greater activity from current users and bring back lapsed users through re-engagement.

What is your biggest challenge in marketing the Match Group?

The biggest challenge in marketing dating apps is that the target audience (and target intent) is specific, but the ability to target these users through most traditional marketing channels is limited by the immaturity of the industry.

How do you stay ahead of changes in technology?

I stay ahead of the curve by keeping a close network of industry peers and continuous conversations with my vendors and ad tech partners. When possible, instead of waiting for changes to happen, I try to be the one that helps to define them for the first time. This can be done through product discussions and beta opportunities.

How important is diversifying user acquisition outside of Facebook?

This is usually one of the top things on my mind. Even though Facebook is the no-brainer channel to be on for obvious reasons, the majority of mobile acquisition inventory exists and will continue to exist outside of Facebook. Levering yourself too much to Facebook not only exposes you to unnecessary risk such as isolated market fluctuations or major platform changes, but it also stunts your future growth when other channels advance. It takes upfront investment to succeed on other channels, especially for non-gaming apps, and you don’t want to be left behind when that time comes.

How important are the holidays to your business and what season is the biggest time for you?

For Match, the holidays are extremely important and are a huge volume and revenue driver, but spring tends to be huge because of Valentine’s Day and the influx of new devices after the holiday season.

What do you see as the next big thing in mobile marketing?

I think a major development is going to be user-level targeting for traditional mobile ad network traffic. Ad networks have been lagging social and programmatic sources of traffic up to now by focusing on where the money has been, which has been gaming advertisers. However, as eCommerce and performance brands shift budgets towards mobile apps, they will also demand precise targeting around their key audiences.