The Beginners Guide To Email Marketing Strategy For Mobile Games

by Justin Carroll

Beginner's Guide: Email Marketing Strategy For Mobile Games

How much revenue has your newsletter generated? This guide will teach you how to use email marketing to attract players, sell games and save time.

If you’re on my monthly newsletter or frequent my blog then you already know I’m a big fan of using email marketing to sell more games.

The tactic of email marketing is pretty much fundamental to my perspective on mobile game marketing.

And whenever I talk about email marketing my knee-jerk reaction is start throwing out lots of great statistics that prove how it can actually do what I say it can.

But I’ve already done that at length.

If you’re currently unfamiliar with the power of email marketing, as a primer to this guide, please read my article on proof that email marketing can increase game sales.

Also, since I can’t keep my mouth shut, I’ve already brushed up against this strategy before in my article about marketing strategies that earn players.

But I’ll be diving much deeper than that with this guide.

My goal is to leave you with a foundational email marketing strategy that helps you sell more games.

If you have a newsletter, but you feel like you’re not really “using email marketing,” you should definitely feel like you’re using it by the time we’re done here.

But before we start, let me explain the guide.

This guide is meant to be linear in structure, meaning each chapter’s advice will build upon the last. And by the end you’ll have learned these 3 things…

  1. How email marketing reduces user acquisition cost
  2. How to attract players with your email newsletter
  3. How to save time with email marketing automation

And that’s all great, but knowing is only half the battle…

The worst thing you can do is nothing.

I want you to take action!

So, at the end of each chapter I’ll give you a list of things to do (actions), things to put in place before you read the next chapter of the guide.

And then at the very end of the guide, in the spirit of Apple, there will be one more thing, something a little extra if you’re interested.

Ok, enough with the introductions. Let’s get you started using email marketing to sell more games!

How Email Marketing Reduces User Acquisition Cost

Chapter 1: How Email Marketing Reduces User Acquisition Cost

As always, since I’m the “reduce your user acquisition cost guy,” I’d be remiss in not talking about that as the reason I like email so much for mobile game marketing.

This is something I’ve covered at length with about 10,000 words in my free 5 day email course so I’ll try and make this as brief as possible, but I certainly can’t leave it out here.

We must start with why.

If you’ve already taken my free 5 day email course on reducing your user acquisition cost you can probably skip ahead to Email Marketing As A Strategy.

User Acquisition Cost Is An Expensive Problem

In the mobile gaming industry user acquisition (UA) means, by and large, acquiring new players through paid advertising techniques on mobile devices, such as mobile advertising networks or other pay-per-click (PPC) networks.

However, the mobile game market is more saturated than ever, which means there’s more advertisers competing on price than ever, which means the cost of advertising is higher than ever and that means the cost of acquiring players is higher than ever.

Let’s be real, the cost of user acquisition will probably always continue to rise.

But the real problem for you is this…

At some point your customer acquisition cost (CAC), or how much you’re paying to acquire players, will rise above your customer lifetime value (CLV), or the average amount of money you expect from each player over the life of their time with your company.

When that happens, the analytics dashboard for your mobile ad networks will continue to tell a fantastic story, your numbers will be rising and you’ll be acquiring all sorts of new players.

But what’s really happening is you’re losing money with every new player you get.

Customer lifetime value illustration

No bueno.

And to add insult to injury, a lot of mobile game developers are now finding that paid advertising techniques return low quality players, players not worth much in the long term anyway.

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m not a huge fan of what’s typically known as user acquisition.

Solving The Problem Of Rising User Acquisition Cost

I’ve talked with a lot of mobile game developers about this expensive problem and they all agree…

The only way to solve the problem of rising user acquisition costs is to reduce its spend and start investing in more long term solutions with the objective of high quality players (or an audience).

And that’s exactly what I do.

I’m hell-bent on helping mobile game developers reduce user acquisition cost by attracting players and growing revenue organically.

That’s the reason I’m writing this guide about email marketing.

But email marketing is just a tool. Really, we should focus on strategy.

Email Marketing As A Strategy

I can jump in the car and start driving west towards California, but unless I’ve got a roadmap I’ll probably waste a bunch of time and money trying to get there.

We have to first consider where we are, where we want to be and the best possible route.

Strategy is the best way to get from point A to point B. Right now you’ve no organic visibility, so you’re either paying for it (e.g. user acquisition) or you’re doing nothing. That’s where you’re at now.

And where you want to be is that place where you have a direct line of communication to an audience of loyal fans. That’s our California.

Sure, you’ve got followers and fans on social media, and traffic on your websites, but that’s not the most direct line. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not the best.

There’s a lot of marketing techniques and strategies that I know help work towards solving the problem of visibility.

But email marketing is the best.

It hits every point in what I call the mobile game marketing trifecta of opportunity.

Email marketing affords mobile game developers an opportunity to give potential players something first before asking for their time or money (1), it adds entertainment value to your company and its games (2) and it works towards building up an audience of high quality players that you can nurture over time (3).

Those are 3 things you simply cannot get with paid advertising techniques.

They all go towards growing revenue organically by attracting players with entertainment instead of just chasing them with advertising.

Email marketing is probably my favorite marketing technique for this reason, and because, well, its ROI is glorious.

So, here’s our roadmap…

The business goal is to build an audience of loyal fans, to negate the need to pay for visibility, and the way we’ll do that here is by acquiring email addresses with our email newsletter.

Okay, so that’s the birds-eye view of our strategy. Chapter two, will start zeroing in on the specific twists and turns.

Let’s shift gears and talk about email marketing tools. If you’re not already, I want to get you setup with some email marketing software before we go any further.

The Email Marketing Tools I Recommend

This doesn’t need to be complicated, you just need to be using something at this point.

First of all, if you’re completely new to email marketing I recommend signing up for MailChimp’s Entrepreneur plan. It allows you to send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers all for free. There’s no contracts or credit card required.

I’m not sure you can beat that anywhere else given the popularity of the MailChimp service.

But if you’re already using or paying for email marketing software from someone else, then continue using that at least through the second chapter of this guide.

The only wrench in that machine may be when I start talking about automation in the third chapter. You’ll need some basic automation features out of your email marketing tool to take advantage of those concepts.

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

For now, here’s my top 3 choices for email marketing software…

  1. Drip (I use this)
  2. Aweber
  3. MailChimp

Just like me, you’ll have a preference. You don’t have to use Drip just because I do.

I’ve used both MailChimp and Aweber for my business in the past. I switched to Drip simply because their automation features are geared towards the strategies I find more profitable for my business.

Drip is named after drip campaigns, a technique where emails are sent at intervals over time (or dripped) to subscribers in a certain campaign or list. I have a lot of use for these types of campaigns for my own business whereas you may or may not.

But all email marketing software applications can catch an email address and dump it into a list or campaign. The real differentiator is automation features versus your email marketing strategy and, of course, scaled pricing versus your budget.

Just sign up and have an account somewhere.

You don’t need to put a form on your website or anything like that yet, we’ll cover all that in the next chapter. But please jack around with it and get familiar.

And if ultimately you find you don’t like what you chose, you can always take your email marketing elsewhere (I did, twice).

One note of caution…

I’ve seen mobile game developers home-grow their email solutions. I get it, you’re developers (so am I), you’re largely independent (me too), but you’ll inevitably want to do powerful things even with the smallest of subscriber lists so please, save yourself the time and just use a tool.

Action List

As promised, here’s a list of things to do before you read the next chapter of my guide…

  • Read my email marketing statistics (it’ll be nice to know I’m not bullshitting you)
  • Get an account with your prefered email marketing tool
  • Play around and get familiar with the tool, watch their videos, that sort of thing

This chapter was a lot of theory and a little action. From here on out it’s going to be all action all the time.

Let’s move on to outlining and implementing our first ever email marketing strategy to sell more games!

Attracting Players To Your Email Newsletter

Chapter 2: How To Attract Players With Your Email Newsletter

We know where we’re at now and we know where we want to be, but there’s still the route we’ll take to get there.

And there’s a big problem with the way we’ve always gone, the way you’re probably going now.

Email Newsletters Tend To Suck

This idea of an email newsletter for news and updates about your games or company really sucks.

All the information being released can likely be found other places online. So really what people are signing up for is information they could’ve gotten elsewhere, delivered way later than everyone else got it.

And then periodically they’re sent an email asking them to buy a game that’s just been updated or purchase one that’s just been released?

It’s kind of insulting.

Personal email addresses are today, what phone numbers were in the 20th century, the most highly coveted piece of information of our digital age.

Basically, they’re gold.

And a promise of old news and updates is no valuable exchange for gold, it’s scrapmetal at best.

I want you to take your email newsletter to the next level.

Here’s the first thing I want you to do…

Give Subscribers Something Valuable First

Instead of simply asking people for their personal email addresses, you’re going to offer them something valuable in exchange first.

This is all about earning interest, giving before asking or obtaining permission to ask people to spend time and money with your games.

Here’s 3 ideas for what you could offer new subscribers…

1. Strategy Guide

Offer people an official strategy guide to your most popular game, designed and published by the very people who made that game.

This is great incentive for potential and existing players.

If I’m a potential player looking to buy, this may encourage me to go ahead, install the game and follow the guide, especially if your game comes off difficult for whatever reason.

And if I’m an existing player this could encourage me to revisit the game once again.

2. PDF Comic Book

An exclusive comic book illustrating the origin story of your most popular game.

A great example of this is the hit game, LIMBO. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding that game’s origin story.

I played LIMBO years ago. But if I’m honest, I’d definitely fork over my email address to know that story.

And I bet your players would too.

3. In-Game Currency

This is a complete no-brainer.

Offer in-game currency so new subscribers can start playing your game with an advantage no one else has.

If I could go and subscribe to the official SimCity BuildIt newsletter for a few extra simoleons, you better believe I’d do it.

In-game currency is probably the fastest way to build an email list. But it’s also not for the faint of heart as it surely involves advanced security to ensure players aren’t trying to scam or farm your email newsletter.

So, the ideas for what you could do are limitless, but whatever it is, it must be highly valuable to your audience.

Don’t just pick something, actually think about it.

What’s one thing potential players would gladly exchange their personal email addresses for?

I highly recommend starting small, with a one-off piece that doesn’t take a lot of time or money to produce.

And here’s the second thing I want you to do to take your email newsletter to the next level…

Make Your Newsletter’s Weekly Content Exclusive

You’re still going to do monthly news and updates as a sort of archive of what’s happened that month. People expect that and you should continue to deliver it.

But weekly, I want you to do something else, something exclusive.

Each week, I want you to send out an email that includes something about your company or its games that subscribers can’t get anywhere else.

Here’s 3 ideas for exclusive weekly newsletter content…

1. Development Blog Videos

You probably have a development blog.

This could be your team in front of camera explaining what you’re building into the game. It could also include a time lapse of your process.

These videos could both complement your development blog, encouraging readers to subscribe to the newsletter and provide exclusive weekly content for it.

Although I must say, if you’re going to do this you gotta be careful and it better be good, because not all potential players care how the game is made.

2. Never-Before-Seen Media

Every game developer has big reveals, teaser trailers, official trailers, gameplay trailers, screenshots, images, commercials and so on.

What if people could subscribe to your newsletter and be the first to see that media before the press ever does?

What if 24 hours before the new Star Wars: Uprising trailer dropped, you saw it before anyone else?

If you go this route, it’ll help spike your social media on those days simply because people will do their best to get the word out behind your back.

And that’s exactly what you want.

This technique is design to be pirated, to embolden subscribers to go rogue, posting their own screenshots.

3. Contests And Promotional Offers

This isn’t exactly exclusive weekly content, but if you promise that your official newsletter is the only place players can take advantage of contests and other promotional offers, that’ll do the trick just fine.

Imagine your favorite mobile game. I’m thinking of Hearthstone (at least right now).

I’d absolutely lose my mind if I could subscribe to the official Hearthstone newsletter and take part in bi-weekly contests for a chance to win new card backs or extra packs.

Again, the ideas are limitless. But ensure it’s something your audience will not only enjoy, but something they’ll enjoy every week for a very long time.

Ok, I think there’s more than enough ideas to get you started working on something today.

Let’s move on to talk about your newsletter opt-in form placement, copy and design.

My Newsletter Opt-In Copy Template

Never underestimate the power of great copy.

Here’s what I suggest using as a template for your opt-in copy…

Want The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land official comic book FREE? Subscribe to our newsletter for bi-weekly chances to win never-before-seen weapons and access to the game’s official comic book!

[Your email address…] [Yes, send it to me!]

Don’t worry, we don’t spam.

Here’s a few things to take note of…

First of all, notice how my first line asks a question, and the submit button answers it. This is guiding the user through an internal conversation.

And second, notice I’m only asking for an email address and nothing else.

Every input box you add will be one more reason for someone not to sign up. Don’t load up on inputs.

You’ll be tempted to ask for more information.

Don’t do it.

You can always run a special email marketing campaign later where you ask for more information in exchange for another offer.

The idea here is to create something so good that potential and existing players almost have no choice but to subscribe.

Now that we’ve got the design and copy nailed down, let’s talk about where to put the opt-in.

Where To Place Your Email Newsletter Opt-In

Right now your newsletter opt-in is probably on the homepage of your company website, your game’s official website or both. Or it might be found in a sidebar somewhere.

That’s going to change.

Here’s 3 places I want you to place your newsletter opt-in form…

1. Create A Landing Page For Your Newsletter

I want you to create a page on your website just like this…

http://www.yourcompany.com/newsletter/

It should be relatively free of distraction, no sidebars, remove the navigation, remove the footer, things like that.

Include a big ass picture of that comic book or whatever your offer is. Treat this a lot like you would the official website (or landing page) for one of your games.

A landing page has one job… get people to subscribe.

You’ll do that by showcasing what they can expect, your free item and your exclusive weekly content.

Leave this page out of your main navigation.

For more information on landing page design and measuring success please read my guide on official game websites.

2. Put Your Opt-In At The Bottom Of Every Page

Instead of just having your opt-in on your homepage or in the sidebar, put it at the bottom of every page on your website, except that Newsletter page we just created.

Make it nice, big and informative.

We want this perceived as the icing on the cake. Visitors have just enjoyed whatever content they were viewing or reading, they scroll down, and oh look, I can get more!?

Yes. Yes you can.

3. Include A Link In Every Communication

Your newsletter is no longer an afterthought, it’s a crucial element in marketing your company and its games. We have to build up that audience. And so you’ll want to start including a link for people to join it.

You could do this in your email signature, social media profiles, press releases, interviews and reviews.

Everywhere.

A little tip, on Twitter you can pin a tweet on your profile. Write a tweet with your new copy and pin it.

Also, conferences. If you’ve got a table and a pad of paper out to capture email addresses, make sure you print something to tell people what they’re signing up for.

Yeah, you’ve got your work cut out for you!

Action List

Here’s a list of things to do before you read the next chapter…

  1. Create an offer for new subscribers
  2. Choose what content will be exclusive to your newsletter
  3. Create a landing page for your newsletter
  4. Use my opt-in template to write your copy
  5. Place your opt-in at the bottom of every page on your website, except your new landing page for the newsletter
  6. And talk about it everywhere you go

I told you things would be a lot of action from here on out.

Let’s move on to talking about email marketing automation and how it can save you time and money!

Stay tuned for Chapter 3: How To Save Time With Email Marketing Automation…

How To Save Time With Marketing Automation

Chapter 3: How To Save Time With Email Marketing Automation

At this point in the guide you know why email marketing is a great tactic for reducing user acquisition cost, we’ve roadmapped a strategy for its success and executed that strategy.

That’s fantastic, but you’re busy making your next game and now you have yet another task to manage.

You know marketing is important, but the last thing you need is something else to distract from getting your game out.

I’ve got just the solution…

Automation.

You may have heard this marketing buzzword before, but let me explain it in a bit more detail.

What Is Marketing Automation?

It’s really very simple.

Marketing automation is any marketing task you can set on autopilot.

For example, you know how you’re going to send all your email newsletter subscribers that incentive?

Marketing automation is when you setup your email software to do that for you.

Another great example of automation is what’s called a drip campaign, or a scheduled series of emails sent to subscribers based on time (hence the word drip).

If you’ve taken my free 5 day email course, that’s a drip campaign, 1 email every day for 5 days.

Marketing automation concepts go much deeper (e.g. programmatic ad buys), but that’s the gist.

Since automation is very much the future of all marketing, any email marketing software you choose should have automation features available.

Think of the automated tasks I’ll talk about as principles and not functions tied to specific software.

So, automation is when computers do things for you.

But there’s a catch.

Although it does take a lot of work off your plate, it doesn’t take everything off your plate.

You’ll still be left with the hard work of generating fresh newsletter content each month.

An Example Automation Plan & Schedule For Your Email Newsletter

Ok, so let’s actually do that, let’s set up your email marketing software to send the incentive.

But first, let’s outline an automation plan and schedule for your email newsletter.

Here’s what that might look like…

  1. Immediately send the incentive
  2. Weekly and monthly broadcast emails
  3. Yearly subscriber survey emails

You’ll is immediately send the incentive. Each week and month you’ll set aside time to schedule content in as far advance as possible. And in a short time you’ll survey your subscribers about your company and games.

You don’t have to follow this plan exactly.

In fact, it’s highly probable you shouldn’t based on the combination of incentive offer, and weekly and monthly content you’re producing.

For example, let’s say you’re planning a drip campaign, 5 emails (1 per day for 5 days) that explain the origin story of your game.

If that’s the route you’re taking I’d recommend creating 2 campaigns, 1 for your origin story and 1 for your newsletter. And when subscribers complete the origin story campaign, move them over to your newsletter campaign (via an automation rule).

You can see how that changes things significantly.

And about that, a word of caution.

When introducing automation to your email marketing, things can get complicated quick. That’s why you always want to sit down and outline a plan first.

Ok, let’s break down each part of my example plan…

1. Immediately Send The Incentive

No matter the email marketing software you’re using you should have created a campaign (or List for MailChimp people) for your monthly newsletter.

That task should come with a form snippet that you placed where I told you to on your website.

A subscriber gives you their email address.

Ensure they confirm their email address before you send them the incentive. That’s called a double opt-in process.

Create a thank you page on your website, send users there after they’ve confirmed their email address. It should read something like this:

“Subscription confirmed. Thanks for subscribing to the [game] monthly newsletter. We’re sending you [incentive] right now…”

They’ll check their email and get your incentive.

You don’t need to get crazy with security on your incentive. But I’d at least create a robots.txt file in the root website directory to block search engines from crawling your incentive.

For example, put your comic book PDF in a /downloads folder and drop a robots.txt file in the root of your website that looks something like this:

User agent: *
Disallow: /downloads

That basically tells all search engines that they’re free to crawl your website, but not the /downloads folder.

If you’re a top 10 developer, or just want the best security, consider using something like Gumroad to distribute free digital files or email me for more direction.

At the end of the day, if someone wants to rip off your incentive they’ll find a way.

Ok, you’ve successfully automated subscriptions and the delivery of your incentive. Let’s talk about managing your weekly and monthly email content.

2. Weekly And Monthly Broadcast Emails

Your weekly and monthly newsletter content may or may not be something you’re able to schedule in advance. If you can, go for it and go as far in advance as possible.

It may be worth setting aside a number of days each year to write that content and set it on autopilot.

In any case, try and batch these efforts so they don’t loom over you during the week, month or year.

I typically operate a month in advance, but I can sometimes be found squeezing an email out a few days beforehand.

That happens, just do your best.

No one will get an email a week late and say, “Nope, it’s late. This sucks. I’m unsubscribing!”

I recommend keeping your weekly broadcast emails short, up to 500 words. If the goal is to deliver a never-before-seen screenshot, do that and get out.

But for your monthly content, make that more in-depth when possible, up to 1,000 words.

Email marketing software also comes with its own tagging language and conditional statements.

Utilize that system to personalize your emails where possible.

Also, around 10am from Monday to Friday is the best time to send emails in general (in the subscriber’s timezone if your software makes that option available).

But remember, most people play games on the weekend.

Experiment with that math and see what works best. If you’re sending out a broadcast asking people to buy your latest game, Friday morning at 10am may be your sweet spot.

Whatever the case, don’t just do what they say (whoever they are), get strategic with how and when you send emails. What they say is only one of many factors.

And now that we have our audience, let’s talk to them!

3. Yearly Subscriber Survey Emails

You’ve got your audience at your fingertips.

Let that sink in.

Pretend there’s hundreds of people standing in front you, they all love your games and the microphone is hot.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Set up an automation rule that sends a short survey, up to 5 questions, out to your subscribers after they’ve been receiving your content for a while, say 2 months or so.

And I’d repeat that process yearly, always changing up the set of questions to correlate with your business goals.

Your goal is to put their answers in a spreadsheet to reference when making certain business decisions.

Want to know what type of game your audience would buy next? What they don’t like about a certain game? What they’d be willing to spend money on for an IAP?

The catch is most subscribers won’t respond.

So if you want to level up, consider breaking your surveys out into a separate campaign, one where you ask more questions, but also offer an additional incentive for participating.

The effort increases, but so will your response rate.

Whatever you do, the idea is to set up your surveys so that you don’t have to manage them.

As a side note, a separate campaign for surveys is also a great way to get more personal information from your subscribers.

Action List

You kind of already have your action list in the automation outline, but let’s go through it once more…

  1. Setup your incentive to automatically deliver after a subscriber has confirmed their email address with a double opt-in process
  2. Schedule your first set of weekly and monthly broadcasts for the best time in the subscriber’s timezone
  3. Write your 5 survey questions and set up your first annual subscriber survey

There you go, that’s the icing on the cake for my email newsletter strategy!

Conclusion

Everything you’ve learned in this guide is a big change from simply having a newsletter opt-in on your website.

Well, or nothing at all.

If you work really hard at putting what I’m saying in place, and measure your results, it won’t be long before you’ve doubled the amount of people on your mailing list in a relatively short amount of time.

That’s a big claim, so hold me to it.

I mean look, if you have no newsletter then you’ll double it by simply getting one.

But if all you have is a simply input box on your website and a handful of subscribers, do what I’m saying and send me your results.

What email marketing strategies are working for you? Or what questions do you have about my strategy? Please post your advice and questions in the comments below!