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What to do when paid marketing isn’t working: learnings from web3

Lindsay Aamodt, Head of Marketing at Upland, sat down with Adikteev's West Coast Head of Sales, Alexandra Ivacheff, and Head of Marketing, Margot Miller, at MAU Vegas to chat about what app marketers should do when it feels like nothing is working. Tune in for some captivating insights on how a holistic approach to app marketing can keep things moving through highs and lows.


What you’ll learn:


Watch the video here:



I'm Alexandra. I'm leading the Sales Team at Adikteev on the West Coast and I'm with Margot, our Head of Marketing. We have the pleasure today to welcome Lindsay. Lindsay is the Head of Marketing at Upland. 

Lindsay, can you tell us more about your background, your career, and what makes Upland unique?


First of all, I hope you all slept last night. Thanks so much for coming. It's been really fun to be at MAU for the first time. 

Upland is in the blockchain and metaverse space— which, as you know, was huge in 2021 and 2022 when Zuckerberg basically anointed the word as like the God of the Future and positioned his whole company that way. 

This year, it feels like the only thing people ever want to hear about is AI and not the metaverse. It’s been interesting to learn what happens through the transition from a strong bull market to a bear market. 

Upland is a property strategy game. Users come in and buy properties that are mapped to the real world. Those properties are actually NFTs (non-fungible tokens)— they can build value on those properties and then trade or sell them with others. We've been able to sustain a strong value proposition and we continue to grow, and I'll be happy to share some of the reasons why.


Lindsay has a very interesting background, from professional ice skating to heading marketing at IMVU. Any highlights that you’d like to share?


I think when you get to a certain point in your career you feel like everything you’ve done kind of sets you up for the culmination of the role you were destined to be in and I feel like that’s where I’m at right now.

I was a figure skater and I skated all around the world. That taught me the discipline and tenacity to aim for a goal and not give up. My tenure in the companies that I’ve worked for has usually been long because I enjoy figuring out how to overcome challenges. In the past, I've worked in some really interesting spaces. I've worked in fashion, which was very interesting but not at all fulfilling. Then, I transitioned into the metaverse basically, the early forms of the metaverse with IMVU— most people hear that and say “Wait, what? Is that still around? That’s Second Life, right?”— and it’s this 21-year-old company that has continued to sustain for a long period of time, and through the pandemic because everybody was at home. IMVU is a place where people dress up their avatars and connect with others and what we found was that it was really curing the epidemic of loneliness, and a lot of people were finding friends and value in this digital space. And in the pandemic, it really went crazy. I loved finding the positive in something that others deemed negative or salacious and bringing out the things that were magical about that.


Thank you for the background. So let’s dive into the core topic: we have a couple of words about Adikteev— we’re the market leader in app retargeting. We help marketers like Lindsay retain, upsell and activate new users

Lindsay, when we discussed this panel, you mentioned a very interesting call you received from your CEO at 5 AM, asking you what is going on with your paid marketing channels. Why isn’t it producing ROI? What do you do?


When the CEO asks what you’re doing wrong


There’s a little bit of context here, and I hope this is relatable & funny for you— that's my goal. So, I've never worked for founders before. I've always worked with the second or third CEO. Upland is a startup based in Silicon Valley. When our co-founder was doing all of the marketing and performance marketing during the bull market, it's like you can't do anything wrong. If you put out an ad that just says Metaverse or NFT on it, it's three-figure ROAS without even trying and even without even looking at first-time user experience (FTUE) or the entire funnel. 

So I’m coming in as we’re reaching the peak of the bear market and it’s heading towards the downturn of the bull market. It was a little scary because the CEO is looking at me, wondering “What are you doing wrong? And why did I hire you?” and I’m like “I’m doing the best I can! Look around!”   

I was getting ready to teach my Pilates class and my phone rang at 5 AM. My CEO is in Dubai and he said, “Take a look at the ROAS this morning. What is going on?” 

You’re going to get those calls when things are challenging. Thankfully, our team is very, very data-oriented. We’re always on top of what decisions we’ve made to test a new market, channel or audience, and we’ve learned to “manage up” when communicating with the founders to inform them of what we anticipate will happen because of a decision we’ve consciously made. For example, if we’re trying to go global and, all of a sudden, we’re targeting Android users in Brazil, the ARPPU and ARPU will go down but the volume is going to go up. If you say, “We’re testing this market, and we’re looking for opportunities to grow; this is probably what’s going to happen,” then you can think ahead of the impact of the decision you’re making, and this way you don’t get a 5am call like I did with my CEO.


Optimization and retention tips


Can you actually tell us more about funnel optimization, what works and what doesn’t? Especially when it comes to retention, what are some of the best practices that you've seen?


First of all, we’re in blockchain and we’re in gaming and where those two words collide is a very small sliver of people. When we were seeing things start to shift towards a downward trend, we started to see that there were gaps in the funnel, and we had to figure out where that was happening. What did our App Store conversion look like when users came in and completed a registration? How many users were taking that next step? We started to look at the numbers across the entire funnel, all the way down to purchase, and realized that we were basically dropping users along the way— as you do, which is why the funnel is an upside down triangle. We realized that we really needed to shift our messaging and we needed to figure out how to onboard users better. We understood that our FTUE wasn't focused enough on earning trust from users that are tiptoeing into blockchain for the first time, or basically web3 and crypto, and we needed to educate them. However, earning trust and educating at the top of the funnel is pretty challenging because it's not sexy. It's not saying “Hey, free incentive thing over here!” Instead, we want to bring you in and show you how to do things. It was challenging and we had to test a lot of different ways to message users as they completed their registration and started to take the first steps in the actual game. 


Retargeting valuable users


How does retargeting fit into your overall strategy for retaining these users? What kinds of audience segments are the most valuable for you? 


When growth becomes more challenging based on the market conditions, we realize that our biggest opportunity and our quickest win was keeping our existing audience and trying to find the lapsed users that we lost in 2021 or 2022 when everybody was excited about the metaverse. We worked with Adikteev to actually find users that had paid before and then hadn't paid in the next 90, 180, 360 days. The way we reached them was through Adikteev’s help with retargeting campaigns, but also with new features and incentives to come back. We found that by tracking the open rate, we were actually quite successful in winning some of those users back because we weren't as successful in finding brand new users. 

The other way we use retargeting tactics is for new installers. Because we were still trying to optimize our first-time user experience, we were still A/B testing how to find the best model to drive the highest propensity to purchase. We found that retargeting brand new installs in the last 45 to 60 days on both platforms in different geos around the world was really helpful in getting that second punch saying, “Here’s Upland, that game you saw in this one ad and almost registered for. Now here’s another reason to go further into this platform and register.” Some of the things that we retargeted them with were easy opportunities to get engaged with the game or to learn how to play and master the game — people love skill-based activities. We started to see some really interesting results, which obviously made Adikteev happy because we were able to scale those opportunities, and found that we were able to keep stable KPIs. DAUs and MAUs remained stable and then our revenue started to increase.


On creative best practices


Amazing! One of the cool things about Adikteev is that if you don't know which audience you're targeting, if you don't have any insights, we have our own BI team that can look into your organic data stream and take an in-depth look at the funnel conversion and provide the best recommendation when it comes to scaling, retargeting, and getting this ROI for you. Lindsay, we touched upon audience, what about creatives? What are some creative best practices that you've seen or that you've experimented with?


First, when you look at web3 or crypto companies, we have this killer advantage of having a character that people can relate with because it's fun-looking. It’s easier to understand than something that’s kind of dry or unrelatable. We show that there’s a lot of fun in the game; there’s a lot to do. 

But certainly we go through extensive processes of A/B testing. I brought up AI earlier and our creative team is actually leveraging an AI company based out of England called Kaedim. They generate hundreds of assets within a short period of time to drive efficiency. One of the ways that we test creatives is by basically creating MAI campaigns through Meta to see where the click-throughs are going to be stronger on those different creatives. The ones that have the higher click-through rate (CTR) are the ones that we apply to Meta d0 campaign, a Google UAC campaign, and even in some of the retargeting campaigns with Adikteev. 

Obviously with hundreds of assets, our creative team would be working all night, and we don’t want that. We don’t want to overwork them, we want to empower our creative team. Using AI has helped them to move faster and get more types of creatives that we wouldn’t have even thought of.


For those who are not familiar with the main character, it's a llama, right? Any specific reason why you guys picked a llama?


No particular reason for the llama! :) 

Our game is kind of like Monopoly on steroids, basically. Everything that you buy and trade as a property in Upland is something that you can create a collection and earn value off of. Miles the llama is our way of personifying, so it's mapped to the real world. Miles personifies the culture of the city that we're opening. When people see Miles is Brazilian for the day or Miles is the King because we opened London during the coronation, it’s relatable. It taps into what’s happening in the real world, and people could find it hilarious. They could say, “That's funny. I'm curious about this. I want to learn more.”


Outside paid marketing for web3 apps


We’ve talked about paid and retargeting, but speaking of this emotional connection Miles has with users, could you talk a bit about the community aspect and organic traffic for web3 apps?  


So yeah! What to do when you feel like nothing is working! I don’t know if anybody else has ever felt like they’re trying everything but nothing’s working and the D1 or D7 ROAS for Meta campaigns are just not what they used to be. Being in web3, we had done a lot of research about how different exchanges were successful. For example, if anyone is familiar with Ethereum… Obviously, crypto wasn't allowed to be on TikTok, Google or Meta as advertising content for a long period of time. They had no choice but to go into performance marketing. What they did was community/web3 marketing— that's how they rebranded it, where they identified hubs of strong community members that they empowered with resources to help and incentivize them to grow and share the message and the opportunity of Ethereum to others. 

There’s lots of different examples of this. I think it's similar to vertical marketing in a way. For us, with users around the world, we started to identify power users in various areas and then we looked deep into which geos are really valuable to us without even trying. And so, what we've done is to identify a community in those geos and really activate them to start conducting meetups or finding other communities that they can incentivize to try Upland and get educated about the game play. And because trust is a huge part of crypto, those in-person meetups are really great opportunities to show people what this is really about, to really connect. 

Our mission is to really make the community almost an extension of the marketing team where they have the right message, the right tools, the right resources, the right brand, to share the brand with others. 


Teamwork makes the dream work


Thank you so much. This is really interesting. So we talked about how to optimize your funnel, and how to grow your organic community. And to conclude, could you tell us how you build a team to work together and generate revenue?  


Being in a startup, I only have like 10 people in my marketing team while other companies would have hundreds. Through the funnel analysis, everybody in my team has to align on identifying where the gaps are in the funnel. I don't think that this is secret sauce by any stretch: we look at the funnel performance daily, weekly, monthly. We try not to get so siloed into the data that we forget other opportunities, but we understand what's our state of the business at any given moment and how each person contributes to working with partners, how we optimize our App Store presence or at least how to have a greater opportunity to convert users to download the app and register. 

Each team member knows their mission to keep driving people down the funnel to purchase. While it’s really not rocket science, it’s quite easy to get distracted by a surge of  different opportunities and things that people try to sell you on when you come to conferences like this, or other things in the world. It really comes down to how is everybody contributing to their part of the funnel? Do you have the right message? Do you have the right creative? Have you tested it? What is the data showing you? Are you contributing to the gap or to the actual monetization of that user? In my team, we really connect a lot to make sure that we're constantly on the radar of how things are going.