Mike Van Kempen

Director of Growth


Acorns logo

Q&A with Mike

Mike started his career in finance at the Chicago based loyalty startup, Belly. While there, he was given the opportunity to work closely with the analytics team, sparking his interest in data. After Belly, Mike made the move out West to join Acorns, leading the analytics team for 2 years before getting the opportunity to bring a more data driven approach to the Growth team. Mike has been the Director of Growth since June 2017.


Read Mike’s blog: “A Day in the Life of a Growth Marketer.”


In your own words, tell us about the app that you manage?

Acorns is one of the most disruptive fintech apps in the investment space. In an increasingly cash-less society, our micro-investing platform helps users save their spare change and invest it automatically.

Acorns monitors your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases. For example, if you buy a coffee for $1.75, Acorns will round up to $2.00 and automatically invest $.25. From Acorns mighty oaks do grow!

How did you get started in mobile marketing?

I’ve always been fascinated by data and bringing a more data driven approach to all facets of the business. After managing the analytics team at Acorns for two years, I was presented an opportunity to bring my skills over to the growth team. I knew immediately it was a perfect fit and I’ve had the privilege of working on growth and user acquisition ever since.

What do you like most about mobile marketing?

There’s two things. The first thing I really enjoy about the mobile marketing space is how quickly you can gather results and glean valuable insights about what does (or doesn’t) work. The second thing is that there’s always something new to learn. I really enjoy reading about the latest trends in the space and applying that to Acorns.

What does it take to succeed in mobile marketing?

In order to succeed at mobile marketing, you need to be extremely data driven. There’s not a single decision that we make that isn’t supported by data. You also need to iterate quickly and not be afraid to push the boundaries of what you’re comfortable with. I think the quote, “move fast and break things,” sums it up nicely.

What does a quality mobile user look like to you?

To me, a quality mobile user is someone who activates and reaches the step in your funnel that drives the highest LTV. There’s many different sources out there that can drive really efficient, top of the funnel acquisition, but the conversion down funnel is terrible.

You have to look at CPA on your down funnel metrics and optimize for these sources. Many times I’ve found that the higher cost top of the funnel sources actually produce the best down funnel CPA.

What strategies work best to convert installs into engaged users?

Make sure you effectively deliver your value proposition before install. This way, users know exactly what to expect of your app and there won’t be any surprises. Acorns helps you set aside and invest life’s spare change and that’s something we really make sure to emphasize.

In the past year, what is one tip you can share which made the biggest performance difference with UA or re-engagement of your app?

I can’t stress the importance of creative enough. Once you fine tune your acquisition machine, remember that you’ll still need to refresh creatives relatively often to maintain results.

How do you stay ahead of changes in technology?

I’m constantly reading about the latest and greatest in the industry to make sure we’re always one step ahead. Andrew Chen at a16z is one of my favorites to follow.

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

I’m excited to see how some of these newer channels play out. It seems like more and more advertisers are testing out Snapchat so I’m curious how their video platform will transform over the coming years. I’m also really interested to see Amazon’s advertising platform expand. While we don’t currently use them, their rich set of consumer data will no doubt give companies like Facebook a run for their money.

What advice can you offer to help marketers combat mobile ad fraud?

Establish metrics that would easily identify fraudulent activity, set up dashboards, and monitor them meticulously. For us, there’s a few conversion metrics that set off the alarms at a certain point so we’re able to identify any potential issues immediately.

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