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Mobile Marketing

How To Identify and Activate Your Mobile MVP Customers

Ashley Sefferman  //  March 2, 2017  //  9 min read

If you could talk to your most loyal mobile customers, what would you ask? How would you engage them? What could you learn from them? Every marketing team dreams of identifying and activating this loyal group, although few take the time to really get it right.

These customers, or your “mobile MVPs” as we like to call them, hold a ton of power and play a major part in the success of your business. Take the 80/20 rule, for example. This old sales adage still holds true when it comes to identifying MVP customers: 80% of your revenue tends to come from 20% of your total customer base. There’s even a popular theory that companies only need to identify 1,000 MVP customers to make their business successful. MVPs are the key to growth.

Identifying and engaging with your MVPs can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! This post dives deep into how to first identify customers who will fit your mobile MVP profile, and then shares tips to help you activate them in order to gather their feedback and to turn more customers into raving fans.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Identify Your MVPs

Start with segments

As with any good marketing strategy, identifying your mobile MVPs starts and ends with segmenting. The deeper you’re able to segment your customers by their in-app actions, the closer you can get to understanding which actions trigger MVP status, along with building customer profiles to identify future MVPs. Breaking your customers into segments will help you understand MVP behavior, sentiment, and more in order to nurture similar actions across larger groups of your customers.

Segmenting also helps you better understand what customer data you should look at to gauge product success and growth. Whether you look at customers by individual or by org, there is plenty of data to consider.

customer segments

To start segmenting your customers in order to eventually pull out the MVPs, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the profile of customers using our mobile app, and how do we currently segment them?
  • What are the most valuable in-app actions our customers take?
  • How do we define “customer loyalty” and what makes a customer loyal?
  • How many new customers do we adding in a given period? How many customers do we lose in the same time period?

To help you answer the above questions, you’ll likely need to pull some data to use as a starting point. Consider capturing the following mobile customer data points to start:

  • Mobile customers broken down by tier or loyalty level (if they already exist)
  • Counts of iOS and Android customers
  • High-level in-app actions or engagement points
  • Demographic data (e.g. industry, location, age, gender, etc.)

Pull out the MVPs

Now that you’ve segmented your mobile customers, it’s time to pull out your MVPs. As noted above, MVPs take actions that set them aside from your general customer base. Although the profile of an MVP looks different at every company, there are three major areas MVPs typically stand out in across all industries:

  1. Registration: Completing an action like signing up for a newsletter, downloading content, signing up for free trials, joining loyalty program, etc.
  2. Engagement frequency: The higher the frequency, the likelier the customer is to be an MVP
  3. Advocacy: When a customer takes a brand advocate action like sharing positively on social, referring friends, etc.

If a customer registers for a high volume of engagement points, interacts with your company at a high frequency, and advocates for your brand throughout the social circles, it’s likely that they may fall into your mobile MVP segment.

Don’t forget cohort marketing!

If you’ve already taken the above steps in segmenting your mobile customers but are still struggling to identify the mobile MVPs, cohort marketing is a great tool to leverage. Cohort marketing relies heavily on a marketing team assessing its goals, so it’s important you spend a bit of time reviewing the most important and high-value actions offered in your mobile experience. Once your goals have been revisited, you can leverage them in a cohort marketing exercise to find the customers that fit, better identifying your mobile MVPs.

Many marketers have dabbled in some form of cohort marketing, but here’s an example exercise you can use specifically for mobile:

cohort marketing example

As you can see above, Cohort 3 has come closest to reaching the goals the marketing team has set, so they are most likely to be the cohort of MVP customers.. They are registered, convert frequently, come back average, and advocate average. Companies can get much more granular with these weightings, but even when working off of a yes/no for registered and then low/medium/high for the other categories, this framework helps you identify the cohort of your customers that gets you closest to the goals you’ve set.

Gauging sentiment, the most important step

As we explored above, there are many behaviors and criteria that make up a mobile MVP segment, but the most important metric of all is sentiment. Let’s spend a bit of time talking about what makes sentiment stand out, and what you can do to measure it for mobile.

Sentiment is the emotion behind customer engagement. When you monitor sentiment, you try to measure the tone, context, and feeling from customer actions. Whether a customer completes a purchase, leaves a review, or mentions your company socially, there is always an emotional state connected to their action. Customer sentiment can range anywhere from pleased or loving to neutral or angry, and no matter where your customers fall on the sentiment spectrum, it’s imperative you understand not only what their emotional state is, but what’s driving it.

Understanding sentiment is crucial to identifying your mobile MVPs. The more positive a customer feels about their experience with your app, the better they’ll feel about your brand, and the likelier they are to share that experience with their communities. Word-of-mouth marketing is still the holy grail in the digital age, and nothing is a better indicator of how far your referrals can go than sentiment.

To look at sentiment metrics specific to mobile, track the following:

  • Willingness to recommend (or NPS): Will the customer give your company a word-of-mouth recommendation?
  • In-app ratings and reviews: What feedback are customers leaving you through the app stores?
  • Social monitoring: What do customers say about your brand across their social channels?
  • Direct customer feedback: What thoughts and feedback do customers share directly with your company?

The more sentiment analysis you can do early on, the more you’ll learn about your mobile MVPs, and the easier it will be to interact with them one-on-one. Which leads us to our next section….

Step 2: Activate Your MVPs

Now that you’ve identified your mobile MVPs, it’s time to activate them. MVP customers look different for every company, but there are a few common strategies to implement in order to encourage engagement, feedback, and ultimately, loyalty.


Targeting helps you interact intelligently with the right customers, at the right place, and at the right time. Treating customers with a personal touch is important to growing any customer segment, but it’s especially important to activate and nurture your MVPs.

Customer targeting

We’ve talked at length about finding the right place and time to engage with mobile customers (see our targeting guide for best practices). There are three categories for every in-app action app publishers should focus on to better engage with groups of targeted customers:

  1. Who: The first decision you must make is who should be targeted. You can make this decision based on a number of attributes, including custom person and device data, actions people have taken within the app, and which interactions they have or have not seen in the past.
  2. Where: Once you determine who should be eligible for a particular interaction, you need to choose the place at which customers will see the interaction. Interactions should never disrupt the customer from using the app for their intended purpose, so it’s important to be cognizant of customer behavior when engaging in-app.
  3. How often: Lastly, you must consider how often to display the interaction. The frequency in which you engage with customers in-app should be dependent on the interaction as well as the customer receiving it.

Asking who, where, and how often will help guide you to the best locations to place your interactions in order to encourage maximum engagement from your customers.

Personalized messaging

Personalized messaging, like one-to-one marketing, is the manifestation of how we incorporate everything we know about our customers’ loves, likes, and dislikes into their mobile app experience. Using customer insights, mobile analytics, and customer journey mapping, we can design a marketing strategy that puts our customers first.

There are two major strategic components for putting together a world-class personalized messaging plan:

  1. Deep audience segmentation: Is your message one that everyone has to see, or is it one that only applies only to a particular segment of your customers? When you segment your message by audience, you’re suddenly able to deliver a personalized customer experience. You now provide value to your customers, pulling them in to be engaged, rather than pushing unwanted content at them.
  2. Find the right “mobile moments” within your experience: Our mobile devices are some of the most personal pieces of technology we own. Finding the right mobile moment looks different for every brand as the placement, timing, and customer segment the in-app message is intended for will vary due to endless variables. To start, think about the in-app message you’re sending to figure out timing and placement. If the message is proactive, it should occur after customers take a high-value action within your app (like completing a purchase or a level) rather than in the middle of an action. If you’re asking customers to leave feedback through a survey, it should occur at a non-disruptive moment rather than interrupting the action the customer came to take. The example below shows a survey prompt while a customer is attempting to complete a purchase—in other words, the wrong mobile moment for an in-app message.

Special access

Nothing makes a customer feel loved than getting special access to your product and company! And when it comes to MVPs, these customers deserve the royal treatment in every way possible.

Special access will look different for every brand, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • If you provide software, give your mobile MVPs access to beta releases or new features, and be sure to get (and implement!) their feedback on what can be improved.
  • Let your mobile MVPs “cut in line” by being able to order ahead, expedite their shipping, or speeding up another part of your product delivery process. For example, Nordstrom allows its loyalty members to access their annual sales a day before the rest of their shoppers. Talk about a win-win!
  • Give special discounts on in-app purchases, shipping, or any other monetary transaction your mobile MVPs can take. Nothing says “thank you” like saving your customers a few bucks. :)
  • Celebrate with them! Your customers are human, and there’s no better way to make connections than by celebrating person to person. Remember to say happy birthday, celebrate customer “anniversaries,” and reach out around the holidays.

Validate feedback

Customers who leave feedback drive your business forward, and every piece of feedback whether it is praise or criticism should be valued, and then validated. Feedback from every customer is important, but feedback from your MVPs is especially important. The more you can let this group of customers know they have been heard and that their suggestion (especially the time it took to give it!) was appreciated, the happier they’ll be.

There are a few rules to follow when validating mobile MVP customer feedback:

  • Say thank you: Always respond with a “thank you,” even if the feedback was incredibly rude or it was something you have heard a million times.
  • Follow up: Always be sure to follow up with your customers after they leave feedback with another thank you, the status of their request, etc. For customers who may have had a larger issue, consider giving them something for free for their time.
  • Be honest: Sometimes it’s not possible to solve a problem on the spot. If a customer leaves feedback around an issue that can’t be fixed or is a low priority, be honest and tell them why.
  • Give credit: When there are updates or changes made to the app, give credit where credit is due by thanking your customers who drew your attention to the issue in the update notes. You can even take this one step further by personally reaching out to those who gave feedback and thanking them privately. Customers who get their problems solved become some of your biggest fans, growing your MVP segment!

Wrapping it up

Identifying and activating your mobile MVP customers may seem like a challenge, but it’s more within reach than you may think. If you follow the steps and tips outlined above, you’ll be on your way to engaging with—and most importantly, learning from—your most valuable mobile customer segment in no time!

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Director of Marketing at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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