A Branch Metrics Case Study and Mobile Growth Stories Challenge Submission
It was early May 2016, and I remember sitting on the couch inside my Pomona College dorm room racking my brain thinking, “How am I going to get those suffering from OCD to download my app, nOCD, without a marketing budget.” My business partner, who generally handled all of the company’s marketing responsibilities, was on vacation, so I was forced into action without much experience. Therefore, I did what many in my situation would do — turn to Google for help. I initially searched, “The most cost-effective ways to acquire users,” and then clicked on the first link that popped up, which coincidentally was a web article featuring “Hotmail.” I learned that Hotmail strategically grew its members by including a tagline at the bottom of each email that read, “Get your free email at Hotmail.” After seeing the tagline, users could click on the link and create a Hotmail account within minutes. I became immediately intrigued. That article motivated me to search more comprehensively into areas such as “How do you know if your link is acquiring users, “Link data digital marketing,” and more.
During my in depth investigation, I stumbled upon Branch.io. Although Branch was the top search result, I actually recall viewing other websites before Branch, such as adjust.com. My first impression of adjust.com was, “Wow, this deeplink concept looks incredibly complicated; I’m not sure if we need such complexity right now.” As a result, I turned to Branch with somewhat lower expectations, which became the set-up for a great surprise. Branch’s straightforward, visual guide of “what is a deep link” and “what isn’t a deep link” on its website helped me understand the main concepts of deep linking immediately, and, more importantly, intrigued me to keep learning.
Being very curious about the formation of Branch, I clicked on the website’s “About Us” section. That section posted Branch’s team picture which I quickly perused and was completely surprised to see my cousin, John Joe Smith, smiling in the back row. I was blown away, because I not only forgot my cousin moved to the Bay area from New York City, but also I did not realize he was a pioneer of the digital marketing industry. Shortly thereafter, I got on the phone with John Joe in hopes of learning more. I asked him a list of questions about nOCD’s digital marketing strategy and how Branch could potentially help our growth. His answers made a huge difference, and they gave me the confidence needed to implement Branch’s SDK into our backend.
Unfortunately, I was too naive to actually utilize Branch’s benefits until months after my conversation with John Joe. nOCD was not growing as planned, largely because we lacked a strong digital inbound growth strategy, rooted in empirical data. In retrospect, the most essential piece to any early stage company’s marketing strategy is data. Without marketing data, it’s virtually impossible to allocate limited resources efficiently. Early stage companies generally do not have an abundance of capital and labor, so it’s imperative those companies use such efficiently, or face closure. Thankfully, Branch helped us avoid this trap.
Because nOCD is a mental health app dedicated to helping people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, we assumed most users probably found us online, but we didn’t know how. Thus, we reviewed over twenty locations where users could find us in the digital marketplace and then used Branch links to measure the traffic from each one. We created custom domain links, (for instance m.treatmyocd.com/instagram) and dropped them in places including, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Linkedin, our website, our partners’ websites, our email footers, our blog posts, and more. Once we noticed some general trends from the Branch data, my team and I created a giant spreadsheet where we saw the positive correlation between Branch link “clicks” and “new users acquired.” We found that we had many Branch link clicks on the days we acquired the most users. From this correlation, we wondered, “What drives consistent Branch Link clicks?” The answer: it depends. We found on our social media accounts that the amount of time spent interacting with our community directly increased Branch link clicks, since more time spent interacting equated to more targeted impressions which then lead to more users acquired. We included each Branch link in our social media “bios” making it obvious for potential users to click on. On the other hand, we found our non-social media community consistently drove clicks without needing much effort from my team and me. However, in that case, there rarely were drastic spikes in growth, due to the fact that we weren’t able to control for our partners traffic. It became clear we had an active, outbound, marketing strategy on social media, where we could predict our outcomes (new users acquired) by controlling for the amount of effort expended on social media each week. Additionally, we had a passive marketing strategy, where we would place ourselves strategically in the marketplace, enabling users to find us by search.
Although the passive marketing strategy is probably more cost effective and scalable long term, my company and I had to show short term growth (to survive), so the active strategy became our primary focus. We thought, “If Branch helped us find our active social media strategy, could it help us find another strategy?” Our board member, longtime healthcare entrepreneur, Glen Tullman (CEO of Livongo Health), strongly encouraged us to directly market to clinicians. Therefore, reaching out to clinicians became our additional focus. We thought, “let’s do an A/B test and figure out the best way to get clinicians excited about nOCD and the benefits it has for their patients”. We first had to build a database of clinicians one by one, which was grueling work, since most mental health websites protect their clinicians against searching algorithms. Once we obtained about 5,000 clinicians, we figured our sample was large enough to test. “Strategy A” focused on cold contacting clinicians, putting the same deep link in each email and then seeing the number of clicks each link had daily. “Strategy B” entailed sending out a digital newsletter and searching for mental health clinicians one-by-one. The Branch click data and response rate showed “Strategy A” had little effect, whereas “Strategy B” worked brilliantly!
Because of what we learned from our Branch centered digital marketing campaigns, we have been able to organically grow the largest OCD treatment community in the world. Branch has shown our team that we don’t need a large marketing budget to be successful mobile growth hackers, a principle other early stage startups should embody. We are truly excited to grow alongside Branch.io.