Put Your Audience First to Grow Your App and Earn Loyalty

October 14, 2019

From a small Ukrainian village to Stanford University, our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Victoria Repa, CEO and Co-Founder, BetterMe, an ecosystem of health and lifestyle apps. But it’s not all about Victoria’s personal journey. In this episode, the discussion also takes a deep dive into the importance of building an audience and creating a product with them in mind. Want to know how to reach women or notoriously hard to reach Millenials? Victoria has plenty of insight to share on building a community around your app (even before it’s launched) and what it means to fail fast (and cheap!) in the mobile marketing realm. 

 

 

Peggy: Hello, and welcome to "Mobile Growth," the podcast series where frontline growth marketing experts share their insights and experiences so you can become a better mobile marketer, a growth marketer. That's what it's all about here. I'm your host, Peggy Anne Salz from MobileGroove. And on my watch, this series will introduce you to the people who know how to drive growth either because they have themselves grown their app and have a great story to share. Some of them are companies that have tools and technologies that you need to know about to grow your app. And in today's case, it's the former. We're gonna be talking to an amazing woman who has her own app company. She's gonna tell us about that app and about herself. So, our guest today is Victoria Repa. She is CEO and co-founder of BetterMe. Victoria, first of all, great to have you here.

 

Victoria:  Thank you for inviting me.

 

Peggy: I love reading about your bio. You are a very interesting woman. I mean, not only are you the CEO and co-founder of an app that we're gonna hear about because it's really doing extremely well, but you also, yourself, you know, have built up, I would say, quite a profile. You know, you're a contributor to "The Next Web," passionate digital marketer. You walk the talk. You love a healthy lifestyle. You were at Stanford, Executive Program alumni. I mean, Victoria, tell me a little bit about yourself because, you know, it's probably an interesting journey that got you where you are. What inspired you?

 

Victoria: Okay. Now I am 26-year-old.

 

Peggy: You are so old.

 

Victoria: And about my personal story, I'm from a small Ukrainian village and my school was so tiny. I only had 12 classmates. And each lessons was barely 20 minutes long. Throughout my early years, I excelled at formal education. But I knew that to excel at life, I had to learn many more things outside of the classroom on my own. So, I intentionally became an autodidact, reading every book from my childhood. And I was lucky because I get a free education in the best university in Ukraine, it's Kyiv School of Economics founded by George Soros. And then, as a great student, I was joined to the big corporation, it's in FMCG sector, it was Procter & Gamble. And I work as finance manager. It's really different from digital marketing.

 

And after one year, I get really good experience in project management in product. And I just understand that for me, it's a little bit boring to develop companies at 180 years on the market. So, after one year, I want try something new. I saw that big company accelerator in my country is Genesis, that provides product and marketing education, like product marketing school. So I joined. And then as the best student, switched to that big media project in this company. And from the first day, I work with some of the co-founder of this big company. And when the idea of BetterMe was born, I become the first employee and then CEO and co-founder of this business.

 

Peggy: I'm gonna ask you more about that in just a moment. But I'm also interested, Victoria, in how you got your head around, you know, apps, app marketing. You started, as you said, you have, you know, a track record at P&G old company, you know, and now you've got new company, which is, you know, mobile-first app companies, they're always exciting. What was it? Was it just a massive interest in mobile and apps, or what got you to that space?

 

Victoria: I'm mostly interesting to do something that's valuable to people and something job that I have feedback immediately. Digital marketing gives great opportunity if you want to grow as fast as possible. So, I just understood if you want to grow your career as fast as possible, you just want to join through the company, through the industry, that will grow as fast as possible. So, it's hard to build career in the industry that does not grow. And I understood, oh, it's IT, it's okay digital, it's interesting for me, and I just start.

 

Peggy: Now, I'm hearing that a lot in the marketplace. You know, a lot of people I ask who have app companies or do UA, they say, "You know what I love? I love that everything is at the speed of change. You know, it's just never boring. You're never gonna come in the office and see the same thing twice. It's always moving. Always gotta watch your data, data is always moving, segmentation moving, everything, nothing dull at all." And, of course, your app is so focused on our personal lifestyle. So, even that is gonna be fast moving literally. I mean, a health and fitness app, great area to have an app by the way. Tell me about BetterMe. What exactly does it do, for our listeners who maybe don't know about it and maybe wanna download it?

 

Victoria: Okay. If we talk about BetterMe, it was joint decision with BetterMe co-founder and my business partner, which is Vital Laptenok, after a couple of failed products before BetterMe. We decided to focus on modern day human problems while working on Genesis. My co-founder, Vital, and I noticed that rapidly growing demand for high quality health and fitness content in our social media. Because Genesis products have a really big media, Facebook pages and etc.

 

We researched the industry deeper and found out that 7 out of 10 people in the United States are overweight now, and 8 out of 10 will be by 2030. In the future, this will constitute a major problem for most families in the world. We also found that the fitness app market has skyrocketed from literally nothing to 500 million in just a few years. A significant part of the larger fitness industry will migrate online, including mobile apps.

 

So, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and try ourselves in creating something really valuable, something that will affect, in a good way, people. Will help them to become more healthier and happier. If we talk about BetterMe, what is different from other health and fitness app, because we understood that the key players in health and fitness cater to professional or semi-professional users. If you are on the right now key players. We, however, focused on providing simple, accessible solution for non-professionals, and the easy-entry in the fitness world. And it's just five-minute workout, just five-minute meal plans and etc.

 

And our approach is really unique, because our routine for weight loss, it just shows that users don't want to train and stop. And we begin from small challenges, from small positive steps. And because we mostly focus on non-professional people that maybe never ever go out to the gym. 

 

Peggy: Makes a lot of sense because, you know, normal people, first of all, there's a huge market of normal people, my being one of them, you know. And not everyone is professional, not everyone wants to do the full-out training for the marathon training. So, it makes sense to have just five-minute, you know, routines per day. I'm reading here and it might be a little old, so I want you to update me, please. So I've got within three years of launching, you reached the top five global grossing apps and top five of the US App Store category health and fitness. So, you've done really, really well. Is that where you are now or is even further along?

 

Victoria: Yeah. We may be now, if we now have seven health and fitness application in our health and fitness family, because we not only focus on weight loss, we have also fitness for men, we have also yoga, meditation, walking, running and etc., because we believe that if people start follow healthy lifestyle, for example, they start to run, in the long-run they want to try yoga, try meditation, and try something else. So, we provide the bundles and it allows us to grow stronger between our applications. It's also a good marketing point, because we build ecosystem of health and fitness app, not just only one focused app.

 

Peggy: So you have an ecosystem of apps, which is also a great model. We do have to go to break right now. But, listeners, don't go away because as you can hear, we have now discovered all we need to know about BetterMe. So the next part of the program, we're gonna be talking about how Victoria did this. How did she build an app that has reached such accolades, such growth, such incredible metrics? So don't go away. We'll be right back after the break.

 

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Peggy: And we're back and we have Victoria Repa. She is CEO, co-founder of BetterMe. Victoria, first of all, you know, a great sort of start into mobile. You obviously know what you're doing, and you've reached a lot. But what kind of monetization model do you have for your app currently?

 

Victoria: Yes. The key monetization model is now subscription, because now we are mostly focused on developed market. But in the long run, as we go to Asia market and LATAM, I understood that we will expand also, and also used mixed also. And not just LATAM, maybe also at e-commerce.

 

Peggy: That would be interesting. So, would it be e-commerce as like I can buy all my training stuff, my gear, that sort of thing?

 

Victoria: Yeah. Now we have about 300,000 active subscription in our application. And we understood that it's really big community and we can try to up-sell them some simple stuff.

 

Peggy: Makes sense. Very smart, actually, too, you know. I'm hearing a little bit about that as well, because you don't have to own the world when you have an app. It's good enough just to have a loyal audience. And then you have their attention and you can say, "You know, well, while you're here, you know, here's some gear you can check out. Here's other stuff." Because, you know, subscribers are loyal, at least for the most part. And that's a very good start to do that. How are you getting new users? Are you primarily organic, or what amount of your user base is coming through organic channels?

 

Victoria: Twenty percent, 30% now.

 

Peggy: Okay, 30%. And most people I speak with, they say, "Okay, we get our good users through..." not our good, "but our high quality sort of loyal, die-hard users through organic." I guess that was for you what? Social?

 

Victoria: Yeah, mostly it's social networks.

 

Peggy: And then a little bit of mixing in perhaps paid going forward or native. Native would work really well with you because of content and people love to read about how to be healthy, how to be fit. How are you approaching, you know, getting people when it's not just, you know, an image on Instagram, for example? How are you doing that? Is that also very content-focused for you?

 

Victoria: Of course. We have a big 20 people's team that's working on content. It's the best people that have United States education course, and also we also attract, in the long-term, the best coaches. And we now mostly analyze how people react on our content, what they do in order to... What special people do to lose weight in our application. Because except active subscription, now we have about, for three years, maybe five million users installs, because we've had some premium. And so for these three years, we just get a lot of data using the health kit and understood what people do to lose weight, and how they behave yourself to achieve their results.

 

And it's a long prong. We are now mostly working on artificial intelligence system that allows people to provide their correct meal plans and address meal plans in every day of diet, and, of course, workout and their content. Because the key problems that I know that everyone understood how to lose weight, but the key problem is motivation. Why you need this. So, we are, of course, based mostly on behavioral things in our approaches.

 

Peggy: So, some content that is motivational and also maybe understanding your audience with some, you know, behavioral points in the data. Maybe some psychographics, as you segment your users, you know. People who are easily motivated, people who are, you know, giving up. I guess, you use a lot of segmentation technology to that. Have you also gone very micro? Do you recommend that app marketers, if they have a lifestyle app, you know, how deep should they be going in their segmentation? You know, because I would imagine, it's a bit more...it has to be personal. So it has to be more micro than macro.

 

Victoria: Of course, you need to exhaust every day to be successful in any niche, to fall in love with your customer, and not fall in love with your product. So, if you want to fall in love with your customers, you need to understand as many feedback as possible from their... But we understood that now there's a really big problem of personal data. And we have... We are really neat before, I think three times if it's against it. From one side, we really want to help our customer. But from the other side that we, as clearly as possible, provide users that we use their information. And what is information, and in that way, and why, because it's really [inaudible 00:17:36], it's always sensitive. But if you want to fall in love in users, you have to understand about them, everything as they want to share with you.

 

Peggy: Yup. It's always that problem. You know, GDPR, it's always that thing. Because people do want personal, relevant information, advertising, communications, but at the same time, you know, what is too personal? That's always the question. Everyone has to decide for themselves. You know, you've reached... First of all, you're a successful subscription app, which is itself quite an accomplishment. You know, not everyone can make it. Not every app can be a subscription app. What would you say is your proudest achievement or campaign to date? I mean, what is it where you say, "You know, we did really well, I'm really pleased," and maybe share with us a little bit about how you did that.

 

Victoria: Every day, I just understand that it's just on the start. And maybe it's okay that I achieve, this small Ukrainian girl from the village, but it's not achievement really in the big global space. And BetterMe now, it's not the global company and everyone tell about it like Uber or Airbnb. And so, I understood that it's great start for me and for company, but it's just only a start. And about achievement, yes, it's great that I try to reach from parent company. As for me was that, yes, because for me, it's not a good space company now. I like fail fast and cheap. I like test and learn. I like... Speed is everything. And okay if people love corporation space, but I understood that I love more startup atmosphere. And it's great that I test and learn what is best for me.

 

Peggy: Let's talk about that then, Victoria. I mean, great company, but also it helps to be able to fail and move on. What would you say is your...not your greatest personal failure per se, but the failure that you learned the most from? And how did you learn? What did you learn?

 

Victoria: I hope the key challenge for me, it's my team. Because now in BetterMe, about 70 people, and we'll grow as fast as possible. And as you understood, I was just finance manager. I have no previous management experience. And as a key, my problems will be in team management, as I understood now. Because in some places I want to be good manager, I want to become family, but now I understood that I'm just...we are not family, we're a sport team, and I'm trainer, and if I want to win this game, I should be open and change any players if they are bad players. Because great people, it's not professional.

 

Peggy: So, let's take a step back for a moment. So, it's one thing to grow your app, grow your company, but it's another to be able to be flexible enough to say, "Okay, when this isn't working, I've gotta do something, and I've gotta do something else quickly." That's all about, you know, fail fast, learn. You like to test and learn, but fail cheap and fast. I'm seeing this as part of your strategy in digital marketing. Do you wanna elaborate on that? What do you mean by fail cheap and fast?

 

Victoria: Yeah, especially when I reach to digital marketing, I understood that it's [inaudible 00:21:28] because you can try any campaign, any idea in messages, in creatives, in audience, and get result on the next day, just one day. And you spend maybe $10, $20, on this test. And about fail fast and cheap, I just communicate to my team the key culture. If we understood that some test, it's not too expensive for us, we just not discuss it, we just test. Because the more key failure we will do, we have only two outcomes. The first outcomes is success. The second outcomes is in learning.

 

Fail fast and cheap allows us learn as fast as possible, faster than our competitors. Because I suppose that key problem will start in company, in team, when they understood that everything we know and start to test, especially digital world. In the last year, company will die.

 

Peggy: Well, you know, that makes a lot of sense. Because I'm hearing that more in the marketplace as well, that no matter what you do, just having the data one way or another is a win. So if something doesn't work, then you have the data that says, "Hey, this doesn't work." Or you have other data around your audience and behavior. Either way, a positive or a negative is good. Because it just adds to that pool of data and helps you understand your audience. You say, as long as it's not too expensive. I'm just curious, Victoria, I mean, how much is too much? What kind of expense... You know, you don't have to tell me exactly the amount, but, you know, it's good to know how a marketer should make a choice between what's worth it and what isn't.

 

Victoria: I suppose if it's just 1% or 2% of your revenue, it's okay. But I hope that everyone should understand there are risky factor. When I was 2 years old, for me risky is maybe $500. Now it's maybe add something, another zero. But it depends on the total revenue. Every CEO, every team leaders need to understand the risk. And it's not the risk, it's payment for your education, because team must every time learn, and learning by doing, not just only to read good books.

 

Peggy: No, absolutely agree with that. I mean, you talk about content being so key to your marketing as well. I mean, how do you tell if content is flying or failing? I'd love to understand a little bit more about how you judge, since you've also told us, you know, 1% to 2% is okay to be sort of, you know, experimenting. What tells you when you've done something really well or you haven't? What KPIs tell you success or failure?

 

Victoria: If we talk about social media content, I know that in social media, we only have between one and three seconds to capture the user's attention as they scroll through their newsfeed. So, we need to brand the messages, but at the same time, it's as simple as possible for the customer brain to absorb it. If we talk about success, we used only analyticals tools to decision-making and observing how many shares our post have compared to average post engagement. Because trend is fast, it's crucial metrics. And, of course, we have installs and etc, but the key point, if we provide something valuable, inspiring, educational for people, they want to share with a friend, to share with yourself, and hope its content is really useful for them, not just like. And sometimes people don't want to show what they like.

 

Peggy: What about, you know, part of your audience. So you've got an ecosystem of apps, which means you appeal to a large number of users. You know, not just female, not just millennial, male, everyone, you have something for everyone, which is great. And I'm gonna have to check out your app as well after the show. So, just at a high level, could you give our listeners some idea when they're thinking, "Oh, I wanna target women? You know, I wanna target that demographic." Because, of course, you know, we're the ones who are focused on fitness and lifestyle typically, I would say. Do you have any thoughts for just at a high level some dos or don'ts when you're creating or targeting women, what an app publisher should know?

 

Victoria: I hope in terms of how to target in success way, yes, about it.

 

Peggy: So can you share a few?

 

Victoria: Lessons is a lot because as I was a such successful, maybe a CEO in our accelerator big brother company, Genesis, that after 12 men, I'm only 1 woman. So I highly recommend it to have in support, or it's good if you are a woman, just your team members should be 50, 50, woman and man. It will be great. And then be human. Not only searching, not read books, just talk to people. Talk to men, talk to women, it depends on what you want to promote. In some cases, I just test on my mom or my friend's mother because it's a key audience. I understood how they take advantage, they are really lazy, they don't want to start and etc., etc.

 

Peggy: But that's some real advice. I mean, one is, you know, diversity in the company. If you're gonna be targeting women or creating content for women using your app, then my goodness, you have to have women somewhere in the company to help you figure it out. So it's like, you know, that movie, right? You know, "What Women Really Want." And you can certainly tell them as a woman as well. And running your company, how do you do that with your own team building? Have you then therefore, you know, made an effort to be very diverse? Or did it just happen? You know, how do you approach that to maintain this momentum inside your own company?

 

Victoria: I hope we just start naturally. And maybe as I understood the psychology of women, it's easy for me to coach them and help them to achieve their results. Because I know that men, in some cases, they can't provide strict feedback to women. As a result, they will grow not fast as men, because many men managers, as I have problem in my team, they can't provide to maybe junior women that feedback, and it's really bad situation. 

 

Peggy: It's nice to hear, however, that you're also mentoring or coaching women, you know, in your team. Where do you actually go or network? Or where would you suggest women listening in, how they should, you know, up their game as app entrepreneurs? Is there some place that they should be going? Something they should be doing to be networking? I don't know if you're a member of any organizations or Slack channels. What would your tip be to them, if they wanna be ultimately like you?

 

Victoria: I suppose that mentorship is very popular now and it's a great thing. But you really shouldn't wait for someone to come and teach you stuff. Make things happen, don't let the lack of teachers in your life stop you from achieving your goals. And you just go to the conference and see someone, that will be better than hearing something. And you just go to them and just ask for coaching. Okay, maybe 50% say, "Oh, no," but maybe just, you'll get only 1% that say, "Yes, it will change my life."

 

Peggy: And, of course, you're speaking at a Mobile Growth Summit event as well coming up in New York City. Is that your first, or are you now making sort of Mobile Growth Summit part of your calendar?

 

Victoria: No, it's part of my calendar because I should go to some business partners, to the United States. So it's strict for two weeks for me.

 

Peggy: So, during that time, you know, listeners might be able to catch up with you at the event. But in the meantime, if they love what they're hearing and they're saying, "Wow, you know, I can learn a lot from Victoria," or, "I can learn about subscription apps." Or, "Hey, I just wanna connect with you at some level," maybe they can also, in the other direction also, offer some coaching, whatever. If they just wanna reach out and connect, what's the best way to do it?

 

Victoria: It's Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, I'm everywhere. If they want to share experience or to learn from each other, because we really don't know what we don't know.

 

Peggy: I love it. I love that, Victoria. That is so true. And we're gonna have some notes in our show notes about how people can connect with you. And, of course, you're gonna be speaking in New York. We'll have your video later on the YouTube channel. Plenty of ways to keep up-to-date with you. And listeners, friends, thanks for listening to this episode of "Mobile Growth Podcast." A quick reminder to visit mobilegrowthsummit.com for a complete list of our upcoming events. And don't forget to use the very special promo code, MGSPODCAST30, for 30% off of your offer. We hope to see you there. And in the meantime, of course, you can check out this and every other episode in our series posted on mobilegrowthsummit.com and on SoundCloud, coming soon to more channels, providing you more ways to listen in. So watch for that, we'll watch for you, and we'll see you soon.



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