Mastering cross-promotion for mobile game portfolios: Strategies and insights | Chartboost Academy

August 20 · Nick Schultz · 10 Min read
Still struggling with cross-promotion? Well, at least you're not contemplating whether it's the right tactic. Here are some sure methods for mobile games cross-promotion.

Find the answers you need

The time to be more strategic about growing your portfolio through cross-promotion is now. For one, the mobile gaming industry feels unstoppable — expected to reach a projected market volume of $209 billion by 2026. 

Secondly, we’re in a post-IDFA world which, in some ways, accelerated the industry’s consolidation. It may have pushed publishers to look for more strategic ways to increase their player base’s lifetime value (LTV) through cross-promotion. 

If you have multiple games, cross-promotion involves recommending your other titles to entice players to stay within your game network. A well-thought-out strategy helps improve brand loyalty, user engagement, and revenue. 

Cross-promotion also allows you to gather more insights from your campaigns and what resonates with your target users. You can use this data to optimize your monetization and user acquisition (UA) strategies. Hence, you continue to reach the right, high-value users. 

Cross-promoting your titles provides you with the following:

  • Targeting capabilities using first-party data
  • The ability to scale newly launched games more effectively
  • Retaining high-quality users within your portfolio

But cross-promoting games is more than just showing your existing users the other games in your portfolio. It’s about finding the right players through segmentation, choosing the types of games that will appeal to them based on gameplay mechanics, and timing the promotions correctly with the right creatives and messaging. 

If you haven’t used cross-promotion or want to enhance your strategy, this article guides you through what you need to understand and the best ways to implement a cross-promotion method that works for your mobile games. 

Options for mobile games cross-promotion

There are a few ways to cross-promote your games, depending on what platforms you already use. If you already use an ad monetization platform, you could start your cross-promotion efforts there or try using native placements. 

How to use ad monetization to cross-promote

Do you already promote other games in your app with an ad monetization platform? If so, you can easily swap out outside games for ones within your portfolio. Essentially, you are managing your cross-promotion campaigns by buying your own supply. 

Ad monetization helps you maximize your game’s LTV and entire portfolio. Using ad monetization to build revenue should be similar to promoting other games versus your own. For example, through the monetization platform, you can quickly show Game A through Game B in your video ads. 

If you don’t count your cross-promotions to earn money, you should maintain it lower in your waterfall. This is a way you can diversify players’ experience and keep churn rates low. 

When you add cross-promotion to your waterfall, you may experience increased traffic, higher CPMs, and improved fill rates across networks. Or you can run cross-promotions through your ad networks and pay by CPI (cost per install), which is more efficient for revenue generation and conversions. Going this route still gives you access to high-quality users and the ability to optimize campaigns as needed. 

Remember that many networks don’t differentiate between your regular ads and cross-promotion ads, which means the data that comes from these ads is limited, even though you’re paying standard fees to advertise your own titles. 

Another consideration is that you’re paying for your existing users just like they were brand-new users, which may complicate your ROI because you’re essentially buying your own ad space. 

If you’d rather not have to pay a higher price for your existing users or if you don’t use an ad network, you may consider native placements. 

How to use native placements to cross-promote

Native placements mean you create a promotional ad for a particular game to load on another game’s home screen. Native placements allow you to control your creatives and what you’re showing. Despite the control, with native placements, engagement can be lower, and you may have limited means to optimize. 

To do this, however, your team must develop an internal system to promote your games within your apps. Figuring out this internal system can be complicated and take up resources. You also need to think about creating an analytic approach to keep up with results so you can optimize quickly. 

Ideally, it would be beneficial to implement a cross-promotional method through both ad monetization and native placements. 

Player behavior: How to segment

Devise a plan to find the right segments you want to target for your games. Player behavior is likely to stay mostly the same from game to game. In other words, your low-value users who never make a purchase won’t suddenly start purchasing in a different game. 

Therefore, target players who tend to make regular purchases because it’s likely they’ll spend when playing other games as well.

There are general best practices for audience segmentation when it comes to cross-promoting. 

The ideal players for cross-promotion

Once you’re comfortable targeting the players who have made purchases in the past, get more granular regarding their spending behavior. For instance, players who have monetized, but their purchases haven’t developed into anything else and it’s been a while since they last engaged with your game. 

This audience might be an ideal segment for cross-promotion because they are likely to pay in the future but unlikely to continue monetizing in the game they are already playing. It makes sense to show them another title in your portfolio. 

It’s making the best out of a less-than-ideal situation — the user is shown a game they may like even more. Plus, the chances of making a purchase, especially to help them push forward in the game, might be the ticket to get them to make a purchase. 

Users that recently churned are also an excellent audience to target — refresh their experience and keep them in your portfolio through another game. 

Avoid segmenting based on games that are too similar

Choosing games that have too much in common poses the risk of cannibalizing your users. (In other words, you may lose out on original game players.) The same concept applies for games that are too different. For example, crossing a slot game with a mid-core RPG game.

To help minimize this hazard, find an equal measure of user churn from the original game and the user’s engagement in the new game. Also, strike a balance of segments and test to see what drives the most success based on your goals. 

Player segmentation tips

Before delving into user behavior and segmentation, divide your audience into smaller groups to increase the likelihood of obtaining insightful results. Here are a handful of tips to help guide you:

  • Segment by a specific feature: Divide up users based on games with similar game mechanics or concepts. 
  • Don’t put players in a box: Keep an open mind about the types of games your users play. For example, just because players are engaged in a match-three game doesn’t mean they won’t be interested in a puzzle or slot game. 
  • Non-spenders versus spenders: Consider targeting the spender group with fewer ads and avoid losing high-revenue players. 
  • Leave heavy spenders out: These players are already loyal to your game and, as a result, spend frequently. The chances of duplicating their lofty purchasing patterns in a different game are risky, so it might be best to hold off on experimenting with this segment for now.
  • Avoid targeting new users: They’re just getting onboarded in your current game. Don’t rush to cross-promote to them because you could disrupt their experience.

Keep an eye on user churn 

When you’re not cross-promoting games within your portfolio, stay on top of churn. But it’s imperative to figure out why players leave when you cross-promote. The titles in your portfolio are on the line. 

Consider the following reasons for user churn: 

  • It’s a bad experience because it crashes too frequently.
  • The game is too repetitive and boring. 
  • They experience ad fatigue from seeing too many of the same ads. 
  • Users’ friends all quit the game. 

Your churn strategy will be slightly different than what you would do when you’re not cross-promoting games because you’re serving up your own titles. When you start cross-promoting, test with caution and closely monitor churn within your entire portfolio and segments.

Timing for cross-promotion

After you exclude your list of high-value players, consider the timing of when you show other games in your portfolio. The keys to deciding when to show an ad are rooted in the placements, frequency, types of videos, and seeing what players respond to best. 

For example, you may show a new title after players finish a level or when the game has a natural break. Or you might offer a pop-up asking players if they enjoy the game. If the answer is “no,” it could be an opportunity to show a different game in your portfolio. If you know your users are about to churn, cross-promote so you can keep them in your portfolio.

Remember to carefully curate your segments — the audience behavior needs to correlate from one game to another. Connecting players and your games makes them more likely to try it. This can be done by making ad creatives that feel familiar with both games you are cross-promoting. 

Cross-promotion tips

Promoting your other games should feel fun and intuitive for the user. Once you’ve identified the right users and similar gameplay and features to cross-promote, here are a few tips to help drive more interest and engagement with your cross-promotion campaigns.

  • Give incentives: Offering ways to gain virtual currency — such as gems, coins, or free lives — can encourage players to install your games. You could include bonus incentives to level up in both games. 
  • In-app notifications: Use these alerts to grab players’ attention each time they go to clear them. You might show users creative from your other games and take them to the download page once they tap on it. 
  • Create a static button: If you’re using native placements, dedicate a button (for example, you could label it “Other Games”) that tells players you have more titles that may interest them.  
  • Send emails: If you’re about to launch a new title or want to give more context to why users should be interested in a specific game, emails can be helpful. 

Final thoughts 

Cross-promotion done well — by user segmentation based on behaviors, the right set of KPIs, and tools — can come with many upsides and be profitable. It’s also a valuable way to look at the overall performance of your portfolios, especially with challenges around less IDFA, real-time data, and the inability to get aggregated data at the user level.

Use cross-promotion to gain visibility into your players while reducing churn to competitors and increasing portfolio-level retention. 

Chartboost can help you with cross-promotion and maximize your monetization efforts.