Updated: January 22, 2016
After a few app launches of our own, observing many more, talking with several app developers and testing cool services, we have a
pretty really good idea of what can be done to make an app a success.
…and now it’s time for more. We want to answer questions that we have received from readers, like:
- How would I go about launching a new iOS app?
- What can I make sure that people download my app?
This post is meant to teach you everything we know about launching and marketing an iPad or iPhone app.
It’s not a “secret recipe,” and probably not exhaustive (but we are doing our best to make it so). Each app is different, and so should the marketing strategy. But it’s a good starting point and gives you options that you can experiment with.
It’s not a step-by-step process either, some of these things have to be done simultaneously. Here is what’s covered:
- Build Your Personal Online Presence
- Validate Your Idea
- Review Mining
- Choose Your Revenue Model
- Choose Your App Price
- Choose The Right Name
- Start Marketing Within Your App
- Build Your App’s Online Presence
- Get Feedback
- Do App Store Optimization
- Get Your App Reviewed
- Market Your App With Video
- Paid Ads
- Deep Linking
- Leverage New iOS Features
- Lifetime Value of a Customer
- The Viral Loop
- Do “Real-life” Marketing
- Leverage Product Hunt
- Cross-Promote Your App
- Kill It On Launch Day
- Improve Engagement With Push Notifications
- Choose The Right Promotion Campaigns
- Measure, Improve & Keep On Marketing
- Final Words
Build Your Personal Online Presence
Most of your app promotion, if not all, will occur on the web and mobile.
No matter how you feel about social media, you have to get started with it. Create a Twitter account if you don’t have one already, and publish a Facebook Page.
Once that’s done, start using it. Follow/Like people and pages that talk about iPhone app development, app marketing (like us), great apps, etc. Get to know who is who, who has influence and who shares interesting content you can learn from.
Learn. Share the good stuff, so others start following you too. Interact with others and engage in discussions whenever you feel you can bring value. Join #appdevchat, organized by TapForTap every Thursday at 10 AM PST.
…and keep at it.
Depending on your app, building your online presence on social media sites like Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram or Vine can make sense too.
Think outside the box, and go where your audience is. We’ll get back to social media for your app later.
Validate Your Idea
You think your iPhone app idea is great. But it couldn’t hurt to make sure…right?
You’re going to invest a lot of time, effort and money into building your app. There will be moments where you don’t feel like doing the work, moments of doubt, moments where you feel like giving up.
You want to be certain that there is a market for your app, a demand. You want to know what kind of download volumes and revenue you can expect from that app.
You also want to build the app the right way. Do a thorough market research to validate your idea, and you’ll have a much better idea of how to position and market your iOS app.
Your market research can also be done by directly communicating about your app idea and creating a landing page. Check out the Kissmetrics example in the “0nline presence” part of this article.
It doesn’t matter if you’re building a seasonal app, surfing a trend or targeting a niche market. Analyze what your competition is doing (yes, you have competitors) and read their users reviews on the App Store.
If you don’t have competitors, that might be a red flag. It may mean that there isn’t a market for your app.
When reading app reviews…
Find out what can be improved, what other apps do well and what’s missing from the marketplace.
The best way to get started is to read the one and five star reviews. One star reviews show you what people would change about the app.
These are things that you certainly want to do well, because your competition isn’t.
Then examine the five-star reviews to see what this app does very well. These are things that you want to do well too, if you want to compete.
Tools like this can help you narrow down the reviews by star rating or keyword. You can also use iTunes to see:
- Most Helpful
- Most Critical
- Most Recent
- Most favorable
In some cases, the two and four-star reviews may be even better because they are actually providing good feedback, instead of venting their anger or simply expressing their existing love for the app.
Your app has to have something different, a unique approach. Review Mining helps you figure this out.
Choose Your Revenue Model
Figure out how you can make money.
I see two situations where you don’t necessarily need a revenue model:
- You’re building an iPhone or iPad app just as a hobby
- You simply want to acquire users to cross promote with other apps
Other than that, you should find out where you can get revenue from: paid app, in-app purchases, subscriptions, ads, selling a service or product. Or a combination of those. This monetization/pricing “guide” might help you.
Choose Your App Price
This goes along with the previous point.
You can decide that your app is free, and get revenue from in-app purchases. You still have to decide how much to charge for these in-app purchases.
If you have a paid app, you’ll be able to experiment with it but be careful of the image you give to your potential users. It’s easier to start at a higher price and do price drops than to suddenly charge twice the price.
The price you can charge people depends on your target audience and your app. Some people can happily drop $9.99 for an app (take a look at Audiobus for example), others (or the same ones) will be reluctant to give you more than $0.99 for another.
Here are two interesting posts on the subject:
Choose the Right Name
Choosing the right name for a product is never easy, and apps are no different.
My suggestion would be to find a name that not only sounds good, but is also very descriptive and contains a major keyword. If you have a camera app, you need a name that suggests photography and cameras.
When submitting your iOS app, you’ll also need an “extended name”: your app name and a few keywords (like a condensed tagline) to make it clear what your app is about. This is important so users check out your app page, but also so they can find it. Our article on App Store Optimization (ASO) and choosing the right app name should be helpful.
Start Marketing Within Your App
App marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought.
It’s useless to market a weak app, and there are certain aspects that have to be considered from the very beginning.
It’s not 2009 anymore.
The user experience of your app is critical to its success. Your app should be easy to use from the very first seconds (you won’t get much more attention than that).
Some argue that if your app needs a walkthrough, you blew it. It’s probably not totally true, but you get the point. People might not use your app like you’re anticipating, but you still have to do your best to make it easy for them to use the core features.
Create mock-ups, try different things and ask the right people for feedback. For your mock-ups, you can use tools like Balsamiq, Evolus’ Pencil or the really handy POP iPhone app (and some dotted paper).
Once you have the first draft, spend a few dollars and ask UX/UI experts for their advice. If you don’t know any, try reaching out to some through Clarity. Don’t expect them to do all the work for you (unless you have the money), but you’ll be surprise how much insight a 30 minutes call can give you. Here are a couple of experts profiles on Clarity:
You need a stunning design. If you’re not a designer, hire a good one. This, in my opinion, is one of the best investments.
If your iOS app is relatively basic and you’re short on money, check out if one of the cool templates at the App Design Vault could be a good fit.
Your design needs to be coherent. This means that the different parts of your app should have the same feel, and also that any visual asset you’re creating (including your app icon) should be consistent with your app design.
Details matter. Small things like sounds and how things move give a general good feeling to users and can make a difference.
Here’s an interesting article on the SPUN app design that talks about a few important points.
This is the hardest part to get right.
If your iPad or iPhone app is great and you market it right, you should get some attention. You should be able to get it reviewed, get some downloads and put it in people’s hands.
App reviews and high downloads volumes are nice. Congratulations, you got people interested enough to download your app.
Do they use it 30 seconds and leave? Do they go back to it twice and then never open it again? Or worse, do they just uninstall it?
You can’t rely only on push notifications. The concept of your app and the user experience have to be such that people keep coming back to your app.
Want to know how your app is doing compared to others in the same category? Check out this post.
Share mechanisms / Virality aspect
This is another tough one (yes, there are several of them).
All download spikes eventually wear off.
Getting in the top charts is hard, but doable.
It’s much harder to stay there.
In all cases, you’ll have to keep on marketing your app and giving it the attention it deserves. But that cannot be the only way it spreads.
You need users to become your marketers.
You need users to talk to their friends about it.
You need users to share content by themselves.
That means you have to figure what can be “viral” about your app, allow people to share content, make good use of social media via Facebook Open Graph, etc.
Those “shareable” aspects will depend on your app, and are key to its success.
Feedback and Customer Engagement
Having happy users is critical to your app’s success.
Having great app ratings (4.5+) and user reviews increases the conversion on your app page. The more people see that others like your app and are satisfied with it, the more chances you have that they will try it.
So you need 2 things:
- A great app
- A way to handle any issue users can have with your app so you can make it better
To identify any problems people encounter with your app you need to be easily reachable. DO NOT wait until negative app reviews appear to learn about a bug, a needed feature or app crashes.
Allow users to contact you.
Let them contact you from within the app.
Let them contact you from the App Store page (the support URL).
Let them contact from your website or through social media.
Once they contact you, you need to listen to them. Answer them. Act on what they’re suggesting (or consider it).
Do your best to turn an unhappy or unsatisfied users into someone that understands there is a person behind the app that can be reached and cares about its users.
Once you have successfully dealt with a request or problem, those users will usually be happy to leave you a great review.
Like we detailed in our post on app ratings, those tools let you do more than just receiving feedback. They usually invite happy users to rate your app and allow you to send in-app messages for cross promotion.
Some of them let you identify user segments and reach out to these users through push notifications or other methods. It’s a good way to have people know about your major app news (content, features, etc.) and have them come back to your app.
Don’t abuse it though, keep your notifications relevant.
Measuring User Retention and Learning How People Use Your App
Downloads are important, and a key metric of your app success.
But like we said, it’s not only about downloads. So you get good revenue from your iPhone or iPad app, you need people to come back to it.
You’ve done your best to create a great user experience and have a beautiful design. You listen to feedback when people give it to you, either online or in real life.
But people might not be using your iOS app like expected. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much time they use it, how many times they come back, if they share it, what features they use (and which ones you could remove)?
The good news is, there are many great tools/SDK (some of them free) that let you do just that. Check out our app analytics tools roundup to learn more about them and choose the one that’s best for your app.
Measuring Your App Marketing channels’ Effectiveness
To market your app, you’re going to try all kinds of things.
You’re going to get people to know about it through many channels. Wouldn’t it be nice to know which ones are the most effective?
By knowing that, you could decide what’s worth it and what’s not. You could focus on what brings the most downloads, or even better on what brings the highest revenue.
If you’re an indie developer or a startup, chances are you have a limited budget.
You probably can’t afford to advertise on mobile applications where users are likely to be interested in your app too.
A service like TapForTap will let you do free tap exchange: you simply trade clicks with other app developers. You show ads for other apps, earn credits and spend those credits for your own app.
If you don’t mind the ad banner (you could have an in-app purchase that includes its removal) then it can be a good way to spread the word about your app.
Build Your App’s Online Presence
You can’t rely only on the App Store page. You need people to find out about your iPad or iPhone app on the web. You need a place to refer people to (bloggers, journalists, strangers). And you need to build a community around your application.
That means having at least a website (and probably a blog) and using the main social media platforms.
Website and blog
Not only do you need a website (or at least a page) for your app, but you need to create it as soon as possible.
You’ll need one eventually for support and branding, so you might as well use it pre-launch.
Your app website should evolve. You can start with a landing page and a mailing list subscription form, then add a blog, then add download links and eventually add testimonials and great user reviews.
So as soon as you have your app name, its concept and a few screenshots designs you should go ahead and create your app website.
Key elements for your app website
Your app website is the place where you can show your app in its best light and pitch it to visitors, and where you can really explain the problem(s) you’re solving.
You want it to be sexy, easy to scan and read.
There are several elements you need to include (or at least consider):
- App name and app icon
- Devices on which the app is available (with app screenshots inside or a video capture of the app)
- App pitch: a short sentence explaining what your app is and why it’s a must have
- Badges of the mobile app stores where the app can be downloaded (the latest ones)
- Call To Action: mailing-list subscription form before app launch; download button(s) after
- App promotional video: the quickest way for someone to initially assess your app
- Social proof elements (once app is released): testimonials, user reviews, awards won, Apple features, etc.
- Key benefits and screenshots: should explain in more details what value your app brings and show its main screenshots
- Contact/Support info: make yourself easily reachable to both bloggers and users
- Social Media info: links to your social media accounts, Facebook Like button (to your page or your app), Tweet button.
- Press Kit: you might think it’s outdated, but you still need one
- Links to your other apps (if you have others, and if relevant to your app audience)
To blog or not to blog?
Some believe a blog for an app is not that useful.
Some believe a blog for a business is not useful either.
We built our business around content marketing and sharing things on our blog (and cool app videos). So you already know what we think.
For your app, a blog is a great way to:
- Engage (future) users by sharing your app’s building process, designs.
- Keep them in the loop about what’s happening: launch, app updates and new features.
- Share great content about the niche your app is in, your mission, or teach people something: a productivity app could have a blog with tips on being more productive (like Buffer does incredibly well) and a football app about major football news, players, etc.
The more content you share, the more visibility your app can get.
It’s a good thing to have a website and a blog for your app.
But if your copy sucks, then it won’t help much.
If your app pitch is 10 sentences long, people won’t bother reading it. If your blog posts are full of typos and boring, you won’t engage people, and you probably won’t turn visitors into customers.
In the same fashion, if the copy of the description on your app store page turn people away then you won’t make your app a success.
You need to make people want your app.
You might be awesome at coding and designing an app. You also have to get better at marketing and copywriting.
Here again, you can benefit from some expert advice.
Inbound Marketing / Content Marketing
Yes, you need to do some App Store Optimization.
But you also need people to find you on the web. You can’t depend only on the App Store as your sole marketing channel.
And forget about web directories and paying people for links. You need to start building and sharing interesting content so people get to know and find you.
I know, it’s easier said than done. And sometimes it’s hard to know if it’s working (it does take time) or what’s working. Remember what I said earlier about measuring your marketing’s effectiveness? That’s what it’s for.
Give it some time, it won’t happen overnight.
If you plan on building several apps for the same niche, content marketing is a great way to go. All the content you create can potentially benefit any of those apps! And when Apple changes its App Store again, you won’t suffer as much even if things don’t go your way.
By creating and sharing great content you’re also showing there’s a person/team behind the app, as well as building trust.
The Right Call to Action
Once your app is released, you want your app website’s visitors to download it.
Don’t make them look for those download buttons!
Insert the app store badges (they got better with time), and consider adding another one. If it makes sense, why not using new services available like app distribution via SMS or sending download links directly to people’s phone?
If your app is not ready yet, then your call to action is the subscription button to your app email list.
The Money is in the List
App developers still don’t use mailing lists enough.
Someone signing up for your email newsletter is someone you’re going to be able to reach easily, and engage. As long as they remain subscribed they give you the right to reach them directly in their inbox.
Tweets, Facebook statuses, or any other social media platforms can be useful. But the best way to make sure someone receives an information is still using an email. It’s your job to choose the right subject lines and tell the right thing so they keep opening them.
Although your email list is still useful post-launch (put a form on your website and blog), it’s pre-launch that it will have the more interest.
Before launch, put a subscription form on your app website and make it the most obvious thing on the page (see call to action above).
Here are a couple ways you can use your email newsletter:
- Gauging the interest people have in your app (no sign ups at all? Maybe something is wrong)
- Keep people informed about when your app is launching. Don’t forget to mention again what your app does, so they can remember you.
- Asking people for feedback
- Letting people know about a crowdfunding campaign
- Asking people to vote for your app for an award or a contest
- Letting people know about great news and milestones
App Store Affiliation
You know it, Apple (and Google) takes its share (30%) on each app you sell or in-app purchase you generate.
It kinda sucks, but you can’t do anything about it. And they also let you distribute your product on their store.
No matter how you feel about this, I’m sure you don’t want to pass on the opportunity to get an additional 5%. And not only when someone buys your app, but also when they buy anything during the following 72 hours on the iTunes store (as long as they don’t click on another affiliate link).
Now the thing is, you don’t contract directly with Apple but with affiliates, the major ones being LinkShare (US, Canada and Mexico), Tradedoubler (Europe & Brazil) and DGM Pro (Australia & New-Zealand).
That means you have to contract with all of these affiliate companies if you don’t want to miss out on your 5%. Fortunately, Georiot has a solution for you (in exchange for 15% of your 5%).
Once you’re affiliated with all 3 companies, you create an account on Georiot. They give you a Georiot link for each app, which automatically redirect users to the right App Store so you can get your money. That way, you don’t have to ask yourself which link you should be using.
Want to learn more? Check out this blog post and the Georiot website. The only thing you want to consider is if you’re going to be able to combine this with the way you track the sources of your downloads.
I mentioned Twitter earlier when talking about building your online presence.
A Twitter account for your app can also make a lot of sense. A lot of early adopters use Twitter, and it’s a great platform to interact with them.
You can use Twitter to share great content on your niche (whether yours or others’), your app news, or even for support (check out how Just Landed does it).
You can also use Twitter to reach out to journalists and bloggers. It won’t always work (especially if they don’t know you) and sometimes it’s better to do it with your personal account, but a tweet with a promo video can be pretty powerful.
A Twitter group like IDRTG (Indie Developers Re-Tweet Group) can help you reach even more people when you have content other developers should be interested in and major news to announce.
To optimize the time you spend sharing content on Twitter (or Facebook), use Buffer to queue up your outgoing tweets and automatically post them at optimized times. It even gives you useful analytics.
You can also use a tool like HootSuite to create lists corresponding to search queries: that way you can find discussions you can jump into by knowing when others are talking about your app or mentioning important keywords. Or Re-tweet what’s worth it.
Bring value and thank people for their comments and shares.
Depending on your app and your target audience, a Facebook page can make a lot of sense too.
If you plan to share videos, photos, or longer texts then Facebook is to consider. In all cases, you should create it and save the name.
A Facebook page can be a great way to engage your users and potential users. You can ask them what they think of your designs, questions about what they’d like to see in your app, you can share the good news, etc. Pretty much the same things you can do through your email list but status by status.
Don’t make it only about your app, though. Not promotional only. Chances are people will get annoyed and stop following you if your Facebook page is one giant ad.
Ok, I sense some eye rolling…
But seriously, if content marketing is part of your strategy to acquire users then you should link your blog to your Google+ account. It’s worth it, even if it’s just for that great picture of you it displays in search results.
Sometimes you can appear in search results for competitive keywords, if you are seen as an expert in your niche. Sharing your website links only takes a few seconds, so why not just get it done?
You have a great idea, you’ve done your research and you know you’re building the app your target audience wants and need.
But wouldn’t your app get better if you also asked your potential users for feedback? Don’t you think that you’ll create a better app if you ask your developer peers for their opinion about what you’re building?
Ideas are not worth much. It’s the execution that counts.
Stop thinking that everyone is going to steal your idea. Most people don’t really care, and if they do like your idea (or had it before) most chances are that since you’re building it they won’t. Anyone will be able to steal your idea anyway once your app is released (and they’ll even know what people like or don’t like about your execution).
So here is my advice: talk about your idea. To everyone willing to listen to you. Hear what they have to say, and keep an open mind when it comes to their ideas (I know, it’s hard).
Feedback Through Your Blog and Social Media
I mentioned it in the previous section, you can use your blog and social media accounts to engage people and start conversations.
If you have a “personal” online presence, ask your followers on Twitter what they think about your app idea. You might discover competitors you hadn’t really thought of (or found), and get interesting ideas.
Early on (once you’re committed to building the app), you should ask your blogs visitors, fans and followers what they think about your app designs: your icon, your home screen, etc. You have 4 different concepts for your icon? Share them with people and let them help you with that choice.
Feedback Through a Crowdsourcing / Crowdfunding Campaign
A crowdfunding campaign can help you with several things.
It’s of course a way to get some money for your development or app marketing.
But it’s also a way to get early feedback, gauge and generate interest around your app.
Absolutely no one cares about your project? Well, something is probably wrong. Maybe your pitch is not good, maybe your approach is not the right one.
You’re able to get people to follow you, they are excited about your app and suggest you ideas? You’re on the right track, and your funders are most likely future users that will share your app with others when it’s ready.
Don’t get me wrong, a crowdfunding campaign is hard. Especially for an app since there are so many of them. You need a good online network and a great pitch (and video). And a good dose of hustle, as well.
Pre-Launch Feedback Thanks to Third-Party Sites
With the growing difficulty for developers to get their apps in users’ hands, some “pre-launch” platforms have been created.
The goal for these websites is to generate some interest/following in coming soon apps, and let app developers get feedback on their ideas, designs and the market they’re getting into.
Feedback From Other Developers and People in the Mobile Industry
You obviously want feedback from your target audience.
But getting other developers’ opinions about your app is important too.
They’re building or have been building several apps, they try a lot of applications and know what they like and don’t like. They can share what worked for them and what didn’t, and what they think could work for you. They can point out flaws in your design, your pitch or your marketing strategy. They can help you discover a great blog that can help you get started or improve (like ours).
Share your project with them, offline or online:
- Offline: go to conferences, developer and tech meetups
- Online: interact on Twitter, share what you’re working on (and help others!) on the iPhoneDevSDK forum or the TouchArchade Forums, discuss on Facebook groups for devs, get advices from experts on Clarity, etc.
Don’t spend ALL your time doing that, but do it. And remember, sometimes you have to give before you receive so don’t hesitate to help others and try to bring value. Thank the ones helping you, too.
Feedback From Your Target Audience and Influencers in Your Niche
If you’ve identified a specific niche for your app, you need to reach out to people that are likely to be interested in it.
If you’re building an app around something you’re passionate about (great idea), then you probably know the forums and other online places where people discuss about your hobby. If you’re new to that niche, start looking and interacting where your target audience is.
Don’t spam people with your app idea. Start building a “relationship” with them early on, then introduce what you’re working on (with your signature, with a post asking for feedback, etc.).
Identify influencers. Know who is really knowledgeable in your app niche, who wrote books or who has a strong following on your topic. Then reach out to them.
Same here, don’t make it spammy. Don’t ask them to talk about your app to everyone they know.
You need to have a humble approach and ask for feedback and ideas on how to improve your app. Don’t make your email too long, and be respectful of their time. Offer them to test an early version, etc.
Feedback From Contests and Awards
Submit your app to every contest or awards you can apply to.
Not only these are great opportunities to get more exposure (and downloads) and perfect your pitch, it’s also a good way to get expert’s thoughts (from the jury) about your app.
If it’s a “real-life” contest where you have to present your app in person, it’s an occasion for you to meet with other contestants and people in the industry and get their opinion.
If English is not your native language, localization is pretty much a no brainer.
You can start with releasing an app in a language almost no one in the world speaks (like…French), but eventually if you want your app to be a success you have to consider localizing it.
If your app is built in English first, then localization can make sense too.
If your app starts to get some traction in its native language markets, keep an eye on how it’s doing in other countries that speak a different language. Especially the ones with high growth (like China, Argentina, Russia, Israel, etc.).
Translating your app name and app store page in another language can bring you some more downloads in the targeted market. This might bring you some unhappy users too, that thought they’d be able to use your app in their language.
So that doesn’t happen, you need to translate the app itself as well (and the screenshots on your app store page).
Localization is more than translation, though.
You might need to go even further and truly localize your app so it fits the targeted market’s culture and be well understood by these users.
Mark Johnson, maker of Hit Tennis 3, listed a couple potential benefits you can get from localizing on his blog:
Tempting, right? So how do you go about it?
First option is doing it yourself and creating a strings file per language.
Second option, as often…Is paying someone to do it. Companies like iCanLocalize, Applingua, OneSky and others can do that for you, from $0.09/word to more.
Apple recommends a few things in terms of internationalization, you can check it out here.
Do App Store Optimization
Ok, so you can’t count on just your app store page and Apple to bring you downloads.
But does that mean that you shouldn’t do everything you can to give your app as much visibility as possible on the App Store itself? And make all you can to convert visitors into users?
App Store Optimization (ASO) is maybe a bit overrated, but there are things you need to do and choices you need to make to get the most downloads possible. Some of them are common sense, but it never hurts to check.
- Choose the right app name and keywords
- Create a beautiful icon, coherent with your app design
- Select your best, most explicit screenshots, and consider adding text captions to explain them
- Write a great app description (remember the copywriting advices?), that makes people (who read it) want to give your app a try
- Improve your app ratings (we talked about that toward the beginning)
You want to make sure you’re not forgetting any aspect of App Store Optimization? Check out our handy App Developer’s App Store Optimization Cheat Sheet.
Get Your App Reviewed
If you don’t have tons of money to invest in advertising, then your app success will depend a lot on the coverage you manage to get.
You need people to learn about your app. And a great way for that to happen is a blog post or an article on a well-known website.
It’s not easy though, as bloggers and journalists are highly solicited everyday, and don’t have time to try every single app. That means you need to pitch it right, and to the right persons.
A Word on Paid Reviews
Some blogs will ask you for money in exchange for a blog post or to move you up the review queue.
If you decide to pay, makes sure its worth it and that it will actually bring you (loyal) users. Make sure that your targeted audience reads that blog. Because maybe your money would be better spent elsewhere.
Identify Your Press and Blog Contacts
Don’t loose your time and other people’s time: pitch your app to people that have a chance to be interested in it.
As much as possible, contact individuals and avoid mass emails. It takes more time, but increases your chances.
But don’t hesitate to target smaller blogs at the beginning, as well as non-US blogs. Guess what? There are tons of people with iPhones and iPads outside of the US. And it keeps on growing.
Try to find out about newspapers that could cover your app, too. Check out the most famous ones and find the journalists that write about mobile apps (tip: use the search field). When you contact “traditional” journalists, a press release is a good thing to have. Take a look at Muck Rack to know which journalist is talking about what and find some (US) contacts.
Check out who talked and talks (set up Google Alerts) about the type of app you’re launching. Contact them and ask them for feedback.
Find out if there are any specialized magazines in your app niche that could care about your app and that you could contact.
Knowing who to contact is the first step.
Now you have to make these people interested enough to read your email, try your app and write about it (some write before trying).
Bloggers and journalists receive tons of emails, but they can’t review everything. However, they are always looking for cool new apps and stories to talk about (it’s their job).
To do that, you need the right pitch.
Not only do you need the perfect sentence to explain what your app is all about and why their audience should care, you also need to make sure to include some key elements in your email:
- Your app name as it is on the App Store
- Who your audience is, what your app does and why its approach is unique
- Your app price
- A link to your product page (website) and to the App Store product page
- One or two of your best screenshots
- A short promo or demo video
- Contact info and Skype/Twitter IDs
Also, it doesn’t hurt to greet the person by her name, and to show that you do know what they’ve been writing about (or other things they’re doing).
When (if) they do answer you and are interested in trying your app, then send them some promo codes.
Check out our blog post on how to pitch your app and get it reviewed for some more information and an email template. And read the excellent book Pitch Perfect from Erica Sadun and Steven Sande. They are bloggers at TUAW, so you should probably read what they’re saying.
Sell the Story
Some apps have some pretty cool stories behind them.
Take the example of the 1 Second Every Day app and its Kickstarter Campaign. It’s an app with a cool concept, but Cesar did more than just say “I’m building this”. He actually recorded 1 second every day for a year, and that’s the story he’s been selling (and why he got so much coverage).
If you have an interesting story behind your app, don’t hesitate to tell it. Write it down, and use it when you’re contacting bloggers and journalists.
More than just your app concept, an interesting blog post about your app story and your experience can give you some good visibility in the tech community when you submit it to Hacker News.
A website like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) sends directly to your inbox topics on which journalists and bloggers want to write. Check out if your story and experience are a good fit, and reach out to them!
Don’t Turn Down Opportunities
If your app has some kind of success and people like it, there are chances you’ll be contacted by others.
As much as you can, send them the promo codes they are requesting, and accept to answer their questions and do interviews. You never know who will read or listen to it.
Market Your App With Video
Video is one of the most powerful ways to get your message across about your app. You might think we’re biased, but we’re definitely not the only ones saying it.
Done right, a demo video for your app can bring you several marketing benefits.
It can help you boost your app visibility, increase user engagement and retention, and get more (qualified) downloads. And that’s without mentioning branding and SEO benefits.
People are highly solicited nowadays, and they don’t have time to download each app they hear or read about. This is true for smartphone users and bloggers/journalists alike.
A demo video allows you to show in a very short time what your app is all about. It sounds cliché but it’s true: if a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a video can achieve. Here are a few tips to produce an efficient demo video:
- Consider your audience. Keep your app target audience in mind at all times when creating your script and video.
- Write a script. This will save you tons of time and will allow you to make sure the message you convey is the right one. Just like for your website, don’t hesitate to get feedback on your script (before getting started on your video). If you can, try to bring him some emotion and story telling.
- Make it short (between 20 seconds and 1 minute). You might be tempted to show every feature of your app, but the truth is people won’t take the time to watch your 3mn video.
- Focus on the benefits and and added value of your app. Focus on what makes your app unique and worth downloading. Avoid boring and keep things dynamic.
- Make it efficient. Your goal is to show what your app is all about, but you also want people to remember it and be able to download it. Make sure you display your app name, icon and a call to action inviting viewers to download the app on the mobile app stores. Displaying your website address helps, too.
- Keep it simple. If you’re not a video expert, it’s safer to keep it simple so don’t use crazy cheap-looking effects or complicated scenario. A simple structure like intro -> core feature(s) -> outro is most likely enough.
Some mobile app stores (Google Play, Amazon) have been allowing you to add a video to your app page for a while. And now it’s coming to the App Store as well with iOS 8!
You can (and should) also use your video on your app website, in your public relations efforts, when marketing on social media or even at events and tradeshows.
After actually trying your app, people watching your app video is the next best thing that can happen. Make the most out of it.
Paid advertising is becoming an increasingly vital part of online and app marketing. The good thing is that platforms like Facebook are still affordable to most app marketers.
Even if you cannot afford to do a full-time ad campaign, you can still spend a small amount of money to get some very valuable data.
For example, let’s say that you have a messaging app. In your ads, you can test messages that promote different features in your app.
You can run ads highlighting:
- Free phone calls
- Free messaging
- The best stickers
…and see which ones perform best. Once you understand what appeals to your target audience, it makes promoting your app just a little bit easier.
As time goes on, Deep Linking will become more and more important to app publishers. This is especially true for apps that have a lot of content.
Deep Linking bridges the gap between mobile apps and the web. When someone is on a mobile device, a Deep Link can send the user directly from a web search to the corresponding content in the app.
If the user does not have the app on their device yet, they can be prompted to install it. As you can see, this allows app publishers to leverage the web to get downloads, instead of relying on mechanisms within the App Stores.
To get a list of Deep Linking tools and resources, read this post.
Leverage New iOS Features
Every time a new version of iOS comes out, Apple includes new features that make iOS devices more convenient, secure and fun.
For example, in iOS 8, Apple introduced App Bundles. For app publishers who could take advantage of them, the keyword boost and increased value to customers provided a great boost in downloads.
More recently, the newest version of Apple TV provides opportunities for app publishers to bring their iOS app to a whole new ecosystem.
So keep an eye out for new opportunities because being the first to market is usually a big advantage.
Lifetime Value of a Customer
If you don’t know the Lifetime Value of your customers, you won’t know how much to spend on acquiring new ones. But this can be a tricky thing to measure because the value of a user is not always straightforward.
Our post on measuring the LTV of a customer will give you more in depth information on this topic.
The Viral Loop
A Viral Loop is when you give your users a desire to share your app with their friends. A common example is when an app gives users the opportunity to tweet their high score, to show off their friends.
Remember, Viral Loops usually don’t work on the first try. It takes several iterations to get it right, so keep at it and refine each part of the process.
To see more examples, read this post.
Do “Real-life” Marketing
To be honest, I haven’t had much experience with this.
I did try flyers and things of this kind, but with not much success. It doesn’t mean it won’t work for yours: some out of the box thinking might do wonders.
If you do try it, make sure you measure it (check out what we said above about marketing channels) so you know if it works or not.
You should go and meet other people at conferences, exhibitions and meetups. But at these events, getting feedback is more important than selling people on your app.
Exhibition booths can be worth it, if you know your target audience will be there.
To get more ideas for offline marketing, read this post.
Leverage Product Hunt
When launching a new app, Product Hunt can be a fantastic platform to get the word out.
How does it work?
People submit tech products that they like, and people in the community votes it up or down, based on how much they like it.
The site has grown over the years and is now one of the best places to tell the world about your new creation. But it’s not as easy as just posting your shiny new app on the site.
You need to be invited by a trusted member of the community. Another way to get your product posted quickly is to get listed as a Maker.
Someone in the community has to list your app and tag you as the Maker. Be sure that you use your personal account because company accounts cannot be listed as the maker.
Like any other marketing strategy, it might not get you a ton of downloads. But difficulty in listing products on the site can be leveraged for other PR efforts.
Cross-Promote Your App
This is huge.
If you’re serious about building an app business, then you should create more than one app. If your target audience is similar in all these different apps, then you have a huge opportunity for cross-promotion.
This means that even a free app, with no revenue model whatsoever (doesn’t mean it hurts to have one), can be a great first step to a second and third apps that generate revenue.
You can cross-promote on your app website (or the app page on your app dev company website), on your blog, on your email list, within your apps, by sending push notifications, on social media, etc. As long as the message you’re sending is relevant to people receiving it.
If you’re just starting and you only have one app, you can reach out to other developers with apps targeting the same niche (but not direct competitors) and offer them to do a partnership. You can start really small (tweets, in-app messages, etc.), and see where that goes.
Kill It On Launch Day!
Launch Day for your app should be the peak of your “marketing crescendo” .
All we talked about leads to this. Except if you went for a soft launch (or released your app in another country first – like Canada – to test the waters), this is the time you have to make as much noise as possible.
That’s when you should get bloggers and journalists to write about your app (if they post a link to the App Store directly, then make sure your app is actually on there – it takes time for it to become available worldwide).
You need to let everyone that showed an interest, gave you feedback and helped you that your app is ready: email list, Facebook fans and friends, Twitter followers, forum buddies, readers of your blog, real-life friends and developers…Everyone!
With iOS 6 and its new App Store, categories are kind of hidden. So unfortunately, even if you’ve done a good job and get pretty high in your category charts it won’t give you as much visibility as it used to do.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to try to generate as much “buzz” as you can and generate as many downloads as possible.
Get your app in people’s hands, get great ratings and build momentum.
Improve Engagement With Push Notifications
Push notifications can be a great tool to send important info to your users and have them come back to your app: new content available that they care about, a special offer, some cross promotion, etc.
Your users don’t necessarily check out your app often, but if they still have it on their phone it probably means that they decided it brings enough value. And you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to them.
Don’t abuse it, though, or they will soon consider you spam them and won’t want to hear about your app anymore.
You can build your own push notification service. Or you can use third party services like Urban Airship, PushWoosh, Parse or other alternatives. Some in-app analytics tools like Localytics or Mixpanel also let you do that, as does Appboy (mentioned earlier).
Take a look at their offers, and find the right fit for your app and budget.
Choose The Right Promotion Campaigns
Playing with your app price and making promotions is a good way to boost your app downloads and hopefully increase your revenue.
There are a couple things you can do by yourself so that people notice the price change of your app (and some robots pick it up), but the more effective way to boost downloads is by far using a third party who specializes in app download boosts.
This will rarely be free (although it can happen). And sometimes it will be (crazy) expensive.
But many of these app discovery apps have millions of users, and being featured (a push to their users) can give a great visibility boost to your app.
If your app has all we talked about here, then you might not only make it to the top charts (in some countries at least) but also stay in there for a while. Enough to build a solid user base you can build on.
A few services you might want to take a look at: Appgratis, Appsfire, Free App A Day, FreeMyApps, etc. More on this page.
Measure, Improve & Keep Marketing
There’s plenty of things you have to do pre-launch, but marketing doesn’t stop a few days after your app is released.
You need to measure what works and keep doing it. You need to improve your app so your users are both happy and engaged.
…and you need to keep finding ways to get people talking about your app and sharing it.
Marketing your app can’t be an afterthought. It is not a one-time effort either.
- Building the right app and building it right, with your target audience and user experience in mind,
- Finding what makes users come back to your app, and what makes them share it,
- Listening to users and other developers’ feedback, learning how people use your app so you can improve it,
- Building an online presence, presenting your app in its best light,
- Engaging people and generating interest,
- Optimizing your app store page so as many people as possible can find you there,
- Reaching out the right way to people who can be interested in your app so they talk about it,
- Doing cross promotion with your other apps or other developers’ apps,
- Choosing the right promo campaigns to give your apps a boost when it needs it,
- Keeping on measuring to know what works and what doesn’t, improving your app and marketing it.
Yes, it’s not easy.
But it can be rewarding, and you’ll learn plenty along the way.
If you got at least one good idea from this 9,000+ word guide, share it with someone who would benefit from it.
Your turn now. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in the comments.