The iOS App Marketing Strategy Guide

After a few app launches, observing many more, talking with several app developers and testing cool services, we’re starting to get a pretty really good feeling about what can be done to make an app a success.

We’ve been sharing some of it on our blog and great content from others on our Twitter account. And it’s time for more.

How would I go about launching a new iOS app?

What would I do to make sure it gets into people’s hands?

This post is meant to describe all we can think of when it comes to iPad or iPhone app marketing and launching an app.

[Upvote via submission and discuss on Hacker News]

It’s not a “secret recipe”, and probably not exhaustive. Each app is different, and so should be the marketing strategy. But it’s a good starting point to make sure you consider most of the options.

It’s not a step-by-step: some of these things have to be done simultaneously. Here is what’s covered:

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 on it. Create a twitter account if you don’t have one already, and consider creating a “pro” Facebook account.

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.

Twitter Chat for app developers

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.

On Facebook, you can join groups like App Business Entrepreneurs or App Entrepreneurs and Marketers where you’ll meet other indie devs and companies and share learned lessons.

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.

Take the “Let it goat” game for example: having tons of followers of Jack and Jack’s Vine account tremendously helped create some buzz when launching the app.

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 must think your iPhone app idea is great. But it couldn’t hurt to make sure of that right?

You’re going to invest a lot of time, efforts and money into building your app. There will be moments where you don’t feel like doing the work, moments of doubts, moments where you’re thinking about 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 get from that app.

App download estimates

App downloads estimates and other market info for 2 apps on Xyo.net

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.

It doesn’t matter if you’re building a seasonal app, surfing on 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. Find out what can be improved, what features are useless and cluttering the app and what’s missing.

 app reviews

Your app has to have something different, a unique approach. And you have to (do your best to) know that people will want it.

Your market research can (should?) also be done by directly communicating about your app idea and creating a landing page. Check out the Kissmetrics example in the “Online presence” part of this article.

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 want to acquire users to later on cross promote with other apps (already built or not)

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” or this report (if you have a game) 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 relatively explicit 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 thought off from the very beginning.

UX

It’s not 2009 anymore.

The user experience of your app is critical if you want its sucess. 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 (more on that a little further), but you 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:


Design

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.

Whether it’s in terms of user experience, design or your code, Apple appreciates it when you use the latest. Being the firsts to optimize for iPhone 5 or use Passbook gave several apps additional exposure. So keep an eye out for Apple’s announcements.

Users retention

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.

Now what?

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?

App user lifecycle

You want your users to come back and stay engaged (image source: AppLift)

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

And here comes another hardest part (yes, there are several of them).

All downloads spike eventually wear off.

Download-spikes-comments

A lot of app download charts look like this. You need organic growth, too.

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 it can not 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 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 it happens, you need 2 things:

  1. A great app
  2. 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.

App reviews and feedback

Be easy to reach (and have a great app).

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’ve dealt successfully with a request or problem, those users will usually be happy to leave you a great review.
So people can contact you directly from the app, you can let them send you an email or a tweet. Or you can use an in-app feedback SDK like Apptentive, Appsfire’s Appbooster or Appboy.

app feedback or review

An example of Feedback/Ratings SDK, here with Apptentive

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 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.

app marketing

Measure your app marketing channels’ effectiveness with Tapstream’s SDK

Tools like Tapstream, Yozio or Distimo’s AppLink let you do just that. For Android apps, Google Mobile App Analytics can let you know the same thing too.

Ad exchange

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.

app cross promotionA 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.

Inbound marketing

Your app needs more than a page on the App Store (image source: SEOMoz/Tapstream)


Website and blog

When? Now!

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.

Kissmetrics Analytics

Kissmetrics gets potential users’ emails, learns about them and their needs (MyAnalytics).

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.

App Sites

Build a sexy app website. Need some inspiration? Check out Appsites.com

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. If you do it right.

Copywriting

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.

Luckily there are several great websites to help you get better at it, like Copyblogger. When it comes to conversion optimization, I really enjoy reading The Crazy Egg Blog.

Here again, you can benefit from some experts’ advices on your copy.

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!

Display a visible call to action.

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

Once you got your newsletter going, keep sending email regularly (but not too often) so people don’t forget about you. Use services like Mailchimp and Aweber to send it.

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.

Twitter

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.

Facebook

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.

Google +

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.

Get Feedback

You have a great idea, you’ve done your research and you know you’re building the app your target audience wants and need.

That’s good.

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).

If you need people to test your app before it’s released, use a service like TestFlight or HockeyApp (or promo codes if your app has been approved).

App Feedback Inputs

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 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.

We talked about Ooomf before, and you can also take a look at LaunchSky and Preapps.

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:

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.

Localize

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.

app session growth

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.).

impact app language

A 128% increased in download volumes during the next week following the introduction of the native language (source: Distimo)

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:

iOS app localization

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?

No!

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.

iOS 6 Screenshots

With iOS 6, you need to get the first screenshot right. Like these apps did.

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.

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.

Identify who writes about your kind of apps and who are the best blogs to be covered on.

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.

Pitch Perfect

Knowing who to contact is the first step.

Pitch PeferctNow 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.

Don’t only sell the app, also 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.

Marketing 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.

You made (or hired someone to make) a cool and efficient video, now use it everywhere you can to promote your app.

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.

Do “Real-life” Marketing

To be honest, I haven’t had much experience with that.

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.

Now like I said, 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.

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 On 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.

Final Words

Marketing your app can’t be an afterthought. It is not a one-time effort either.

It’s about:

  • 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.

It’s really not easy.

But it can be rewarding, and you’ll learn plenty along the way.

All the best for your apps in 2013 and the years to come!

[Liked it? Upvote via submission and discuss on Hacker News]

Your turn now. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in the comments. You got at least one good idea from those 8000+ words? Share the post!

5 July,2014
33 comments
Don Hesh
Don Hesh

Great article. Just need to add Outside SEO and YouTube videos to the list. Because we believe Google SEO more effective than inside appstore optimisation in short-run.

However, I saw a TV advertisement last night for a ipad game. Seems like App marketing going to a new area.

RecipeTin App
RecipeTin App

Even as a virgin app developer, I think this is an incredibly useful article. Not only that, I have to give Sylvain a plug for the awesome promo video he created for my app (RecipeTin). It's been instrumental in helping get the word out, a 60 second video is so much more powerful than just written words. He was so professional, knowledgable and the turnaround was fast. His services go beyond just his useful blogs and promo videos - he's referred me to people that can help me with the launch of my app. Keep up the great work Sylvain! And thanks for all the information!

NBT
NBT

Hi there, We have just started translating our idea into design and expect to launch in the next 2 months. When do you think we should start our online presence (i.e, start tweeting, blogging,...)

Devisd
Devisd

Just stumbled on this article. It'll definitely help with the apps we're planning on releasing.
We've just released our own service for app developers and marketers too, it's http://www.rdrct.it/ , maybe you could do a blog about us and spread the word?

g_studio
g_studio

Why no mention of SmoothLocalize.com in the localization section? Its less than half the cost of the sites you mention (4c/word vs 9c/word), plus they offer a 0.1c/word (!) auto-translation if you dont have the budget to do expert translation for every country.

Using SmoothLocalize literally doubled my revenue overnight. I really dont understand why localization isnt a bigger deal, people are missing out on 60+% of the iOS audience.

asvaghasiya
asvaghasiya

Its very detail article. I love how its describe each and very points. we have few apps in app store in apple store and google store. We are going to launch one big game after 6-7 month of work. we are thinking that its good idea. can you please suggest how we can make that game lunch day very big buzz? I know you have explain in article all point in detail but we are small budget company and we don't have that much fund. can you please get us some idea how we can make it big buzz with limited budget? 

bookcreatorapp
bookcreatorapp

I agree with @lolchops  - I have just finished reading this article and I have half a dozen opened tabs to get through next! Really useful, detailed article, thanks for sharing it.

Kelvin72
Kelvin72

Great article, I enjoyed it very much. Now to read some of the links, thank you.

lolchops
lolchops

This is simply the best, most complete article on marketing a new app on the internet. period.  I must have opened 40 of the links in new tabs for later reading, all with GREAT content.  THANK YOU!

keith
keith

Thanks for this. Really, really useful information. I am struggling with the view about making lots of noise pre launch. How do you reconcile the possibility that someone( with more resource for example) could think wow, what a great idea, and then go and create something similar and beat you to the punch?

Sonu
Sonu

OMG !! I haven't read any post more detailed than this . Thanks for sharing :) U helped a lot :)

GenevieveNixon
GenevieveNixon

The heavens opened up and led me to this article!!! Thank you so much for such detail and recommendation.  I am a first time developer and serial entrepreneur working with a very small budget for a big idea.  I've designed all the wireframes, researched api and aggregation, etc... and flushed out the identity.  I have a clear understanding of my demographic, etc... and I knew pre-launch, launch, and post-launch presence were all significant stages to success.  But where did I begin? and Who should I seek guidance from? And, BAM! this article has inspired me to trust in the significance and importance of this app!!! 

 

I have had trouble with flaky developers.  An agency suggested ODesk.com, I posted an ad and have had significant response.  Conducted a skype interview as well.  Do you have any advice regarding outsourcing for development?

Can you suggest a timeline in which each stage should be conducted? (ie. pre-launch, launch, and post-launch)  

What's the best way to invite a person you meet to become a beta test user? 

 

Thank you sooooo much for this post!!!

SaurabhSaxena
SaurabhSaxena

Write blog posts about your apps and what you’ve learned. Share what you learn. I’ve learned so much from reading other developer’s blogs. Help someone else to learn if you can. You’ll get a direct benefit and feel good at the same time.

kevin
kevin

Another leading post about this area is this.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/22/reaching-10m-downloads-and-the-guerrilla-marketing-tactics-we-used-to-get-there/

The author said the approaching to bloggers were not helpful. My gut feeling is that I must approach to the bloggers who might find my social networking App helpful to them. They may be small bloggers. But when they post something if there are more than 20 likes/tweets from their community. That is a good sign. Your post strengthens my belief. I guess, it may takes 30-60 days to cover the aforementioned strategy for a newly launch app.  My another approach is that,  advertise in a particular iphone App which my App choose to compete with or can solve more problem than that app. This will be more targeted. Appreciate thoughts about these?

Kevin

SnCyril
SnCyril

Really Nice work ! Thanks for sharing this guide. Personnally, it seems obvious but to validate an idea, i also ask myself if i will use it and love it.

 

Nb : Belle maîtrise de la langue de Shakespeare :)

appdeveloper
appdeveloper

This is good article but if any individual developer do not have enough budget for marketing  or any services  then do any agency work on Profit/Revenue Share basis ?

lucianbk
lucianbk

Th best and most comprehensive article on App Marketing so far, keep up the good work. Congrats

JacePerry
JacePerry

Wow what an amazing post! Content was super valuable. And thanks for featuring me under the UX Clarity module :)  

stevepyoung
stevepyoung

Holy cow, that was a very detailed post. Thanks for sharing the great content. I have an app coming out and this was very valuable.

apptamin
apptamin moderator

@RecipeTin App  Thanks Nagi. Glad we could be useful, both with the blog and our blog posts.

apptamin
apptamin moderator

@NBT  Hi! Sorry for the late reply, it's probably too late now. I believe it's never too early to start building your online presence. So as soon as you have a clear idea of what you're building should work.

apptamin
apptamin moderator

@asvaghasiya I believe that for most of the things I described (except the promo compaigns and ads), you need more time and good ideas than money.

apptamin
apptamin moderator

@keith As I see it, you can also keep it secret, launch it, and then that someone will just look at the result and go and create something similar anyway. Just like with startups, the problem IMO is more about launching the right product than getting your idea stolen. There are plenty of ideas (sometimes great ones) but the execution will make the difference. But I understand your concern.

apptamin
apptamin moderator

Hi Kevin. I doubt you'll be able to target your app in one of you're competitors. I think that usually devs are able to define a list of competitors they want to block from the apps in their adss.

apptamin
apptamin moderator

 @lucianbk Wow, thanks Lucian. Flattery will get you everywhere :)

apptamin
apptamin moderator

 @JacePerry Thanks Jace. Hope you'll get to give great advices to app developers :)

kevin
kevin

 @apptamin you are right. A sale rep from Apple told me iAd only use algorithm to do their targeting. The minimum entrance fee is not cheap. I am surprised that not many leading iPhone marketing strategists emphasize the importance of personal relationships for developing viral market penetration. I guess perhaps, this is true. It is great to have it but it is not too bad without it if we can do all the things listed above. I Facebook about 50 of my friends and only got few replies. I think I need to find the niche network that endorse my App than general social network friends. A few true friends are great but it wouldn't help if they are not the target audience. Does this marketing experience common to super busy developers?

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About The Blog Author -

Sylvain

Hi there, I'm Sylvain and I've been working for several years on marketing mobile apps. With Apptamin we believe that we can help developers better promote their apps by creating cool app videos and sharing what we've learned...While learning some more !
I'm French and English is not my primary language, so you're welcome to correct me if I make a mistake.


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