With over 700 new apps being added to the App Store every single day, having a good app is only the first step. There is not one single strategy that will guarantee you success, but with an integrated approach that uses multiple tactics and strategies, you will be well on your way.
App Marketing 101; Crush The Competition And Rule The App Store
When you’re wrapped up with writing code or testing your app one last time, thinking about marketing it might be the last thing in your mind. After all, building an app is a big accomplishment. But it is just step one on your path to achieving your goals. Whether you’re building an app business or just want more people to buy your game, there are many powerful marketing tactics you can use – many without large budgets or special skills.
In this article, you’ll get a crash course in marketing tactics you can start using today to help you achieve the download numbers you desire. Even if your app is not yet live, starting early to spread the word will make your job later much easier. My goal is to fill your marketing toolbox with a variety of new options you can rely on to get more attention, customers, and sales for your app.
OVERLOOKED KEY TO SUCCESS
Despite its importance, marketing is often overlooked by developers. A recent study by App Promo showed that the developers who spend little time or money promoting their app typically made little or no profit on it. 52% had set aside no money for marketing their app and spent less than 5% of their time promoting it. As a result, 68% percent said they made less than $5000 from their app. Top app developers invested more effort and budget and reaped much bigger rewards.
With nearly a million choices in the iTunes App Store alone, it’s not surprising that customers will have a hard time finding you without some help. The good news is that by ramping up your efforts to spread the word using the tips we’ll talk about in this article, you’ll be ahead of your competition, who is mostly sitting back and waiting for customers to come to them.
Besides lack of marketing, there are other challenges on the way to making your app successful. By being aware of these roadblocks, you can design your outreach to overcome them. Top obstacles you might find are include the following.
Hyper competitive app stores – More than 700 apps are submitted to Apple each and every day. That’s a fresh crop of competitors to steal your customers’ attention. Competition for every type of app is fierce, and that goes double for games, which is the #1 most popular and crowded category.
Customers have little time or attention – Think about the average person on their smartphone. They’re probably not sitting down giving your app their full attention. They’re more likely to be surfing the App Store while doing 7 other things – riding the bus, eating, walking, talking. Big companies have big ad budgets – Your app is not in a vacuum – you’re up against some of the biggest names in the business. Disney, Zynga, Electronic Arts, and that’s just for games. They have big budgets and a staff of people who are not afraid to use them.
Low prices mean you need LOTS of customers – Lots of apps are selling for $0.99. Apple takes 30% of each sale so you’re left with $0.69 each. You’re going to need to sell a lot of apps to make any significant money. And, there are many apps out there that are free, relying on advertising or inapp purchases. You’ll need even more users to really profit then.
As you can see, the idea that you can just throw an app in the App Store and have crowds of people find it no longer holds true. But don’t be discouraged. Now that you’re aware of these stumbling blocks, I’ll show you marketing tactics that have been shown to get apps like yours more customers and downloads. When it comes to marketing your app, where do you begin? There are so many options, it can be hard to know where to start.
To know that your work will pay off in terms of more customers and sales, focus on the 3 key success factors that will make the most impact: discoverability, exposure, and traffic. Let’s take a look at each one and the specific marketing tactics that will help you conquer it.
Successful app marketing starts inside the app stores because that is where much of your audience is. Over 250 million iPhones have been sold and over 100 million iPads, giving users easy access to the App Store (and your app!). According to AdMob, the average user downloads 9 apps for their device each month, meaning many customers are constantly on the look out for the latest and greatest apps.
Yet, it can be difficult to put your app in front of customer’s eyes. Many customers rely on the Top Charts for ideas on what apps to buy – so developers naturally want to appear there. But a recent study by AppsFire shows just how hard that is: 99.95% of both free and paid apps don’t reach the Top 50 Charts in the App Store.
Since you cannot rely on the Top Charts, you should do all you can to maximize your app’s listing in the App Store or Google Play. It is your chance to make your app stand out and grab the attention of shoppers by making the most of each part of your profile page. You should pay special attention to your app description, screenshots and icon.
1. APP DESCRIPTION: Your app’s description – the brief writeup shown on its app profile page – can make or break the sale. A powerful description does many jobs: it grabs the attention of the reader, describes what the app does, and persuades people to buy it. Yet many descriptions are too short or generic to accomplish all this.
A successful app description at minimum needs several key components. This includes a well written opening sentence. The first things customers will want to know about your app are “what is it?” and “what does it do?”. Just like a newspaper article, your first sentence should sum up the most important benefits of your app and spark someone’s interest so they will read more. Remember, in the App Store, the rest of your description will be hidden unless they click “More…” so make your first 2-3 lines count.
Include quotes, awards, and testimonials. Your audience wants to know if your app is worth buying, and testimonials and quotes are the best way to prove it to them. For example, if a popular website reviewed your app and loved it, include a short quote and say where it is from. Also use a quote you received from a real customer – maybe in an email you received or in the reviews.
Emphasize the benefits. When Apple says “There’s an app for that,” your job is say what the “that” is. Is it getting organized? Saving time? Meeting new people? Make it absolutely clear how your app will help your customer by listing the most powerful benefits. Spell out the benefits in a bulleted list rather than long paragraphs so that customers can quickly scan your description to get the information they need.
Include a call to action. End your description by asking your customers to take the next step and download or buy your app. If they wait to buy your app, they will likely forget about it.
2. SCREENSHOTS: With the recently updated App Store, screenshots are most important than ever. They’re right at the top of your profile, even before the description.
To make the most of them, capture screenshots that will make your app come alive for your customers. It is a perfect opportunity to showcase the features, graphics, and usability of your app. Follow these guidelines to make your screenshots help sell your app:
● Choose screenshots that show off the best features of your app.
● Make it clear how easy your interface is in the images you use.
● Check to see that the text is readable and the images are rotated correctly.
● Upload all possible screenshots: 5 for the App Store, 8 for Google Play.
3. ICON: When browsing around the App Store or Google Play, users will have to make a snap judgment of whether or not to click on your app based on little more than its icon and name.
So, that little square image is more than a pretty picture. It could be an easy way to boost your app sales. You want to catch people’s eyes and spark their interest with a glossy, professional-looking icon for your app. Avoid using text in your icon (it is often hard to read at small sizes) and focus on a visual metaphor that shows what your app does in a bold and attentiongrabbing way.
EXPOSURE With any app, your top marketing challenge is finding new customers. But where can you find large numbers of people who are interested in apps?
For many developers, the answer is app review websites and the press. Sites like MacWorld, iPhone App Reviews, 148Apps, AppCraver, AppAdvice, and more are constantly writing about the latest and greatest apps – and, best of all, attracting huge audiences of readers.
For this reason, getting your app featured on big-name review sites is a top goal for many app creators. It’s like free advertising to a large crowd of people who aren’t just interested in apps – they’re actively seeking out information on what they should buy. Plus, customers are more likely to trust the opinion of these independent experts than reading an ad.
However, getting your app reviewed or written about can be a challenge. There is stiff competition and all apps would love to be front page news. Writers and reviewers get a flood of requests every day from developers. With limited space and tight deadlines, they can only write about a small number of apps.
With these challenges, how can you make your app rise above? First, know that a press release alone is often not enough to get reviews. Sending a press release is still an important part of your marketing toolbox, but you can’t sit back and wait for reviewers to come to you. Instead, seek them out and make your case. Follow these tips to avoid common pitfalls and grab the attention of even busy and skeptical reviewers.
1. Plan your outreach strategy: Before you start sending emails to ask for coverage, know your audience. Research the websites you will target and make your media plan in a spreadsheet. Ask yourself, “which websites would be most interested in my app?” not just “which websites have the most readers?”
These include more general tech websites as well as sites that focus specifically on iOS, Android, and app topics. But don’t stop there – consider the type of app you’ve made. There are websites that review only games, childrens’ apps, medical apps, and more. Some developers only target the bigger name sites, but they are usually the hardest to reach. Diversify your outreach plan by including niche sites with less competition.
2. Get promo codes: Promo codes are most useful when reaching out to reviewers. Just like a coupon, they let a reviewer download a free copy of your paid iOS app (and only your app) to try it out. When your app is approved by Apple, you can get up to 50 promo codes. Just log into your iTunes Connect account to download (codes are valid for 30 days).
3. Contact reviewers: Visit each website in your spreadsheet and contact them – many have a preferred way to receive requests, either by a special web form or email address.
If you are emailing, write a short and interesting subject line to catch their interest. Inside, explain why your app is unique, exciting, and useful. Reviewers want to write stories that attract readers and it’s your job to convince them that your app makes for a juicy topic.
Reviewers get so many requests that it’s easy for them to skip over emails that are missing something important. So, make sure to include all the details they need: ●A clear (and brief) explanation of why your app is unique and newsworthy
●Screenshot attached to the email
●Links to app in App Store and app website
●Link to a video showing your app in action
●Your contact information
●Promo code, if they ask for one and your app is paid
For best results, personalize your emails with any details you have about their website (how your educational app is perfect for their audience of parents) or them personally (how you enjoyed a recent article they wrote).
4. Don’t drop the ball: This is just as important as the first email! Because reviewers are swamped by requests, don’t give up if yours goes unnoticed. Mark in your spreadsheet when you first emailed them so you can follow up in a week.
If a writer does review your app, follow up with a thank you email for their time and opinion. You might release an updated or new app in the future, so building relationships with the press now is key.
What’s the one thing every app needs to be successful? The developers of the apps on the top of the charts know it. It’s traffic – that is, qualified and motivated eyeballs seeing your app. Traffic is crucial to your app getting noticed and ultimately downloaded. There is a direct path from traffic to customers to sales.
The simple truth is, you need large qualified crowds of people to see your app so more of them can buy it. Regardless of how you’re making money – selling a paid app, showing ads, or offering in-app purchases – you’ll need new users coming in the door to keep revenue flowing.
However, many apps in the App Store today are nearly invisible. They can’t be found easily with common searches, they aren’t featured on the charts, and most people don’t know they even exist.A question to ask yourself: “If people aren’t able to find my app, how can they buy it?” (They can’t.)
To boost your traffic, take a fresh look at the keywords you use. The right keywords will help users find your app when they search in an app store, while the wrong keywords can make it tough for shoppers to discover your app and hurt your sales. Also, using improper keywords is one of the top reasons that Apple rejects submissions to the App Store.
Here are some tips for choosing keywords that will help your app succeed:
●Don’t include your app name or company in your keywords. These will already be searchable in the App Store.
●Choose keywords that are specific to features in your app or describe what is unique about it. Think about how people will search for your app or the problem it solves.
●Avoid generic, common key words such as iPhone, app, or fun.
●Use all 100 characters for keywords if possible.
BIGGEST MISTAKES IN MOBILE MARKETING
If you’re like most mobile app developers, you can’t afford to waste time or money on marketing tactics that just don’t work. For people on a tight budget or who need to show a return on their investment (and who doesn’t?), your marketing choices matter.
This is especially true the tighter a budget you have, and if the app you’re launching is your first. There is less room for error and uncertainty in how you attract users and revenue.
Unfortunately, though, many iPhone, iPad, or Android developers are betting their apps’ futures on promotion tactics that are ineffective or overpriced. This is not to say that these techniques will never work, but for most apps, there are better ways to reach more customers with less money.
Overall, it comes down to this tip: when you create a mobile app, save your time and money by focusing on only those efforts that you can show are working.
Demand accountability from yourself, marketing partners, and advertising channels so you can tweak your approach or change tactics to something more effective.
There are 3 types of marketing that generally fall flat and should be avoided.
1. Unfocused and untargeted: To make the most out of every dollar or hour spent selling your app, focus like a laser. Target as much as you can on only those people who are most likely to buy your app. People with an iPhone? Check. Users who play games like yours? Even better.
The need to zero in on your best customers is even greater if you have a smaller budget. Then, you should avoid advertising that reaches everyone (think TV ads or ads on generic websites) and focus on places where your particular audience is (think iPhone game websites or sending press releases to people in your industry).
2. Not actionable: When someone reads or hears about your app anywhere – online or offline – the best result would be for them to immediately go and download it. If they wait until later, they will likely forget to look for it or not remember how to find it. Customers have lots of demands on their time and, although many love to find new apps, it’s easily pushed aside for other priorities in their busy lives.
To get your customers to take action and make the most of your marketing, give them the opportunity to act now. Whenever possible, make sure to put a call to action in your announcement such as “Download our app now” or “Try it today.” This works well when writing your app description, too.
And, give them something to do: put a link right to your app in the App Store or your website in your YouTube video description, Facebook updates, blog posts, and more. This even works offline: you can write your web address or add a QR code (which users can scan with their mobile phones to go to your website) to your flyers, posters, and printed advertisements.
3. Can’t be measured: If you’re relying on marketing tactics but can’t see the results, how do you know if they’re working? It’s often not possible to see exactly how everything you do translates into sales, but the more information you can get about each of your marketing efforts, the better you’ll be see what is performing. That way, you can focus more on strategies that are working and change or stop any tactics that are just costing you money.
If there’s no way to track your links online, try this tip: Use a link shortening service such as bitly. By turning your long web address into a short link, you’re also getting access to valuable tracking features so you can see how many people clicked on your link. You can use this to see how many users clicked on your banner ad, text link, guest blog post, press release, or more.
Your marketing needs to accomplish many things – get more attention for your app, interest people to learn more, and persuade them to buy. No one marketing strategy can do it all by itself. But by combining a variety of the tips and tactics we have looked at in this article, you will build a powerful, widereaching campaign that will keep building on itself, gaining momentum and achieving success.
About the Author: Matt Palmer is the Chief Marketing Officer at AppClover, and a regular contributor to App Developer Magazine.