As the app stores become more and more saturated, it’s difficult to stand out and not become a zombie app hidden from users behind thousands of others. In a time when it seems everyone and their mom are creating the best new life-changing mobile app, there are steps and initiatives available for all budgets that both indie developers publishing their first app and industry leaders alike can exploit to attain engaged users. Even industry-leading giants started in exactly the same place: a great idea, and an app for it.
“There’s an app for that”, and there’s also a perfect ad creative and marketing strategy. Mobile advertising campaigns can be tailored to optimize across each of these layers. Have a new upcoming app launch? Perfect time to launch a mobile ad campaign streaming demos and offering trial play your new product. But what other app promotion initiatives can be taken at each step to complement mobile ad campaigns? To achieve mobile stardom, or App Store recognition at least, apply multiple marketing layers across each stage in the app development cycle.
Pre-launch: prime your audience
Before your app even reaches the store, make sure your future audience is primed and ready by getting them excited.
Forums: During developmental phases, participate in forums in order to create anticipation of the upcoming launch. Forums and other sharing platforms can be a wallet-friendly back-door to optimize your direct market before going live. For example, indie game developers would benefit immensely from a strong presence in forums such as Touch Arcade, serving both to demonstrate competency and thus credibility, as well as to establish buyers Day 1 in app store by engaging the direct community.
Media: Discussing an upcoming launch announcement in forums can have additional added benefits, as many media outlets have journalists scouring in order to break the news on the best upcoming apps. While many more green publishers may feel more keen to leave journalist interaction to a PR partner, they can be equally if not more receptive to hearing breaking app launch information directly from the source.
Testing: Second to priming your app’s future audience, you should first test with trial runs in test markets. Using teasers and trial play in a defined test market, or a specialized app test service such as Applause, will enable you to identify potential bugs and optimize user experience per device with a new set of eyes.
Anticipate: A key factor in any launch is the ability to anticipate future needs and costs in order to ensure adequate scaling capability. During the key period following your app launch, you will collect valuable feedback from users. In order to please your new user base, updates will be required to ensure UX is continually improving and allowing you to provide new content, keep users enthralled. Updates and testing also require time and resources and must be strategically prepared.
Acquire: get a user base
It’s official! Your app is launched and generating organic installs, but you need to proactively drive acquisition during this key period.
ASO: The launch is a critical time, and any apps need to ensure they are “app store ready” This includes everything from the app store icon, screenshots used, description, keywords; even strategically selecting exactly which app store category you want to be present in. Even more importantly, once user interest is gained, hold their attention, listen to feedbacks during this critical time for ASO. Use any feedback as an opportunity to improve and better respond to user needs. For further information, Kissmetrics has insightful ASO best practices in their blog here.
PR: This is now the prime moment to have targeted media outlets discussing your product. Advice? Use humble personal beginnings to your PR advantage, don’t be afraid to contact journalists and media outlets themselves for coverage as they prefer being able to see the personal story behind the product.
App reviews: Don’t be afraid to consider working with app reviews and discovery sites such as Mevvy or GameZebo, there are both free and paid sites where users seeking new apps can read reviews and discover.
To the streets: Don’t forget to consider gorilla marketing to generate a buzz and promote discovery. The best way to get to users where they are; food delivery app? Speak to urban users on their way home from a busy day at work. Key to successful guerilla marketing is to appear, intrigue, clarify, and exit.
Engage: expand user base and drive user engagement
App launched, user base established, now you can sit back and relax right? Think again, as driving not just user acquisition, but user engagement is a key difficulty for app developers.
Ultimate goal: be front paged ‘Best New Games’ in app store for an instant sales boost, just make sure you are ready for the scale. Don’t be afraid to reach out directly to Apple & Google Play, who on their end have editors hunting for such apps to feature and would welcome the proactivity. However something of note, on occasion you must show that an interest has already been generated with download numbers and reviews in order to be eligible in the coveted featured app section.
Updates: Use each and every minor app update as a marketing opportunity. Citing “bug fixes’’ will not suffice to get your existing users excited about new and expanded features, so let them know what they’re getting straight away, and turn that user who downloaded but never used into an engaged customer.
Social media: Is your app present on social channels, where your users are already talking about the next app store unicorn? Establish a strong and creative presence on social channels, the best free communication channel with your direct users. Users are more likely to engage with your application when encouraged and recognized on such social channels, take example from the Ketchapp Games Twitter handle; the studio encourages users to tweet screenshots of their high scores, retweeting users best scores to give a sense of recognition for achievements. Hosting a recipe contest for the foodies, or featuring success stories from your dating app; using social channels creatively directly engages with the user encourages user retention, making each feel unique.
Awards: Many awards of prestige recognize new mobile applications of all categories, and huge international award events have emerged from the lucrative mobile gaming industry. Are you able to impress with your app’s usership, innovation, design, or social engagement? Then get recognized for it!
Physical evidence: bring your app offline and into the daily lives of your users. A mobile game can benefit from guerilla marketing tactics distributing toy versions of their app’s characters. Take taxi-hailing service Lyft for example, who ensures all their cars are equipped with their signature pink mustache, and giving out the same to contest winners featured on their social channels. This presence of ‘app swag’ as physical evidence in your users lives lends a buzz-generating visual recognition point.