After graduating from The University of Leeds with a degree in Spanish and Italian, the last sector I thought I would be working in is tech. On the day I came back from Uni I was presented with a potential project for an events app, YADA, and I couldn’t say no. I wasn’t quite ready to leave learning behind, but I also wasn’t ready for the speed at which I would have to learn everything I possibly could about the app world. Fast-forward a year (where I slept very little, drank a hell of a lot of coffee and ended up with glasses from looking at multiple screens too much), we are official partners with multiple events companies across the county, were selected to be a part of The Collision Conference in New Orleans and are ready for the next stage of development.
By no means do I claim to be an expert in this ever-changing and fast-paced field, but I can learn from my mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future. Here are some of my tips on how to market an app based on said mistakes and the things we found worked for us as a company.
How to market an app
The App Stores are saturated with apps that are trying to cling on to the success of one of the top 200 über successful mobile applications. Uber is actually the best example of this as there are multiple companies that are trying to be the Uber for X. As mentioned, we went to Collision Conference in New Orleans this year and it seemed everyone was the Uber or Tinder for something. I agree that it may be an easy way to get across exactly what your app does by comparing yourself to something that is already known, however, sometimes this can just come across as lazy, unimaginative and at times confusing. The best (worst) tagline I heard during the 3-day conference was “we are the Candy Crush for Groupon” … Confused? Don’t worry, I'm still trying to figure out what that means. Needless to say, I haven’t heard from him or seen his app since.
Now that you have your fabulous and unique app idea it is about setting up the launch. This is where the marketing really comes into play as once you start spreading the word about your product, it is very hard to change major things later on. Brand consistency is key when launching a new app as there are so many different types of apps being released every single day and trust me, all of them believe they can solve a real problem. You may find that a lot of them are probably trying to solve a similar problem to you but don’t let this put you off.
When launching an app, less is more. The way to keep people interested is to build the anticipation and excitement before you release your app so that by the time you do pop it into the stores, your user base is ready and hungry to see the first version of the product. We made a mistake when we launched the first version of yada because we rushed to get our app out there and didn’t spend enough time planning our launch strategy. The team have learnt a lot since then and when we launch our next generation of the app, we will be doing things a little differently. My top 3 tips that I have picked up for a successful launch strategy are:
- Build a microsite / teaser website a couple of months before your launch which shows a little more than a landing page but less than a full website and ask people to sign up to a mailing list to find out more.
- Create lots of collateral such as a product video (I would suggest a 10 second, 30 second and full version but keep the full version less than a few minutes), blogs, podcasts, case studies and how-to guides.
- Organise a press strategy and build a list of journalists, publications, bloggers and app review sites that would be interested in writing about your app. Put together a press pack with your company overview, founder photos, logos, previous press mentions and product screenshots / your video so that you have everything to hand should you be asked for it.
It is no secret that app marketing and social media go hand in hand but the most important thing when you market your app is to find the right social media for you and your target audience. For example, if you are launching a wedding app or an events app like ours, social media such as Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat are perfect; they are highly visual, interactive and allow us to showcase the events that we attend or partner up with in a fun, personable way. Our brand image across all of our various social media sites is youthful, engaging and approachable because that is how we want to be seen as a company. However, if you were an app related to finance or something more corporate such as a recruitment, jobsite or referral app, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may be more useful and produce higher results.
Try not to get sucked in to social media advertising too soon, especially if you haven’t done a lot of A/B testing and asked a focus group for some feedback. Although the costs may be small, the impact of your advert within a newsfeed is even smaller and your advert will only be seen by a small percentage of your target audience. Top apps such as Airbnb have huge marketing budgets. In 2015 their marketing budget in the US alone was $18.9 million so unless you have a lot of money set aside for a huge campaign, I would think about the ROI on social media advertising before you dive into the tempting blue waters of Facebook & Twitter Ads.
There are lots of ways to market your app on social media without spending a penny, all it takes is a little creative thinking. If you are building an app for a particular group of people such as event professionals, why not join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn rather than target them through advertising? Joining groups is free and they give you access to a large number of potential customers. The majority of people within these groups tend to post about products they are looking for or networking events that they are attending, bringing you the opportunity to promote your app via social media and in person. If you can’t find a group related to your app then start one yourself and if no one asks to join, then perhaps you may need to question whether your app is going to appeal to a large user base.
To successfully market your app, you have to think outside of the box, particularly in 2016 when 1000 apps are submitted to the Apple App Store every day. If your idea is really something to shout about and you know that it is going to be a success, then there are numerous ways that you can create a buzz around it. Participating in app awards is becoming increasingly popular and I highly recommend that you take advantage of it as you can win exposure, reviews, press and plenty of downloads. Plus, having an award under your belt is a great asset when approaching investors.
If you don’t think you are ready to sign up to app awards, then another way to generate downloads and users is running your own competitions. This is an easy way to get people interested in your app before you launch, particularly if your app isn’t free to download, as you can offer exclusive discounts or free-trials as part of the package.
Marketing an app can be hard work and requires real strength and determination to make it a success. There are lots of mistakes to be made but every mistake is a learning curve. Stay positive, stay focused and you can make it happen!