by Ryan Joy
I’ve built an app. Now how do I get people to download it?
There is not a secret recipe. There’s no “one weird trick” that will suddenly bring in millions of users. Hopefully your app is unique and provides value to users. Even still, all apps can benefit from basic marketing tips.
You need to ask yourself these questions:
- How do you make sure that your app is being ranked high enough in the app market to be organically discovered?
- How can I ensure my app receives good media coverage?
- How can I get people to talk about your app?
Marketing doesn’t need to break the bank.
You’re probably a developer or entrepreneur going solo into the app world. I’m going to assume you don’t have a marketing team to back you up, let alone a big marketing budget. That’s cool. You do not need to spend a lot of money to make a splash! You do have to make the effort though.
I’m going to cover 12 things that you should be doing after your app’s launch. I’m purposely not going to cover or suggest things that would require changes to your code or app’s store listing. There are a lot of things you can do in your app that encourages some of the behavior below, but that’s a whole different article.
Master your pitch
Your pitch comes first and it’s the probably the most important thing you need to do. In some ways it’s just as important as the quality of the code you wrote when you developed your app. Ideally your pitch would be an extended version of your app’s “best at” statement.
Write an elevator pitch and know it by heart. Your message should be convincing as well as conveying. If you find yourself explaining too much, simplify it. If you’re still explaining too much, you might your app probably tries to do too much. Many of the other tips below will build on a solid pitch.
It should be obvious, but you want to have good ratings and reviews for your app. Keep in mind that no matter how perfect your app, someone will always find fault. There’s always going to be that one user who installs your app, finds something wrong (maybe a bug), and gives a 1-star review. Even though you will fix that bug, that user will never come back to update their rating. You can’t win them all.
But you can put your average rating in your favor! Pitch your app to all of your friends, family, and coworkers. Ask them to rate and review your app. Ask them to be honest, but positive in the reviews. Ask them to report any issues they encounter directly with you. Think about it: this may be the only group with which you can talk directly.
Have a website
Your app must have a website of its own. Seriously, if you don’t have one, go to Windows Azure right now and setup a free website. You can set up a WordPress website for your app in minutes.
Depending on your app and your business, you may choose to have different websites for each of your apps or you might have a single website for your business with sections for each of your app products. Either approach offers advantages and disadvantages. If you go the single website route, ask yourself if your app wouldn’t benefit from its own unique branding?
Have a blog portion of your site and try to update it often. You can fill it with updates you just made, features you plan to add, and allow your users to comment as well as give their feedback. This has an added benefit of keeping the website content fresh for search engines.
Use social media
Every app should have a social media strategy in place. You may not like the services, but you need to make a twitter account and create a Facebook page. Social media can benefit your app in many ways — it not only increases brand awareness, but also captures the personal side of your brand that will draw in the right audience for your app. This leads to the next tip though.
Social media is a powerful communication tool for both you and your users. Being able to clearly communicate with your users is vital for keeping your reviews within the app stores positive. If a user can only complain via your app review process, you are setting yourself up for failure.
If you’re going to benefit from social media you must be genuine and engage in the discourse. Thank users when they mention your app or recommend it. Offer to help when someone complains about your app.
Make it easy to download
Make sure you’re consistently giving users an easy way to install your app. This might mean always linking to the same download page when you post on social media. Or, this might mean having a very clear way to download the app from your homepage. If you write an update or blog post, be sure to include a call-to-action that leads the reader to download the app. Remember, they may not have your app yet but the latest update might be just what they’re looking for.
Make it easy to be published
Your app needs to be easy to write about. Getting on media and review sites can be a big boost to your app’s success, since they are not as short-lived as tweets and other social media. Reviews stay around longer and keep on generating traffic for months to come. Of course there are general app review sites, but also try to reach out to category-specific blogs. For example, if your app provides value to pharmacists, seek out blogs and newsletters that cater to the pharmaceutical industry. You’re more likely to get in front of your target audience.
Bloggers and journalists must have the material required to talk about your app. Create a free press kit that anyone can download from your website. You should provide high-resolution versions of your screenshots, icon and any press-related texts. Make it easy for people to write about your app.
Make a video
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a video worth? A video of your app can tell a much richer story than your screenshots alone and you’ll find that many of the most successful apps and games use video.
You’ve got a few different options when making a video. Depending on what you choose, you’ll need screen recording software or a nice DSLR.
Simple walkthrough set to music
This one is probably the easiest to produce. Using screen recording software, record yourself going through a typical scenario in your app. For instance, if I were recording a video for my car2go app I might use the following flow:
Windows 8 start screen > touch car2go app tile to launch > pan around on the map > touch car to see details > change city > zoom in to street view > activate Share Charm > send email to friend telling them to check out this app.
Once you’ve recorded your video, find some royalty-free music that you can set as the background.
Simple walkthrough with voiceover
This video is similar to the one above, except you’ll be providing voiceover narration instead of music. While potentially easier than setting your video to a musical score, voice narration can be very difficult to pull off. Unless you have a great radio voice and a great audio studio setup, your narration can end up sounding very flat and distant. You’ve also got to rehearse your walkthrough script over and over to ensure you don’t have any “umms” or awkward timing.
Environmental shoot showing your app used on devices:
At this point you’re making a full on commercial! That may sound intimidating, but it can be a lot of fun. You’ll need a DSLR (or a friend w/ a DSLR) that can record video. It’s beyond the scope of this article to talk about videography techniques, but think about how people would use your app. If it’s a recipe app, you can record someone (yourself, your spouse, your friend) in the kitchen using your app on their Surface RT.
If you’re marketing a Windows Store app, turn on the touch feedback feature in Windows 8 by searching for “touch feedback” in your settings. You’ll now have dark grey circles that appear where you touch the screen, making it ideal for recording a video and showing how to use your app.
Measure online buzz and watch social media
You should set up some searches on saved searches to monitor activity on Twitter. You can get very creative with your searches and even search for references near certain locations. For example, I have an app called Metro car2go in the Windows Store that provides data from the car2go service. This is only available in certain cities, like Austin, TX. I’m able to keep tabs on anytime someone mentions car2go in Austin with the following search: near:Austin,TX car2go.
You can also use Twitter search to monitor for mentions of your competitors’ apps. Be wary of directly challenging your competitors via social media though, especially if they have a bigger following and are more established than you. It can aggravate their users without winning you any customers. It’s better to be nice and differentiate yourself through your app.
Use a link shortening & tracking service like bit.ly or create a page re-direct from your website. Not only will you be able to better understand how many people checked out your app page, you will have created a much smaller and better looking URL to use for marketing purposes (especially Twitter).
Understand your demographic
It’s crucial for you to know and understand your target audience when marketing your new app. Get to know where they hang out online and find relevant internet forums and meetup groups to make them aware your app. This is the best way to receive feedback about your app after its launch.
Create spikes of activity
Your marketing efforts will be much more successful if you have a coordinated plan. Try to plan ahead and hit all of your marketing channels at once.
Your app can benefit from spikes in downloads by appearing on “Popular now” or other trending charts.
Consider ad exchange networks
Services like AdDuplex can drive traffic to your app for little to no cost. In order to join, you agree to advertise other people’s apps and in turn your app will appear in their apps. Make sense?
One way to use this is in conjunction with your other advertising. Not every ad gets fulfilled on every request. Sometimes your app is served a default or placeholder ad. That’s a wasted impression. Instead of displaying that placeholder, you can switch it to display an ad from AdDuplex.
Talk at meetups
Be proud of your accomplishment! Go to meetups and share your app. Talk about how you coded it, which tools you’ve used, what sort of problems you overcame, and the lessons you’ve learned.
You’ll likely find that the meetup groups are willing to provide feedback and constructive criticism. In addition, you can encourage them to install your app, and tweet about it. They’re in the same business as you and understand the importance of getting the word out. Generally I’ve found they’re willing to lend a helping voice.
Each of these tips are not particularly groundbreaking, but taken together they can make a real difference in your app’s success. As with all marketing strategies, you will find that each tactic requires a continuous time investment and active monitoring for maximum benefits.
Hopefully you’ve seen how everything ties together in to a nice package: Your pitch sets the tone for all of your marketing; your tweets link to your website; your website embeds your video; your website hosts your press kit; your pitch is sent to bloggers to encourage them review your app, to check out your video and press kit.
Reprinted with permission.