How to Promote Mobile Apps: An App Marketing Guide

The mobile app market is a challenging environment. Year over year it becomes more difficult to stand out among tens of thousands of offerings in the Google Play and Apple stores. One of the most fundamental mistakes an entrepreneur can make after launching a mobile app is not marketing it.

No one will ever know that a single, well-crafted app has been published on an app store if you don’t put any efforts into letting the world know about it. Before even launching a product, you should ensure that there are people out there who will be interested in using it. App marketing, therefore, can be considered a part of the development process – just as important as designing, coding, and testing.

There are a number of app promotion agencies such as DotComInfo, Approstar, and AppPromo. From creating a business plan to analyzing user feedback, these companies can organize and carry out a marketing campaign for any mobile app. But if you aren’t ready for additional expenses or want to have full control over your app’s promotion, then check out our tips to learn more about the best ways to promote an app.

App promotion and marketing strategies

Start your app marketing campaign in advance

Utility and innovation are not enough to spur downloads within the first days of an app’s release. By starting your marketing campaign while the product is still in development you can acquire an initial user base by the time of the release.

You should start planning your campaign when you start planning the product.

Have a business plan and choose a pricing model

Before starting development, get a clear understanding of the app’s purpose, its target audience, monetization model, devices it should run on, market segment, and competition. Start by conducting comprehensive market research on each of these issues. Base the app’s development and your marketing strategy on your findings.

Target audience. You need to know who will be using your app: their demographics, lifestyle, and behaviour. You can use a persona concept to define user archetypes, give them names, and design an app for them.

Business model. You can choose from several monetization models: paid app, freemium, in-app advertising, or in-app purchases. Nowadays, free apps are the norm, so it’s better to launch a free product at first and then pick a pricing model based on how you are performing on the market. Take into account that users would rather download a free app with annoying ads than pay for an ad-free product.

Launch a website

Many developers underestimate the value of a website. Websites are great platforms for mobile app promotion. App stores provide substantial information about your product, but it’s better to have more space to tell the full story.

Even a microsite with a catchy landing page and visible App Store and Google Play links, or a registration form for users to leave an email if the app hasn’t been launched yet, can be a positive asset. The landing page must be informative, highlighting the most important features so that visitors get a clear understanding what exactly the app does.

Storytelling is a great app marketing solution, and a blog is the best place to write the story behind your product – what inspired you to create it, what problems you faced during development and how you dealt with them. This will help you establish an emotional connection with users while keeping them informed about future updates.

Don’t forget to integrate your blog with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social networks and services to promote your mobile apps. If your blog articles are engaging then readers will share them, letting more people know about you and your product. Smart SEO (search engine optimization) for your blog will also help you gain more users.

It’s important to make sure that your website is responsive and works correctly on mobile devices.

Check out the blog of Mint, a personal finance service. Its original content triggered user acquisition for Mint, and their blog is now considered one of the best personal finance blogs on the web.

Read also: How to Turn a Website Into a Mobile App

Don’t underestimate the role of email

Email is still one of the best marketing tools you can use to promote your product both before and after launch. According to research published by emailmonday, in 2015, 45 percent of all email opens occurred on mobile devices and 33 percent occurred in mobile apps. These numbers have grown 180 percent over the past three years. It’s no wonder that mobile revenue from emails (e.g. downloads, purchases via email links) grows too, making up as much as 20 percent of all revenue generated by apps.

Here’s a great app marketing guide from Smashing Magazine that provides tips on how to market an app via email.

App promotion and email marketing

Go social and make contacts with other developers and entrepreneurs

Creating your company and pages on Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networks is absolutely necessary, though we won’t talk any more about social media in this article. You can also create an account on the Q&A website Quora and discuss your experiences as a company in relevant subject threads.

In addition to creating dedicated pages, you can also join developer and entrepreneur groups on LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook. These platforms let you get in contact with others in the tech industry in order to spread knowledge and perhaps establish connections that may lead to future partnerships.

You can join popular iPhone and Android developer communities like iPhone DevSDK and XDA Developers to get some technical tips. You will be surprised how open developers are, and how willingly they share experience with each other. This may also generate some word of mouth, especially if you have something that amazes other developers.

Contact press, build hype before the launch

Compose a smart PR pitch, write a press release, and keep trying to contact tech journalists, bloggers, and websites, providing them free access to your app and a video demo. In other words, try to create as much hype around your product as you can.

Launch the app when you have the widest exposure and people have already shown an interest. So make sure you’ve got a few materials published in the media prior to launch.

How can you find media that might be interested in your story? Make a list of top blogs and sites related to your topic using a ranking website – Alltop, for example. Just choose the category and see who writes about products like yours. Top media sites like TechCrunch and Mashable may not instantly write about you, but there are a lot of other sites and blogs that may be interested. Start with small blogs, and others will be attracted sooner or later.

Even after the release, maintain contacts with your media sources, letting them know about your product’s achievements and updates.

App promotion and marketing press and hype

Start an invite-only beta

Many popular platforms (Pinterest, Dribbble) started with invite-only betas. Why not try doing the same? If you have some connections in the industry or have contacts with potential users, it might be a good idea to launch a beta. Running a private beta gives you a number of benefits.

First, you will have the opportunity to conduct additional testing outside the development team and have some fresh reviews for your app before the release. A positive feedback from the focus group will make you more confident about the launch.

Second, a private beta will attract users better than, for example, a public beta, because it adds a shade of exclusivity and coolness to your product. You also get the chance to invite some industry influencers and gain additional visibility for your app to make it really stand out.

One of our clients, the co-founder of BitHorse, has a great approach to beta testing. Their horse racing chat app is being used in turn by three groups of beta testers – A, B, and C. Group A consists of horse racing enthusiasts and journalists, group B includes distinguished people of society who attend horse racing events as a hobby, and group C is regular users. The idea is that each group’s active participation and feedback would encourage the group that follows.

Take a look at the model that the Spotify music streaming service used: each invited user was allowed to invite five more. This created a rapid expansion of the user base and turned into the key marketing strategy for Spotify.

Gain visibility

There are many ways to gain visibility for your app.

  • Submit your app to promotion websites like Launching Next, Rate My Startup, or SuS. These services will help you gain extra reviews from users and other entrepreneurs, thus gaining attention for your app.

  • Spend some funds on online advertising on Twitter and Facebook, on ad networks like iAd, Google AdMob, or StartApp, or on any other platform.

  • Publish your app in alternative app stores (only relevant for Android).

  • Start social networking contests with giveaways, and people will readily share information about you.

  • Use contests and giveaways. For example, when the location-based startup Drop Messages started its expansion in New York, it let their users discover prizes just by walking the streets.

  • Keep contacting the press.

  • If you are planning to charge for the app, consider some discounts for a limited period. This will also give you the chance to be featured in various “on sale” lists on the internet, thereby gaining more visibility.

App visibility

Pay more attention to your app’s page in the store

Make sure that your app’s description:

  • is short and engaging

  • has no mistakes

  • clearly tells what problems the app solves

  • highlights all the main features.

More tips regarding your app’s page in the store:

  • screenshots must be attractive and informative

  • use the right keywords in the description so that the app is easily searchable

  • localize the description for different markets to reach out to more users

Here’s an example of well-organized and informative page.

Localize your app to enter the global market

Though English is likely to be the first language that your app supports, don’t make it the only language. As a matter of fact, most people in the world do not speak English as their native language. Among the top languages for the mobile app market are English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, German, and French.

Begin localizing your app for its most relevant markets, and expand support as your product gains popularity. Don’t trust auto-translation. There are a lot of specialized app localization companies (e.g. Babble-on, ICanLocalize, Localeyes, Tethras) that can help you bring your app to the global market.

Read also: How to Port Your App to Another Platform

Cross-promote your app

Try cross-promotion if you have more than one app on the market. Cross-promotion encourages users to try out other apps.

There are also cross-promotion networks that help app companies reach out to more users. For example, services like Tappx, Tapdaq, and Tap for Tap use a credits system: you earn credits for taps, expressions, and downloads by placing ads for other apps within your own, and then use those credits to generate your own advertisements.

Cross-promotion is most commonly used in mobile games, but it’s suitable for other apps as well. Just be careful who you work with, and don’t exchange ads with competitors if you don’t want to risk losing users.

Improve the app’s UI/UX using A/B testing

An app’s looks play an important role in its promotion. A single icon can turn a product launch into a disaster.

Improving usability will help you retain old users and attract new ones. It’s not even necessary to run a full cycle of design and coding – there are a lot of A/B testing tools that make UI/UX improvements almost automatic. Check out Optimizely, Taplytics, Apptimize, and other services that you can easily find on the internet.

These tools allow you to create two alternative versions of your UI/UX and analyze how users respond to each of them. For example, you can alter layouts and background colors, or see which button color attracts more attention (according to most tests it’s red), and then use the most successful variant.

Watch your metrics and keep them growing

You must keep your app fit and constantly improve it after the initial release. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and measure them to know how users are engaging with your product and what makes them drop off.

Check out our guide on analytics and decide which metrics you should pay attention to, and which analytics tool to use to retain and convert users.

App promotion is not a one-time endeavour. If you want to know how to promote your mobile app, start yet at the planning phase, and continue throughout your product's lifetime. This guide will help you build and carry out an effective marketing strategy, launch your product successfully, and acquire more and more users after the launch.

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