App Developer Conversations is a weekly video series with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay covering current topics of interest for app developers. If you have suggestions for future conversations, please let us know!
Jeff Rutherford, of APPetite PR and I talked for a bit during a Google Hangout about app marketing, what we’re seeing in the world of app development and how to build a successful app, audience and brand. It’s our first video interview and we had some fun, let us know what you think in the comments!
In the interview we covered a number of topics, here’s a brief overview:
What Apptentive does and why we started the company
Why the App Store isn’t a good place for customer communication and how developers can use their app in order to connect with their app customers
How app developers can save 10′s of thousands of dollars by conducting research with their own customer base
Why the debate about app store reviews and responses is a good conversation
Some common mistakes that developers are making in making and marketing their apps
What I’d do if I was having a beer with a developer and why we’d be talking about love
How to think about social hooks, sharing and when it can be used for great leverage
Why you have to worry about trust and be wary of misleading consumers
How a dialog with a customer can lead to real-world sharing of your app
How software has truly entered the consumer age
See Jeff share an app with me that he loves, Tweetbot
App developers need to court attention from writers
As we’ve written about before, it’s important to be proactive in reaching out to the press and developing relationships. Our previous piece on tips for reaching out to the media continues to be popular because so many app developers are searching for guidance on how to navigate a world that is often foreign to them.
Here’s what an expert says about the topic:
We had the pleasure of meeting Victor from TUAW last week at WWDC and we got to see him give a presentation at Appsterdam WWDC HQ about how app developers can be most successful in their interactions with bloggers. His talk was engaging and informative and we thought we’d share what we heard from him.
For the TL;DR crowd, Victor had three main points to share with us all:
Make it great
Give it time
Be a mensch
Why does this matter?
Before he dug into the heart of his talk, he gave us all a compelling overview of why the press matters to your app’s success. There were a few really important points that I took away from this:
TUAW’s audience is really in “buying/download” mode. Fun fact: TUAW frequently drives more sales and downloads of an app than an Apple feature in the app store
Victor’s explanation for this was that TUAW and other blogs/publications about apps tend to act as “trusted friends” whose opinions are very influential, as opposed to the feature banners, which are often more akin to a “billboard on the highway”
It’s about people – it was clear that a common theme in Victor’s talk was the admonishment that if you realize that bloggers/the press/your customers are people too, you’ll make a lot more correct decisions along the way.
Make it great
It might sound trite to say it, but the simple point here was if you couldn’t pitch your app to a blogger and talk about why what you’ve built is specifically great, you haven’t hit the mark. How do you know it’s great? Here were a few tips to sanity checking your own internal barometer:
Talk to people who are “normal” – if you haven’t let other people use your app and gotten their feedback on what you’ve built, you’re very likely to miss basic capabilities that an average person requires. Making something that is intuitive requires actual validation of your design hypothesis.
What problem does it solve? If you can’t describe a core problem that your app solves, how do you expect a blogger to understand why it’s important enough to write about?
It needs to work! It sounds like TUAW sees far too many apps before they’re ready for primetime, struggling with crashing issues and incomplete functionality. Knowing that you’re developing a relationship with bloggers, you need to be thinking about how to make your first impression a positive one.
Give it time
Victor advised app developers to invest in relationships and to be patient. No, you’re not going to get the “perfect launch” with several articles at the same time that your app is released in the app store, so reset your expectations.
Instead, settle into a rhythm about telling your story to the right people and engaging with the right communities. If your app is real estate-focused, Victor said, get involved in the real estate community, tell your story, explain why your app is relevant and stay engaged in the comments and on Twitter.
Be constructive and helpful and you’ll get somewhere – seems simple right?
However, most people aren’t willing to invest the time and effort required to execute on this strategy. It takes a lot of work to continue reaching out, engaging in conversations, connecting, interacting and adding value. It takes even more work to research the bloggers you’re trying to reach out to in order to understand their particular interests, where they focus their time and if you’re appropriate. But it’s the kind of work that’s worth investing in because it results in personal connections and relationships that enable you to be heard and can assist you in attracting allies instead of of people you’re begging for favors.
Be a mensch
Just be a human being – realize that the people you’re interacting with are real people with lives, time constraints and stresses, just like you. If you hound them and annoy them, of course they’re not going to want to help you. “You’re not going to win converts by badgering people,” Victor told the crowd. If you want them to take the time to help you, be patient and understanding.
You might think that you’ve built something amazing but it’s not going to be true for everybody and you need to have the humility and self-awareness to realize this. More importantly, if someone gives you a bad/scathing review or makes a lot of suggestions, LISTEN!
The people you’re dealing with are in this industry and writing about it because they love what developers are building every day. They respect your work, appreciate it and want you to produce the best product possible so listen to them because they’re investing their energy in helping you be successful.
Finally, some tactical advice
In addition to Victor’s 3 main points, he shared some tactical advice during Q&A:
If you’re going to create a Twitter account/blog/Facebook page for your app, make sure that it’s got some personality.
If you want to really dive deep into this topic, you should check out “Pitch Perfect”, written by his colleagues Erica Sadun and Steven Sande.
Follow up, but politely. If you sent a message across and didn’t hear anything, it’s ok to follow up a week later, just to make sure they’d seen your message
Press releases really don’t capture their attention, don’t spend time and money on PR firms that just blast out press releases
When your app gets written about, participate in the comments
The comments can be a very solid place for bloggers to discover new apps, so if you’re engaging in conversation about your app across the web, it can help you get noticed
NEVER, EVER, pay for a review
And, a bonus, the actual video!
Thanks to the Appsterdam folks for taking video and letting us know about it:
With over a million apps out there, getting press coverage can seem like an impossibility, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, many of the developers we work with have a very concerted and consistent effort to establish relationships with the right journalists and bloggers in order to have the story of their apps shared with the broader world.
If you’re not thinking about how to do this for your app, we urge you to start planning and thinking about how to engage with the press in a proactive manner today. The good news is that there are some basic steps you can take in order to engage with the press. Let’s take a look
Your press checklist:
Identify and document the areas of interest that apply to your app
Figure out what “verticals” of press coverage these areas of interest fall into. This means if your app deals with cooking, you’re not just in the tech space, but the cooking/recipes space as well.
Make a hitlist. Not everyone in the press is right for you, but now that you’ve got the verticals of press coverage identified you can research who writes about these verticals. Be as comprehensive as possible, this is where you’re trying to cast a wide net.
Figure out what is different and special about your app. List out the benefits and the things you think are unique.
Take that list and craft your “elevator pitch”. Your goal is to be able to quickly describe your app in terms of benefits and uniqueness in 15 seconds. Take the time to get this right – test it on your friends, experiment with a number of options until you’re very happy with it
Have a live product page on your own site that gives an overview of your app, shows screenshots, demos etc
Pick 2 screenshots that really do a great job of highlighting your app’s benefits and uniqueness
Make a video or screencast that’s less than a minute long and really conveys how your app is used and why
Craft your first message to a journalist on the list and send it to them (from a real address!).
Your subject line should be your app name and maybe your benefit
Quickly convey your 15 second overview
Include links to your product page and the link to the relevant app store
Include the 2 screenshots you’ve made
Link to the video you’ve made
Include your contact information so they can contact you
If you don’t hear back from the person you’ve sent the message to, follow up politely, to see if they received the message after a week or so
If the message is responded to favorably, send a similar version to 10 more people on your hitlist
If the message isn’t responded to favorably, tweak it some, try to tighten it up and make it more impactful and then try it with 2 more people on your list
Repeat until you start seeing favorable responses and then broaden your outreach to your entire list
Stay in touch with each of the people who invites a dialog, building a relationship with each of the people. Remember, journalists are people too and the more you can establish yourself as someone they know and trust, the easier it will be for them to write about you over time.
Bonus: what the press says about getting press
Our checklist above has been compiled as a result of the experience of our customers and what the press has stated publicly about how to communicate with them. Take a look at some of the articles below to get even more advice, straight from the source: