This is a new and improved version of a popular post published on March 21, 2012.
With over a million apps available today in both of the major app stores, it’s natural for companies with mobile apps to look around for easy ways to stand out in the sea of apps. While there are numerous paid channels for boosting downloads, it’s not always affordable or desirable to be spending money in order to generate momentum for your app. In fact, spending money to promote your app before you’ve determined that you’ve got a real success on your hands is an almost certain route to failure.
We’ve seen far too many early stage app projects die because they spent more money on User Acquisition (UA) than on product iteration and finding product/market fit. This is true for the small startup, but particularly painful when it comes to apps from the world’s largest companies and most popular brands. The all too common “orphaned” app from a big brand communicates that the company hasn’t really figured out mobile and isn’t trying in an ongoing manner – not the perception that companies want on the part of their consumers.
A better approach to launching your brand’s mobile app and generating momentum is to utilize a healthy mix of inbound marketing as a means of getting your first coverage and downloads. With companies like Moz and Hubspot raising awareness of the benefits of inbound marketing over the past several years, more people than ever before understand that providing useful and relevant information for your target audience is one of the best ways to generate interest and awareness for your product.
Every mobile team can take these 10 simple steps to increase their inbound marketing efforts for their apps. This will help you find more organic customers, the ones who will truly help you find product/market fit and iterate to sustained success.
If you’ve got questions, let us know in the comments or ping us for a demo
1) Set yourself up on Social Media
We’re always shocked when a company doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook page for their app(s) (we’re on Twitter and Facebook btw). Regularly timed tweets, discussing progress on the product, making points about features and capabilities and highlighting interesting uses of your app are all easy to share on social media. For large brands with existing social presences, this might not require a separate app-focused handle, but we’ve seen companies be successful building a specific app-focused Twitter handle.
2) Talk with your friends
Inbound marketing isn’t just about online activities – at its core, inbound is the process of making sure that the right audience finds you and your app. At the beginning of your app’s development, be sure to actually talk with your friends (and colleagues) about the app. Involve them in the testing and let them play with the app, on their own. If you can involve them in the process early on, they’ll be much more likely to help promote your launch and assist in the discovery of early adopters, because they’ll understand who should be using the app and why.
This can extend beyond just your friend network to folks who have a reason to be an advocate for you, by the way. One of the reasons that we’re big fans of appbackr is that the process of winning backrs to your apps creates a team of people who share in your success, giving them a reason to help spread the word. This is why the largest consumer brands are starting to see success with advertising their apps through their other channels. Companies are utilizing the space on their grocery bags, websites and products in order to spread the word to their existing customer base to drive downloads.
3) Create a core destination to house your content and marketing efforts
Publishing an app in one of the major app stores is simply not enough. You need to take ownership of your app’s presence on the web and this means choosing a core destination and investing in it. For example, our friends at Chewsy have a fantastic site for their food rating and dish discovery app.
Do you have an existing website for your business? Create a section on it for your mobile app. If you want the app to become a standalone brand, go get the domain and start building it out. Remember, you can often take your app’s name and add “get” as a prefix or “app” as a suffix.
4) Start creating content
Now that you’ve got a central destination that you’re going to be investing in, you should start filling it with content. Select content that is relevant to your app and zone in on exactly what unique value you can offer to your audience. Are you all about restaurant quality in a certain locale? Have a game that’s great for kids? Write about restaurants or kids games.
Importantly, content isn’t just about writing blog posts and creating new materials. These days, curation of relevant information is as important (if not more) as creating content. Share great resources and information that are relevant to your selected topics. Create a reason for people to come find you and stay for a little while. The good folks over at Buffer do an awesome job with this, check out their post on adding cool symbols to your tweets.
5) Words are good, videos are great
If you’re making a mobile app, the experience with your app is the most important thing right? Get used to creating short videos about how to use your app, what the benefits are and what a typical use case might be.
People love videos, especially short videos and if you can manage to make the video informative and entertaining, you might be really on to something. We’re not saying that all of your videos are going to get shared and “go viral”, but if you make something worth sharing, you can guarantee that good things will happen.
6) Share your data and experiences
With so many apps out there, other app developers are hungry for lessons learned and data. If you want to be part of the conversation, monitor your own data and performance and then share it out. Your unique experience can be helpful for others in the space and there’s no better way to attract the attention and links from other developers than to be open about what you’ve done well, what you messed up and what you’d completely avoid in the future. It might be scary to share too much, but realize that the uniqueness of your app isn’t in the numbers, it’s in how you connect with your consumers. We’ve seen a lot of great examples of this, here is a good example:
- Tony Wright’s take on How to evaluate a paid iphone app idea
Importantly, large companies that are more open with their development process do a better job recruiting mobile developers. Share your story, you might find people who want to join you because you do.
7) Listen to your early customers for feedback
This is a topic near and dear to our hearts here at Apptentive, of course. Companies using our in-app feedback and communications tools service regularly tell us about the victories that come out of their customer interactions. When you launch an app, you’ve got, at best, a guess about who is going to use it and why. Once it’s in the wild, your job is to figure out what you were right about, what you missed on and how you can improve.
The best way to do so is by listening to your customers and engaging with them as you make updates. When it comes to creating evangelists who will share your app with others, nothing is better than being responsive and engaging. Anonymous customers become trusted advisors and advocates when you make it easy for them to give you feedback, without the hassle. Every brand is in the business of building evangelists and promoters – doing so at scale is difficult, but possible, within your mobile apps. When you use Apptentive, of course :-).
8) Ask the right people for ratings
When it comes to earning an install, there is nothing more important to your app’s success than the overall ratings and most recent reviews. The vast majority of app downloads occur after someone has viewed your app’s page in the app store and most of their attention is focused on the ratings and reviews section. As a result, when it comes to inbound marketing in the app stores, you need to always be on top of what people are saying about your app.
Many app developers take the approach that it’s just enough to prompt people to rate their app, but this is really insufficient. Too often, these prompts, by being about the developer rather than the consumer. This can turn people off and lead to bad reviews and app exits. Instead of prompting everyone, instead focus on understanding what people think of your app and only when you’ve understood that they’re happy with your app, should they be prompted to rate you. Our “Ratings Done Right” approach to this is one take that really helps companies find customers at the right moment in time and understand how they’re feeling. Listening to the typically “silent majority” helps drive company goals forward much faster than just focusing on the vocal minority of unhappy critics in the app store.
9) Get involved in the relevant communities
If you’re adding value to the app ecosystem and have learned along the way, be sure to share your knowledge. Whether it’s sharing technical lessons or talking about the subject matter of your app, there are sure to be devoted communities to the topics that are relevant to you. Spend 30 minutes a day researching and finding places on the web where others are sharing and join the conversation. Add value with advice, humility and respect and the benefits will accrue over time to your app, as an audience of people who trust you come into contact with what you’re working on.
10) Make sure you’re making it easy!
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve come across a site for an app and found the links to download the app to be non-existent. Make sure that you’re using the right links for downloading your app wherever you establish a presence and get good at tracking those links as well. Using tools like Bit.ly, you can track the links for social sharing and get the added bonus of knowing exactly what’s working.