10 New App Marketing Strategies
The evolution of mobile apps continues to roll on. As apps move away from being standalone platforms and are integrated into comprehensive mobile strategies, many companies are re-thinking the reasons they started their mobile development journey in the first place.
It is no longer acceptable to have an app (or series of apps) simply for the sake of having it. Mobile’s tremendous impact has been recognized, and we have begun to evaluate it as an essential part of the business, but we must also reassess how we market our apps.
In the past, most companies developed their app (usually by hiring a mobile developer, used a simple DIY app maker, or learned how to build an app internally) and then promoted it through traditional marketing channels. However, now that the mobile “trend” has exploded into this whole new battleground for companies to scrap over, this approach no longer works. Instead, the organizations with the most successful apps are the ones that are willing to put serious resources into marketing their apps (sometimes aggressively so), in order to get that mobile app into the hands of their customers.
Why mobile and why now?
Studies show the number of people using mobile surpassed those using desktop by approximately 200,000 people between 2014 and 2015. This surge in use earned 2015 the name ‘Year of Mobile.’
However, this so-called ‘Year of the Mobile’ is up for debate, primarily because mobile has been evolving into the primary, go-to channel customers use to connect with their favorite brands for a few years now. It has some mobile experts arguing that we should be calling it the ‘Age of the Mobile,’ instead of singling out a specific year. But no matter what you want to call it, the facts remain that customers demand and expect a mobile app to be a major touchpoint between them and their favorite brands. In fact, 90% of the time spent on mobile devices is devoted to app use alone.
What is crystal clear here is that customers prefer to shop and interact with brands in a mobile environment rather than other channels. So, if your mobile game is not strong, your customers will seek a more intuitive mobile shopping experience with one of your competitors.
Mobile marketing obstacles
Even if you are an experienced marketer, it is important to note that app marketing is a whole new ball game, complete with different players and rules. A common question marketers face is how to market their app. Thus, it requires a new marketing approach. Some of the unique challenges facing marketers entering the mobile app arena are unfamiliar channels, targeting problems, understanding downloads versus users, app store rankings, and more.
To help you navigate the landscape of mobile app marketing, here is our starting lineup of 10 app marketing strategies that are proven to be effective.
1. Focus on KPIs specific to the app’s market
While marketing a mobile app may be new territory for you, setting up goals is very similar to most other marketing campaigns. Your goals should still be specific, measurable, realistic, and so on. What is different, however, is the means and tactics along with the app specific nuances to reach those objectives.
App marketing brings a whole new range of concerns to the table. We are familiar with revenue and velocity. But you need to direct your focus to the KPIs specific to app marketing. These include: app store rankings, organic and loyal user acquisition, cost-per-download, and app store optimization.
For many marketers, this is new and unfamiliar ground. So, it makes sense that you assign a dedicated team to focus on the significance and benefit of these KPIs in your marketing plan. When you establish your goals (you won’t have just one), you may decide to further distinguish them between primary and secondary goals. You probably already do this in other areas of marketing, so apply the same strategies.
It is also important to understand how these goals serve the overarching objectives of your company. In that respect, your app marketing goals should closely coincide with the goals of other marketing strategies. Yet they need to focus on those KPIs that are unique to app marketing.
2. Dedicate the resources your app deserves
Often times, marketers undervalue mobile advertising. They dedicate only a small percentage of their marketing budget (sometimes less than one percent) to this tactic.
Yet, in an ‘Age of Mobile,’ apps are a powerful marketing tool, and therefore require a greater allocation of marketing resources. Studies show that 80% of consumers wish to receive location-based alerts on their mobile phones. It simply makes sense to invest in a geo-fencing and push notification marketing strategies because it’s what consumers want.
According to the Mobile Marketing Association’s study on marketing effectiveness in mobile apps, we should be spending more, as much as 7-9% (depending on overall app involvement), of our marketing budgets on mobile.
Once you have restructured your marketing budget to give your mobile apps their due resources, you need to plan how that budget will be used. The advertisements and promotions for your app need to not only be creative and engaging to consumers, but they also have to be ongoing. Without planning your budget accordingly, you could be running out of steam (read: dollars) by the time the big end of the year push occurs. Your goal should be to maintain your app’s visibility in key marketplaces year-round. For example, you could push a little more of your budget around key spending holidays to give that visibility a boost and ensure that your consumers are seeing your app when you need them to the most.
3. Avoid getting pulled in too many directions
As much as every company is fighting for app space and supremacy, your individual departments may be doing the same. The larger the organization and the more separate departments it has, the larger the number of people who feel that your mobile app (and its marketing strategy) is their territory.
Rather than having internal disputes over property lines, unite these different stakeholders together into one team. Not only will this appease everyone who feels they should have a say or control the app marketing strategies, but it will end up making those strategies more successful.
Aligning the goals of all of these different departments may not be easy, but through ongoing communications and routine meetings with team members, you will stand a much better chance at hitting all of these different goals and minimizing power struggles. Plus, you will have more hands on deck and creative input available in the planning and execution of these app marketing campaigns.
4. Partner your app marketing team with a mobile marketing expert
Despite the wealth of knowledge and expertise your advertising/marketing department has (or your ad agency, if you don’t handle these tasks in-house), mobile marketing, as mentioned above, is a different battleground with a new required set of expertise and technology. Even digital marketers aren’t always well versed in the challenges that mobile faces. Some of these challenges include optimizing your marketing efforts to reach optimal ranks, app usage analytics, targeted media buying, and more (these are discussed below in more detail below).
If partnering with a mobile marketing technology provider is in your budget, you may want to explore this option with the members of your team or any outside agencies that operate your app marketing campaigns. This may eat up a chunk of your budget, but this all-in tactic should provide your app with the most success and best chance at achieving an optimal rank among app stores.
5. Market the experience, not the app
In the past, when companies made apps for the sake of having an app for their customers to use, it was more acceptable to market the app itself. That is no longer true because you aren’t trying to sell audiences on the app itself anymore. Instead, you are selling them on the experience your app provides. And, more importantly, how that experience is uniquely different and superior to any other experience they’ve previously had on mobile.
This is not a new concept, by any means. Today’s consumers look for the simplest experiences offered by brands In fact, 86% of consumers are more likely to purchase when they are not overwhelmed with confusing information. Keep that in mind when you are writing your store descriptions. Market how the app will simplify users lives, not every little thing the app can do.
The strategy of marketing the experience rather than the app has caused customer experience to become a front-running issue of businesses across nearly every industry. Don’t market your app—that’s simply is not enough anymore. You have to focus on the experiences that are only possible with your app.
6. You don’t market apps just with billboards
No matter how big your brand’s name and profile is, advertising your app through the traditional tactics (e.g. in-store signage, website banner, email newsletters, etc.) and touchpoints (e.g. mass media channels) is not going to cut it.
The process is simply too clunky and involved; the consumer has to see your sign or advertisement for the app and then pull out their phone and search for it, when instead, it should be available at the tap of a finger. While most of your customers will find your app through their chosen marketplace (e.g. Google Play, App Store, etc.), you cannot ensure that that alone will be enough, especially when your competitors’ apps are also present on those same places; they may even be more visible.
The key to marketing mobile apps is to put those advertisements where your mobile users already are. In other words, you fight mobile with mobile. Companies have found their best spending on promoting their apps is through mobile advertising networks and real-time bidding exchanges. Without getting too bogged down in the details, real-time bidding allows marketers to achieve efficient, low-cost targeting to their desired audience segments.
In addition, businesses have found that the more ad networks they invest in, the greater their success. These paid media buys can have a direct affect on your app store rankings because they allow your apps to continuously have high installs, thereby improving its discoverability and overall reputation in the marketplace.
7. Organically lifting your app to new heights…and page ranks
Again, paid media buys will certainly give your app a boost in the rankings, but ultimately you are after the users who discover and install your app on their own. In the app marketplace, ad-driven users and organic users have a sort of symbiotic relationship. The more downloads you get through your media placements, the higher your rank becomes in the app stores and thereby how visible it is to potential organic users.
The most prominent strategy to achieve ‘organic lift’ is a burst campaign. Nike is one of the best in the game at capitalizing on the burst. This short-term, focused advertising spend will drive a high volume of downloads. The sudden boom in popularity will help your ranks to climb quickly in the App Store and Google Play. In turn, this will generate a peak of organic downloads. Once there are an impactful number of organic users, your ad spending can be scaled back to the minimum necessary to maintain these numbers.
Ultimately, your goal is to achieve your app’s optimal rank, which is reached by finding the best balance between ad spend, app store ranking and organic downloads. In other words, you want to convert the greatest number of organic users possible, for the best use of your money. Optimal rank is not the highest possible rank. It is easy to throw a lot of fuel at the fire and get a big blaze, but your burn rate will be much too high to sustain and you won’t be receiving a positive ROI on your ad spending.
8. Downloads do not denote success
Even though the more downloads you have, the better your ranking in app stores, there is a lot more to having a successful app marketing campaign. Beyond organic users, there is a type of user that is more valuable—the most valuable— and those are your loyal users.
Downloads are certainly important, but you spent a lot of time designing the experience your app delivers. Thus, you should want it to be, well, experienced. Loyal users are the ones that are going to turn that download into revenue and a positive ROI and actually use the app and its features.
A lot of users, despite spending the time to download an app, won’t use it more than one or two times. This churn rate is important to monitor, especially in mobile apps. If you aren’t acquiring loyal users, there may be a major problem with the design and functionality of your app. Without remedying the issues with your app, you won’t be able to take full advantage of your organic lifting and campaigns to boost downloads.
Loyal users, at the end of the day, are going to determine the success and future of the mobile app side to your business.
9. Test for tactfulness, not perfection
Measuring the success of app marketing strategies is different than measuring areas of traditional marketing for a few reasons. Mobile is new, and it also developing rapidly. That means what works today may not work tomorrow.
Technology and its ever-changing façade opens new channels every single day. The best of today may not be the best tomorrow because there will most likely be a more efficient and effective way to relay information—just look at geo-fencing.
A lot of companies apply traditional marketing measurement tactics to apps because it’s all they know. And, others prefer the classic ads and think email campaigns keep them competitive today. We all know that’s not the case.
It is a much more valuable use of time and resources to research trending new techniques and compare them with your current practice. Then, compare the old with the new and choose those that serve your needs the best
10. Don’t get complacent! Keep living and breathing mobile
No matter how successful you are at marketing your apps, the job is never done. The mobile app environment is dynamic and always changing. Your app marketing team should continuously meet and plan for future updates, changes, and ways to keep consumers engaged and loyal. It is also important to establish a feedback loop with consumers to monitor and understand the changes in attitudes regarding your app and other competing apps.
Part of this strategy is a continued dedication to tactic #9 and testing new media sources, but living and breathing mobile also means engaging in industry conversations, mobile seminars and other related events. This is especially important if you cannot afford to partner with an app marketing technology platform (#4), since it allows you to absorb some of the expertise and knowledge that this partnership would otherwise bring to the table.
It is beyond clear, at this point, that mobile is a critical component to the marketing mix and success of our companies. Thus, we have to move beyond the mentality of having app for the sake of having one and instead push for further understanding of the impact that they can have on driving brand awareness, increasing revenue and even generating traffic in stores.
The very best app marketers are going to be the ones willing to go all in and dedicate the necessary time, effort, and costs towards understanding and developing this wildly uncharted environment to the furthest extent.