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Many digital marketers are becoming well-versed in the mobile world, but app marketing strategies can still be tough to master. We wrote extensively about the best app marketing channels last year, but after crowdsourcing areas of needed growth within our community, we recognize there is still a gap between selecting a new channel and actually implementing it into their mobile strategies.
We want to take the conversation one step further and cover the best app marketing strategies for 2016. In today’s post, we’ve taken our 14 favorite app marketing channels and added new strategies for each to help you get ahead in 2016. But first, a quick recap of the basic app marketing channels we’ll cover:
Onward to new app marketing strategies to help you finish 2016 strong!
1. Affiliate marketing
Definition: One of the least used but most effective app marketing channels, affiliate marketing is almost identical to online referral marketing. Through this channel, app marketers (the ‘merchants’) can join an ad network, such as Apple’s Affiliate Program or the Google Display Network, to create featured widgets and code snippets that other app or web publishers (the ‘affiliates’) can embed on their platforms. For each download such an app generates, the app publishers receiving the download pays the affiliate a small reward—typically in the form of revenue sharing.
Strategy: To start, look at the different types of affiliate marketing options you can implement to decide which is right for your brand. Popular options include:
- Banner ads
- Aggregated product information
- Product reviews written by bloggers
- Social referrals
- Email campaigns
- Search engine marketing
After taking a look at the list above, which strategy will work best for your brand? It’s not recommended to try to leverage all channels at once, so where should you start based on your company’s goals? To help start the conversation, our friends at Moby Affiliates have to put together an awesome guide to mobile affiliate marketing we recommend checking out.
2. App store optimization
Definition: The goal of ASO is to drive more traffic to your app’s landing page in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, so that searchers can take a specific action: downloading your app. Of course, App Store Optimization is an ongoing process, thanks both to the continually evolving ranking algorithms and to the competitive nature of the app stores. A successful ASO strategy requires a keen eye, a penchant for analytics, and regular check-ins, so keeping up with ASO best practices is imperative to growth.
Strategy: For a complete list of tips to begin or improve your ASO, strategy, check out our top 10 ASO tips checklist. In addition, here are three of our favorite tips:
- Encourage ratings and feedback: A consistent flow of positive reviews serves as the highest possible validation of your app’s quality and one of the highest determinants of rank. Across the board, apps with a large volume of positive ratings dominate the top charts.
- Choose the right app name: Coming up with a unique name for your app isn’t just a matter of branding. For best results with ASO, include relevant keywords within your title, as this text heavily factors into app store search results.
- Maximize your keywords: Many strategies apply across the board when it comes to the different app stores, but the App Store and the Google Play Store have two very different approaches when it comes to ASO keywords. Be sure to understand both world views as you plan your app’s keyword strategy. Most importantly, write for the customer first, and make small edits for keywords next—remember that the ranking algorithms take both keywords and conversion metrics into account.
3. Blogs and multimedia
Definition: Your favorite inbound strategies are perfectly suited for app marketing through blogs and other online mediums. This is one area most digital marketers know well, whether or not they’ve ever worked in mobile—use your knowledge to your advantage!
Strategy: The first strategy to leverage is blogging. Adding a content and blogging strategy to your mix will allow you to reach new audiences and boost organic traffic by appealing to ASO’s more established uncle, search engine optimization.
Second, video is a perfect way to get the word out about your app, or to show a new feature to prospective customers. Well produced app demos or promotional videos provide your best chance of getting your content viewed and shared by large audiences, and can be displayed both online and in your app’s landing page in the App Store or Google Play.
4. Fresh content
Definition: If ratings and reviewers are a cornerstone of app marketing, content is the meat and potatoes. For now, we’ll skip over online content marketing channels and focus on in-app content. This channel is one of the few in this list that affects every tier in the growth funnel.
Strategy: Mobile customers are looking for apps that are constantly improving, with regular updates based on customer feedback. Apps that are frequently updated are seen, by both the app store and the customer, to be of a higher value and more customer-centric. Consequently, app updates highly correspond to better reviews as each new and improved version of the app should naturally receive higher ratings than the version before.
Of course, releasing the update is only half the battle. The next step is to encourage existing customers to download the update. To help sell your next update, try these three strategies:
- Entice customers within your app (such as a note prompted at login, a push notification, or an update link prominently displayed in the main navigation) notifying them of the new update and what improvements they have to look forward to.
- Update the app description and the “What’s New” field in your app store product page to outline new/improved features with a compelling call-to-action.
- Maintain a large volume of five-star reviews for your app, and especially its latest version. Our 2015 Consumer Survey revealed that one-third of existing customers check an app’s ratings before downloading an update. Maintain a positive rating for an easy win.
5. Internet forums, Q&A sites, and social bookmarking services
Definition: This channel is a no-cost alternative to paid advertising and allows you to communicate directly with your target demographic. Whether you’re creating a casino app or the next Yo, there’s bound to be a community out there full of potential customers.
Strategy: The Interwebs are a big place, and it can be overwhelming to select another community to engage with to help spread your app marketing message. To ease into it, start by looking at where your community members already participate. Whether your community hangs out on Quora, connects with each other over Twitter, discusses industry news on Reddit, or other, chances are your community is already congregating on a shared platform outside of your resources; it’s simply up to you to find out where.
Lastly, it’s imperative to abide by community guidelines that exist for the platform you decide to start with. Be sure you abide by the community’s code of conduct or established norms to avoid having your content appear spammy or overly promotional, both of which may do more harm than good for your app.
6. Loyalty programs
Definition: App loyalty programs seek to convert casual customers (‘users’) into highly active and highly profitable evangelists. In the app world, this often comes down to rewards systems, gamified achievements, or blurring the lines between app marketing and traditional marketing by allowing customers to earn and track loyalty rewards, obtained through either in-app, in-store, or online purchases, on their mobile app.
Strategy: The most important tip for loyalty programs is to be proactive with enrolled customers. If you implement a process of proactively soliciting and collecting customer feedback, you can take quality assurance into your hands and identify any issues at the onset to swoop in with an immediate solution—one that builds value and earns loyalty.
By setting up proactive channels within your loyalty program, you can not only squash bugs that may arise, but you can earn your customer’s love. Apptentive’s research has shown that customers want to be engaged and messaged, as long as it’s in a respectful and relevant manner. Out of the millions of interactions we’ve analyzed, we’ve found that customers who are proactively engaged are 4x likelier to stick around three months after registration than those who see no brand engagement. In other words, communication pays.
7. Paid advertising
Definition: Equivalent to search engine marketing’s Pay-Per-Click advertising in Google’s Adwords or Bing Ads networks, mobile app’s version of paid advertising is a way to quickly grow downloads and reach a targeted audience.
Strategy: Paid app marketing can be done via many different channels, from the app stores, to social media, to other apps. While most of these channels will come naturally to the experienced digital marketer, incentivized Cost Per Install (CPI) and app marketing’s version of retargeting are unique to the app world.
For example, incentivized CPI is a form of affiliate marketing that relies less on the app stores as an intermediary and more on a strategic partnership between two app publishers. In this revenue sharing model, one app ‘incentivizes’ customers to download the other publisher’s app (e.g., a mobile game might offer in-app currency in exchange for a download). The publisher receiving the download, then, would pay a small commission to the referring party. App retargeting is a retention-boosting strategy of targeting your ads to only those who have already downloaded these options. These ads provide a non-intrusive way of alerting customers that there is a new version of your app available, promoting new features, or simply keeping your app top-of-mind with a fleeting customer.
8. Personalized messaging
Definition: Personalized messaging, like one-to-one marketing, is the manifestation of how we incorporate everything we know about our customers’ loves, likes, and dislikes into their mobile app experience. Using customer insights, mobile analytics, and customer journey mapping, we can design a marketing strategy that puts our customers first.
Strategy: There are two major strategic components for putting together a world-class personalized messaging plan:
- Deep audience segmentation. Is your message one that everyone has to see, or is it one that only applies only to a particular segment of your customers? When you segment your message by audience, you’re suddenly able to deliver a personalized customer experience. You’re now providing value to your customers, pulling them in to be engaged, rather than pushing unwanted content at them.
- Find the right “mobile moments” within your experience. Our mobile devices are some of the most personal pieces of technology we own. Finding the right mobile moment looks different for every brand as the placement, timing, and customer segment the in-app message is intended for will vary due to endless variables. To start, think about the in-app message you’re sending to figure out timing and placement. If the message is proactive, it should occur after customers take a high-value action within your app (like completing a purchase or a level) rather than in the middle of an action. If you’re asking customers to leave feedback through a survey, it should occur at a non-disruptive moment rather than interrupting the action the customer came to take. The example below shows a survey prompt while a customer is attempting to complete a purchase—in other words, the wrong mobile moment for an in-app message.
9. Press, influencer outreach, and public relations
Definition: Let’s face it: We all dream of going viral, but without a big pile of cash or a stack of influencers to back your story, going viral can be all but impossible. Although coming across a large amount of cash would be ideal, it’s not a realistic app marketing strategy, so focusing on how to build your influencer network in order to spread the word about your app is a much more effective place to start.
Strategy: As a grassroots approach to viral, you can reach out to your connections and key influencers, social media personalities, and bloggers in your app’s category in the hopes of leveraging their personal brands to promote your app. The holy grail of app press is getting featured by Apple or Google in their respective app stores. Both companies regularly review apps and prominently display their top recommendations in their app store—a feat which will immediately and dramatically drive downloads for your app.
10. Push notifications
Definition: Push is a double-edged sword for app marketers. They can be used to introduce new features, inform customers of timely and relevant events, or to announce a new sale. Done right, push notifications are a great tool for retention. They ensure that your app is always top-of-mind and lure customers back into your app. Done wrong, however, they’re the number one reason for app uninstalls.
Strategy: There is a massive difference between push notifications and in-app messages, but the strategies for both overlap quite a bit. Before we dive into strategy, let’s take a look at the differences between the message types: Push notifications are displayed at latent times to attempt to pull customers back into the app, and in-app messages are displayed when a customer is already active within the app itself to help build a deeper relationship that helps prolong the customer’s session.
Before you double down on push, be sure to consider the best times to use it. We recommend deep customer segmentation to understand how people are using your app before pushing messages to them at latent times in order to get them engaged. Once you’ve done your due diligence through segmenting and exploring your customers’ journey, then you can begin creating your push notification strategy.
11. Ratings and reviews
Definition: A cornerstone of mobile app marketing, app store ratings and reviews provide potential customers with the ever valuable assurance of quality. Just as Yelp reviews can make or break a local business, the slightest change in your app’s rating translates into dramatic changes in your app store rank, downloads, and revenue.
Strategy: As app marketing continues to evolve, so does the power of app store ratings and reviews. We have an entire 55+ page guide dedicated to ratings and reviews, so for the most thorough tips, we recommend giving it a read.
For a few quick places to start, we recommend the following:
- Give a voice to the silent majority (a large portion of your customers) to achieve a more representative sample of ratings and reviews by motivating more of your mobile customers to leave a review.
- Filter minor bug reports and feature requests out of the public app store reviews by providing in-app channels of communication and two-way dialog between your app or company and your customers.
- Turn negative reviewers into brand advocates by responding to their feedback right away, and by listening to their experience with a fully open mind.
- Put a more holistic app store optimization strategy into place to make it easier for potential customers to discover your app, even if your ratings and reviews lag behind your competition’s.
Of course, those aren’t the only ways you can improve your ratings and reviews, but they are a strong place to start.
12. Social media
Definition: Social media is well entwined in today’s marketing toolbox, and are a tremendous avenue to help show the human side of your app by connecting with customers on their terms, in a familiar setting. The social channel(s) you use will depend solely on your brand’s goals, and look different for every company.
Strategy: Fortunately, digital marketers don’t have to adapt our favorite social strategies just to fit mobile. You can promote your app on Twitter, Facebook, and the likes just as you would promote any website or business. The only thing we’d add is a consideration of paid promotion. Twitter’s App Cards, Facebook’s App Install Ads, and Pinterest’s App Pins are all geared specifically to mobile and, if your budget allows, are a great way to reach a very targeted audience.
13. Usability and visual design
Definition: Usability and visual design refers to the interaction between your customer and your app. Getting ahead in this channel requires continuous collaboration between app marketers, developers, and user interface designers, which looks different across all orgs dependent on available resources.
Strategy: When it comes to usability, simplicity is the most sophisticated. A natural-feeling navigation flow probably may be overlooked by your average customer, but a poor design will be impossible to ignore. As mentioned above, progress in this area will depend on multiple teams coming together to work on providing the optimal solution. In this case, a siloed team may be your greatest liability. To mitigate these risks, you need an understanding of both design principles and customer insights, which requires stepping into the customer’s shoes and making your app truly “people-first” as you work on your product and marketing strategies.
14. Word of mouth
Definition: This channel is the leading driver of app discovery, but it is also the hardest to measure—and the hardest to control. At the end of the day, referrals through word-of-mouth marketing come down to creating an app customers not only love, but love to talk about.
Strategy: Make your app easy to share. Even if a customer wants to refer your app, the chances that they will forget, between then and the next time they see someone who might be interested in the referral, are high. Try as you might, you can’t control for these situations, but you can make it easier to share your app on the spot. By building in social sharing capabilities (e.g., ‘Share to Facebook’) and social integration (e.g., the ability to search through your address book or social networks within the app and send an automated deep linked email to the referred party).
Wrapping it up
Knowing which app marketing channels you should use is a good start, but understanding strategic changes and best practices within each channel is what will really make your app stand out against its competition. We hope these strategic tips will take your app’s marketing from good to great before year’s end.
Do you have additional app marketing strategies you’d recommend? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!