8 Steps to an App Marketing Strategy

By John Houghton on January 21, 2014

Graph showing increase on a smartphone.

So you’ve spent a lot of your budget on building the app, and now you want to release it.  How do you drive adoption?  A lot of first-time app developers don’t consider this crucial next step, and as a result their app doesn’t go anywhere.  How you market your app and drive adoption in the marketplace is as important as the building of the app itself.  A lot of well-known brand marketers will say that it’s less important what the product does than how it’s marketed.  Therefore, app marketing is key to the success of your app.  If you want to go the social/organic marketing route, you need to start at least 6 months before your app launch.  If you miss this window, your only alternative is the paid advertising route (which I will cover more in-depth in a future post).  Here are a few tips:

1. Think about Branding – A lot of mobile app developers miss this step, but you have to think about what perceptions you want to invoke when people think about your app.  This should already be baked into the look, feel, and function of your app and it should also be reflected in your marketing and advertising.

2. Prepare with Keyword Research – For those who are uninitiated, this might sound like a waste of time, but this is the most important step.  We live in a keyword-driven world.  You need to discover what your users might type on a keyboard to find the type of benefit that your app offers.  The results of strategically chosen keywords drive your app name, your website, and your advertising.

3. Choose Your App Name – Based on your research, you should have identified your top keywords and keyphrases.  Use these phrases to come up with a descriptive name for your app.  A descriptive name is ideal, because people searching for apps on the iTunes App Store or Google Play tend to use descriptive words.  The other option is to invent a synthetic name or neologism – a word that sounds catchy but doesn’t mean anything (e.g. Endomondo).  You need to consider whether having a clever but non-descriptive name is better than having a less sexy but descriptive name.  Hint: the descriptive name will drive app installs just by being there.

4. Create an Awesome and Eye-catching Icon – The point here is to invest in your app icon.  Please read my article: The App Icon: A Determining Factor in Your Mobile App’s Success.  While we’re on the subject, you should have excellent screen shots, and this is an opportunity to include clear and concise captions in your screen shots, to explain exactly what your app does.

5. Create an App Website – Creating a website for your app provides a home base for it, and you can use the website as a foundation for promoting the app.  Basically, in a world driven by search engines, content is key – lots of it, so you need a base site where you can optimize and publish content.  This ties in very closely with your keyword research.  You need to publicize the website and build its search engine ranking, which you can do by creating new web pages or new blog pages.  This is called content marketing, and although it has been around for a number of years, it became very popular in 2012 when search engines became better at ranking content.  Register your domain as early as possible, because search engines won’t rank a site very highly until it is at least 6 months old.

6. Make a Press Kit – This is your PR kit, and it includes names of the top 50 journalists that publish on your subject.  You should court these journalists and bloggers, make friends, and ask them to review your app.

7. Produce a Demo Video – Hopefully you have skills here, and if you don’t I suggest paying for a crisp demo video.  It should be scripted and voiced by a professional voice-over artist, and you can bring the script to life with footage of your app in action.  40 to 60 seconds is a good length.  Put the demo on your website and on the app store.  Also consider uploading it to social media platforms such as YouTube, with links in the description that lead both to your website and to the relevant app stores which host your app.

8. Engage in Paid Advertising – This is a big subject, but a lot of marketers will usually employ some sort of paid advertising, even if it’s to bolster their content marketing efforts.  You can consider banner ads, cross-app promotion, and interstitial ads.  The question of user acquisition is also a hot topic and a growing market, connected to analytics and “big data” companies such as Flurry or Fiksu.  If your app targets a specific group that is already assembled online or offline, do some research to see how you might buy paid advertising to reach this group.  If your app targets an established market, it is likely that a potential user base is already there, just waiting for you.

After reading all of this, you might think that it’s more work to promote an app than to develop it.  You’re right!  I usually tell people to set aside as much budget to market the app as it took to develop the app. If you’re not going to be writing content, then you need to be spending money on advertising.  Either way, it will take time, money or both!

Posted in Android Apps, App Development, Enterprise Mobile Apps, iOS Apps, iPad Apps, iPhone Apps, Mobile Apps



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