Ideally, you’ll hit the ground running on launch day and consistently move up the sales chart. That kind of success doesn’t just happen accidentally; it requires a disciplined and systematic promotional effort. During the time the app is in development is a good time to network within your target market and build early support. In this section, we’ll walk through a step-by-step pre-launch marketing plan that will help you get off to a fast start.
We just covered some of the basic elements of a good website-screenshots, a video, a call to action, and so on. Early in development, you may not have screenshots. You probably won’t have a video of your app and you definitely won’t have a call to action because your app isn’t on the App Store…yet.But even at this stage, a website can still relay your message and build your network. Start with a simple landing page. A landing page is where your customer “lands” when they go to your website. It’s designed to obtain one specific action from the customer.
Look at the landing page for the app Sonar. This page includes most of the elements we listed above; the icon, the name, the tag line. It has a one-sentence value statement – “Sonar is the best way to connect and share with people nearby now.” There is a picture of the app in use. Plus it has a call to action – the yellow button that says “Get Sonar.”
Your landing page should convey the app’s benefits with visuals and text
If you’re still in development and your app isn’t available for purchase, can you have a call to action? Of course. Instead of asking for a purchase, ask for an email address so you can send updates on the app’s development. At this stage, your goal should be to build a pool of potential buyers who can help spread your message and expand your network. Every person who submits an email address is a person who has proactively expressed interest in your app. These email addresses aren’t purchases, yet, but they are prospects that can be converted to sales on launch day.
What about the screenshots and pictures/videos of the app in use? You may not have those items ready for display on the website. And you don’t want to put an early draft or less-than-finished product out for public consumption. What do you do? Use the lack of content to create an air of mystery. Remember…the goal at this point is to collect email addresses. You don’t have to convince website visitors that your app is perfect; you just have to convince them that your app is intriguing.
Let’s assume you built an app in the same vein as RunKeeper. Maybe you have a name, an icon, and a tagline, but not much more. Let’s say you plan to launch the app at the end of the summer. What could you put on your landing page? You could include the items you do have along with an intriguing tagline announcing the app’s launch:
“Starting August 31, your morning run will never be the same.”
“The running (jogging, hiking, and biking) world changes on 8-31-13.”
Then simply add an email submit button that says something like “Send Me Updates.” As the email addresses roll in, you can build a list of individual potential buyers who have expressed interest in your app. You will be able to send updates as well as a ‘launch announcement’ when the time comes with a link to your App Store page which will enable them to purchase the app.
The art of marketing on the internet is a complex venture and honestly not the purpose of this book. So if you have serious intentions for marketing your app for profit, you will need to invest in books or materials about internet marketing or engage the services of a professional to help you.
But for those who are simply investigating the basics of internet marketing, we will look at the two basic segments of internet marketing
NOTE: Often with Inorganic search you only pay an ad fee when someone clicks on your ad to visit your page.
Both approaches to Internet marketing, Organic and Inorganic, are somewhat of a science, and both are usually applied in a coordinated way. Experts write books and articles about search optimization, so I will leave it up to you do your research in that area.
If you want to learn more about Internet marketing, there are a number of inexpensive paperbacks that have received high reviews on Amazon. Some of these include: Mastering Online Marketing and the McGraw-Hill 36 Hour Course: On-Line Marketing, and Search Engine Marketing Inc.,.
There are also websites where you can find advice on internet marketing. Some of these include:
Other sites like http://www.apptamin.com are devoted to helping app developers promote and market their apps.
This is less about promoting your app and more about promoting the fact that YOU are developing an app. Think back to your target market list.
Now is the time to start connecting with bloggers, writers, and influencers within your niche. For example, if you were developing an app on budgeting, you want to make a list of blogs that focus on budgeting and managing money. Next, start commenting on blog posts and even offer to write guest posts on relevant blogs. Mention your app as part of the conversation, but do so in a way that they can find you on-line. Adding a direct link may increase the odds your post will be flagged since many networking and bulletin board sites frown on blatant marketing and spamming, so be low-key and tactful in promoting your app in this fashion.
The goal is to establish yourself as a knowledgeable expert in your niche. Write everything with a touch of professionalism. Don’t delve into blatant self-promotion. Don’t direct every conversation back to your app. Aim to sincerely provide solid, helpful content and then casually mention your app as an additional piece of information.
You can do the same thing on Twitter and Facebook. Find the influencers in areas related to the app, follow them and contribute to the conversation when you have something substantive to add when appropriate and in a non-intrusive manner. As part of a conversation, you can mention that you are developing an app that addresses a particular need or problem and mentions the app name or other information that will help readers find your website.
Regardless of whether you’re developing a game or non-game app, you have a natural connection with one group just by being an app developer. There are several app developer communities consisting of developers who help each other promote their apps. Tap for Tap sponsors a weekly Twitter chat under #appdevchat on Thursdays at 10 AM PST. IDRTG (Indie Developers Re-Tweet Group) is another Twitter community dedicated to helping developers spread their message. There are two groups on Facebook – Indy App & Game Developers and App Entrepreneurs and Marketers. Join and frequent these groups to learn how other approaches the app business. You’ll likely hear some new ideas and meet people willing to share their experiences and knowledge.
Use the email addresses and Twitter followers you’ve collected to communicate on a regular basis. Set a consistent time (such as every Friday afternoon) to send out an update. Give your followers the latest news on your app’s development; a new screenshot or video, for example.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask for comments and feedback from your followers. One way to enhance interest in and desire for your app is to involve them in the development. Ask what they’d like to see in your app. Ask what issues they have in regards to apps in this genre and what they’ve always wanted an app to do. You may even get some new development ideas out of it.
The update frequency should increase as you get closer to the launch date. You may want to include some kind of countdown feature on your landing page to build the excitement and through the launch. When you receive positive reviews make sure your email and Tweet them to your followers.
A positive review form, a blog, website, magazine, or newspaper might be the most efficient and effective marketing tool. While the reviews may be free, it could take some effort to get noticed by the reviewers. Influential reviewers are inundated with review requests. Getting your app to the front of the line will require time, patience, and persistence.
While you need to make sure your app is completely done and ready for launch before sending it for review, you can start laying the groundwork in the prelaunch stage. Start by building a list of target blogs and publications. Your list should be broken down into three groups: 1) blogs dedicated to iPhone apps; 2) blogs and publications within your niche; and 3) traditional magazines and newspapers.
It is challenging to gain traction with the first group. Every developer wants their app reviewed on websites like AppAdvice.com, theiphoneappreview.com, and MacWorld.com. Still, the amount of traffic
these blogs receive makes it an absolute necessity to solicit them for a review.
Getting reviewed by a popular review site will require working hard and smart
When you solicit these sites, keep your email short and concise. You want to include the following information:
Again, these sites are flooded with review requests, so brevity is your friend. Do not go into a long dissertation on what inspired the app and how you feel it will change the world. Also, try to make the email feel informal and personal. Poke around the review site and try to find the name of the person who accepts review requests. If you can’t find that person, see if a specific person seems to write most of the reviews for apps similar to yours. Email them directly with your review request and write the email specifically for them. Do not send out a generic mass email. Remember to be personable, professional, and appreciative. A friendly tone will help you stand out from the crowd.
The second group consists of blogs and publications within your niche. They cater to the very people who would be most interested in using your app. Use a similar approach as above when you contact this group and include the same basic information. However, since these blogs or publications focus on a specific industry or interest (not just apps), you can expand on the description of what your app does and how it is beneficial to the people in that group. These contacts will be less interested in the technical aspects of the app and more interested in the app’s value to the field or pursuit. You may also want to expand on the personal story behind the app. Share what inspired the app’s development. Share your own history and expertise within the field. For example, if you developed a running-log app like RunKeeper, you might share how you came up with the idea for the app while training for your first full-length marathon.
The third group is general publications like your hometown newspaper. When addressing this group, you want to really play up the personal story behind the app. Focus on your idea for the app and the obstacles you faced in development. Expand on any personal connection you have with the publication’s readers, like being from that city or graduating from a nearby college.
Remember that soliciting reviews is a numbers game. Most of the people you contact are not going to accept your request or even return your email. Don’t get discouraged. All you need is one or two positive, well-placed reviews to ignite your app’s market awareness. And while you don’t want to be a pest or end up generating a negative impression, some follow-up and persistence can be a good thing.
We’ve all heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The final step of your pre-launch marketing campaign is 100% prevention, but it could save you a major headache later.
Do not launch your app before it is ready. As you wind down development, you’ll start to feel the rush of achievement. You may be tempted to get it out there so you can start to receive sales and feedback. Don’t do it. Negative user reviews are the number one killer of iPhone apps. You can avoid that by taking some extra time to test and review every characteristic of your app as described in the chapter on testing. Does it function properly? Is the design appealing? Is it easy to understand?
Don’t just test the app itself. Also, test out the app name and description of the app. Most people leave negative reviews when the app doesn’t meet expectations. They thought they were buying one app and received something different. Do your descriptions set the right expectations? Does your app deliver on its promises? Try to get feedback and comments from friends, coworkers, and anyone who might have communication or advertising expertise.
There will certainly be bugs and issues that need to be fixed later. We’ll address those in post-launch marketing. However, a bit of effort and review can head off unnecessary and careless mistakes. Don’t sabotage all your hard work. Do yourself a favor and double; triple, even quadruple check everything before launch.
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