Chapter 6: Marketing the App

If you’ve successfully made it to this point, you have done well. You have taken an app made it a reality; an app that actually works. If your goal is to market and distribute the app, however, there is still so much to be done in order to be successful.

If you are going to distribute the app through the Apple App Store, there two very different approaches that might apply to you: 1) Selling the app for a fee to make a profit OR 2) Give the app away to customers or prospects as a business or promotional tool. Naturally, the first approach is the most difficult and this chapter discusses marketing an app in order to reach and convince prospects to make the purchase. If you are distributing the app for other reasons, much of the information can still be helpful; you still need to get the app listed on the Apps Store, create awareness, and so forth. If neither of these addresses your goals you can simply skip over this section.

You Have an App!

Congratulations. You’ve successfully developed an iPhone app. That’s no small feat and you deserve a round of applause. Now it’s time to upload the app to the App Store and rocket up the bestseller list if you plan to make a profit, right? Not so fast. An app store is a crowded place. There are over 700,000 apps available in the iPhone app store, and in November of 2012 Apple celebrated the approval of its one-millionth app. Apple receives over 10,000 applications for new apps every month.

As good as your app may be, it is still going to face steep competition. Sure, there are runaway bestsellers such as Angry Birds, Words With Friends, and Camera+, but those are the exceptions. A 2010 study by the app directory, Appolicious, found that 56% of all iPhone apps sell less than 10,000 total units. Nearly 25% of all iPhone apps sell less than 1,000 units. Only 10% of all apps sell more than 125,000 units.

So how do you get your app into the privileged 10%? Building a high-quality app is a good first step and one we have tried to cover. But unfortunately, quality doesn’t guarantee success. Consider the story of David Barnard-creator of the mileage-logging app, Trip Cubby. The app was featured in a 2009 Daily Beast article. Barnard’s app opened to the kind of universal praise and positive reviews every developer dreams of. The app was even featured in Apple’s much-coveted “What’s Hot” list. But after three months of sales, Barnard was in the red to the tune of $30,000. A year later he was still down a few thousand dollars. As we discussed in Chapter 1, being realistic is important. No matter how many great reviews you get, you are still limited by your marketplace.

The goal is to maximize that market – what percentage of that available market can you convert to sales? You clearly believe your app has value. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have put yourself through the arduous development process. The question is how to get your target market to see your app’s greatness? How do you get potential customers to press that all-important “Buy” button? And once you have customers, how do you get them to spread the message to their friends?

Apps are just like any other product; they have to be marketed. Ford doesn’t simply roll trucks out onto the lot and wait for customers to decide to buy them. They market. They advertise. They make us feel good about Ford trucks. They press their message until there is no uncertainty on our part about what Ford does, why Ford trucks are great, and where we can purchase one.

You need to create this same awareness in your potential customers. They should clearly understand the app’s purpose. They should quickly and implicitly see the app’s value. And they should love the app so much that they don’t hesitate to tell their friends about it. Success at the App Store requires a disciplined marketing process. It’s never too early to begin marketing. In fact, the sooner you start the better.

You may not know where to begin. Just because you have a good idea for an app doesn’t mean you know sales and marketing. That’s why we are going to walk through a step-by-step process on how to effectively market your new app including:

  • Pre-Launch: Marketing methods to generate buzz, preliminary activities.
  • Launch:Getting on the app store, optimizing app store space, getting reviews, and moving up the charts
  • Post-Launch: Converting your customers into walking advertisements, reinvigorating and maintaining sales after the initial push.

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