Contrary to popular belief, you need not spend a fortune making your app. Sure, you can spend a lot of money on user acquisition, but for many developers this is not an option. Instead, there are lots of things you can do to drive your app’s profile if you have the passion and time to do so. Here are ten things to consider to help you get your app ahead of the pack:
1. Quality – it’s your biggest sales tool
Honestly, if your app is great, looks nice and works well then you’ve won half the battle. It’s our belief that cream always rises to the top and apps that look lovely and really perform well for the audience will be shared. Unfortunately, too many people develop their apps in a vacuum, not really benchmarking against others who have been successful in the same category (assuming there are competitors). If your app looks great and exudes that special polish then the media will be interested and want to cover it and it may even pique the interest of the app store editorial teams. Apple wants polished apps that showcase the power of their devices as well as echoes their ethos for high quality. Most of all, customers will say nice things in their reviews and want to share it with other people.
2. Be unique, and if you’re not unique be better
If your app is unique, truly interesting and answering a need then that’s a great start. We appreciate that not all apps are unique and yours may well be an iteration of something that’s already out there. If that’s the case, then be absolutely clear as to what you’re doing better than the competition because you’ll need to be able to explain it succinctly to consumers, journalists and the app store owners. It’s really essential that you use other apps, note down why yours will be better and create a clear view of how yours will be the best.
2. Get feedback from friends and family……it’s free!
Please pardon the terrible alliteration of this headline, but before you launch consider having your app tested by friends and family. Truth is that you’re far far too close to your app to see the wood for the trees and putting it in the hands of a regular everyday Joe/Jo can unearth a whole list of useful feedback and comments. Most app developers we deal with find it a breath of fresh air when we give them frank and honest feedback which they are always grateful for. Of course, there are places that you can go to look for beta testers and potential fans such as appealing for people on social media or visiting fan forums (such as Touch Arcade which is a hive of ardent mobile gamers.)
3. Create a strategy
Before you launch make sure you have a strategy. There’s a lot of questions you need to be asking yourself such as ‘what’s my social media strategy’, ‘how will I pitch my app to the media? ’ and ‘how do I fill the acquisition funnel?’ Creating a strategy keeps you focused and ensures that you’ve covered all the bases. If you need a checklist of questions then we have handily compiled a list of 20 questions to get you started. Just click here
4. Create a great first impression
Customers are fickle beasts and quite frankly they owe you nothing…zip…nada. You’ve gotta slog it out to show them why you’re worth a look and then a download. This means ensuring that your app store presence is as good as it can be. Typically known as ASO (app store optimisation) this ecompassess your icon, name, app stroe description, video, keywords and screenshots. Other on-page factors that will influence customers are going to be your reviews and any positive reviews that you’ve received from the media (more about that later). Many people fall at this hurdle because they don’t put enough care and attention into what is effectively their storefront. Even the icon is a painstaking labour of love for many people who also A/B test their icon to see if small iterations elicit more downloads. Just take a look at these 20 examples of app store icons. You should also use the incredibly useful (and free) app icon template here to help guide your design at different sizes. We could spend pages and pages just talking about app icons alone and this is before we even turn our attention to the other on-page factors that we’ve mentioned. All of these things are there for you to maximise and make the best possible impact – it’s just a question of being aware of how important they are and testing the best approach.
5. Use talented freelancers to produce assets
The great thing about the web is that it’s one big marketplace, democratising the provision of a myriad of services. Whether you need a game trailer produced, some promotional screenshots or even an icon made, you can rest assured that there’s an army of low cost talented freelancers out there who want your business. Sites like People Per Hour or Fiverr are a goldmine for low cost asset production.
6. Maximise your discoverability
There’s a suite of free tools and channels out there to help you get your app noticed for little or no budget. Having a website is a must and WordPress is ideal to help you create a great landing page for your app as well as get your app appearing on search engines. Finding a cheap hosting service is easy – we use Siteground which is super cheap and reliable. You can then buy an app specific skin such as this one from a site such as Themeforest. No section on maximising discoverability would be complete without mention of social media. once again, we could write pages on social media for app developers but Twitter and Facebook are a must. Be sure to reserve your app name as early as possible. Don’t fret if your name is taken- just app something like ‘app’ or ‘game’ to the end of the name which increases your chances of having a name that’s available. It’s a bit like when movies launch and put the word ‘movie’ at the end of the movie title for the URL. You’ll need to spend time making your social pages attractive and then you’ll need to manage them on a daily basis to really ensure that you’re engaging with consumers. A tool such as Crowdfire is great for legitimate Twitter follower growth. Hootsuite or Buffer are also powerful free tools to help you schedule social media posts at the optimal time. If you’re a Twitter novice then take a look at our 10 tips to get you tweeting like a pro blogpost
7. Give the media what they want
Earlier this year we polled 70 app review journalists on why they accepted and rejected apps for review. You can read all of our findings in the 2015 app reviewer survey. The top level sentiment from most media was to be relevant (not spamming them with apps that they would never be interested in) as well as being clear and concise as to what your app does and what they might be interested in looking at it. This all ties into our earlier point about being very clear as to the app’s USP as the media will see hundreds of apps and also likely be able to quickly asses if you have something genuinely unique or worth a second glance. Just so you’re aware, some review journalists receive up to 50 app pitch requests a day which equates to around 13,000 a year! Also be sure to link to some screenshots and a video (video can be a massive help in getting your app reviewed). Most of all, be genuine and don’t stalk the journalists. If they’re interested then they will come back to you.
8. Spread the word
Once you have something to say then it’s time to get it out there. One route is the aforementioned media, and this is where you’ll have to do some legwork to discover the best outlets and the best journalists to approach. If you have a game, then there’s a bevy of sites out there to go to, but more general apps may require targeting specific vertical sectors depending on what they do – such as sports, finance, parents etc. In addition to the media, you can also reach out to small blogs and forums. Forums are a great place to engage with people but always be aware that forum users hate overt sales messages so it may be better to go in when you’re looking for beta testers or some feedback. Newswires are also a good consideration and an iOS specific newswire such as prMac is incredibly affordable at around $20. Last of all – make sure you utilise your own marketing channels. Perhaps you work for a large brand and have access to huge amounts of Twitter followers as well as print media, website, email newsletters and much more. If so then we strongly recommend leveraging as many of your internal channels as possible.
9. Create some great content marketing
These days, it’s all about creating great content that can ultimately be shared on social media. At the forefront of this is video. Don’t forget that YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world. Producing making of/behind the scenes videos, featurettes and preview and launch trailers can be great to share through Youtube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook and a myriad of other places. Likewise, original artwork, developer blogs/diaries, screenshots and more can be interesting for consumers to read and look at. Just some of the things that we’ve done for our clients include:
- Commissioning a west coast US rapper to make an original song about a client’s game called Gang Nations (which we commissioned for very low cost via Fiverr by the way) – Listen here
- Creating a kids colouring book based on characters in the game Little Galaxy. We then used the books as physical prizes via social media, parent bloggers etc. Take a look here
- Creating a campaign at Savetheknight.com for the game Epic Eric to highlight the plight of Eric the hapless knight who needed resucing by his damsel Epic Erica.
10. Understand your customers
It’s absolutely crucial that you build up a good picture of what your customers are actually doing when they enter your app. There are some great free tools such as Flurry Analytics to give you valuable insight. Websites such as App Annie help you track what’s happening in the app stores themselves and Talkwalker Alerts act like Google Alerts on steroids to give you daily updates of where people are talking about your app.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for app success (rest assured that if we had it then we would have used it by now many times over) but the good news is that for little or no money and a lot of effort and dedication you can give yourself and most important of all, your app a decent chance of being noticed and hopefully heading up the charts.
For more insight be sure to download our FREE 30 page ebook ‘How to Market your app on a shoestring budget’ – click here
You can catch James’ session along with all our other industry experts at the next Academy from 1st Oct – 3rd Dec in Shoreditch.