What do you think is the biggest challenge for mobile app creators, software consultants, software engineering directors, and small business founders looking to create a mobile app for their brand?
Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with app development!
You can leave the technical aspects of creating the app to the mobile app developer you hire.
The biggest challenge in mobile app development is the marketing—getting people to download the app and continue using it.
Developers and software engineers are rarely trained in marketing, so they aren’t familiar with the proper user acquisition methodologies.
In other words, they don’t know all the tips, tricks, and tools marketing professionals use to engage their target audience and keep them coming back for more.
That’s why we’ve written this guide.
In the following sections, we will cover five ‘pre-launch strategies’ and seven ‘post-launch strategies’ that will help you find your target audience and keep them interested.
With them, you won’t end up with a beautifully designed and extremely practical app that no one knows about or uses.
So let’s dive in!
Five Pre-Launch Strategies
With approximately 1.85 million apps available in the iOS App Store and another 2.56 million on Google Play Store, you are going to have to create a tremendous amount of ‘buzz’ before launching to drive downloads on the launch date.
Here are some ways to do that.
1. Planning and Market Research
In the planning stage, you have to focus on two fundamental questions: when to release your app and when to start marketing it.
The Release Date
First, you have to calculate how long it is going to take to develop your app, as this will affect all the other deadlines in the marketing process.
Approximately, you can expect the development to take anywhere from three to nine months.
Also, if you are going to launch on the Google Play Store, keep in mind that getting it approved will take around three days.
Apple’s review process usually takes anywhere from 24 hours to three days for approval and release.
When to Start Marketing
The sooner you begin marketing your app, the better.
App awareness moves slowly and usually peaks around the launch date, so don’t wait until it is completed to start getting the word out.
In fact, since mobile app development is such a long and often arduous process, it’s best to promote your product from the development stage.
You can begin by reaching out to friends and family, interested parties, and other potential users to start creating awareness, but first, you have to prepare by determining who those potential users are and what sort of market you’re breaking into.
In other words, you have to do some market research.
In this stage, focus on getting to know your audience and understanding how they behave with competitor mobile apps.
Building a Customer Persona
You are always creating an app for a particular audience, so you should have some idea of who they are.
The first step in mobile marketing is creating a customer persona—a representation of the key traits and demographics of your target audience.
Here are the key demographics and traits you want to uncover:
You will need this information to be able to tailor your marketing messages to the language your potential customers speak.
After all, you won’t use the same language to address teenagers as you would if you were trying to address, say, middle-aged or elderly consumers.
Researching the Market
Gathering key customer data and creating a persona from it would be incomplete without knowing how those users might interact with your app.
Researching competitor apps helps you gauge how your potential users might interact with your app even before you complete it and bring it to the market.
This is invaluable for creating a marketing strategy that will distinguish your app from the competition.
There are three categories you want to focus on during competitive market research.
The first is the price. Are similar apps in the market free, and if not, how much can you realistically expect your users to pay for download?
Then, there is device compatibility. Look into the devices that are supported by similar apps, as that will determine your marketing efforts as well.
Finally, you want to define at least three key features of your app to prioritize in promotion. Focus on making them unique and easily distinguishable from the competition.
These three categories will give you a good idea of what selling points to include, strengths to promote, and weaknesses to exploit, as well as which keywords you should include in your marketing messages.
2. Engaging the User Base
We’ve already mentioned you should begin engaging your user base before your app is launched since it takes some time to build not only awareness but also excitement about it.
Potential users should know the features and benefits of your app way before it is released to the public.
The two main ways to increase user engagement around your app before launch are creating a website for your app and blogging about it.
Starting a Website
The average human has an attention span of eight seconds.
What does that mean for your app marketing?
Simply put, you are going to have to utilize an attention-getting platform that will keep users interested for more than eight seconds.
Creating a website for your app will give you many opportunities to engage with your users and collect vital data about them. Later, you can use that data to design profitable paid ad campaigns.
Three such ways to engage users on your app website are:
- Offering a prototype of your app to allow users to get a taste of it before launch.
- Giving a launch-day discount to users who agree to submit their contact details (name and email) so you can notify them when your app is ready.
- Using banners on your site to direct users to the app store of your choice (this will help increase downloads when your app is finally launched).
All in all, if you build a website for your app, users will know where to go to get more information about it and where to download it before and after you launch it.
Blogging About Your App
Blogging is a great way to drive traffic to your website.
However, there are some things you need to do to get the kind of traffic that will bring targeted visitors that are interested in what your app has to offer.
The central aspect of blogging for marketing purposes is creating long-form posts of 2,000 words or more.
Such posts will offer value to your readers and present your app as a solution to their problem.
The posts should be complemented by graphics and other visuals, even videos, when possible. Ideally, there should be around seven visual elements per post.
Since the first point of contact between your reader or and your content is the headline, make sure to test out several versions to make sure you’ll get the best results. Again, seven seems to be the magic number of different versions to try.
Each of your articles will require several hours of work in terms of writing and editing to make sure they’re clear, to the point, and engaging.
They should also be peppered with relevant keywords to make them rank better once they’re published. To choose the right ones, make sure to perform keyword research ahead of time.
Finally, you should publish around three times per week to keep your audience engaged and interested.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is!
However, following these guidelines will help you get your articles ranked in the search engines and seen by people on the lookout for solutions just like yours.
3. Creating a Press Kit
Why do you need a press kit for your app?
Well, you want bloggers, journalists, and other app ambassadors to know a thing or two about your app without you having to go over the same topics with them time and time again.
A press kit will contain all the information they might need to get their readership acquainted with what you offer.
So, what goes into a press kit?
A review guide, explaining what your app does and how to use it.
The guide should be accompanied by some screenshots, displaying your app in all its glory without any push notifications, misspelled words, or typographical errors included in them.
In addition to the screenshots, it pays to have lifestyle photos of a more personal nature, as some publishers like to use both screenshots and natural photos of people using apps.
Since videos get the most engagement out of any other type of marketing content, it’s a good idea to also have some promos to link to.
Finally, make sure to include logos, icons, and banners, as those help in branding (.PNG files are usually best).
To sum up, those are the basic elements of a good press kit. If you want yours to be truly exceptional, include all of the above and more.
For instance, consider including quotes from user reviews or journalists who have test-driven your app or a prototype of it and given their approval.
Here’s an example from Uber:
If any press releases have documented any milestones during your app’s development process, put those in, too (those releases should be from before the launch date).
A FAQ Sheet of questions and answers that can be cited in a journal or blog is also helpful.
Finally, don’t forget the company profile with relevant details such as the location of the headquarters, company mission, and information about your leadership team to prove you are not just some fly-by-night operation.
Remember, people don’t buy products, they buy the stories behind them, so your press kit should tell the story of you, your company, and your app.
A good story will entice journalists and bloggers to write about your app. Make sure it comes across well in your press kit.
4. Creating a Good Branding Style for Your App
Branding is an essential component of any well-thought marketing strategy.
Branding includes a unique name, design, or logo that identifies what your company stands for and what it can do for your users.
When creating a brand for your app, the key to success is consistency.
It means that your logo, design, name, or any other mechanism you use to identify and distinguish your app from other apps should be in harmony with each other and relevant to your user base.
Make sure your branding conveys what your company is all about and how your app solves any problems your users face.
As you come up with your brand’s logo or design, create some visual imagery guidelines.
Define them well, especially regarding the fonts and color schemes, so that they remain the same throughout the life of your app (including upgrades).
Take a look at the example of WhatsApp and its exclusive use of the color green to portray security.
Here are some questions to keep in mind while you build your app brand:
- Who will use my app?
- Why are they going to use it?
- What message do I want to convey to my users through my logo, color scheme, images, etc.?
- What feelings/emotions do I want my app name to evoke?
- How do I want to come across in the language and font I use to communicate with my users—friend, mentor, expert, etc.?
Answering these questions will determine your brand name, design, and tone so that your app is remembered and recognized amongst your target audience.
5. Building a Good Landing Page
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Landing pages are often the first impression a potential user will get of your app, so they have to be memorable and effective.
A website or blog is great for delivering information, but the landing page is there to create focus and convert. If you’re still in the pre-launch stage, you can use it to collect early adopters and their emails.
By keeping in touch with subscribers regularly, you keep them in the loop regarding the status of your app during the development stage and can notify them when it is released on the launch date.
To create a high converting landing page, consider the following tips.
Focus on Your Offer (and Nothing Else)
You want your users to perform a specific action, so including too many elements on your landing page that distract from that action will only confuse them and reduce conversions.
Write an Attention-Grabbing Headline and a Strong and Clear CTA
You can expect 90 percent of visitors who read your headline to also read your call-to-action.
Use Basic and Short Forms
Long forms tend to scare off visitors. They do not have the time, attention span, or patience to fill out lengthy questionnaires.
Collecting the most basic information is fine for your particular case: name, email, and phone number (optional), but two to three short fields are all you need to stay in touch with interested parties.
Provide a Thank-You Page
It is just courteous to thank anyone who has shown interest in your app and entered their details for future notifications about it.
A good landing page serves to encourage your prospects to connect with you and ultimately drives conversion.
Seven Mobile App Marketing Post-Launch Strategies
After creating excitement and getting those initial users, it’s time to focus on sustained downloads and nurturing consumer loyalty.
A good post-launch marketing strategy will combine both paid and organic marketing promotions to create even greater exposure and generate more user value.
1. App Store Optimization (ASO)
After the pre-launch marketing brings you those initial users, the last thing you want is for your downloads to come to a sudden halt.
Good ASO will enable you to consistently attract new ones.
App store optimization (ASO) helps your app rank well within the app store of your choice so people can find your app and download it.
In addition to increasing visibility, app store optimization will also help drive conversions (in other words, get those downloads).
While there is no definite answer to how many visitors you can expect to achieve with an optimized app store listing, ASO is bound to get you a steady stream of them, and hopefully downloads.
Around 70 percent of app store visitors use the search function to find new apps, and 65 percent of apps are downloaded after a store search has been conducted.
The following are some ranking factors for Google Play Store and Apple App Store, two of the biggest app stores today.
If you know how to play by their rules, they will be happy to send visitors to your listings.
Consider implementing the following in your ASO strategy, based on the ranking factors given above:
- Choose a relevant and unique, easy-to-read name for your app (50 characters for Google Play and 30 characters for Apple App Store), since this is what visitors will see first.
- Pick relevant and high-volume keywords for your description and keyword fields (use your chosen app store’s search bar to get ideas).
- Write a description of up to 4,000 characters to let your visitors know exactly what your app is about. Be sure to include an overview of its main features and any keywords where relevant.
- Use screenshots and videos in your listing to better demonstrate the functionality of your app.
- Include any ratings or reviews as social proof. If you don’t have any yet, you should encourage current users to submit a review within your app itself via pop-ups or notification messages.
Remember, app store optimization is an ongoing process. If you fail to get the desired results at first, look at other successful app listings and try to model what they are doing to get visitors and downloads.
Yes, it is possible to advertise your app in other apps but only if you return the favor.
Cross promotions (a.k.a. Brand Alliances) is a relatively new marketing strategy and is even considered by many marketers to perform better than most other online marketing methods.
There are several ways to cross-promote your app.
- With direct cross-promotions, two or more app developers agree to send traffic to each other’s apps.
- Then, there are app network exchanges that connect different apps who are looking for cross-promotion advertising. The method usually runs on a credit system.
- Finally, there is internal cross-promotion. This entails promotions done for a brand’s new app through one or more of their already existing apps.
Cross-promotion advertising has three major benefits.
First, it’s a low-cost option since cross-promotions are usually free.
It also offers greater transparency, as app developers working with each other have immediate insight into how their ads are performing on their partner’s apps.
Developers and brands that already have a large following through their other apps will benefit from this approach. They can easily promote any new apps at no cost and with no advertising restrictions.
There are two fundamental ways to find partners for direct cross-promotions.
First, look for non-competing brands for cross-promotions.
Reach out to influencers, local businesses, other companies outside your niche, and nonprofit organizations that have popular apps that are not in direct competition with yours.
Another thing you can do is reach out to online businesses with newsletters.
You can agree to promote non-competitive services on your app with companies that have a large newsletter base that have the same demographics as your target audience.
Cross-promotion app advertising is a great marketing tool for brands with a limited budget and very little marketing experience. It is free to employ and relatively easy to understand.
3. Referrals and Viral Loops
A viral loop is a marketing method designed to get current users and those who have encountered your app to recommend it to others.
If you are skeptical about the effectiveness of viral loops for user acquisition, you should know that some of the biggest app brands have used them to gain a massive user base.
Here are some of those brands:
- Candy Crush Saga: uses in-game value to incentivize referrers.
- Timberman: provides a ‘Tweet’ option to promote your score on Twitter.
- Hardest Game Ever 2: allows users to compete with Facebook Friends.
- Dropbox: offers extra storage space for inviting friends.
- Snapchat: supplies an option under users’ contact lists to invite those who are not on Snapchat yet.
There are four steps to creating a viral loop. Let’s look at them.
Make Sure Your App Is Relevant and High Quality
No matter what incentive you offer, if your app doesn’t add value or offer some form of entertainment to the referrer, they won’t recommend it to others.
Choose an Incentivized Referral Scheme
Basically, decide what incentive you are going to offer your referrers. This can include:
- Savings (e.g., coupons and discounts for sharer and receiver).
- Goal-Driven Promotion (i.e., the opportunity to achieve a greater result if the app is shared).
- Value-Incentives (e.g., more storage for both sharer and receiver).
- Social Cause Incentives (e.g., donations to charities and nonprofit organizations).
Such incentives will encourage people to refer you to their circle.
Deciding on an Onboarding Process
Essentially, you have to devise ways for people to enter into your viral loop.
You can choose between high scores, custom playlists, and other tools that help people showcase their personality, achievements, and emotions.
Create Your Funnel
You want to make your entire viral loop funnel ‘short and sweet’.
The invitation to share should be short to minimize ‘drop-offs,’ and your incentives should fit audience interests.
Overall, viral loops are not only a great way to make your app attract attention and increase its user base, but they also help raise levels so that users stay users for a long time.
4. Influencer Outreach
Influencer marketing is one of the most effective post-launch app marketing strategies you can employ.
As many as 80% of marketers find influencer marketing to be effective.
The great thing about this type of marketing is that it works for almost any product, service, or app you can think of because there are influencers in almost any industry or niche you can imagine.
All you have to do is find the right one for your particular app.
There are several ways to find top social media influencers in your niche that will share the news about your app with their following.
Twitter Saved Searches
Twitter is an effective and free way to find highly influential people in your industry or niche.
Start by following hashtag searches relevant to your niche and app.
Then, save them on the ‘More Options’ menu. This way, you will get regular notifications of topics and influencers tweeting about your topic of interest.
After a while, you will start recognizing the names and figuring out who has enough credibility to be a good referral for your app.
To find experts and influencers on Linkedin, simply perform a search for your topic of choice, and a list of people who are experts in their field will show up.
You will have to do a bit of research to find relevant influencers willing to help you with your app promotion.
Still, the good news is that Linkedin will provide you with information about their experience level and expertise.
The search option on Instagram works similarly to Twitter, in that you can perform a hashtag search for relevant topics.
However, keep in mind that top Instagram influencers often charge a hefty ‘shout-out’ fee. Still, you can try offering them another incentive like a promo code or coupon if you have a limited marketing budget.
There are a lot of influencers on Youtube that don’t appear on any other social media platform—those are real hidden gems!
Again, perform some quick searches for relevant topics in your niche and reach out to channels with large followings.
Ask them if they would be willing to review your app on one of their videos for a monetary or non-monetary incentive.
Videos are a great way to bring attention to your app and all of its features and benefits.
That form of marketing also happens to have some of the highest conversion rates out of any online marketing method to date.
Viewers are 64-85 percent more likely to buy after watching a video.
Still, the content you create must be tailored to your audience, telling the story of your app clearly and simply.
To do so, use the following set of guidelines to create a high-converting mobile app video:
Your video should focus on what your app does.
If viewers are shown the practicality of your app, they will be more inclined to click through to your download page on your site or your app store listing.
FourSquare App Video is a great example of a mobile app video with purpose.
It provides an overview of all the ways you can use the app in engaging animation without overwhelming the user.
Practical Benefits over Features
Again, the practical benefits of an app are more important for users than your app’s features.
TripAdvisor does a good job of showing all the possible uses of their app in this video: TripAdvisor App.
Short and Simple
As mentioned earlier, people these days have a very short attention span.
Therefore, don’t create long app videos. Thirty seconds to a minute is all you need to show the possibilities and benefits of your app.
Also, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on ‘flashy graphics’ and Hollywood-grade video production to get your point across. You can simply film yourself using the app, so users know what to expect.
Here is a good example of a short and simple app video: Mailbox App Video.
As you can see, it holds the user’s attention with a catchy background tune and showcases the different features of the app, demonstrating how easy it is to use.
By using the tips above, you will increase your chances of creating a high-converting app video. However, you won’t get any downloads if no one sees it.
We suggest you learn the best and most recent practices of ranking videos on Youtube to get interested eyes on your video.
Here is a good place to start: How to Rank Youtube Videos.
6. Paid Ads
Yes, paid ads cost money, but they are well worth the expense.
Paid ads can reach a larger audience than ‘organic’ marketing methods alone.
Aside from reaching a larger audience, paid advertising also brings fast and measurable results, helping you build stronger relationships with your audience.
There are a variety of paid ad structures and platforms but it is probably best if you focus on a few of them for your app marketing to keep your advertising costs down.
Once you have mastered a few of them, you can include other paid ad platforms to increase your reach even further.
We suggest the following paid ad formats and platforms for your app paid ads campaigns.
Apple Search Ads
Of course, this platform should only be used if you are going to list your app on Apple’s App Store.
The average conversion rate for Apple Search Ads is around 50%.
Apple provides a brief overview of how their search ads work so you can get a good idea of how to run a campaign and what type of results you can expect.
No mobile app paid advertising strategy would be complete without Google Ads.
Almost 95 percent of clicks on mobile devices go to Google Ads.
The Google Ads platform allows for a variety of advertising formats, which makes the probability of increasing your reach and the possibility of getting more app downloads that much higher.
Their ad formats include:
- Search Ads
- Display Ads
- Video Ads
- App Ads
Another benefit of using Google is that they help you create your ad campaign by using your app information through their Google App Ads format – they will even help you find targeted users based on your goals.
In your case, the goal will be app downloads.
Utilizing Facebook Ads is another great way of finding and engaging with app users.
It is possible to reach almost two billion people through Facebook Ads.
Like Google, Facebook also provides ad formats specifically for app advertisements.
However, you are not limited to their mobile app ad format, either. You can run your mobile app campaigns on their other properties, which include Facebook itself with its Messenger and Audience Network, as well as Instagram.
Within these options, you can utilize different ad formats, such as:
- Image Ads
- Video Ads
- Slideshow Ads
- Carousel Ads
- Instant Experience (mobile only)
Facebook even allows you to combine them for faster and better results.
We suggest, however, that you focus on one of them at a time, at least in the beginning.
Your best bet will probably be their app ads option, as it is specifically tailored to get you more app engagement and downloads.
Here is a great guide for learning how to run Facebook Mobile App Ads: Facebook Ads for Mobile Apps.
7. Social Media Campaigns
Along with paid ads, you can also use organic marketing on social media to bring even more attention to your app after launch.
As many as 81 percent of Americans use social media, which means you can utilize both paid and organic strategies to maximize your reach.
The best way to use social media for your post-launch app promotion is to run contests and giveaways. People get excited when presented with the prospect of winning something.
There are three common types of contests you can use in your campaign.
- Sweepstakes: people enter their email for a chance to win a prize, while the other two types require a bit more participation from your audience.
- Photo contests: participants are given a photo theme and then upload their photo that represents a version of that theme to your social media profile to win something.
- Voting contest: participants are given a chance to vote for any number of topics they may be interested in.
Remember, no matter which type of contest you choose, your goal is to get app downloads, so your prize should have something to do with your app.
If your app is free, include it in your prize, and if it costs money to download it, simply offer a free download to the winner.
To promote your contest, reach out to your current followers on all of your social media platforms and ask them to join. You can also run paid ads, which we went over in the last section, to reach possible interested parties outside of your following.
Also, don’t forget that each social media platform has its own competition rules that you have to adhere to.
Here is a guide to the contest guidelines for six of the most popular social media platforms: Social Media Competition Rules.
To get the downloads you desire, you need to market your app consistently with both paid advertising and organic marketing methods across a variety of platforms.
We have listed tips, guidelines, and places to market your app to build more awareness and engagement during your app’s pre-launch and post-launch phases.
Focus on increasing conversion rates (i.e., downloads) with some of the suggested methods to get faster results with less effort and cost.
This guide lists what you need to increase user acquisition, so put what you have learned into practice.
You will generate buzz for your app before it even hits the market and drive downloads during the launch and beyond.