Today’s lesson in Marketing involves one of the biggest growing technologies today: Apple’s iPhone. Along with most, I have found that the iPhone is very easy to use. So easy in fact that my toddler can navigate the home button, slider, and games. The number of free and paid applications have grown exponentially and continue to add value to the phone and its popularity. As of November of 2009, there were over 100,000 applications available for download in the App Store. The business of iPhone apps have not only become more mainstream, they have also become a big way for small businesses or entrepreneurs to make BIG bucks. But there is a catch. Now that the App Store is so saturated, it is even harder to get your app noticed. Enter the business of marketing and promoting iPhone apps.
I recently took on an iPhone app promotion project. In doing so I have had to research some best practices to follow in order to get an app noticed and making money. After all, Apple takes 30% at the point of sale and doesn’t even pay you until your app reaches $250 in sales! If your app sells for $.99, that is a whole-lotta purchasing that has to be done before you even see a dime. So what is your hope? Promote the heck out of it!
Assuming you have a quality built and working app, here are ten promotion/marketing techniques that you should implement to get your iPhone app downloaded and bringing in revenues.
Make a plan
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Your iPhone marketing plan should be well established before the app first appears in the App Store. Best time to start is when the idea is envisioned. That way you can brainstorm promotion ideas and work with the developer to implement marketing features while they are writing the code and testing. You should set a release date and plan promotions around it. I learned this the hard way. Working on my current break-up app, the planning was done too late in the process and we are going to miss an opportunity to capitalize on every couple’s favorite (or ex-couple’s least favorite) holiday, Valentine’s day.
Create a website
In Apple’s terms every app must have a hosting server that allows users to view the license applications, so why not benefit from this requirement and create a website that also showcases the bells and whistles of your app? The website can range from a simple single page website or it can be more interactive. At the very least, it should include screen shots of your app and a link to buy, give a well written description, and have a place where someone can contact you to offer feedback or ask questions.
Just like big corporations give out samples of new products, you should also allot a certain number of free promos to go to your first customers. You are automatically given 50 free promo codes with each app. Use these to get people downloading and using your app or use them as promotions for later campaigns. This will easily get people using your app and talking about it to others and, in the end, get app reviews.
Create a Press Release
The foundation of any promotion, iPhone app or not, is that of a press release. You will want to create a tailored press release and send it specifically to iPhone app experts/reviewers in the hopes that they will review your app and publicize it to their readers. Here is an article on nine great places to publicize your iPhone app. Some reviewers require you to pay them but many still review for free. If you get reviews from notable experts, more than likely you will get more downloads. And, don’t forget to include a place in the press release to get a promo code. Reviewers don’t expect to pay for the apps they are reviewing
Social networking is a good place to start in promoting anything. Set-up a Twitter and/or Facebook account for your app. They are easy to use and a quick way to inform anyone and everyone of your new app. The only problem is, not everyone in social media has an iPhone. For this reason you need to be careful not to expend all your marketing time just social networking. Instead, make that just one part of your plan and be sure to use networking outlets that can reach your target segments most effectively.
Create a Slideshare or Video
Just two more ways to get people in the know of your new app. By creating a slideshare, you can create a slide presentation that will walk any viewer through the functions and features of your app. Additionally, you could create a YouTube video for your app. If you are more creative and your app is on the entertainment side, create a short, funny promotion video. See Coffee Buzz for a Slideshare example and CubeCheater for a YouTube example. Take advantage of any and every viral marketing outlet when possible. Don’t forget to post links to each of these outlets to your app website! Update March 18, 2010: I created and published a promo video for the iPhone App I have been working on – EraseUrX.
And speaking of viral marketing, do everything in your power to make it easy for your customers to spread the word of your app. More than likely they will know people who have iPhones and share information about your app with them. You would be insane not to add in a “share” or “tell-a-friend” feature to your app or make it easy for them to share app experiences via Twitter or Facebook.
The options are limitless when it comes to app pricing. Some very well designed apps start out at a higher price and stay that way because they are a superior product. Other app prices start low just to get some market share, only to increased their price later with more improved versions. In one price promotion example, the Peggle app started with a high $4.99 price and then lowered it to $.99 for a promotion that moved it into the App Store’s Top Paid app section. Three days later when the promotion ended, they returned to their original price still seated as a Top app. My main advice is that you should plan a pricing strategy in the beginning and try to be flexible with it throughout the app’s life. Always look for pricing incentives that could spike sales and get your target audience to buy.
Make Changes from Feedback
You want to offer your customers to a product that meets all their needs and expectations. To do so, you must always be open to their feedback and act on it. If your customer base frequently uses a complimentary app like Bump, then take advantage of the new open Bump API that Bump technologies just released. Add it as a new feature in your existing app. Your customers will find new value in upgrades that are tailored to their needs and you may even be able to reach new markets to buy your app. Make a real effort to connect with, listen, and integrate suggestions from your customers into any app changes.
Aim for the Top 100
Finally, iPhone app promotion is a self-fulfilling prophecy and simple arithmetic (A + B = C).
(A) If your app is consistently and positively reviewed by 3rd parties/experts
(B) You will get more downloads, reviews, and *best case scenario* into the App Store’s Top 100
Combine these to equal (C) and you get a Cash Cow!
Now realistically, most apps will not reach the Top 100. But as a marketer and promoter, how could you not believe, rather, KNOW your product could reach the top? It is a dreamy world, I know, but don’t let realistic figures stop you from making this an end-goal in your promotion and marketing plan. For example, did you think the moron test app marketers knew it would make it to the Top 25 Paid apps and consistently stay there?! I mean, it’s an app that tries to prove you and your friends are complete idiots. Everyone has a dream I guess.
If ten wasn’t enough, here is one article on 50 ways to promote your app and another good one on how to market your app. Feel free to share your own successful iPhone marketing techniques in the comments section below.