App expert & Messapps Founder Vasily reveals his top tips for marketing your next mobile app
Here is how a lot of people envision the process of creating their first app: you hire a development team, they develop the app, upload it to the app store, and then you sit and collect your monthly paycheck from Apple and Google.
You, being a savvy reader, have probably noticed a few potential problems with that expectation. Not only is it challenging to find a great development team, but a lot of people forget that having an app means having a business. And as with any business, if no one knows about your product or service no one will pay for it.
Therefore, marketing and “growth hacking” play an essential role in the growth of your business.
At Messapps we have designed and developed over 100 apps for our clients. After working on so many projects we have found the marketing strategies noted below to be some of the most helpful. So if you want to make sure that your app ends up on the top of the download charts — continue reading! Exciting stuff ahead!
Generally speaking you can divide your marketing efforts into three parts:
- Things you can do outside of the app world
- Things you can do in the app store
- Things you can do in the app itself
Let’s start with some basics and then dive deeper into what role UX plays in your marketing efforts.
Outside of the app world
Just because you’re building an app that certainly doesn’t mean you should ignore the world wide web! Especially before you launch your app: at this stage a dedicated website or landing is one of the two best ways to generate pre-launch buzz around the app (the other is social media).
Moreover, having a website opens up a whole other marketing channel for you. By perfecting your SEO and launching ad campaigns you can drive traffic to the app through the website.
So what should you have on the website? Great question!
Let’s start with the basics. Your website most certainly needs to have your app name and logo. In addition to that you want to show some screens from the app. It’s a good practice to put design graphics of your app screens inside an actual device so that users can visually understand right away that you are talking about an app and not any other type of software.
Your website copy should also have your app pitch. This would mainly include explanation of what the app does and why someone should download it. A good bonus feature to include is a video showing how the app works. If you can convince users that they should download the app in 30 seconds then that video can drive a lot of conversions for you.
Lastly, remember that the website is there to convert web users to app users. So you most certainly need a call to action. Before the launch of the app that CTA could be an email signup field. This way you will gather a potential user base that you can notify on the day of the launch and drive downloads right from the first day. And to make sure your call to action is appealing enough add social proof to it. Maybe some testimonials or reviews from other users. Show that there are lots of people who would benefit from your app.
As we mentioned above, before the app is launched you really have only two ways to promote your app online: website & social media. And you should use both of them to your full advantage.
We all know how important social media is today. It gives you an additional marketing channel, just like a website does. You can promote your app there, you can get users to signup to your mailing list and you can even chat with them directly. Remember to follow these simple rules when using social media to promote your app:
- Post regularly, and post interesting and engaging content
- Ask questions to further engage your audience
- Launch contests and offer incentives for users
- Explain the benefits of your app. Give reasons to download the app.
- Promote website content. Especially if you have a blog.
In the app store
App Store Optimization
Did you know that more than half of users download apps after searching for a certain keyword in the search field? This is the reason why you need to make sure that your app store optimization is done right. This will determine whether you are listed as number 1 or 101 for a keyword like “high intensity workout app”.
The app store optimization can be divided into two important components: textual and visual. Textual includes optimization of the name (now slogan), keywords and description. Visual optimization includes icon, screenshot and app preview video.
Any optimization should start with the optimization of keywords. Here your goal is to find keywords that have the right balance of traffic and difficulty. For example, a keyword “fitness” might have lots of traffic, let’s say we can score it’s traffic at 9 on a 1–10 scale. Keyword “high intensity workout” might have only a traffic of 2 on the same scale.
However, how many people do you think look at more than 10 apps when they see the list of the results for their search? Not many. Therefore, instead of focusing on keywords with lots of competitors you should choose those that have less traffic but also don’t have that much competition. This will ensure that you rank among the first ones and hence get traffic sent your way.
Since the launch of the new app store in iOS 11, apps now have a “subtitle”. One important thing you need to note about it is that the subtitle is a major keyword. Whatever, you put there will be considered as a keyword and you will show up for it in the rankings. Therefore, make sure that your strongest keywords are included in your subtitle.
A strong description serves two purposes. First you are able to insert some keywords in it. Although keywords in the description have less weight in the search algorithm it can still help putting them there.
The second function of the description is to convert users. Remember that by default users will see only the first few lines of the description text. Hence, use those lines to give the best reason to download your app. Whether it’s the awards it has won, or great reviews it received, or just a one sentence summary of the main benefit of the app. Use those first few lines to attract attention and convince people to download the app.
The first thing people will see from your app is its icon. To be fair the new app store in iOS 11 tries to put a lot more emphasis on screenshots and rightfully so. But depending on how you’re browsing the app store you can still see just the app icon first.
Therefore, you need to ensure that your icon is original, different and at the same time appealing. Also it’s a good idea to use icon to demonstrate what your app is about. Think about to-do apps, calendars, calculators — all of their icons are used to convey the main feature of the app.
So here is a paradox: people don’t read and usually skip the description to look at screenshots. Yet, if your screenshots are just images without any text then it is likely to hurt your conversion rate as people would be confused about what is shown on those screens. So use your five screenshots with text on them to provide 5 good reasons to download your app.
App preview video
Ever since Apple added the app preview video feature it has become one of the best ways to convince users to download the app. However, note that there are some limits to what you can do with the video. Mainly this relates to the fact that the video should be no more than 30 seconds in length and consists of predominantly in-app footage. So you won’t be able to actually show people holding the phone with your app. However, you can show a walkthrough of the app and have a voice over narrating it.
Growth hacking nugget
Not a lot of people know that the name of your in-app purchases are also considered keywords. Therefore, make sure you name your in-app purchases in a way that includes some of your important keywords. Same goes for your legal company name. If you’re forming a company for your app that sells concert tickets you might want to add the word “tickets” in the company name to boost your rankings.
In the app
Ok, we finally got to the most important part, the part that’s overlooked by the vast majority of software products. Getting delighted users to do the marketing for you.
If you want to achieve explosive growth you need to make your users be your biggest advocates and let them promote the product in your stead.
First this requires creating a high quality product that people actually enjoy using. But, unless, you show your users how they can express their appreciation for the product they won’t help you promote it.
Therefore, it is important to setup user experience in a way that motivates users to promote your app. And the two best ways to do this are: referrals and reviews.
Let’s think about Dropbox. You know what is one of the reasons they were able to grow so fast? It’s the ability to invite someone to use the service that has mutual benefit. Those who make the invite receive additional free storage. Those who are being invited get a free account. Who wouldn’t make a referral in those circumstances? Mutual benefit referral strategy is a win-win for everyone!
Or consider Candy Crush. You might’ve heard that Candy Crush was a top grossing app for a very long time. One of the reasons for that is that if you “lost your lives” who could get more by asking your Facebook friends. So in order to continue playing you need to advertise Candy Crush to your Facebook friends. Genius!
Remember these tips when working on your referral program:
- Give valuable reward to those who refer. For example: free storage, free trial, credits or token users can spend on additional content in the app, etc.
- Give a valuable reward to those who are being referred. The award must be mutual for maximum results.
- Proactively ask for referrals.
- But don’t rush this. You only want to ask users for reviews and referrals when they have used your app for some time and you know they are loyal.
Your app reviews are perhaps the strongest indication of how well your app will do. First, search engine algorithms take them into consideration when deciding how high to place your app in the ranking. Then, users make a determination of whether or not they should download the app based on what other people wrote about it. So, needless to say, your app reviews are super important.
The issue here is that usually people voluntarily publish reviews only when they are unhappy with something. When you like the product you just continue using it and don’t really bother to show your appreciation and say thank you to the developer. However, if we don’t like the product we became annoyed rather fast and are ready to publish a terrible review almost immediately.
So how do we get those who like our product to post a review and those who don’t like to contact us instead of sharing their frustration with the world?
In order to substantially improve our reviews we need to do two things. First, we need to ask people to review the product. The timing of this request is very important. You want to make sure that first of all you ask a for a review after user already used the app several times. You want to make sure that they are legitimate interested in what the app offers. If you ask for a review the first time user opens the app you’ll just annoy them as they don’t even know yet if they like it or not.
Additionally, you don’t want to interrupt user flow. For example, imagine you are calling for an Uber but as soon as you entered pickup point and before you were actually able to request the cab a review prompt would show up. Of course you would ignore it. You’re in the middle of ordering a cab why would you stop that to review something? A much better time would be either right after the car arrived or after you’ve already arrived at your destination.
Second, unless your app is absolutely perfect your are bound to find people who don’t want to give you 4–5 stars. And you really don’t want to be the one who invites users to give you 2 stars in the app store.
Therefore, when you show your review prompt asking to give your app 1–5 stars you need to have two behaviors coded in. If users select 4–5 stars then lead them to the app store. However, if your users give you 1–3 stars ask them for feedback. Instead of sending them to the app store show a second prompt that asks users about what they think can be improved. This way you’ll avoid getting public negative reviews and will get some helpful feedback.
How to market your app — conclusion
Becoming the next big thing in the app development world has many steps to it. Finding a great app designer and developer is just the first step. But in order to truly become successful you want to make sure that your whole strategy is built around promoting your app and getting the most downloads.
It is really never too early to start thinking about marketing. If you have an idea and you are about to start developing it — start marketing it too. Start with a website and an email list. Then don’t forget to do app store optimization and incorporate referral program and reviews accumulation into UX. This will put your app in a great position to dominate the industry!
In the world of apps, design and interactive animation, we set the standards of design and quality. App Scalar specializes in building highly standardized apps on iOS, Android and the latest frameworks such as flutter, react native, etc while also providing product mockups.
You can use this cheat-sheet which I personally use!