The Ultimate Guide to App Marketing for Free [Including Pro Tips]

The mobile app market is huge and growing at a phenomenal pace.

In 2016, the total revenue from the app store stood at $61 billion and is expected to more than double to $139 billion in the next 5 years.

Source: App Annie Forecast

The total number of apps have also grown in proportion with the revenue. From a modest 400,000 in 2010, to a staggering 5 billion apps (including both Google and Apple App Store) in 2017.

Number of apps available — Google Play Store (on left) and Apple App Store (on right)

In fact, 1600 new apps are being introduced to the app store every single day. Gone are the days when you can just launch an emoji or a fake farting app and expect to get a million downloads.

If I build it, they will come. Won’t they?

Most developers believe in the maxim, ‘If I build it, they will come.

Nothing can be far from the truth. If you just launch an app and wait for people to discover it without any app marketing, it’s a sure shot recipe for disaster.

But majority of the developers have this attitude, which is actually a good thing for you. This means even if you can learn 3 or 4 hacks for app marketing you will be ahead of the curve.

Also, many app entrepreneurs have this misconception that marketing is expensive and requires heavy pockets. Even small expenses can add up and creep up quickly when you are bootstrapping.

But the truth is, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for indie developers to spend money on advertising because the cost of customer acquisition (CoCA) mostly comes out to be greater than the lifetime value (LTV) of the customer unless your users keep buying lives to play another level like Candy Crush.

What’s more, there are a lot of methods available now through which you can market your app for free.

Mobile App Marketing Strategies

Here’s a step-by-step guide with killer hacks from pros to sky-rocket your app downloads and kill it on app store.

Let’s get started.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

ASO is to apps, what SEO is to websites.

Before downloading your app, users have to know about your app. As per Tunes 2015 survey, the best mode of app discovery is App Store.

In fact, a staggering 67% of the users discover an app through the app store.

Even the users who get to know about an app through an advertisement, majority of them (50.93%) first go to the app store to search for the app. So, your app store page is extremely important for getting downloads.

Treat it as a landing page and optimize it for maximum conversion.

But how to go about it?

There are 5 main elements in an app store page:

  • App Icon — App icon is one of the first things that attract the attention of the user, alongside app title. Great icons are simple, appealing and have a professional feel to them. Don’t try to cramp too much details into your icon. For details look at Google’s Icon Design Guidelines and for inspiration go to iOS icon gallery.
  • App Title and Keywords — While the app icon can attract the user’s attention, the app title can help you rate higher in the app store for your category. Insert keywords (avoid overstuffing) related to your app but keep it limited to 30 characters.Separate keywords field is only available on Apple app store and not in Google play store. Enter keywords related to your category but do not repeat those already in the title.
  • App Video and Screenshots — As per Sean Casto, CEO Preapps, ‘Users are more inclined to watch a demo video than they are to go through your screenshots or even read your description.’ Keep your video short (30 seconds) and show the actual user experience even before a user downloads your app. Screenshots shouldn’t be just the screen capture of your app on mobile instead it should be enhanced with features and advantages. LaunchKit.io is a great tool for the same.
  • App Rating and Reviews — ‘Reviews are the fuel of the ASO’, says Gabriel Machuret from ASOProfessional.com. They lend the necessary social proof which increases conversion. In fact, reviews are so important we will discuss it in detail below.
  • App Description — Many customers don’t read the app description beyond the first few lines but nevertheless the keywords contained in it can help determine your rankings in the app store. Mention the advantage that a user would get from using your app (rather than enumerating app features).
Pro Tip — Mention rave reviews from beta users in your app description. It provides social proof that can really boost your downloads

Here is a great infographic from Mobincube that presents the ASO process in a snapshot.

ASO — Apple App Store vs Google Play Store

There are some differences in App Store Optimization (ASO) between Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

This is due to the difference in the placement of some elements and the relative importance awarded to them on the respective app stores.

The following image from Blueglass gives a snapshot comparison between the two stores.

App Reviews

Reviews provide unbiased information on how users perceive your app and generates trust among those looking to download.

Great reviews help increase your rating on app store which in turn provides a massive boost to download conversion.

There are specific growth hacking strategies available that should be deployed to increase your reviews on app store including

  • Use a Rating Prompt at the Right Moment
  • Use an Intelligent Rating Prompt
  • Embed Integrated Rating Request
  • Delight your Customers
  • Use ‘App Update’ as an opportunity
  • Excellent service on In-app Support

This infographic from Kahuna covers a few of them.

Pro Tip — Apptentive has a great tool to increase your +ve reviews. Allrecipes.com saw an 80% increase in 5-store app ratings after integrating with Apptentive.

Rating Prompt Tool from Apptentive

App Story

‘Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.’ — Seth Godin

Develop a story around the USP of your app. Don’t just enumerate your app features. Take the users behind the scenes and add some social proof from beta users.

Stuart Hall used this strategy to get 2.3 million app downloads without spending a cent on marketing.

Landing Page

A landing page is a great way to build your app presence online. It is similar to the app store page for your app but you are not bound by the restrictions on app store.

What’s great is that you have already done the hard work in creating a great app icon, title and screenshots which can be used here.

Neil Patel has a great post on building the perfect landing page. Here is an example of a high converting landing page by the Peter-Thiel-backed-app Everest.

For more inspiration look at The 21 Best Designed App Landing Pages of 2015.

Website

Your landing page should be linked to your app website for people looking for more information about your app.

Website is a great place to tell your app story and attach the app promo video that you created earlier.

‘People love to follow along on a journey and see the behind-the-scenes stuff’ — Dan Counsell, Founder RealMac Software

Pro Tip: Take visitors behind the scenes. Let them know how you are building your app and give them regular updates about the progress.

Focused Launch

‘Sometimes the trick is to focus on a deliberately narrow market. It’s like keeping a fire contained at first to get it really hot before adding more logs.’ — Paul Graham

Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook first to Harvard students only. Once he had a great feedback and had removed the kinks, only then he went to other colleges. And only after success in colleges, did he open it up to the broader market.

Consider a soft launch in a smaller target market similar to your actual larger market. This will not only help you to tweak your app through actual feedback but also get you traction from the local press.

Once you get that, you can pitch to publications in bigger market with the social proof from the ‘online trail’.

Social media

There are numerous social media channels available. Pick 2–3 which suit your app.

Usually Twitter and Facebook work for most. Twitter is best for growing your following rapidly and Facebook offers highly specific targeting. Pinterest and Instagram should be used for more visual apps in category — Food, Travel, etc.

Here, you can leverage your existing circle and find your first set of users. Also, follow the strategy of taking users behind the scenes with regular updates and be consistent.

It will help to build a buzz around your app before launch, to get the vital boost on launch-day.

Leverage Communities

‘Communities have enormous impact. This single hack can get you well over 2,000 downloads pretty much within a day.’ — Rahul Varshneya

Using this strategy Belle Beth Cooper’s Exist on Product Hunt gained 823 unique visitors with 4.53% conversion rate and 27,500 unique visitors with 0.26% conversion rate on Hacker News.

The best growth hacking communities for apps are:

Find a detailed list here at Hacker News.

Tech Publications

To get coverage from major publications like TechCrunch, AppAdvice, BGR and others, use this killer strategy developed by Steve Young, Founder App Masters Podcast with which he got record 12 apps featured by Apple till date.

Pro-Tip: ‘Promise an exclusive to a major publication and mention it in your mail subject line when sending request to a publication.’ — Steve Young

Influencers

Promo codes are an effective method for getting traction around your launch.

Pro-Tip: Dan Counsel, Founder Realmac Software, suggests to generate a few promo codes and give it to tech bloggers to review your app before it goes live.

If you can land a review from a great tech blog like TechCrunch it can sky-rocket your downloads on launch day and push your app to the first page of app store.

Bonus Ninja Tips for Killer App Marketing

Cross-Promote

A powerful go-to strategy to use during a launch if you already have multiple apps.

If you have 3 apps, for example, and are launching a 4th one, you can point majority of existing ads to the new app.

In fact, Ted Nash, CEO Tapdaq, recommends to cross-promote with other developers in case you don’t have an existing apps.

Switch from paid to freemium

Start as a paid app on the app store and then switch it to free.

As per Stuart Hall, ‘the difference between paid and free is staggering.’ His app, The 7 Minute Workout, went from 20 downloads a day to 210,000 in the first three days the app was free.

Conclusion

‘Marketing your app can’t be an afterthought. It is not a one-time effort either.’ — Apptamin

Start marketing before your app launch and be consistent even after it.

Your app marketing mantra should be, “Measure, analyse, tweak, repeat.”

This seems like a lot of work!

What you thought it was going to be quick and easy and free? Ah, now you are being greedy.

It’s good that it’s not easy! It helps separate the passionate app entrepreneurs from those looking to make some quick-bucks.

And once you put in the effort to apply the steps above, you can crush it on app store.

I would love to hear which hacks you implemented and your results from the same. Let me know in the comments below.

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Originally published at www.appdisciple.com on June 20, 2017.