Once you identify and fully understand the target audience you’re going after, it’s time to reach them. How do you do this? By going where they are. The first part of your strategy should include how you do this by utilizing organic channels.
Don’t expect one tactic to work. If you want your app to succeed, you need to have several forces working together for you at the same time, so that you put yourself in the best position to be discovered. The first place to start is by considering the organic channels and tactics that will reach the right users. In this section, we tackle five tactics all brands should be using.
1. A Soft Launch
If you haven’t launched your app yet, you should consider a soft launch. A soft launch or beta test, will grant you extremely valuable insights into initial app reception and performance without releasing it to the masses. That way, you have the ability to optimize accordingly to better prepare it for full release. A few soft-launch best practices to consider:
Ensure your target audience is largely represented
Have a place for ‘testers’ to congregate and discuss the app (this can be a physical meet-up or an online forum)
Consider running two types of beta testing: a technical one and a marketing one. A technical beta test is where users are distinctly looking for bugs and snags, whereas a marketing test is geared toward user experience.
SoftLaunch Tip: Some developers choose to soft-launch to a smaller (but still targeted) audience in a different country, such as a US-based app launching in Canada. This gives you the ability to gain legitimate feedback from a smaller population that is still similar to the app market in the US.
2. Social Media
The beauty of knowing your target audience is the ability to play in their space. Make sure you have a presence on some of the main social channels your audience is on. Create handles for your app and begin following key publications and influencers within your respected industry. In addition, start having an active voice on social media and join the conversation to start organically acquiring followers and creating a buzz about your app. Be sure to keep in mind your brand’s voice and tone while doing so.
Social Media Tip: Use Crowdfire. Crowdfire understands the importance of user engagement, which is precisely why their entire business model is designed around tapping into deep insights about your followers on Twitter and Instagram. They aim to give you a holistic picture of your followers, and breakdown who to follow based on those who are highly engaged and vice versa.
Forums are another great place to join the conversation because your audience goes there to actively share knowledge. You can use different forums, like Reddit, Android Central, or Mac Rumors, to introduce your app and solicit honest feedback about it, and how you can improve. Forums are unique in that they allow you the rare opportunity to directly connect with your audience, and truly understand where you can fill in any gaps with your app.
Forums Hack: This will vary by industry, so do your research and identify a minimum of three popular and trusted forums where you can begin making your app known. Don’t forget about Subreddits which can get highly targeted based on location, industry, and other factors.
4. Local & National PR Campaigns
Complementary to the Inbound Marketing strategy, strong press coverage about your app can also do wonders for your App Store listing since part of your ranking has to do with the number of installs over the past few hours as well as the past few days. For example, when Boston MBTA tracker app ProximiT was first launching, owner Randy reached out to relevant local press who published articles about the app and drove a large influx of users to their App Store profile. As a result, ProximiT broke into the top 100 apps for the Navigation category, driving yet even more installs.
Key takeaway? Don’t overlook the importance of PR to your app’s success. Doing some local PR campaigns allows you to create much needed buzz around your app, and ensure the right people in your community know about it. Initiating various PR campaigns will allow you to tap into various local and national channels who have a wide and impactful reach in getting the news about your app out to your audience.
Press Release: If your app was recently launched, draw up a press release with key information about it and blast it out to the local media. Remember that they get dozens of press releases daily, so ensure yours is attention grabbing and succinct. Tap into your network to see if you have any media connections to boost the chances of getting picked up.
Bloggers: Don’t underestimate the power of blogs. Blogs can be a driving force in promoting new apps and acquiring new users. One of the most successful examples of app blog promotion was Uber and Barstool Sports back in 2013. Uber tapped into their core audience by having Barstool create native content on their extremely popular blog. As a result, Uber’s acquisition cost fell over 70% in just 5 weeks after the launch of the campaign. Reach out to several bloggers that your target audience follows and see about implementing a similar campaign for your app.
Partnerships: Take the notion of teaming up one step further than bloggers by partnering with local businesses that complement your app. For example, if you have an app that is sports related, partner up with a minor league team or even a local sporting goods store for an event. Consider running several of these partnerships around your local community to boost brand recognition. Aligning yourself with trusted brands in your community will also boost your credibility.
PR Campaigns Growth Hack: You should have a targeted list of people to reach out to in the community based on their industry and core interests. For example, reaching out to the local tech community or key members of your respective industry is a smart way to not only boost your chances of getting featured, but to begin fostering relationships with important people within your local community.
Timing is important. Having a lot of buzz around your app all at once can do wonders to its App Store Ranking, so plan accordingly when implementing a PR strategy
5. App Store Optimization
Another part of user acquisition that should never be overlooked is app store optimization. Currently, there are over 1.5 million apps in both the Android and Apple app stores and that number continues to climb. If you want a chance at being discovered via an app store, you must optimize accordingly.
App Name: Make sure to include your brand name and a couple of your most relevant keywords for search. Keep it fairly short though, so as not to look spammy. ProximiT was originally launched as “ProximiT: MBTA Subway Assistant” and later was updated to “ProximiT: Boston MBTA tracker, Schedule Assistant, and Proximity Alerts for the T.” The reason for the change? To boost organic search through more targeted, relevant keywords. The result of the change? A 70% spike in downloads, and an App Store ranking increase by 30+ places.
Try to include several targeted keywords in your app name to give it a better chance of discovery
Use keyword tools such as SensorTower to figure out which keywords are worth using based on competitiveness
Remember that you only have 100 characters in iOS to attract users to your app, so choose wisely to position your app for success
- Description: Include a clear and concise description about the functionality of your app and lead with your strongest points. You only have 255 characters to grab a person’s attention before they have to click-through, so make sure within those character limits you clearly define your functionality, any key features, and credibility you’ve received. Users searching the store should quickly understand the value-add of your app. For example, Vine’s app store description clearly defines their value-add, and focuses on the benefits its app provides to the user while keeping it short and sweet and incorporating a bulleted list for easy reading.
Know the character limit (255) of your profile page before users are forced to click “more” and make the most of it
Entice users to download the app by showcasing your value to them through key features and functionality. Make it sexy
Follow in Vine’s footsteps and use a bulleted list to call out defining features. Users are much more likely to read and digest features in this format
Tell people what makes your app different, and infuse your brand personality into your description
- App Icon: You app’s icon is your branding to the world so don’t overlook its importance. Make sure that it’s unique, clean, and aesthetically pleasing. It should capture the essence of your app. Though seemingly small, icons are powerful engagement tools that can attract or detract users based on look and feel alone.
Use a unique symbol that will represent your brand as well as standout in the app store sea. You want your app icon to be as distinctly recognizable as possible, and to encompass not only the essence of your brand but it’s functionality as well. When someone sees your icon they should be able to understand what it does
Simplicity is king. Your app icon should be sleek yet have a minimalist design approach so it doesn’t look too busy and appears clean and professional
Using a single letter to represent your icon is more encouraged than using full words. Remember that this is an icon, not an ad
Choosing the right color scheme can help your app stand out amongst the competition. Just ensure that the color scheme is aesthetically pleasing
A/B test two icons via your ad campaigns to identify which is rendering higher engagement rates
- Design: Since app users expect a top-notch experience, use the app store’s design section to show off the user interface. Be sure to choose images that really showcase your app’s best features, but that also easily outline the workflow (i.e. how a user moves through your app). For instance, Under Armour’s new Record app does a great job at weaving feature sneak peeks and task call-outs together for a compelling app overview:
Include key feature screenshots with a brief description of the functionality so users clearly understand your app’s purpose and capabilities
Use crisp imagery that clearly maps out app use cases and screen flows
- Updates: Each time you update your app, you need to include release notes and a bulleted description of the update. This will not only refresh your app store activity, but will show app users that you are committed to continually optimizing your app. For example, SnapChat keeps their app store profile refreshed with a “What’s New” section that highlights feature updates and improvements. The “What’s New” section is listed right below the Description making it easy to find.
Updating your app store profile with release notes whenever you make updates to your app not only boosts your SEO, but will show users that you are actively making improvements to your app based on their feedback
- Ratings: Positive ratings are extremely important to boosting app-store placement. However, it can be difficult to get users to rate your app. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy in place that focuses on getting your most loyal users to rate your app. ProximiT launched a “Rate My App” campaign by narrowing in on users who were likely to rate the app well, taking into consideration the frequency of their interactions with the app.
The more people who rate your app positively, the more visible you will be in app stores
Target users who will most likely rate you well, taking a look at key conversion events they have taken within your app as well as the frequency of use (30+ sessions)
Consider launching an in-app rater and only directing those users who would rate you positively to the app store
- Pricing: Another difficult but important decision is the cost of your app. Whether or not to charge for your app depends on various factors ranging from brand power to industry. If you are an enterprise brand looking to engage with your audience on mobile, consider making your app free. While you won’t enjoy direct financial gains from your app, your company will ultimately enjoy a revenue boost thanks to its positive impact on customer retention. There are still ways to turn a profit through in-app purchases and ad revenue. One cautionary tale on having targeted ads in your free app: it can cause a higher churn rate if not executed properly. The Weather Underground forecast app does a great job at letting users choose ads or not, by offering a free version and a premium with no ads. It’s important to note since we’re talking acquisition here, that a free app can accumulate more users faster than an app that comes with a price tag.
Take into consideration how your app monetization strategy will affect your user acquisition. While free apps tend to attract more users, they could be lower quality and churn faster than those who were willing to pay for your app. More insights can be found here
- Inbound Marketing: The more organic search you can drive to your app listing, the better. Consider creating a website for your app and creating relevant content. If done well, this should drive organic pageviews to your app’s listing and help boost your ranking (and app downloads!).
Create a website for your app. Not only will this help with branding, as it did with community-based traffic app Waze above, but can also help drive more downloads to your app through relevant searches and content
Consider launching an app blog to highlight cool things about your app, user stories, and drive more traffic to your app site and app store page. Get inspiration from RunKeeper’s blog