Home > App Store, Apps, Best Practices, iTunes, Mobile > Launching an App: App Marketing Tactics & Best Practices

Launching an App: App Marketing Tactics & Best Practices

At this point in time your app should be well defined and quite possibly it should be past the design phase and on it’s way to being fully developed.

If you followed my last few posts then you should have defined your launch goals AND you should have done your SEO research for your app to write your title, description and select the keywords for your app store listing. You should have also started to think through your mobile app support plan; by started to answer the top FAQs and possibly created some simple how-to video guides. If you are ahead of the game then you might also have developed your storytelling guide to help your message stick as well as all of the data you’ll need for your press release kit.

You are ready for launch, right? Maybe, but maybe not.

There are still a handful critical steps, like developing your marketing plan and tactics, that you’ll need to take to get your app out there and attract users. In this post I’ll provide some guides for different marketing tactics along with the best practices for each tactic. Use any combination of these tactics to develop your app marketing plan.

App Marketing Tactics

This is just a reminder to think through the strategy you are developing and find the right combination of marketing tactics for you app launch.

At Decide I was tasked with having marketing drive 40K – 100K app downloads in the first 45 days after the app launch. Although this might be easy for well-established like Microsoft, Ebay, Amazon, or Nordstrom because it involves reaching out to the existing user base who know and already use their product. For a brand like Decide which was less than 6 months old at the time of the app launch it was a big task that involved us utilizing every marketing resource and tactic possible as well as having a very strong PR strategy to expand our brand reach. Below are the various tactics we used, but just because we used them doesn’t mean that they are right for your brand or your launch. Also, stay tuned after this post for the final post in the series about the timing (work back schedule) for the various app marketing tactics.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, here are the recommended app marketing tactics:

Decide Where You Want To Be:

What type of app are you launching? Are you launching across multiple app stores, focus on the key stores that get the most volume for the initial launch. It is easier to centralize your user base to go to a single app store based on device. This will also allow you to focus on getting reviews, as well as higher ratings and better visibility within a single app store.

Should you develop a strategy around focusing on a specific app market? As I mentioned before the iTunes marketplace is the most developed marketplace and getting an app into the top 10 ranking/ratings in iTunes can lead to hundreds of thousands of app downloads. Although Apple won’t put this in writing, they do incentivize app developers who do exclusive iTunes launches based on our conversations surrounding the app launch. Consider what the impact would be to your app launch if you were to do an exclusive iTunes launch if you think that you have the product + PR push to become an editors pick, app of the week, new & noteworthy app, or top 10 app pick selection.

Best Practices:

  • Launch only with the official smartphone market (iTunes, Windows Phone Marketplace, Android App Store, Blackberry App World). After your app is launched and well established expand into other marketplaces.
  • Make it as easy as possible for your users to get your app in the fewest clicks possible.
  • Create an App landing page that makes it simple for the user to get your app for their device. I really like Bing’s App download experience (seen below):SMS Text to App Download Page

App Store Ratings & Reviews:

I spent a lot of time talking to different marketers who worked on app launches and one thing that came across from each marketer was that the ratings and reviews are key for higher rankings within the app store. It is key to get at least 25-30 five star reviews along with positive comments within the first 24 hours of launch. This will enable you to appear for your search keywords more quickly and will also help you appear in the recommended apps. (FYI, it can take 24 hours to appear within the app store but it they are still used for the rankings algorithms.) So what can you do to help get quick ratings & reviews?

Best practices:

  • Ask beta testers, employees, family, friends to provide their reviews ASAP once the app is live. DO NOT incentivize reviews if you get caught the app store can blacklist your app.
  • Create a plan around soliciting reviews from your active users. Ask for feedback
    • Use social media to ask your fan base who have downloaded the app to provide ratings & reviews. Ask for feedback, but be prepared for the good and the bad. Make sure that if you get negative feedback that you address it in a timely manner– and by timely I mean for the consumer not for you and your schedule.

Be Social:

Leverage social media to drive brand awareness and to engage your current fans and user base with your app. These are individuals who have already come forward to say, “I like your product.” Don’t be afraid to ask your users to download your app, however, be prepared to send quick and timely responses via your social media outlets when users ask answers to questions about your product. You want to make sure that there is a two-way dialogue going on and that you aren’t using social media to just push content out on your fan base or you will run the risk of individual unliking your business and decreasing the size of your fan base.

Best Practices:

      • Create a social media launch plan in advance of the launch.
      • Draft, review and finalize between 1- 2 weeks worth of Tweets and Facebook posts at least one week before your app launch.
        • Plan between 4-6 tweets/day around the app for the first 5-7 days post launch, and then reduced the push down to 2-3 tweets/day during the second week.
        • Plan for no more than 2-3 facebook posts per day surrounding the app launch unless you are integrating a contest or asking for questions and input from your fan base.
          • Intermix tweets & posts surrounding the launch with your typical content. Do not just push content in conjunction with your launch. Set up a variety of posts that include asking questions, telling users about the app, sharing any top tier media coverage your app might be receiving, etc.
      • Publish content when content is most likely to be consumed and schedule posts into your social media publishing tool (e.g. Hootsuite/TweetDeck).
        • When are users actively viewing the content on social media sources. Is it first thing in the morning before they start work, on their commute, during their lunch break, or on their commute home?
        • Are the bulk of your consumers in a specific time zone? Test sending out tweets/posts at different points in time to know when you should push content related to your app to get the biggest user base. i.e. We’re based out of Seattle but have a big following in Boston, so we schedule posts for between 8-9 am PST so that it is viewed early in the work day for the west coast and lunch time for the users east coast. We learned this via testing in the months prior to our app launch.
      • Contests & Giveaways can be a good way to get your app to go viral to incentivize users to download your app; however if app downloads is your ultimate goal ensure that you have some sort of tracking mechanism in place to verify that the users have downloaded your app for contest entry. Examples of types of contests:
        • StumbleUpon gave away a free iPad to one lucky FB fan. The entry mechanism: Share with us where you would use our app?
        • GoPro Video cameras gives away 1 item of everything they make each day and users can re-enter daily. Why is this working? Users enter the contest either via their FB page or the GoPro website, and are required to check back daily on FB or Twitter to see if they were the lucky winner. People are coming back daily to the site and GoPro has done a great job at fostering a community where their users upload the videos they shoot with the GoPro cameras daily.
        • Amazon had a contest that enabled app users to win up to $500 for items on their wish list.
        • Groupon/Livingsocial incentivize social sharing by offering a free daily deal to users who share the link with their friends and 3 of their friends make a purchase. If you can figure out the tracking code system based off of users you could do a similar type of giveaway that would enable users to earn rewards or entry into a giveaway for sharing the app.
        • Pinterest is another under utilized network. I wanted to run a contest where individuals would go to Decide.com and create a board of the gadgets on their wish list, link it back to Decide or tag Decide in each of their posts, and we would randomly choose one individual and buy them everything on their board.

Start thinking outside of Facebook and Twitter for ways to expand your social media reach. There are other websites that, depending on your product, can be used to reach new audiences or engage your existing audience in new ways.

    • StumbleUpon can be a good source for expanding reach of your content. Submit all mobile app pages to StumbleUpon.
    • Pinterest was used by both Decide.com and AMD to create holiday gift giving guides. It’s been used by clothing retailers to create style & mood boards to help shoppers put together outfits. Think about how you can use Pinterest to create a board to help drive awareness of your app.

There really are hundreds of ways to leverage social media to help increase the awareness and downloads of your app. I would make the caveat around the idea if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Up until April 2011 app developers could leverage programs like Tapjoys to incentivize app downloads which helped apps get higher rankings within the iTunes app store. Apple fought back and started to deprioritize rankings of apps that were using Tapjoy related programs to increase app downloads. The morale of the story, if it’s too good to be true it most likely is AND keep an eye on your app listing if you do choose to go down that path so that if you start to see your app downloads decrease substantially you can quickly take steps to stop and get back on the right track.

Email / Database Marketing:

Your email marketing database can be one of your biggest assets in a drive to push app downloads. These users have opted to receive communication from you and are more likely to download your app, use it, and spread the word to their networks.

Best Practices:

  • Email marketing plan should include the following components: Day of launch announcement, new user/welcome email should be updated to include the app download link, secondary push 5-7 days post launch to remind users of the mobile app
  • The launch email should have a single call to action of download the mobile app. Keep the mail short and sweet, highlighting a few key features at most with the main call to action being “Get it now.”
  • Are you leveraging software the allows you to remarket and retarget individuals based on opening and/or engaging with your emails? Here are some thoughts on how you can use this:
    • If a user hasn’t opened the message within 3-5 days automate a secondary App Introduction email.
    • If the user opened the email but didn’t click through to your website, you can retarget them via display ads across the web highlighting the features of your app.

Blog Post

Does your company blog on a regular basis? If not, consider creating a blog that can be used for specific media events like launches or to help keep your users informed with updates and changes happening within the product. Blogs are great for SEO purposes in addition to keeping users informed. As it pertains to your app launch, create at least one blog post about the launch of your app that is informative (what devices does the app work on, where can I get it, what is the cost, what are the benefits of me using the app, etc) and has the single call to action of download/get the app.

PR plan

A strong PR plan can be just as effective as a good advertising/social media plan and should be a part of your app launch. Decide offered me a chance to get inside of the PR machine and understand what goes into developing a PR plan for a product launch. PR turned to be the area I learned the most while working at Decide. I knew that PR individuals smoozed with the media often and frequently, and that it also involved writing press releases, but what I learned was what goes on in between.
I am going to make a few assumptions as I get into the best practices below. Those assumptions include the following: You should already know who your target audience is both in terms of the actual consumer and a handful of media targets, you should have an understanding of how to write a press release, your goals should be defined and identified, and you should have a way to track media coverage. You should also have decided if you are planning for the press release to be embargoed prior to launch or not.

Best Practices:

  • Draft, Review & Finalize your Media Press Kit
  • Include your embargo release date and time, press release, professional images that should include screenshots of the app, links to the app within the app store, and any other pertinent information that the media would need to write a story about your app like a product review/features guide.
    • Develop your Media Target list
      • Make sure you know who the right contact is at each publication. Find the person who will be the most excited about your app launch so they are more likely to cover your launch.
      • Leverage social media to build relationships with your PR targets 30-60 days prior to launch.
        • If the media target doesn’t know you from Adam they most likely won’t answer your call or return your email. We developed private twitter lists for each launch/push and engaged directly with our core targets by posting intelligent comments on their articles, tweeting or retweeting the articles, and engaging them directly in dialogue.
      • Offer a sneak peak of your appIf you can offer a sneak peak, do it. If you have decided to do an embargoed launch of your app, be careful with the sneak peaks and make sure that you work with reputable media who will honor your embargo.
        • Give media access to a ‘beta’ version of your app. Allowing them to play around with the app prior to release will allow them to develop a more robust article. If you don’t have the ability to give them a beta version at a bare minimum set up a live demo either in person or via phone with video capabilities to walk them through your app.


Use one of many smartphone screen emulators like Simfinger or Screencast-o-matic to create a series of How-To-Guides and videos to highlight key features, user flows, and troubleshooting guides. With these free and easy to use screen emulators you can save a lot of money by making the videos yourself and not hiring a creative agency to develop similar content.

Best practices:

        • Create a script that you want to follow for your video post highlighting the key things that you want to cover & any specific phrases you want to say.
          • Edit and revise your script as necessary. Cut out unneeded motions/movements to keep the video crisp and clean.
        • Keep it short and sweet. Instead of creating a single 4-5 minute long video showing everything under the hood, think about creating a video for each main component or feature that you are highlighting.
        • If you are creating videos for the Troubleshooting guide create a different video for each “Problem” you are trying to solve.
        • If you are speaking during your video make sure you are in a quiet environment without background noise. If you do it in an open office space it might sound like it was created at a Starbucks due to the background noise.
        • Practice your demo using the screen emulators 2-3 times. It took me 5 takes to get the right cut for our videos due to unexpected phone calls, internet failure, etc.
        • Embed videos into your help site, share them via social media (Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Pinterest… etc) Reach your users where they are.

FAQ’s and How-to-Guides:

It might seem like an obvious insight, but FAQs are commonly overlooked during the app development and launch process. Over the course of two months I reviewed the top apps and featured apps of the week within iTunes and almost all of them had some sort of FAQ and How-To-Guide available for their users. At a bare minimum you’ll want to have some simple information available and linked to from your listing in the app store. Not sure what to do? Go back and check out the post I wrote about the Best Practices for developing your app support and FAQs page.

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