Archive for the ‘Apps’ Category

Launching an App: App Marketing Tactics & Best Practices

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

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 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 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.


Launching an App: Q’s Before Developing Your Marketing Strategy and Plan

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

I want to start off with some of the questions that you’ll want to know the answers to as you are developing your app marketing strategy. If you haven’t started to think about the answers, take a little bit of time do it before you continue to develop your marketing plan. You’ll discover that it is much easier to develop the strategy and tactical plan if you have done the research to answer these questions first.

If you don’t know the answer to a specific question don’t worry, take  a stab at answering it and make educated guesses. For example I didn’t know what the value of an app user would be, but I did know data about usage of our mobile site. I used the mobile site usage data to make an apx value of the app user to determine that I was willing to pay (hypothetically) $3.50 per app download. This then allowed me to look at the different marketing tactics to determine which ones could generate downloads at the estimated cost of $3.50 or less.

Here is the list of questions you should try to answer:

  • What are you trying to accomplish? What are you goals for the app launch?
  • What is the approximate value of an app download/user for your company? (Another take on this question: How much are you willing to spend for an app download?)
  • How do you expect users to find your app?  Will you have an app specific landing page on your website/blog/social media?
  • Who are your competitors (websites + apps)?
    • How many app downloads have your competitors had?
    • Are your competitors apps free or paid? How does your price point compare?
  • How is your app different from your competitors? (Key Differentiators)

The reason I recommend you think about these questions before moving forward with developing your marketing strategy/game plan is because it will help you understand what is reasonable and what tactics you might want to use to promote your app. Prior to our app launch we had a lot of discussions about what our goal should be for total app downloads generated from our marketing and PR campaigns. Almost everyone wanted the goal to be 100K app downloads within the first 30 days of launch, and it was my role as Director of Marketing to determine if that was reasonable and achievable to provide feedback to the executive leadership and Board members. By asking and answering the questions above I was able to make my recommendation as to what would be a reasonable app download goal and what would be a stretch goal if we got the expected media coverage + feature app or editorial app pick.

Other questions you might want to investigate before developing your marketing plan:

  • If you know in advance that you won’t be able to advertise your app on your website, do you have another way to inform your users that the app is available? Can you get the development of an app specific landing page on your site in the future?
  • How many app downloads can I get from traffic from my website?
    • How much traffic will go to the mobile app landing page?
    • What % of that traffic am I estimating will transfer off to the App Store for download? (Transfer Rate)
    • What % of the transfers am I expecting will download and install the app? (Conversion Rate or Install Rate)
  • Can I install a SMS Text tool that will send a link to download the app directly to someones smart phone? How much am I willing to pay for this?

The next installation in the series will go over some of the best practices I learned from launching the & Bing iPhone apps, as well as from interviews I did with other marketers who were responsible for launching apps in the last 12-14 months.


Categories: App Store, Apps, iTunes, KPIs, Mobile

Launching an App: Mobile App Support, FAQs & How To Guides

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

 I mentioned in my second post in the Launching an App series that it’s important to make sure that you have resources available to your app users in case they have questions.  It’s important to remember that once you make an app and set it free to the wild, your work isn’t done. If you can’t and don’t help consumers who have issues after the app is available consumers will turn against you and provide you with negative feedback which will hinder your apps rankings within the App Store. Today, I’ll be going over some Best Practices for developing your mobile app support page and FAQs so you can spend time actually marketing instead of answering help questions via social media.

The image below is an example of Rovio’s Support website for their Angry Birds iPhone App. They have the answers to the top 6 questions easily available for their consumers and a way for consumers to ask additional questions.

Example of the Angry Birds Support Website

For me, developing a FAQs document was an important part of the marketing strategy because it meant that we put ourselves in the minds of the consumer by thinking through and anticipating what issues consumers might face with using our app. Since we had done this prior to the app going live, it meant that as a marketing manager I wasn’t having to spend my time digging for an answer and trying to find the right individuals within my company to assist with the issues. It also meant that I could quickly provide answers and that I had a resource that I could direct individuals to when they contacted us via email, social media, or iTunes.

In all reality it doesn’t matter where you host your FAQs and How-to-Guide as long as you have links from the App Store and website so it is discoverable by the end user. I wasn’t able to get them live and hosted our website at the time of the app launch due to resource limitations. Instead I developed a page on Facebook as well as a dedicated blog post.

Marketing Go-Do for App Support & FAQs:

  1. Create a broad list of questions you think you should answer about your app.
    • Go through your main competitors FAQs and Support guides
    • Use your network to ask others who have launched an app before
  2.  Included the FAQ’s link in the iTunes page and then also embedded it within a Facebook tab for quick and easy reference when individuals would ask Q’s on social media.
  3. Make sure that you are cross linking your support page with any content related to the app, i.e. an app specific page on your site so that the content is easily discoverable.

Here are some examples of the questions I pulled together for the FAQ’s:

App Support: FAQ’s & How To Guides

App FAQ’s:

1.       How to get the Decide App for iPhone

2.       Does the Decide App for iPhone work on the iPad, Android, Windows Phone 7?

3.       When will the App be available for download outside of the US? I am getting an error message on iTunes saying the app is unavailable. Why?

4.       How to Login / Create a Account

5.       Searching for items

6.       How to use the QR code & UPC scanner

7.       How do I set or remove a product alert

8.       Does provide pricing for local stores as well as online retailers?

App Account Management:

9.       How do I view my account information?

10.       I’ve forgotten my password. How can I reset it?

11.   I’m not getting the temporary password emails or I cannot remember the email address I used to create my account.

12.   How do I change my email address?

13.   How do I change the frequency of emails I receive from

14.   How do I terminate/delete my account?

15.   Does share my information with others?

16.   How can I contact you?

App Basic Troubleshooting:

17.   Basic Troubleshooting.

a.       Restart Device.

b.      Redownload and reinstall the App.

18.   I can’t login/ get an error message when I login.

19.   I am getting a 404/400 error message.

20.   I can’t find a product that I set an alert for.

21.   I’ve scanned the barcode/UPC code and nothing happened. Can you help?

22.   I can’t find the product I am looking for on Can you help?

23.   I’ve typed in the product name/model number into the search box and I get no results. Can you help?

24.   I have other issues/bugs. Who should I contact?

Launching an App: Getting the App Live

December 16, 2011 2 comments

A little over a month ago I was part of the team that helped launch the Shopping app for iPhone and iPod touch. It was a really cool experience to see the app go from a concept to a live product in a just a few short months- but what that also meant from a marketing perspective is that we had a few months to figure out everything we needed to do to launch an app.  Even before launching our app we had a pretty aggressive goal for app downloads and installations. In order for us to meet that goal we did research to make sure we understood what the process is for getting an app live in the app store and timeline involved so we could create a work back schedule and make sure all of the pieces were in place and ready to go.

I would recommend creating two distinct plans around your app launch. First, is what is needed to get the app live in the app store from a marketing perspective. There are series of touch points that marketers can assist with that might be overlooked. Second, is what is needed from a marketing perspective to announce the launch of your app and start driving app downloads. This also includes what are some of the best practices for launching an app. Make sure that if you have multiple individuals working on the app launch that they work together during this process so they understand when each deliverable is due and if there are any changes that will cause you to push back your launch.

Launching an app in the iTunes App Store: Marketers Guide

Meet with an Apple Developer Relations or Partnership Management team member to view your app. Get and incorporate their direct feedback.

It’s not required that you meet with Apple prior to submitting your app into the App Store however if you have dreams of becoming an editors pick app or a featured app, it is highly recommended. If you cannot get a meeting to review your app, don’t dispare, it’s tough because they’revery busy individuals; instead, review all of the Apple Developer Guides and make sure you follow their requirements to a T. Not following the requirements can cause your app be rejected during the review process and/or delay your app going live.

We were lucky enough to get a 1:1 meeting with the individual responsible for Apple Developer Relations within the Lifestyles segment. Knowing that Apple might make recommendations for our app we met with them 6 weeks before we wanted to launch our app. This allowed us to reviewed the app with them and get specific feedback around what they liked and features that they would like to see up develop more. You can take their recommendations with a grain of salt, or you can try to incorporate their feedback as possible into your product.

In addition, we worked closely with the relation manager to make sure that we were not in violation  of any of their policies or marketing guidelines. We had her review our Press Release and marketing materials to make sure we were not in violation of any policies and would not ruin our chances of potentially getting selected as an editors pick or app of the week.

Plan for the Worse Case Scenario but hope for the best based on submission to live timeline!

It can take anywhere from 3 – 17 days to get your app live once it is submitted. If you are doing a major launch or marketing push around your app, go through the app review process. If you have tested and know that your app is bug free you can sometimes help expedite the process by contacting Apple directly via the Contact Us form in iTunes Connect. This isn’t a guarantee, but I’ve been told it can help.

The best practice is to submit the app early and if you have a specific launch date/deadline request that your app is removed from the store until the day of launch.  This is what we did at Decide, and it was helpful because even going through the review process directly with the Apple Development manager it still took 5 days from the point of submission for our app to appear within iTunes. The problem we faced, was that our app was live 2 days prior to our PR embargo date, so we had to go into our iTunes account and make the app unavailable as to not break our own embargo. Then about an hour before our embargo released on day of launch we went back into iTunes and make the app available.  There are some risks involved with this because it does mean that once you reactive your app in iTunes it can take anywhere from an hour to several days for the app to appear. We were very fortunate that it took about an hour for the page with our app to go live, and then it took an additional 4-5 hours for our app to appear in iTunes searches. It’s good to understand the risks and each company should individually weigh the risks involved of potentially not having the app available if you are doing an embargoed launch.

Some companies will submit a not so perfect version of the their app and then a few days later submit an app update. You can do this, however take into consideration that everytime you update your app (in any way, whether it be code, the description, etc) that any ratings you’ve received will be reset to 0. Higher app ratings are an important factor about where you rank within iTunes search algorithm and in the store. I would be cautious about pushing too many updates because it will make it very difficult to maintain great rankings unless you have an amazing following.

Use SEO Best Practices for Choosing Keywords and Writing your App Title & Description

Do your research in advance of what keywords you want your app to rank for and prioritize them accordingly. You get ~50 characters for keyword selection.

You can change your keywords, title, description in the future, but note that if you do it will reset any ratings that your app has received. A key thing to note is that once have selected your App name it cannot be changed! Select carefully and wisely.

iTunes is a strange and odd beast and its search functionality doesn’t work like regular search engines. If you optimize for the singular form of a word, e.g. Shop, you will also appear for canonical versions, e.g. Shopper, Shopping, Shops. However this does *not* work in the reverse. If you choose the keyword “shopping” your app will not rank or appear for the term Shop.

iTunes does appear to weight your app name more strongly than other factors, so make sure that your brand is first and foremost within your app name.

Put your selected keywords in order of importance, and make sure that they are in the Title and the first 170 characters of your Description.

Okay. So there it is the basics of pre-launch from the perspective of working with an Engineering Team/Developer/PM. The next article will cover marketing best practices launching an iPhone app. Stay Tuned!