Idea to iPhone Product, App Promotion

In my last post (Idea to iPhone Product, The Last Mile), I covered the ins and outs of pushing the final build of your application to the app store. That process will take anywhere from 1 to 2 months. That downtime will be a great timeframe to start up your promotional phase, if you haven’t already.

I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of the The Business of iPhone and iPad App Development: Making and Marketing Apps that Succeed book by Dave Wooldridge and Michael Schneider. The book contains a wealth of beginners information on branding, marketing, and the like.

The book recommends different ways to get what you want from marketing: interest. It’s easy to put your app out there and spam your friends, family, and the whole wide world on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. It’s easy to build great feedback mechanisms into your app that encourage users to contact you, tweet about your app, share your app with others via e-mail, and review your app. What’s not so easy is getting traction.

Most successful software products are not an instant/over-night success, and app promotion is kind of gambling situation, so the easiest way to gain traction is to improve the odds in your favor as much as possible. That is, you want to promote your app in as many ways as possible. Really marketing the app takes time and dedication.

At a bare minimum, I would recommend that you create a website for your application. Go register for a nice domain name for your app and/or company on godaddy, and find yourself a web host such as dreamhost. Then create a website, from scratch if you prefer, or better yet, build something beautiful easily with a great CMS like wordpress.

Next, make it easy for users to contact you. Users are less likely to give your app bad reviews if they can easily figure out how to contact you from within the app itself, so setup a support email address and build easy feedback functionality into your app. When your users email you to suggest features or report a bug, email them back as soon as possible with a personal message thanking them for reaching out to you. Fix the bugs fast, and email the user back when the update ships, again letting them know how valuable their input has been toward making your product better.

Next, make a video of your application, and link to it from your website, app description on the app store, and app’s help screen. This 1 or 2 minute video will be the major selling opportunity for your app to potential buyers and reviewers.

With the website, email, and video in place, your next step is to promote the app by submitting it to websites that review applications. Prepare a press release detailing what your app is, how it’s better than the competition, and provide links to your website, your app video, and your app’s app store listing. Mention in your press release that promo codes are available upon request for lesser known websites, and go ahead and give promo codes to the big sites.

Promo codes are codes your users can use on the app store to get a free copy of your application. You can obtain them through the iTunes Connect website. You only get 50 promo codes per app version, and each promo code expires in 28 days, so be prepared to provide larger sites with another promo code later if/when your app makes it through their long list of apps to consider for review.

Don’t forget to give promo codes to your friends, family, and beta testers. Tell your fellow developers, designers, friends of friends, etc about the app and always give the promo codes away freely. The network effect of one person enjoying and talking about your app to their friends is worth more than $1.50 in app royalties that you may get if your friend pays.

The next level of free/easy promotion is the social networks. Open social network accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Make a Facebook page for your company and/or App, and make a company twitter account. Search twitter for people having problems with a competitors app or for people looking for an app like yours, and directly tweet to them about your offering. If the user expresses interest, give them a promo code so they can have your app for free (and, hopefully, tell their friends and family about it).

Finally, if you have the funds, you should consider paid advertising avenues. Look into google adwords, or advertising opportunities on community websites for your target audience. There are a few magazines with an iPhone/mobile focus, these are also great advertising mediums.

Promoting the app beyond these easy steps will be time consuming, be sure to keep touch with app review websites each time you release a new update or feature for your app, and continue to find other ways to promote your app and get the word out.

With the right promotional avenues in place, your app should be set up for success. Success may come quickly, or perhaps slowly, or maybe not at all. What’s important is that you make your app’s information easily available and accessible for your next customer to find.

In the next article in this series, I’ll cover a wealth of resources for iPhone and iPad development and app promotion.