Many people spend 4-6 months building an app yet their launch plan amounts to nothing beyond getting their app in the app stores. It might seem crazy to spend any time and money on a potential new business and then not have a marketing plan to help launch and scale it. There's a simple reason though why launching an app is often left to chance: it's easier to focus on what's in your control than what isn't.
Implementing a feature, refactoring some code, or tweaking a button color are all items that you can do yourself. That doesn't mean you'll make the right choice, but you can operate independently on each of them. Comparatively, attracting attention to your app after launch seems completely outside of your control. Convincing a user to review your app, a press outlet to write about it, or the app stores to feature it all rely on external dependencies. It's difficult to come to terms with that lack of control, much more to formulate a launch plan in spite of it.
What people tend to not realize is that there are a series of smaller tasks fully within their control that can help propel larger, external launch events. While I described many of these app strategies in App Savvy, you can see these 10 tips exemplified with our recent launch of Jellies, a safe, curated environment for kids to watch videos. They may not individually change the course of your app's fate. When combined though, you'll have a much greater chance of initial launch success.
Use Promo Codes Before the App Goes Live
A still little-used technique is sharing promo codes for an app that is approved but not yet live. That means that you can invite people to look at a final, App Store version of an app without it being available to everyone else. This strategy allows press contacts in particular to review the app should they want to cover it when it formally launches.
Put Together an App Press Kit
An app press kit makes it much easier for anyone to write about your app. At a minimum, you should include your app store screenshots, app icon, app store description, and the app store links. When we create press kits at Savvy Apps, we also often add a brief video demo—no more than a minute long—and some "hero" imagery that tells the story of the app.
We regularly see press contacts leverage all of these assets, which makes their jobs easier and helps us have a consistent presentation of the app (more on that later). As a bonus, hosting your press kit on a place like Dropbox also allows you to tweak the contents in real time. Check out the Jellies press kit as an example.
Leverage App Short Links
There will be several important links you'll send to contacts and share on social media. Every link except for the one for your website itself will be extremely long. App store links in particular can take up multiple lines in an email. Video demos hosted on YouTube or Vimeo also contain a bunch of random characters. Many of these services offer shorter URLs, if you look for them. You can also use services like Bitly or the more app-centric Branch.io to clean up and shorten your links. Compare the following sets of links that we sent to contacts in messages about Jellies. Having these short links makes an outreach message more glanceable and digestible.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oSN3fc0Yzw&feature=youtu.be http://jelliesapp.com/blog/introducing-jellies-safest-way-for-your-child-to-watch-videos https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jellies-safe-kids-videos/id1244781982?mt=8 https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3v4wt5ukv9jgrxr/AABAie9KnITTP_uC_KZg2pZwa?dl=0
Have a Support System Ready to Go
Most apps creators don't think about customer support as a part of app marketing. That's a huge mistake. While you shouldn't assist your users just because you consider it a marketing activity, offering amazing customer service will often result in a marketing boost. You'll see higher app store ratings, less churn, more word of mouth, and comparable items. We've covered customer satisfaction as an important app metric in the past.
Ensure you continue to collect common user questions through your beta and pre-launch period. Doing so will allow you to populate a FAQ or knowledge base and have it available on launch day. The additional benefit of a knowledge base is that it addresses the easy, everyday questions your users send your way, allowing you to focus on the most important feedback. We're huge proponents of both HelpScout and Intercom for great knowledge base tools and leverage them both in our Jellies support system.
Craft a Consistent App Message
There's a reason why people who participate in interviews or speak to the public are prepped rigorously: they need a clear and consistent message. Your app is no different. If you don't frame and position your app in the market, others will do it for you.
Take the time to think about why people will care about your app. Consider the benefits to users and understand that the features you've built support those benefits (and not vice-versa). Know what your key marketing message is and use that often, especially when trying to grab someone's attention. Then, ensure you use this messaging over and over again, whether in your app store listing, website, app press kit, outreach messaging, and similar items.
Make Your Website Your App's Marketing HQ
In the age of apps, don't undervalue your website. Potential app users continue to use websites to explore whether an app is even worth downloading. More traditional press will also often not link directly to an app but instead push visitors to a website. If you have multiple apps or support your app on different platforms, a website can also better help funnel people to the right place.
Your website should more generally be what you consider your marketing headquarters. It will contain your key messaging, as well as link to your press kit, your support portal, your apps, blog, how to contact you, and more. Don't forget that a strong website can also help you drive downloads through organic search. If you're just starting on your app, make sure you also begin with an app landing page.
Prepare an Official App Announcement
Yes, you should announce your app is officially launched. Plan ahead of time what time you'll release your app and what time you'll announce and launch it. Those times should not be the same.
Although app stores are faster at propagating than they used to be, it's still a good idea to release your app the night before your launch. Along with that, you should update your website to the more detailed launch version. The full version includes all the information you want users to know about your app as well as links directing them to download it in the app stores. You can hold on to your blog post though until the official announcement occurs, usually in the morning. When ready, publish your blog post, send out a newsletter, and post your social updates. Some people also choose to do a separate press release, but most can simply use a blog post for this purpose. It's also a nice gesture to reach out to any press contacts to let them know you've officially launched. Remember to stay on message across all of these outlets.
Monitor Your App Across All Channels
Maintaining a strong website and support portal, as well active social media accounts, will allow you to keep much more in tune with what's happening around your app. That's incredibly important on launch day. Keeping a close eye on what's being said will allow you to identify new articles about your app and respond to people better. Sometimes the chatter will come from users, but it also might be someone interested in covering your app.
We use tools like Buzzsumo and Appbot to receive real-time alerts about anything regarding the Jellies app. Regardless of how you keep track of what's said about your app, make sure to set a goal on how quickly you want to respond, and stick to it to set reliable expectations for your users.
Do Some Outreach on Launch Day
While our recommendation at Savvy Apps is to work with press contacts weeks ahead of a launch, some launch day outreach doesn't hurt. If your app gets covered on launch day itself, you can leverage that coverage to encourage additional press mentions. Unless it's a scoop, few people want to be "first" so seeing reputable outlets talk about your app goes a long way. You may also get other ideas on who to contact as you monitor your app across channels.
Make Updates as Your Launch Continues
An easy win we see few people do is to make updates across all channels throughout an app launch. For example, when TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal covered Jellies, we added their quotes in the App Store description, updated the Jellies website, and posted the articles to social media immediately. Someone talking about your app helps social proof it for others.
Similarly, as common questions come in to you on support, update your knowledge base with new information or clarify existing entries. You can also post updates to common questions on social media itself and pin them to ensure they have high visibility.
Your app launch is the start of your journey, not the end of it. You want all the months of hard work to be appreciated, even if that means putting some more hard work into making sure your app makes waves. These launch marketing tips will help you shape your own launch strategy. Don't assume just because you built it... they will come.
If you have a launch day tip you want to share with our readers, feel free to contact us on our website, Twitter, or Facebook. This list is not exhaustive and we may share similar app strategies (including yours) in the future.
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