The greatest app in the world isn't worth much if no one knows about it. That's why marketing -- despite being a dirty word in certain circles -- is key to any app strategy. You might not like it, but you'll need it.
What are the most common app marketing mistakes?
Ken Yarmosh: The first is that many app developers start marketing after the app is launched. They miss out on one of the best opportunities for their app, which is in that short window when it first appears in the App Store.
The second mistake is more subtle. Thinking about marketing as a distinct action instead of an ongoing process leads to a problematic mindset. For instance, the marketing plan often consists solely of emailing all the top press outlets about an app and hoping to get a review. Getting press on traditional media sites and tech blogs is important, but relying on them alone is very short sighted.
This also leads into a third mistake, which is ignoring important marketing channels. Many channels like Twitter and Facebook are free, with time being the only investment. Paid options should be considered as well. This includes advertising networks like AdMob (Google), Apple’s iAd, Millennial Media, and others. It may become obvious over time which channels are most effective for your apps, but in the early going it's important to test them all.
How do you get started developing a new app?
KY: I harp on the idea of “think first, code later.” It applies to everyone regardless of background or actually being able to code.
As a guideline, roughly 30 percent of an app's development should go toward thinking and planning. This includes, but is not limited to, doing research about similar apps, understanding key differentiators, and outlining potential functionality.
The App Store is a gold mine for understanding what customers like or dislike, both explicitly through customer reviews and implicitly by seeing the apps that are ranking well. Don’t be stingy. Install and purchase popular and competitive apps to experience them firsthand. By understanding the App Store ecosystem, what customers value, and the possible features to include, your app design and development will flow much more smoothly.
How can you maintain interest in an app after the debut excitement fades?
KY: The majority of apps transition from something new and shiny to being just another app in the App Store. That’s why it’s critical to keep conversing with customers. This lets you learn what they’d like to see added and to communicate what’s coming.
Healthy apps include somewhat regular updates, and these keep customers engaged and interested. For example, the most successful games became successful in part because new levels were added frequently.
Communicating what’s in progress is just as important as releasing the actual update because it creates anticipation. The details shared can be as basic as informing customers a nasty bug will be addressed or that a major new feature is coming soon. One of my favorite examples of how to share this type of information is Cultured Code’s status page. It’s very visual, and it showcases the features being developed along with their priority.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Learn more about this topic from App Savvy.
How can you make your iPad or iPhone app stand out in the highly competitive App Store? While many books simply explore the technical aspects of iPad and iPhone app design and development, App Savvy also focuses on the business, product, and marketing elements critical to pursuing, completing, and selling your app. Whether you're a designer, developer, entrepreneur, or just someone with a unique idea, this book explains every step in the process, with guidelines for planning a solid concept, engaging customers early and often, developing your app, and launching it with a bang.