We examined marketing strategies that proved to be unsuccessful for app developers and their products in the Summer 2010 issue (iphonelife.com/issues/2010Summer/Thumbs/iPhoneAppMarketingSecrets). However, positive marketing strategies are much more crucial if you want your app to stand out in the vast ocean of titles in the App Store. For this article, I asked some of the top selling app developers about the biggest marketing obstacles they faced and how they overcame them. Here's what they had to say.
Brian Akaka, Appular
"The sheer volume of apps hitting the App Store has created a wildly competitive and rapidly evolving landscape. The speed at which the industry has changed even in the last six months is the biggest obstacle we face when marketing apps. We have to adjust our strategies and reevaluate the App Store playing field on a daily basis."
Ge Wang; Apps: Glee and Magic Piano
"Try new and different things, and (be) smart about leveraging social outlets (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and word of mouth."
YoonJeong Kang; App: AppBoxPro
"Perhaps the toughest obstacle for us initially was being an unknown brand. We had to build our product loyalty from scratch. Because of this, we monitored and adjusted our pricing carefully in order to compete with the established players and their enormous marketing budgets."
Saverio Mondelli; App: F-MyLife
"It's difficult to gauge certain data because Apple doesn't give it to you in a nice and easy format. That's why we built Heartbeat (heartbeatapp.com), a Web service that gives app developers a looking glass into a lot of the data that they would otherwise miss if they were just using the tools provided by Apple. Knowing how your app performs relative to the marketing campaigns you're running is important."
Joe Greenstein, App: Flixster Movies
We've really focused just on having the best, most useful product, and I think word of mouth has been the key for us."
"Getting the attention of the press is incredibly difficult, but if you do/build/say something that they care about, you'll eventually get it. My ‘99 cent experiment' (appcubby.com/blog/files/the_experiment.html) was as much a publicity stunt as it was a meaningful attempt to find a better monetization strategy."
Emanuele Vulcano, App: Mover
"The biggest obstacle of all was the fact I did not expect to have to market the app beyond the basics. I'm not out of the woods yet; I struggle in my attempts to "scale" my "marketing" to an element of an actual business. But, just like in software development, I'm consolidating knowledge as I try out new crazy ideas."
Gary Fung, App: Ping
"The biggest obstacle for marketing is trying to time media coverage with the launch date. We do not have control over Apple's approval process and it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months (or more). If coverage happens too soon, there is risk of getting the public excited too early, but waiting too long after the app is launched also makes the news less timely."
Dave & Allan, App: Pocket God
"Our biggest obstacle was getting publicity on large influential sites. Gizmodo and Kotaku are two of the most influential sites for generating app sales, and we were never able to crack the code in coming up with a story that they would cover.
Mark Jardine, Apps: Convertbot, Weightbot
"The biggest obstacle was before we launched our first application. We were an unknown company and getting review sites to respond to us was tough. We overcame it by sending them review requests over and over until they finally responded. When asking for a review, send a promo code and a screenshot right away. If you have a link to video, do that as well."
David Niemeijer, App: Proloquo2Go
“Apple has recently taken a way one of our biggest hurdles. The App Store Volume Purchase Program (VPP) has made it so much easier to sell apps to education. Educational institutions can now purchase with a variety of methods and get 50 percent discount if they buy more than 20 licenses of an app at once. Now we only wish Apple would extend the program beyond the US.”
Jeffrey Powers, App: RedLaser
"We realized that it's very hard to get reviewers and bloggers to cover the story of an application update. We've learned that you need to have lots of new bells and whistles to make an interesting story, but for us, the most important thing was a core technology update that just didn't make a good story. Fortunately, we overcame this problem when the application broke into the top 25, and RedLaser was reviewed for the first time by organizations that tend to only focus on very popular applications."
Improvise, adapt and overcome!
If something isn't working or you are not seeing results, don't be afraid to try something else quickly. As they say in the Marine Corps: "improvise, adapt, and overcome." Constantly tweak your marketing strategies and explore new avenues. Remember that the knowledge you gain from marketing failures can translate into future successes.
In a future issue, we'll look at some non-traditional marketing strategies that developers use. In the meantime, if you have any questions and comments about this article, do not hesitate to shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. And let me know if you are an app developer who would like to participate in future articles.