App marketing shouldn’t be an afterthought.
You should start marketing your app well before its launch, and continue on long after it hits the market. Building buzz is a great way to generate interest in your app with your current and potential customers. The anticipation is sure to get people talking.
In order to stay above the noise that floods the marketplace today, you’ll need to get creative. Now, some of these app marketing tactics might seem straightforward because they are must-haves in marketing today, digital or otherwise. As many app categories are incredibly crowded, it’s important to put your own spin on things.
We know there’s no “secret sauce” or algorithm to help you out here. It takes a lot of work to brainstorm creative app marketing ideas. It’s even harder to think of free app promotion tactics. Still, let’s take a look at some examples that might spark your imagination.
1. Make sure your app branding is on point
This might require you to reconsider your brand as a whole. What does your brand say about you? Brand marketing gives your company recognition while allowing customers to feel something about it. Brands aren’t just logos; they should evoke an emotion.That’s when the best relationships are built between a brand and its customers.
Remember when Instagram changed their look? Keep in mind: apps should evolve with your brand.
2. Conduct market research with your target audience
In doing extensive research ahead of starting your app development, you can pick the brains of potential users. This not only allows them to feel like they’re part of the project, but it also puts your app on their radar. The exact customer base you want to attract will get a sneak peek at your app concept, which they should be excited about. If they aren’t, you either need to shift gears or rethink your desired target audience.
3. Reach out to influencers
Receiving endorsements from influencers and celebrities that are important to the target audience mentioned above can go a long way. Influencer marketing has dominated social media marketing plans in recent years, and as a result, our social feeds. This is an especially good addition to an app marketing strategy if your product is consumer-facing.
Influencer marketing for apps isn’t limited to just Instagram. Here’s an example from The Melea Show. In a short 8-minute video, she tells her 350,000+ followers about how the Ibotta app saves her money at the grocery store. At the end of the video, she gives her viewers a promo code for downloading and includes links to the app in the description.
4. Join the conversation
Find out what your users are curious about. Jump into question-and-answer forums, such as Quora, to answer questions from real users. Set up Google alerts for your company’s name and other related search queries. For example, if you have a travel app, you could set up alerts for “travel mistakes” or “where should I go on vacation next?” This allows you to not only stay on top of your public responses, but also gives you the opportunity to become a thought leader in your vertical by potentially solving problems for your customers.
5. Host an app launch party
Celebrate those long hours with a big bash! This could be internal, for the public, or both. It’s also another way for your app to potentially get additional coverage. You might want to hire a professional event planner to make sure your app launch party goes off without a hitch.
(Image courtesy of NotableLife.com)
What type of user are you trying to attract? Coffee Meets Bagel hosted a launch party for their Canadian expansion. Trying to differentiate themselves from other dating apps, their value proposition is to find you a high-quality match–and the tuna tartare at their downtown Toronto venue didn’t disappoint attendees.
6. Utilize your mobile-friendly website
Somewhere along the customer journey, your users are eventually going to visit your website. Use pop-ups with a strong call to action (CTA) to encourage app downloads. Include links to your app (for all of the various app store platforms) in the footer near where you include your linked social icons.
7. Write blog posts about your app
This is your chance for true storytelling, and the best part is you own the story from start to finish. Highlight how your app solves a problem for the users, or create a series centered on the different features of your app. This also gives you a lot of square-footage to create specific CTAs for your various users.
8. Leverage dedicated landing pages
A landing page is where beautiful design meets a strong call to action, working in perfect harmony. The best landing pages are clean, clear, and concise, making it a great vehicle to ask users to download your app.
In a single sentence, Slack’s landing page for their app downloads quickly explains what it is and why you need it. It also boosts the application’s reputation and the validity of the statement above by adding well-known partners along the bottom of the page.
9. Create an email campaign
Along the same lines, build out an email campaign series for your app. This will allow you to filter your email list into segments and tailor your message. Maybe your app’s value is different across your diverse customer base. Email campaigns are also a great place to announce new app releases or feature updates to your current users.
10. Grow subscriber list
Increase the number of people you reach with your email campaigns or newsletter by growing your subscriber list. By constantly adding new contacts, you can implement a drip campaign to nurture leads through the buying cycle.
11. Have a strong social media presence
Create content specific to your app for your established social media pages. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s important to test and measure which social platforms are right for your business. Aside from including your app news in your feed posts, feature it in your banner images. Think of it as a social media billboard.
12. Consider using ads on social platforms
Social media ads give you the opportunity to reach an extended audience. Most of the major social media platforms have some form of paid advertising feature, such as Twitter ads. However, they all have different nuances, like placements or cost. For example, Twitter might be a great way to grow your customer base, but you get more engagement on Facebook. Again, try out the options on the platforms you think are appropriate for your app.
13. Integrate in-app social share
Is there an advantage to your users sharing your app with their social followers? This tactic is especially popular with game apps where users can social share their wins within the app itself.
When you win in HQ Trivia, you are immediately prompted with a pop-up that allows you to tell the world. Now your followers not only see that you’re a genius, but that someone similar to them is using this app, and maybe they should, too. This spreads your message to a potentially untapped audience.
14. Request to join relevant social media groups
Usually joining groups on social media allows you to communicate with a more informed audience. By principle, these people have something in common with each other, and if you did your research, it somewhat pertains to your app.
15. Use an invite system for your app
If applicable, creating an invite system for your app is a great way to get more downloads. Users can choose to invite their friends to download the app if they think it would be helpful to them as well. As with most products, people are more likely to entertain the idea of downloading an app if it’s coming from someone they trust instead of the brand itself.
16. Offer free trials and promo codes
Let’s be honest, an extra incentive never hurts any marketing goal. Give your potential users that little push across the finish line. Offering your product for free doesn’t devalue it. Instead, it forces them to really explore its benefits in a short period of time. It’s also important to take care of current customers and reward them with promo codes. These are likely to be shared and talked about among users as well.
17. Build an online community
Or even offline if you can! Try to create a place where your users can interact with one another. Whether it’s social media, the comments section on your blog, or somewhere else, your users most likely want to be connected to other users. It’s hard to encourage word of mouth recommendations, but this is a great way to get that ball rolling. Building an online community for your app’s users also gives you a way to consistently engage with current customers.
Initially just an easy-to-use food diary app, MyFitnessPal has created a forum for users to ask questions and discuss hurdles with other real users in their own fitness journey. It’s built right into their website under the “community” tab. They also have a massive social presence, including official pages and groups where customers can get feedback and advice from the pros.
18. Focus on customer service
Make it easy for customers to get a hold of you. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to contact the parent company for a solution. Apps are usually a quick solution to some kind of problem, and we expect the same from their creators.
19. Update your app frequently
Your users also expect a fully functioning product. You’ll not only have to keep up with the operating system updates, but also have to give your customers something new every once in a while. App maintenance should be top of mind for any developer post-launch.
20. List your app on other app stores
Yes, there are other app stores outside of the Apple App Store and Google Play store. A few examples include the Amazon Appstore, AppsLib, SlideMe, AppBrain, and others.
21. Consider app store optimization (ASO)
Similar to search engine optimization (SEO), app store optimization(ASO) improves your app’s ranking directly by making small adjustments to your app store listing. It consists of a variety of tactics, such as adding relevant keywords in your app’s title and including screenshots in the preview section. Apps are typically found with only a quick search, so ASO is key to making your app more discoverable to potential users.
22. Keep SEO in mind, too
Yes, you can–and should–do both. Even your app’s URL is fair game in a Google search when the query is related. As with any kind of optimization, a lot of it can be a guessing game. A/B test a variety of factors and see what works for your app.
23. Don’t forget about app indexing
App indexing allows a user to click from a SERP directly to the app’s listing. Think about your customer doing a quick Google search, finding the right solution for them, then having to open up the app store and search for it again. By cutting out the extra steps, app indexing boosts downloads. It’s a one-click fix.
24. Create a demo video
According to Alexa, YouTube is the second most popular website after Google. That means video marketing is here to stay. You should be in front of your customers wherever they are, and creating video content is a way to do just that.
App demo videos are a great way to answer frequently asked questions and explain complicated features. The Sense app is a home energy monitoring solution, which can seem a little daunting to a first-time user. This video is the first in a four-part series explaining how the app works.
25. Guest blog for tech publications
Remain relevant in your space by pitching to editors at tech publications. It’s important to strike the right balance between product promotion and educational content in your guest blog content. Build authority and trust with readers through valuable insight.
26. Gain listings on app review sites
Reviews are a growing asset to marketers. As your app receives more reviews, you start to strengthen your position in the market.
There are many sites dedicated to app reviews, like AppAdvice. This Headspace profile page shows how the meditation app works, what users it would benefit, what the experts love about it, and more.
27. Be recommended in top app lists
Take it a step further and aim for the top of those lists on app review sites. Now, in order for this to happen, you have to put out a great product. There are so many apps out there, so if you’re hoping to be on a list of top apps, you have to be innovative from the very start.
28. Get featured in app stores
The app stores themselves have a “featured apps” section on their homepage. Aside from having a high-quality app first and foremost, you’ll need to pitch to Apple or Google Play. You know what makes your app amazing, otherwise you wouldn’t have created it in the first place. This is your time to shine.
29. Submit your app for awards
Winning an award always looks and feels good. These accolades can be promoted in your materials – and usually, the organizations presenting the awards have a positive reputation that you can leverage. Awards put your app above the rest–and maybe you’ll even join a group of some pretty awesome predecessors.
30. Look for speaking opportunities
From huge tech conferences to small-scale marketing webinars, every opportunity matters. You have to start somewhere. While it might require you to be a little scrappy, speaking opportunities allow you to meet so many professionals in a similar space. It’s all about networking.
31. Attend and exhibit at events
This is your chance to create a physical presence for your app. Think about what your booth would look like and what conversations you want to have with customers. Sometimes with tech events, you can’t not be there.
When it comes to trade shows, we’ve all been there, done that. Try to think outside of the box with your event marketing. Evernote sponsored the curation of content at SXSW, providing free notes from 50 sessions to attendees.
32. Give branded swag away
Hand out free promotional items for your app. Yes, free. This marketing tactic gets your logo, and possibly your message, out to the masses. While we all love a free t-shirt, swag isn’t only limited to the usual suspects. For example, if you’ve created a dog walking app, maybe you’d want to give away items like branded leashes or treats in a branded bag. Keep your users top of mind, but also think about how, when and where they use your app.
33. Facilitate a contest
Run a contest specifically for your users. If people want to participate, they have to use your app. Promote your app contest on social media with a hashtag to encourage engagement. Make sure you clearly state your contest’s rules and guidelines. Remember to put a timeframe on your app contest to create a sense of urgency.
34. Try a “next best thing” platform
Sites like ProductHunt.com or Mix.com (formally StumbleUpon.com) capture content from across the web and cycle it on their platforms. It’s just plain cool.
ProductHunt primarily features tech-focused content, like popular apps, services, and other tools that are popular with their visitors. Members can upvote entries to move products up the list. Check out this listing for Coolors, an app that allows you to randomly generate color palettes.
35. Promote your app with Google Adwords
If your research and analysis both show that your target audience is most likely finding your app on Google, consider using search engine advertising like Google Adwords. You can target specific keywords and really drive conversions with your campaign.
36. Test app store search ads
Similar to the ASO vs. SEO conversation above, app stores now have search ads that work in a similar fashion to Google ads. Advertisers can bid on relevant keywords so that when a user searches for that keyword, your app appears first in the listing.
37. Engage potential users with retargeting ads
If your website traffic is telling you that people are leaving before they take the step to download your app, take advantage of retargeting. Bring the call to action back to them by serving up retargeting ads in places where they venture off to after visiting your site.
38. Network with industry professionals
Start to build a network of other professionals in your industry or related verticals. It’s important that you forge meaningful relationships, even if it’s privately. You can look to these people for advice and you never know when a connection will come up with their next big venture, and maybe even invite you to the table.
39. Partner up with other companies
When it makes sense. It’s really hard to find an ideal partnership for both sides, but when there are synergies, it can really work. Partnering with other apps or products is extremely advantageous to the user.
(image courtesy of TheVerge.com)
Grubhub and Venmo partnered up to allow users the option to conveniently split the bill when ordering with friends. This app integration makes the user experience better, while also boosting the reputation of both apps.
40. Trade ad space with other apps
If applicable, swap space on your app for ad space on other apps. This is an even trickier relationship to perfect, but if done correctly, it could be mutually beneficial.
41. Prepare a media kit
Get ready for press. A media kit can consist of a lot of materials, but at the very least, it should include a logo and an official press release. The news cycle moves at lightning speed, and if you aren’t prepared for coverage, the outlets will pass you by. In the words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next.”
42. Add app information to all marketing materials
Think of your app like your website URL. You wouldn’t just leave it off your brochures just because they aren’t digital, would you? Your app details are just as valuable to include in all of your marketing collateral–even on your letterhead and business cards. Now, a potential customer knows the app store is an additional place to find your brand.
43. Include links to your app in email signatures
Your app links should also be in your email signature. The app store buttons draw interest and create yet another touchpoint for you and your prospective customers.
44. Respond to reviews
Good or bad, we mean that. You can do so much with a review. You might be able to promote the review in your own materials, or you can implement the feedback from the review to make your app better. Either way, reviews are good for business.
45. Mix it up with guerrilla marketing
This whole tactic is about going against the grain. Guerilla marketing is all about doing traditional advertising, like out of home, in a fun and unique way.
Here’s a guerrilla marketing example for the Apple App Store. By utilizing the riser space on the stairs of the escalator, this ad creates the visual illusion of a phone screen. Apple’s “endless apps” message is conveyed because it’s in a never-ending rotation. So smart.
46. Advertise in brick and mortar stores
If you have a physical store for customers, display signage that encourages your customers to download your app. Your call to action should express how the app is different than the in-store experience and how the app benefits them. This works particularly well for rewards programs. Some companies choose to include QR codes for quick and easy app downloads.
47. Increase app exposure with local efforts
Can you capitalize on a localized angle? This approach allows you to focus your efforts on one specific task. Start in your company’s backyard and see how it goes. If it’s a smashing success, then maybe think about traveling to your next location.
Now you know how to market an app! Pick and choose different app marketing tactics that make sense for you. And remember, don’t forget to have some fun along the way. Learn more app development basics–do you know the difference between web apps vs mobile apps?