How long have you been sitting in front of the computer developing the next killer iPhone app? 50 hours? 100 hours? More? How much money have you put into becoming a registered developer, paying artists, hardware, software, and training? The day has finally come to submit your hopes and dreams to the whims of the Apple approval team and hope that you don't get that fateful rejection email in your in-box. But… did you forget something?
In order for your app to succeed, you need a strategic approach to marketing it. With almost 100,000 active apps in iTunes, the likelihood of your app being "discovered" and succeeding on its own gets harder every day.
I don't know how many times I've heard a developer say, "That's okay though… I'll get to the marketing thing once the app gets approved and goes live". By waiting until an app goes live, the developer looses a number of significant marketing opportunities right off the bat.
To start, one of the most important components of your marketing, Search Engine Optimization, can ONLY be performed before your app has been submitted, or when uploading a new binary. Too many developers we have worked with didn't realize this, threw a couple of keywords into the keywords field and figured they would come back to it later… they simply wanted to see their app in the store. We even read a story of one developer that simply didn't use keywords because they were worried the wrong keywords would get them a rejection and their application was Halloween themed meaning a delay would render their app useless. Unfortunately.. having no keywords will render your application practically useless as well.
There is also a period of a few days at most where your natural browsing will be higher. The default browsing of iTunes is by "Release Date" – giving you first page visibility when a consumer wanders into your category. Depending on the category, you might be on the first page of this listing for close to a week! This is a great time to take advantage of the boosted sales and use a blitz marketing campaign to drive yourself into the higher rankings – shooting to either get in the top 100 listing, or get noticed by Apple and featured.
Social media is another tactic that requires some pre-planning. Most social media tactics rely on "followers" of your content. If you have not started building a following before you launch.. you are already missing out!
Finally your PR buzz is much more effective if its about a "new" product. Reporters are less likely to cover a story about something that has been sitting available for a while unless there is something new and unique about it. "Company X releases a new app that is the first to do Y" is much more of a story than "App Z is still in the App Store and still not doing that well even though its a good concept.."
Already launched? Its not optimal… but its not too late either. Drop us an email and we will be glad to take a look at how your app is being marketed.
In a major policy shift, Apple has emailed developers today announcing that they were lifting the ban on in-app-purchases from free apps. Previously, the only time you were allowed to upsell additional content from within an application was for applications that were pay-to-download. In their email Apple states
"In App Purchase is being rapidly adopted by developers in their paid apps. Now you can use In App Purchase in your free apps to sell content, subscriptions, and digital services.
You can also simplify your development by creating a single version of your app that uses In App Purchase to unlock additional functionality, eliminating the need to create Lite versions of your app. Using In App Purchase in your app can also help combat some of the problems of software piracy by allowing you to verify In App Purchases."
This drastically changes the business models and marketing tactics for a number of developers, and introduces other potential developers into the mix. Developers no longer need to offer a limited "lite" or free version of their application and another version that is paid – the free version can be made to upgrade via in-app-purchase to have all the capabilities of a paid app.
This also will have a dramatic effect on app raking charts. I can see more developers simply not creating a "paid" version of the app – and always starting their apps at the free level. This will potentially make the free app charts much more competitive then they already are – and the paid apps chart much less.
You also have to wonder what this will do to apps that like to go on sale from time to time. If the app is already free.. there is no need to lower the price.
BEWARE INTREPID DEVELOPER – It may be easy to get carried away with in app purchase and start attaching micro payments to every possible add-on your app can offer. Remember – you are playing with a consumers pocket book – and iTunes gives the consumer quite a bit of shout-out power to cry foul if developers start to come across as nickel-and-dimeing their customers to death. Be clear in your app descriptions what content is free, and what content will require an additional payment. There’s nothing that will elicit a bad review from a consumer faster then offering something that looks free…. and then requiring them to pay to actually get it.
In-app-purchase is still subject to the same payment and pricing models as always, and Apple will still be getting their 30%.
I like to call this Stunt Marketing/PR at it’s best. Schiau Studios, the creators of Alchemize, an iPhone game – have caused quite a stir in the iPhone App blogosphere. Tired of all the complaints that their game was priced too high at $2.99, Schiau Studios went and (brilliantly) did the unmentionable – they RAISED the price of their game to $39.99! While only a temporary price increase, the drastic change made a point and got a ridiculous amount of press. The price of a game in the iTunes store is still considerably cheaper than buying a console game. But the best part of this stunt – free publicity! People (including you after reading this) now know about the game, Alchemize. And the more people who know about the game, the more people will check it out and possibly purchase it.
At Appency, we’re in the business of marketing iPhone apps, and publicity is one of the services that we offer. People often ask, what kind of publicity can you bring to a new app? My definition, anything that gets people to take notice and/or talk about your product. As long as they are talking, you are building brand awareness. In most cases, a press release and pitching to journalists/bloggers can be a great first step to getting people’s attention. It helps if you have an angle – first game of its kind, new use of technology, great game play, or in Schiau Studios case, most expensive iPhone game ever!!
Before you take action, we recommend you take a good look at your app. What’s your angle? Why did you make this app in the first place? Do you have competition in the marketplace? If yes, why should people download your app versus the competitor’s? Is it priced fairly? Does it have a good user experience? Check any current reviews and make any necessary tweaks. When you’re ready to make a big noise, make sure your product can stand the heat!
Kudos to Schiau Studios! Nicely done.
As many of you already know, Apple and AT&T will finally have MMS capabilities for the iPhone this Friday, September 25th (Announced on their Facebook page here).
While many iPhone developers may let this come and go without a second thought – my clients – and other smart developers will be taking this opportunity to implement a strategic price drop
Whats the connection? Traffic. Every time there is a major new update for the iPhone, a significant jump in traffic is seen in the iTunes app store. Many of the consumers who are coming to get their update, will also take a few minutes to browse around the store (even if its harder to do then it use to be) and will choose a few new apps to try out. Typically developers do not have good advanced notice of when an update will be – there is alot of buzz but when it finally happens everyone is scrambling to adjust their marketing accordingly.
Users who may have been looking at your app before but not wanting to pay full price may take notice of your app and finally take the plunge. There are also a number of sites like 148apps, AppShopper, and FreeAppAlert (if you are dropping from paid to free) that track price drops in apps, alerting a waiting public to sales they can take advantage of. All of this translates into free eyeballs… and more downloads for the in-the-know developer.
Knowing ahead of time also allows you to get a media buy in place, however with only 48 hours before the event, I’m afraid it would be hard to get your ad and buy together in time. Besides… my clients already got the good spots 🙂