Best Practices in Marketing Mobile Apps


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WIth so many mobile apps being brought to market every day, how do you make sure your app gets found, gets downloaded and builds buzz?

This eBook by strategy expert Robbie Kellman Baxter of Peninsula Strategies will provide you with inside tips to have a successful launch AND to continue building buzz long after the first download. How do you make sure your app is featured on the app store's new and noteworthy page? How do you build a profile page that makes people want to download your app? What kind of plumbing do you need to build into your app to ensure communication, upselling and viral growth? Find out in this practical and concise ebook.

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Best Practices in Marketing Mobile Apps

  2. 2. 2 This e-book is for you if Your company is launching a mobile application to strengthen your overall business You’re launching a new freestanding mobile app, and need to build awareness quickly You’ve already launched a mobile app but aren’t seeing the kind of growth you had hoped for. Whether your mobile app is your primary business or is a small part of a much bigger strategy, this e-book will dramatically improve discovery, engagement and retention of your app. And that means a bigger impact to your bottom line. Best of luck, and let me know how your journey goes! Sincerely, Robbie Kellman Baxter
  3. 3. 3 Mobile Apps are the Wild West of Consumer Technology 1 Building Buzz 4 If People Have Stopped Downloading Your App… 6 Things to Remember 7 Peninsula Strategies’ Mobile App Checklist 8 About the Author 10 What People Are Saying About Peninsula Strategies 10
  4. 4. 4 CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY One thing to remember about mobile apps is that many of the people using mobile apps are downloading apps for the first time. Nearly every household today has a home computer or laptop, and tablets are still growing in adoption. Even smart phones are new to many people. If you live in a place like Silicon Valley, this fact might be hard to remember, but the person downloading your app might have never downloaded an app to a mobile device before. The implications of working in a new space are important to understand Consider two key constituencies, “new to mobile” people who are just learning how to use a tablet or smart phone and “bleeding edge” people who pride themselves on familiarity with every app in a particular category. Make on-boarding users easy, because new users are likely to be impatient and easily frustrated, but also because if you meet their need, they are unlikely to look for other apps. If you are a likely “first downloaded” app, you might want to invest in relationships with hardware manufacturers, because they might be interested in preloading your app onto their new devices.
  5. 5. 5 Be crystal clear about your target. If you want to be on the leading edge, you have to be cool enough for the leading edge. On the other hand, if your success depends on being loved by the people who are always current on the latest technology, you need to invest in winning thought leadership. This means reaching out to the right bloggers, product reviewers, and industry experts. Establish your own metrics, and make sure they tie to your objectives. You may not know what the acquisition cost should be for your app, or how to price your offering. So you will need to rely more on logic and instinct than standards. Leave room to change your pricing in the future by offering a special price at launch, and establish your metrics based on the first things you try—then work toward lowering your costs. appeals to thought leaders may not work for the mass market, and one may follow the other very quickly. This means that you need to try a lot of different approaches, and carefully track the results and demographics. The market is growing so fast that there are still first-to-market advantages, and the number one player enjoys a tremendous advantage over number two, but the chaos of a new market can be daunting and frustrating. New players are entering the market every day—new app developers, new distribution platforms, and new pundits—so things will get wilder before order is established.
  6. 6. 6 Many companies launch their apps with no positioning, no idea of who they are targeting, no key messages, no marketing at all—and they still take off like wildfire. Nearly all of these companies attribute their success to the Apple revenue of its nearest competitor, Google Play. While Google Play is growing much faster than the Apple App Store in terms of revenue compared to Apple’s modest 13% growth, according to Venture Beat), Apple is still the one to beat. Apple’s mobile app distribution platform, known as the App Store, is the primary way that mobile apps for Apple devices are purchased. It is also the way that many mobile apps are discovered by users, who explore by category, by most downloaded app lists, and by selections made by the Apple editorial team. There are over 600,000 apps available on the App Store, so you need to make sure that your app can be found. The App Store may be the single most important creation of Apple, and has been responsible for creating a market for small apps and really changed the way applications are developed and distributed. There are two ways to be featured in the App Store. Apple uses algorithms to compile lists you need a lot of downloads and a lot of positive reviews. In addition, the AppStore curates their store, meaning that they have editors who evaluate new apps and can choose to feature some of their favorites. If a mobile app is selected as a favorite by the Apple team, or enjoys a burst of popularity at launch, which makes it a leader in its category, that app is likely to enjoy a flurry of downloads. This flurry can lead to a longer run of popularity, increased awareness, and more downloads. So getting the attention of the Apple editors and getting enough downloads and reviews in a single week to make the top of your category is critical. Not every company that ignores marketing is this lucky—you have to have a great product, and then you have to get Apple’s attention. But even for the lucky ones, Apple can be a double-edged sword. Here’s what you need to know about Apple and Mobile App Marketing. Apple can make or break a new mobile app. The mobile app distribution platform is the primary way your app can be found, and Apple’s App Store is the biggest one. The App Store is the mobile app equivalent of Wal-mart.
  7. 7. 7 Apple picks favorites. If you find favor with the editors, you can be selected as a favorite of the week, and enjoy premium placement in the App Store. No one knows exactly how Apple chooses, but they tend to like things that are new and different. When your app is submitted to the App Store for distribution, the Editors review your app. If they like it enough, it will be highlighted. Choosing your category carefully is important. Your app may fit equally well into multiple categories—does it fit better in are highly competitive and highly trafficked. Others have a smaller following, but are easier to win. You might also think about what business model you want—if your purchases are within the app (“in-app purchases”), but the app itself is free, you go in the free categories, along with the vast majority of apps, which are free. Paid apps are more likely to rank on their top ten lists, which might be fine if your app is business-oriented, but may sink you if you’re providing some- thing that is well-represented on the free lists, like games or news. A burst of users at launch can really help. When you register with Apple, you need to select a category. The category matters, because that’s how people browse and search for new apps to download. It also matters because if you can rank in the top 10 for your category, either paid or free, you get premium placement. So anything you can do to create buzz at the moment of launch—articles about your app, happy users downloading the app and writing positive reviews, links from other websites to the download page—can make a difference. Beyond the favorites and the most-downloaded lists, you really depend on your profile page for discovery. The profile page is like the colorful cardboard box that software used to come in. It’s what gets you noticed. You need great screenshots, a catchy name, great description, and any awards or rankings you have received. You have less than a second to get someone’s attention, so it’s really important to create a compelling page, especially since Apple is likely to be your primary source of new users.
  8. 8. 8 Even if you are successful, you may not make a lot of money. Apple gets about 30% of any revenue resulting from their platform distribution system, so while it can be a great source of users, you might be better off with a smaller base of customers who are completely yours. On the other hand, if your app is totally free, the App Store may be great for you to build usage. If you go through the App Store, “your” customers aren’t totally yours. Apple owns the contact information, and maintains the primary relationship with the user. You might be able to get them to register from within the app, but registrations can be difficult to obtain if they aren’t required. It is critically important that you have a means to build a direct line to your customers, either through registration, or through in-app messaging, or both. If you can’t communicate with your customers, you are reducing yourself to a commodity. Bottom line, Apple is a little like the sheriff in the wild west, at least for now. They are tremendously important in making it safe and profitable to do business, but you need to pay your taxes and abide by their rules if you want to be welcome in their town. is one of the two key ways to generate direct revenue from an app, the other being paying for the app itself. With an in-app purchase, the app can be downloaded for free, but once using the product, the user is given opportunities to buy content or features. is a system with an online storefront that is designed to enable individual mobile app developers to market their apps. Usually owned by the developer of the particular operating system, these mobile app distribution platforms are the primary means of selling mobile apps today. Top platforms include Apple’s App Store, Amazon’s App Store, Google Play, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store. are people who other people turn to for advice on what’s good, cool or smart. They might be journalists, industry analysts, bloggers, or investors, but when they talk, people listen. Some mobile app execs are opinion leaders, but more often, they depend on relationships with opinion leaders to build buzz about their products. is the page that describes your app on an app distribution platform, usually owned by one of the major operating systems. It serves the same function as “the box” in traditional packaged software—attracting the attention of fickle buyers as they shop. is the idea of incorporating game-like features such as leaderboards, quizzes, and competitions into traditional content and applications. 10 years because technology has driven incremental costs to zero, making it easy to offer valuable services at no cost as a means of building awareness, distribution and trial. is a term used to describe how app usage can grow simply through the process of using the app. Hotmail, the early email app, “went viral” because each user inadvertently advertised the service (via a footer ad) when he used the app to send email.
  9. 9. 9 BUILDING BUZZ If you have just developed your mobile app, and your whole company is riding on this app, there are some things you can do to build buzz. You can actually make a big impact without spending big money. You need to start with a great product, of course, but you also want to stack the deck so that you launch with a bang, and people notice. You want to make sure that the thought leaders in your category know who you are, have a chance to see your app early and have incentives to write about you. This includes bloggers, tweeters and people who are seen as experts in the space. You also want to time your launch so that you aren’t competing against other news in the same category. Building awareness among thought leaders and influencers is a result of outreach more than spend, but most companies don’t have the discipline and focus to build these relationships prior to their launch. If you have money to invest in paid search, you may want to test some different options. There is anecdotal evidence that focused ads can be effective. Some companies are getting tremendous results from advertising on mobile platforms or gaming platforms. You can try paid social campaigns, or featured placement in promotional platforms If you can invest in building relationships with hardware manufacturers, you might be able to be preloaded onto new devices, especially in the tablet space. You can also try to partner with companies in related industries, trading awareness for access to the app, or cross promoting, if appropriate. Most importantly, you want to test different tactics and measure results. There’s no standard marketing plan for mobile app marketing, so creativity and flexibility can mean the difference between success and failure.
  10. 10. 10 THE PRODUCT MATTERS Before you start spending money on marketing campaigns, catchy slogans or cool logos, make sure you have the best product you can create. And make sure that the product is before they’ve even tried the service! Make sure that it’s easy for customers to get value right away, even before they register. Once they experience value, they’ll be more willing to register, customize and otherwise invest in your app—but first, show them the value. value proposition, people might pay when they download, but with so much available for first step in your process. You need to teach your users to make your app part of their daily routine. Are there ways for your users to increase their engagement, through options like easier to sell additional value to existing users than to provide value to new customers. 5. Do you give your loyal and happy users opportunities and incentives to invite expensive customers and often those customers have the highest lifetime value of any segment. Therefore, it is very important to design your app to encourage referrals. Do you periodically reach out to all of your customers, to tell them what’s great ideas from your users.
  11. 11. 11 YOUR APP… Here’s the scenario. The product launches. Someone notices it at Apple, and it’s picked as a the AppStore drives usage and lands the app on the list of top apps in the category, which drives a few more weeks of downloads. Maybe there’s a little PR related to the buzz on the AppStore, and a few blog entries are written by thought leaders, which leads to some more downloads…and then…nothing… At this point, the company is in trouble. It has some users and some revenue (if the app is sold for a fee, a subscription, or, even better if it has some in-app purchase features) but that’s about it. The company doesn’t know who’s downloading the app and why, so how can they worked (being a new featured app, or being a most-downloaded app) aren’t going to work in There are dozens of mobile apps that were designed and built by a small team of believers, or even one or two people with an idea, that have caught on like wildfire. Sometimes a good product is enough. But usually, it isn’t. You need a plan, and that plan needs to go beyond the launch. It may not be too late to drive exponential growth of your user base. If you find yourself in this situation—regroup quickly. more people like themselves. Claim #1 status in your category, even if you are creating a new category. Be bold—you have nothing to lose—and you need to resuscitate your app. With a quick analysis of the business model, a hard look at the product design and the actual customer profiles and usage scenarios, and some creative campaigns, you can get your product off of life support and back to healthy growth.
  12. 12. 12 J Are you selling your product at the right price, to the right people, established to have people find out about you, pay increasing amounts to you (or provide value in J If your mobile app is not your core business, you may be able to leverage of a series of apps you have created, you may want to cross-market. If you have existing relationships with thought leaders, you can talk to them about your new app. If you have an existing customer base, you may want to let them know about this app. If you have great content from a different source, you may want to leverage that content to build value for the new app. The options are endless, but the more integrated your plans, the more lever- aged you can be. J have it, the existing signup demographics. But more likely, you’re not going to have direct access to all of your data because the distribution platforms keep much of that data to themselves. This is why registrations and in-app messaging elements are so important, because they allow you to connect to users directly J This step can be painful for founders and developers, because they are often in love with their apps. But often, there are features in the app that diminish acquisition, usage, retention and referrals. You need to take a hard look at things like on-ramping, building of relationship between user and company, and viral features, and see what you can do to maximize the marketing strength of the product itself. Built properly, your app can be the best marketing tool you have! J Sometimes a product needs a little shot in the arm to get things moving again. You don’t need a big budget to leverage the power of marketing for your mobile app. You just need to look at your business model, and your results so far, and make some thoughtful decisions about where to invest your limited time and money to drive awareness, trial, loyalty and upsell. Starting with your specific goals, and then delving into tactics and metrics, you can quickly make changes that will increase revenue and profitability. Build a great product Establish buzz to coincide with your launch Optimize for Apple Make sure you can communicate with your users Build a plan for long term growth—think beyond the launch Building a product for “everyone” that’s optimized for no one Expecting Apple to do your marketing Thinking marketing=social (a tactical approach) No financial model for revenue generation Being slow to change and grow
  13. 13. 13 THINGS TO REMEMBER The reason mobile apps are so popular is because of the low barriers to entry. This means that if you are launching an app, you will have a lot of competition. While there are hundreds of thousands of apps currently available for download, about half of the revenue generat- launch and ongoing life of your app and your business. Mobile apps are still operating in “the wild west,” which means that rules haven’t been established yet. Actually, this fact is great for you, because you can try different things, test, evolve, make mistakes and then correct them. The only way to be an expert is to dive in and start trying. You don’t need a direct revenue stream from your mobile app, but you do need to make a business case—whether it’s about creating a new channel for an existing product, an ad-driven model for a content play, or even a solid plan with metrics for an acquisition. Make sure you have a plan, and that your midterm results indicate that your plan is viable. Keeping control of your app is key to your long-term success. If you’re a flea on the back gaming company Zynga, have struggled to build value. While it can be slow and tedious to develop direct relationships with your users, through registration and brand building, it’s critical.
  14. 14. 14 PENINSULA STRATEGIES’ MOBILE APP CHECKLIST J Build a great product. Understand your target audience before you build Pay attention to user experience and design J Integrate marketing hooks into your product On-ramping must be painless User must experience immediate value without a big learning curve Even if you don’t require registration, make it easy and valuable to register Consider viral components of your product, and enable (even reward) invitations to new uesrs Remind users to write recommendations J Optimize for Apple, but have other channels if you can Spend time and money making your profile page appealing Time your launch activities to get a burst of new users during the same week, to get onto “most popular lists Special info for Google, Microsoft J Create big buzz at launch Consider offering a beta membership for a limited audience Reach out to bloggers, analysts, and your existing customers Encourage reviews and ratings J Integrate your mobile app marketing strategy with any other businesses you have send to your customers, on your own blog, and on your employees’ autosig files Offer special incentives to your existing customers Consider ways your app can enhance your existing customers’ business, such as store locators, access to customer files or records and easy ways to contact help J Communicate with your users Encourage registration by featuring it prominently and more than once Make sure there are distinct benefits in exchange for providing contact info Create mechanism for in-app communications Provide periodic benefits and educational information to your users, both via in-app messaging and potentially via email Consider periodic surveys to get to know your audience better. You might be surprised at who is actually using your app and why! J Test and adjust You will make mistakes and see opportunities for improvement—make sure your processes are agile enough to allow for changes Create a test and adjust mindset. This is especially important in larger companies where launches might require long cycles, and change might be costly and difficult. With mobile apps, change can be fast and inexpensive, and getting it right is critical
  15. 15. 15 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Robbie Kellman Baxter brings over 15 years of management consulting and market-strategy expertise to her clients. She has worked with start-ups and mid-sized venture-backed companies as well as industry leaders such as Netflix, Yahoo!, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. Robbie is an expert on business models, and has worked extensively with SaaS, freemium, subscription-based, in-app purchases and mobile apps on creative ways to build trial and generate recurring revenue. A sought-after writer and speaker, Robbie has presented to business school alumni at Stanford, Wharton and Haas, as well as chapters of the Product Development and Management Association, the Business Marketing Round Table and Women in Consulting. She has been quoted on business issues in the Wall Street Journal, eCommerce Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post, and has been asked to write numerous articles for American Venture, Marketing Profs and Management Consulting News. A longtime resident of the Peninsula, Robbie has developed very strong relationships throughout the Silicon Valley community, with investors, attorneys and business leaders. Robbie received her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and graduated with honors from Harvard College. You can reach her at
  16. 16. 16 WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT PENINSULA STRATEGIES “Certainly, Peninsula Strategies knows the Web 2.0 space very well. Perhaps more importantly, they know how to quickly identify the key issues and opportunities, get the right information and synthesize it into a compelling case. And they are fun to work with.” Yahoo “Robbie partnered with our marketing team to evaluate product pricing and packaging strategies. She was thoughtful, thorough and fast in her research and recommendations and she provided really valuable perspective and input into critical marketing decisions for us.” Survey Monkey “Robbie has served as a key advisor on our team since the early days of our company. She helped us to strengthen our business model as we prepared to raise our first outside round of financing. With Peninsula Strategies, I felt we got many times the value of what we paid.” Bling Nation “Robbie is one of the best marketing strategists I’ve ever worked with.” PayCycle (now part of Intuit) “Robbie is fast, very smart, and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re off the mark. Peninsula Strategies is a terrific resource when you need a combination of strategic thinking and confident execution. Their expertise with SaaS and other subscription-based business models is incredibly valuable and let them get up to speed quickly and begin adding value right away.” CrownPeak, Inc
  17. 17. 17 “Peninsula Strategies was instrumental in developing Plus 3 Network marketing and communications platforms. Robbie corralled our long-range vision and brought creative objectivity to the process. We would not have come so far so fast without Peninsula Strategies on our team.” Plus 3 Network “Working with Robbie is like having your own personal strategic guru by your side. She delivers the convergence of superior analytical thinking with market understanding in such an keen and insightful way, you leave each meeting with energy and enthusiasm for what needs to happen next.” PicScout (now part of Getty Images) “Robbie’s analysis and insights will directly impact our ability to win in a highly competitive marketplace.” Riverdeep “Robbie is an unusually clear and insightful thinker. Perhaps even more rare is her ability to communicate in such a way as to immediately spark the “aha moment.” I have enjoyed many “aha moments” in my work with Robbie. She’s a delight to work with – an amazing asset to any organization I can think of.” ReferQuest “Peninsula Strategies’ thought leadership in subscription and membership- based business models really helped us plan for the future of our mobile application. Robbie is more than just a great idea person; she rolled up her sleeves and applied her expertise on subscription models to our specific business case and provided tremendous value.” NewspaperDirect
  18. 18. 18 PENINSULA STRATEGIES’ “TUNE UP YOUR APP!” PROGRAM Make your mobile the app the best it can be with our Mobile Tune Up program. The program who you’re selling it to, and at what price. We look at what other choices potential customers have to achieve the same goals that you provide. And we show you how to make sure all the pieces fit together. It’s amazing how often we find that one of the pieces of the puzzle just doesn’t fit—but no one has ever checked to see if all the pieces made a picture before. We are quick, but thorough, and often this step alone results in “aha” moments that create significant new revenue or a big bump in profitability. Next, we conduct a thorough evaluation of the application itself. We evaluate your effectiveness in maximizing marketing through your product, by focusing on six key opportunities. On-ramping Building Loyalty Creating Upsell Opportunities Encouraging Referrals Communicating Regularly with Users We will provide you with specific, frame-by-frame recommendations to help you optimize the product, before you spend a nickel on proactive marketing campaigns. It is amazing to us that so many companies launch their apps without knowing who they are targeting. If you already have a user base, we will conduct a survey to determine who has found your app, why they use it and what they think of it. These insights will help us develop a marketing plan to make the most of your budget. Before you turn on the megaphone, you need to know who is in your audience and what they want to hear! Now you are ready to determine where to invest your time and money to increase revenue and profitability. Using the data we have collected on your users, your positioning, your competition and your product, we can develop a prioritized ranking of actions you can take in order to increase awareness, leads, customers, value-per-customer, referrals, profitability… all the things that matter. SIGN ME UP
  19. 19. 19 / 650-322-5655