A Step-By-Step Guide to Marketing Your Mobile App [Checklist]
Many companies will focus on developing a great app that functions properly and addresses a pain-point in the market, but will often leave marketing as an afterthought. If you want to market your mobile app successfully, you need to begin strategizing before development even begins.
With this checklist, you will be able to collect marketing assets, prepare a marketing plan, and execute your marketing strategy to maximize the potential of your app’s success in the competitive app market.
Mobile App Marketing: Pre-Launch
The pre-launch phase is arguably the most important step in the app marketing process. Typically, the first phases of your mobile app marketing strategy should focus on brand awareness and visibility. Here are 67 steps to help you successfully market your mobile app to your target demographic.
1. Determine a release date
Apple has a strict review process that might delay the release, or you may encounter a setback that you didn’t anticipate. Planning far in advance will give you adequate time to prepare for the hard launch, allowing you to foresee any contingencies that may occur.
Pro Tip: When scheduling your launch date, pay attention to events that are going on in your space that have the potential to overshadow your app.
2. Conduct market research to understand your customers
One of the most common pre-launch pitfalls is not doing market research properly. At the very beginning of the development phase, you should identify the key players in your specific app category. It doesn’t matter how thorough and effective your marketing efforts are – if your app doesn’t address a pain-point or addresses one that already exists in the market, then it will simply not succeed. App Annie provides tons of useful app market data.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know what the most influential blogs, groups, forums, or websites your target audience is visiting, or what influencers they follow, you’ll struggle to reach them.
3. Build out your user personas
Try to envision the ideal user- What characteristics and traits do they have in common? Once you’ve nailed down the demographic you’ll be targeting, you can adjust your marketing message much more easily. Ask yourself who your app is for and how your target audience could benefit from your features. What features are they currently missing in the apps they’re already using or have used in the past? What features do they like and dislike the most?
Pro Tip: An app aimed at the 30-50 year old demographic is going to need a much different approach than an app made for millennial. Be smart about using certain language, gifs, emojis, etc. and adjust your messaging appropriately.
4. Conduct a competitive analysis
The chances that your app has some existing competition in the app market are very high as there are millions of apps to choose from. Make a list of your top 5 competing apps, their current price, monetization model, ranking, pros and cons, and notable reviews. You could even go as far as making a competitive matrix to determine how your app compares. Make sure your app doesn’t repeat any poorly made features or UX elements that users have negatively reviewed. Think about what would make your app stand out in contrast to your competitors. These are important considerations that should influence your entire app marketing approach.
Pro Tip: Research and test competing apps and improve on what they’re offering.
5. Determine your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
With the information gathered from the last point, you can determine what makes your app unique and capitalize on those elements throughout your messaging. If you have a strong UVP, your user acquisition will be a lot easier because a) your users will know right away what problem the app will solve for them, and b) word of mouth will spread like wildfire.
6. Define brand messaging and positioning
What’s the story behind the app? Bumble positions their brand well as their value proposition and vision to empower women is evident throughout all of the company’s messaging. Once you have a story and messaging that resonates with users, and the app provides a great experience in achieving their goal, the positive reviews and ratings will roll in. Customers buy into the reason the brand was created, not just the features it provides.
Pro Tip: Establish a brand voice. Who is behind the app? This humanizes a brand so users can connect on a deeper level.
7. Create a branding style guide
The purpose of a style guide is to ensure similar design styles are used across all of your marketing channels. Having a document keep track of your color and font choices will be extremely useful especially if you have a larger team. This will ensure that your branding remains consistent.
8. Create a pitch deck
If you want to obtain funding for it from angel investors or venture capital firms you need to prepare an effective “pitch deck” that showcases your company, your app, and your management team for prospective investors. It’s a concise, easy-to-understand, and highly visual presentation of a business idea sent to investors prior to a face-to-face meeting.
9. Collect PR materials:
- Start collecting your pitch templates. When your app is launched you can send your pitches more quickly
- Create your press kit. Include high-res photos of the logo, icons, screenshots, videos, marketing images, etc. Also, include information about the features and functions as well as details about your team and the background story of your app
10. Build a media list
One of the most overlooked aspects of marketing a new app is PR initiatives and reaching out to influencers, publications, tech bloggers, etc. to secure backlinks. Make a list of these contacts that might be interested in writing about your app. Connect with them and ask to mention your app when it is released. These contacts must be relevant to your space or they won’t bother replying. Also, try to work out a promotion strategy with them. You need backlinks for your website to gain any type of visibility on Google.
Pro Tip: Think about what your target audience reads, and what they listen to. This will give you a good idea of where you should be getting app mentions.
11. Begin PR outreach
It’s important to start your PR efforts pre-launch. Journalists and bloggers will appreciate the chance to look at your app before launching. You can ramp up your efforts after launch. Even if you don’t plan on doing pre-launch PR, building a list of sites to submit to will make promoting easier when launch time rolls around.
Pro Tip: Outreach to local press, publications, influencers such as bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters. etc. and ask them to review your app and send honest feedback. Share your thoughts on a good post they may have published and let them know why they may be interested in reviewing your app. Positive comments are always a good way to get a relationship going. Keep your pitch to journalists short and sweet with a link to your press kit or landing page. That way, if they’re interested in writing about your app, they’ll have all of the information they need.
12. Create a website, microsite, or landing page
Mobile websites are the number one source of app installs.
Creating a pre-launch landing page or at the very least a video trailer for your app has become a must-do. It’s never too early to start marketing your app.
Pro Tip: Once you have a video made for your website, you can recycle it by putting it in the app stores, on social platforms like YouTube, or even use it in your Facebook Ads.
In addition to building a buzz around your app, having a pre-launch website is also a great way to get some early SEO by beginning to build your domain authority.
13. Start collecting emails
Email is not the most innovative tactic to drive mobile user acquisition per say, but it remains an essential part of a good marketing plan. When you set up your website, collect emails so you can keep your followers updated and let them know when it launches, when you have new updates and features, etc.
14. Capitalize on mobile visits to your website
Mobile searches now overtake desktop so it’s more important than ever to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile. You can also boost downloads by promoting visits to your website via mobile to download your app with a mobile smart app banner.
15. Define your monetization strategy
Defining your monetization strategy too late or squeezing in a functionality to help make the app profitable last minute will only create the opposite effect with a frustrating UX. Mobile app monetization is done in a variety of ways, from in-app purchases, to ad-supported, and subscription-based.
Start App Store Optimization (ASO)
App Store Optimization involves optimizing your App Store page to rank higher in search results and convert at a higher rate.
Once your app is ranked highly in search for a certain keyword, it will continue to rank for months after.
Follow steps 16 to 19 to maximize your app’s organic downloads:
16. Hook users with the app name
A great title is your chance to hook users in and get them to click on your app to discover more. Include a keyword in the title for best results.
Keyword research is probably the most crucial part of ASO. The algorithm employed by the Apple App Store uses primarily keywords coming from the app title in order to rank apps for specific search queries. Other elements such as installs, conversion rates, reviews & ratings, etc. are taken into account by the algorithm to make a proper ranking on apps targeting the same app store keywords.
Pro Tip: Conduct keyword research and create a set of long and short tail keywords.
17. Convey value in the app description
Always include features and benefits the user will get out of the app.
18. Add screenshots and video
iOS and Google Play both allow for a short video preview of your app. Use this to show off gameplay, demo functions, and convince users to try it out. Include 2-3 feature screenshots with short, and exciting language to capture users’ attention right away.
19. Select the right app category
Try choosing a less competitive category so your app can rank higher in. Keep in mind that you need to make sure the category is relevant to your app.
Pro Tip: Make sure you have all your logos, screenshots, and images ready in different sizes and required file formats for easy upload to the app store and use on different online channels. Also, make sure your first two screenshots are the most exciting.
20. A/B test app page
A/B testing your app page is one of the best ways to improve its conversion rate. Test your icon, screenshots, app video, and descriptions to boost conversions.
21. Localize your app
There are tons of people who would love to use your app but will never find it because it’s not in their language. Change this by localizing your app.
22. Create a content marketing strategy
Build up a blog months in advance of launching. When it’s time to launch, you’ll already be an authority in your niche with followers. Start simple and write a launch post, boast about the app’s features, showcase screenshots, and videos, etc. Here are several benefits of content marketing for your app:
- Drive traffic, conversions, and brand awareness with content
- Create a brand around your app by being the expert in your niche
- Build trust with users through content
- Blog content can be used for email marketing to re-engage contacts, for social media, and so on.
Creating quality blog content is a surefire way to get your app noticed on search engines.
Pro Tip: Once you have your content created, publish it on third-party sites like Medium, LinkedIn, and even consider turning it into a slideshow and post it on SlideShare for some extra exposure. SlideShare can help you reach thousands of readers who may be interested in giving your app a try. From there, you can link directly to your website or landing page.
23. Set up social media pages and set goals for each platform
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social platforms let you expand your web presence and allow you to directly communicate with your target audience. If your app targets specific age groups, identify the social platforms that are most popular with people in this demographic and focus on them. Make sure you consider the following:
- Is it clear that you have an App from the first glance of your social profile?
- Is the purpose of the app obvious?
- Is there a link to download it?
Creating a page for your app on Facebook alone gives you a platform to share news, updates, and even how-tos or exclusive app tips. Reach out to friends and family to like and share your page, even if they aren’t part of your app’s target demographic, someone in their social network might be.
Pro Tip: Claim a username for your app on all platforms. You may end up using the platform down the road that you didn’t start off using. Consider all platforms, for example, Google+ as it can be a valuable place to find and share your content with others in your niche. Don’t underestimate the power of lesser-known platforms. StumbleUpon for example, allows users to search for and discover new content that is tailored to their interests.
24. Create social media content & creatives
Gathering social content and materials ahead of time will expedite the social posting process. Create a social posting calendar and schedule posts ahead of time. Get creative with your content and create a demo video, infographics, and capture interesting screenshots of key features.
Pro Tip: Not all content you promote needs to promote your product. Try producing interesting and engaging content that has the potential to go viral. There are many cases in which this has proven to be a huge success. Took a look at these 7 apps that are doing an amazing job with content marketing.
Plan your content distribution in advance. Planning any marketing initiative well in advance is a must, but content promotion is especially important. It will help you stay on track, remaining consistent with your digital presence. Promoting content around your app launch is just the beginning.
25. Start promoting on social
Post company updates, features, etc.- get followers excited about the launch. Create a hashtag and use it in posts when appropriate. Post and share not only promotional but entertaining and engaging content related to your app in order to build a community behind it.
Pro Tip: Consider social media marketing tools like Buffer to help you out.
26. Set up Google Alerts
Find where people are talking about the problem your app solves. You can also use them to track where people are talking about your app directly by setting up a branded keyword alert.
27. Plan for promotional offers
Such as coupons. Offer limited time promo codes for free downloads, in-app purchases, or points. This will encourage listeners or readers to download quickly so they don’t miss out, helping your app rise through the rankings.
28. Plan for contests and giveaways
Running a contest can get your app a lot of attention online. This diagram from Social Media Examiner shows the engagement and barriers to entry for each choice:
29. Collect Reviews
Showcase 5-star reviews on the site, social, and everywhere else. Make sure reviews are authentic, or else your brand will seem in-genuine. Make sure they aren’t over the top and encourage honest, but positive ones. Asking for a review after a two week period is statistically the best time.
Pro Tip: Use testimonials not only on your website, but in ads, social posts, and on your app store page.
30. Track user acquisition
31. Create a press kit page and post it on your website
Post your press kit on your web page by compressing everything into a .zip file. Add the Press Kit link in the appropriate metadata field in iTunes Connect.
32. Write a press release
Your app launch won’t likely gain a lot of traction among journalists without a press release. Keep in mind that you need to have something newsworthy to say or else it won’t get picked up.
Here’s how to write a press release for your app.
Mobile App Marketing: The Initial Launch
33. Ramp up your user acquisition efforts
With a user acquisition strategy, there is no one way. Make sure you are trying different things, getting creative, and continually refining your user strategy. Aim to get as many downloads as possible in the first week after launch. The more rapidly your app gets downloads, the higher it will rank in the App Store results.
34. Encourage referrals from friends and family
Word of mouth is the single most effective user acquisition tactic.
35. Link to your app (everywhere)
In your email signature, social bios for the app, on your homepage, etc. You can even take this a step further and add a project to your LinkedIn Page.
36. Paid strategy
After the app is launched, start rolling out advertising such as social Facebook ads, which are extremely effective for user acquisition. Depending on your target demographic, you should also consider other platforms like Instagram and Twitter, although the reach is not as large it’s still effective, especially for millennials. Facebook’s ad platform is great at letting you target your desired audience by their interests, location, and much more. If you’re targeting your audience via social ads, you need to remember that people have shorter attention spans, so your ads should convey the purpose of the ad in a few seconds.
If you’re providing a solution that your users are searching for, Google Search ads may also be a good option.
Pro Tip: Facebook Ads can also let you retarget people who have downloaded your other apps or visited your website. Targeting is what makes Facebook Ads so powerful compared to other advertising platforms. For more information, Apptentive breaks it down in detail.
Consider other ad platforms after you see success with social ads.
37. Engage with customers that have been acquired
Establish a two-way dialogue. Community building via social platforms is essential. Make sure you’re posting in groups, forums, and discussion boards. If your app solves a problem, look to answer questions about that problem on Quora.
Pro Tip: To get the most out of Quora, make sure that you’re providing value in everything you post. Tell a story or give an example along with your answer and people will be more likely read your full posting and check out your app.
38. Pitch more aggressively for interviews, videos, & podcasts
Aim for brand mentions to acquire backlinks. You want to continuously focus on SEO. Backlinking is the best way to get your app seen as it boosts visibility on search engines, and promotes brand awareness.
39. Offer exclusive interviews to journalists
Providing them with a unique or exclusive interview will increase your chances of getting published.
40. Guest post on websites that have an established audiences
Write guest posts for other audiences that are targeting your personas. Guest blogging can help establish your authority in your area of expertise. If you choose wisely and target blogs with high readership, you’ll reach a brand new market which will convert into more downloads for your app.
41. Start reaching out to influencers to review your app
Start reaching out to influencers mentioned earlier- bloggers, podcasters, you tubers, newspapers, journalists, tech bloggers, etc. When pitching to bloggers and app reviewers, offer incentives and build a relationship with them.
Pro Tip: Reach out to influencers directly to negotiate cheaper rates and find better opportunities.
42. Reach out to Top Apps Lists
Make sure they have high authority and ask them to feature your app.
43. Pitch to Apple’s editorial team to get your app featured in the App Store
Every day, a free or paid app and game is reviewed by professional App Store curators. Apple receives thousands of pitches to feature mobile apps. This tactic can be useful if done persuasively. Craft a convincing pitch that outlines what your app does and how it’s unique. Here are 10 ways to get your app featured in the App Store.
44. Apply for mobile app awards
Entering your app for awards can boost visibility, reaching new networks of potential users. You’ll also increase your chances of securing a mention in high-authority publications and media outlets.
Pro Tip: If your app has won any awards, make sure to show it off via your ads, social platforms, website, and pitch to journalists. Also, consider writing a blog about it and share on various platforms.
45. Comment on other blogs for community building
You can use tools such as BuzzSumo to identify key influencers.
46. Submit your app to app review websites
A few choices are:
- App Store Apps
- App Awards
- The Mobileys
Contact editors of app review sites via Twitter, email, or contact form. Here’s a list of 200+ app review sites.
You can also boast about your app on product curation sites like Product Hunt which is a website that allows users to discover, share, and vote on new products. Submit your app to the site to reach a wider audience.
47. Ask users for feedback and start responding to reviews, comments, etc.
Regularly read over the app store reviews and ask loyal customers for positive ones. Also, pay attention to common complaints. Keep these communication channels open so you can continue revising and improving your app’s ratings so you can better serve your users.
48. Once you have feedback, think about engagement and retention strategies
Most people will put considerable thought into acquisition marketing, but once you’ve acquired users, however, the job has only begun. Your next move should be to develop a plan of action for retention marketing to secure your new customers for the long haul.
Push notifications have been shown to increase user retention, with statistics showing anywhere from a 56% to a 180% improvement. Users who have opted into receiving push notifications exhibit 88% higher app engagement than those who haven’t. The higher retention rate, the better the ranking in the app store. Leanplum is a great app marketing tool that helps boost mobile engagement.
Giving users incentive to use your app can also go a long way. Mobile-specific rewards, specialized content access, coupons, special promotions, and other offers will help drive conversions and encourage engagement.
49. Map the user journey to re-engage users
Identify inactive users before they give up on your app, and encourage them to become active again.
50. Focus on customer service
Responding to customer support emails and forums. Do a search to see where your app is mentioned. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo for this.
51. Make it easier for users to share your app
Understand how your users are sharing the app with their friends. And make it easy for them to do so.
52. Consider Traditional Print
Get traditional posters and business cards made and hand them out in areas where your target audience is. e.g College campuses, coffee shops, etc.
Pro Tip: Bring the business cards with you wherever you are and hand one out if you speak to someone about your app.
53. Use QR codes in your physical marketing
Make it easier for people to download your app from physical marketing materials such as flyers, posters, and business cards by using a QR code. Minimizing the amount of effort makes it more likely that people will give it a try.
54. Host events where your target audience likes to hang out
55. Attend meet-ups in your niche
56. Secure speaking engagements
Are you an expert on a particular topic? Pitch to event planners and try to secure a spot on a panel discussion.
Mobile App Marketing: Post Launch
57. Further engage with your social following
Continue to grow an audience by engaging with them to establish loyalty. Continue a two-way dialogue.
58. Consider a burst campaign
“Burst campaign” is one of the most popular techniques used by mobile app marketers who want to climb the app store ranks. The idea of a burst campaign is to provide a “burst” of exposure for your app in which you aggressively purchase paid media exposure over a short period of time- usually 24– 72 hours, depending on budget.
The goal is to get as many paid installs as possible, boosting your rank. All this with the hope of increasing the volume of quality organic installs – that should follow when the app is finally ranked high enough to be discovered.
Don’t stop paid advertising after the burst campaign ends. If your goal is to attain and maintain a high ranking in the app store, you need something to keep it going. While you should attract more organic downloads from a successful burst campaign, continued paid advertising will maintain steady downloads. You need to keep the momentum going.
Pro Tip: The more downloads an app gets within a short period of time, the higher it will rank in the top charts. To use this to your advantage, you’ll want to make sure you pay for installs in bursts. You’ll get a much higher ROI out of your ad budget if you spend it within a 1-2 week period.
59. Consider Apple Search Ads
With Search Ads, you can promote your app right at the top of the App Store search.
60. Offer referral bonus
Offering your users a bonus or benefit when they promote your app online is a surefire way to get them to spread the word. With a staggering 3900% growth rate, Dropbox is an excellent example of how powerful referrals can be. The company had just 1,00,000 registered users in 2008, which climbed to a staggering 4,000,000 registered users within a mere 15 month period as a result of their referral program. This post from Localytics explains how Dropbox used referrals to exponentially increase their user base.
61. Build out your website
Your landing page shouldn’t be seen just as a promotional tool for the initial launch. Think of the long-term strategy and how SEO efforts including domain authority and ranking above your competition will benefit your brand in the long-run.
A professional, well-designed website will provide potential users with more information about your app and increase your legitimacy. If you decide to publish content to market your app, having a website is a must.
Pro Tip: Collect questions people repeatedly ask on forums and discussion boards, social platforms, etc. and create a FAQs page to your website.
62. Keep going with your SEO efforts
Building domain authority through continued backlinking and guest posting will ensure that your app remains visible online over a long period of time.
63. Website A/B testing
A/B test your website or landing page to optimize for conversions. Test buttons, images, and messaging.
64. Mobile app A/B testing
The benefits to running A/B tests on mobile apps is similar to A/B tests on the web. You can test different experiences within your app and make changes based on actual data. A/B testing allows you to determine with statistical data what the impact of changes you make to your app will have, and measure exactly how much that impact will be. Optimizely is a great tool to use for the purpose of innovating since it allows you to experiment with design patterns and even algorithms.
65. Ask for reviews at the right time
If people are using your app constantly, they are probably enjoying it. Give them the opportunity to express their opinions with a popup invitation to leave a review, but remember that user experience should not be sacrificed by this tactic. Think about when and how you want to ask for a review and make sure it flows well with the user experience so it won’t frustrate users. The more strategically the popup is placed, the better the chances are for a positive review.
66. Ask for feedback
Whenever you prompt users to leave reviews and ratings, give them the option of connecting with you via email. You may learn about a bug in your app that you didn’t catch, or discover new features that people would like to use.
67. Prepare for continuous updates and maintenance
A stagnant app will be abandoned by users once they don’t see any added value. Keep your users interested and excited to use the app by planning ahead with feature updates.
Set Goals and Track Key Metrics
The overall goal of a user acquisition plan is to generate revenue. To understand if your efforts are working, you’ll need to set goals and track the increase in your app store ratings over a given period of time. There will also be numerous analytical elements that you’ll need to keep track of throughout the acquisition, engagement, conversion and retention stages of the user journey which is why measurement should be an ongoing process.
From these metrics, you need to determine what worked and what didn’t. Focus your efforts and resources on high-value tactics and you’ll be sure to see your app’s downloads skyrocket.
This chart by VentureBeat shows that social media, video ads, and incentivized are some of the most effective mobile app acquisition strategies (however, this may not be the case for your app).
Don’t Over Promise
An important part of every marketing strategy is to not oversell. Word of mouth is by far the most effective strategy for marketing any mobile app. This means that you cannot falsely advertise or overpromise. If you offer a “free ride with first use” then don’t follow up by giving your users $5 off. You need to make sure your messaging remains consistent or it will inevitably result in frustrated users and high uninstall rates.
When it comes to setting a broad app marketing strategy, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your marketing strategy. Some people will connect with video, others with images or text. Create diversified content and make sure app reviewers have easy access to it at all times. Remember that your strategy should be dynamic with iterations and continual optimization will be the key to finding the perfect balance of different approaches.