A Step-By-Step Guide to Marketing Your Mobile App
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With the number of available apps for download from the world’s leading app stores totaling over four million, enterprises know all too well that a meticulous marketing strategy is the only way to stand out in today’s app market. While focusing on mobile app development and building an app that functions properly is a central factor for success, if users’ don’t know the product exists, your hard work is worthless. 

Mobile app marketing covers every user interaction from the moment they first learn about the product to when they become a loyal user. Marketing a mobile app effectively involves defining a target audience, learning how to reach them, how to communicate with them, and analyzing their in-app behavior to make continuous improvements as users move through the acquisition funnel. Ultimately, the goal of a mobile app marketing strategy should be to acquire users that will not only drive repeat engagement but will also become loyal advocates for the product.

This step-by-step guide for marketing a mobile app will examine the three stages of a mobile app marketing strategy and the metrics to measure to drive long-term success. 


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The Awareness, or Pre-Launch Stage


The awareness stage of a mobile app marketing strategy occurs before the product is launched. This stage is meant for building brand awareness and product visibility. Specifically, how will your target users discover your mobile app? Before beginning with the awareness stage, it is important to already have a thorough understanding of your brand messaging and positioning. A brand resonates with customers through its values and purpose, not through individual product features. Defining a brand position gives users the chance to connect with your product on a deeper level. Below is a list of steps and strategies to follow during the awareness stage of your marketing plan. 


1. Determine a release date 


Compared to Google, Apple has a strict review process that may delay your release, or you may encounter a setback you didn’t anticipate. Planning far in advance will give you adequate time to prepare for your product’s hard launch and allows you to foresee and 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 launch. 

2. Conduct market research to understand your customers


One of the most common pre-launch mistakes is not doing market research properly. Before you begin any development work, you need to identify the key players in your specific app category. It doesn’t matter how thorough your marketing efforts are – if your app doesn’t address a user pain-point or addresses a pain-point that already has a thriving app solution in the market, then your product will simply not succeed. App Annie provides a substantial amount of useful app market data. 


Pro Tip: Identify and research the most influential blogs, groups, forums, and websites your target audience visits, as well as any influencers they follow on social media. These channels will help you reach and acquire users. 

3. Create user personas


A core objective throughout the awareness stage is discovering who your target user is, what they value, and the central pain point they experience that your product will address. There can be multiple user groups for a mobile app and each user persona will have its unique user journey. 

A user persona is a partially fictitious depiction of your ideal user. User personas include everything about a user’s demographics, background, mobile preferences, interests, and unique identifiers. User personas also address the central goals of the user and the challenges they currently face. In-depth user personas create the foundation for user journey design and help you customize every aspect of your mobile product to each of your users’ preferences and needs. Everything from branding and in-app content to functionality, features, platform choice and monetization strategy need to resonate with your target user. By thoroughly outlining your target audience with user personas, you’ll answer essential questions that will guide your entire marketing strategy. For example: 

  • What is the central pain point this audience collectively experiences?
  • What mobile operating system does this audience use? iOS or Android?
  • What types of content does this audience engage with online? 
  • What tone, voice and content style resonates well with this audience? 
  • Are there any visual branding patterns that surface amongst this audience’s online activity? 
  • Do these users follow any reputable influencers in this product’s vertical on social media? 
  • What platforms are best to leverage for paid advertising? 
  • Are these users known to pay for apps or make in-app purchases?


Using personas to answer questions like these will help you coordinate design, business, and marketing decisions to attract the right audience to your product. If you haven’t properly researched your audience, you won’t be able to deliver a product that is relevant to their needs? 


4. Conduct a competitive analysis 


Your app will have competition. Make a list of your top 5 competitors, their current price, monetization model, app store ranking, user experience (UX) pros and cons, and notable reviews. You could even go so far as to make 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. 


5. Create a website, 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 teaser video for your product has become standard practice. Once you have a video for your website, you can recycle the content by putting it in the app stores, on social platforms, or even use it in paid ads. In addition to building a hype around your app, having a pre-launch website is also a great way to do some early search engine optimization (SEO) by starting to build your domain authority. When you set up your website, collect emails so you can keep your followers updated and let them know when your mobile app launches, and when you have new updates and features. It is also beneficial to showcase 5-star reviews on the site; make sure reviews are authentic, or else your brand will seem insincere. 


6. Outreach initiatives


One of the most overlooked aspects of marketing a new mobile product is outreach initiatives by contacting influencers, publications, and bloggers to secure backlinks and provide honest reviews. Make a list of contacts that are relevant to your industry or niche that might be interested in writing about, and reviewing your app. Keep your pitch concise 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.


7. Promote on social


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?


Post company updates, and features that will 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.  

8. Create a content marketing strategy


Start writing 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. 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 an expert in your niche
  • Build trust with users through content
  • Blog content can be used for email marketing to re-engage contacts or for social media


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The Acquisition Stage


With a user acquisition strategy, the possibilities are endless. It is important to utilize different methods, be creative, and continually refining your 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 search results. It is important as users begin to download your app you track where the downloads are originating from. This way you can focus on the most profitable channels and improve the others. Below is a list of strategies that can be used to acquire users.


1. Paid strategy 


After the app is launched, start rolling out advertising such as ads on social platforms like LinkedIn, 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. LinkedIn’s ad platform is great at letting businesses target desired audiences based on 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 product 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.


2. 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. Over 65% of apps are discovered from a search in the App Store directly. Once your app is ranked highly in search for a certain keyword, it will continue to rank for months after. The higher your app ranks, the more visible it is to potential users. Ultimately, the increased visibility should lead to more downloads, which will help get your app noticed by editors. Good app store optimization is dependant on an array of factors which include title and choice of keywords. A great title is a 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. Those keywords should be strategically placed throughout your listing so you show up when users search for those words. Always include features and benefits the user will get out of the app. For added value, include screenshots and videos. Lastly, 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.


3. Pitch to Apple’s editorial team to be featured in the App Store


Getting featured in the App Store is another tool for marketers to utilize within their marketing strategy. Being featured offers a greater potential for apps to increase visibility and downloads which can result in lower acquisition costs, more engaged users, and increased revenue. 

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.  


The Retention Stage


Most people will put considerable thought into acquisition marketing, but once you’ve acquired users, if no one is using the app, the product isn’t yielding business. Your next move should be to develop a plan of action for retention marketing to convert your new customers into lifelong users. Below is a list of strategies that can be used to increase retention:


1. Establish two-way communication


The more aligned your app experience is with a user’s needs and preferences, the more likely a user is to continue using the product. Brands using in-app messages to communicate with users will see user retention within 28 days of receiving a message range from 61 percent to 74 percent.

In-app messages are notifications that don’t require immediate action but are nonetheless, important notifications to receive. These can include warnings about app issues, payment failures, or version upgrades. Keep in mind that not every message you send will be relevant to every single user. Segmenting your audience gives you the ability to ensure the information they receive is valuable to them. 


2. Push Notifications


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. 

 Giving users an 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.


Steps for continued success


1. Ask users for feedback 


If people are using your app constantly, it is a sign that have made a connection with the product. 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.


2. Consider a burst campaign


A “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 between 24 and 72 hours, depending on budget.

 The goal is to get as many paid installs as possible, boosting your ranking. 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. 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.


3. Offer a 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.


Set Goals and Track Key Metrics


The only way to know if your marketing strategy is working is 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.

 Some key metrics you’ll want to track include: churn rate, daily active users (DAUs), session length, time in-app, session interval, and cost per acquisition. For more info on these metrics click here. 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.


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. 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, it is essential to 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.

One of the most important things to do when considering how to market an app is to define KPIs. Tracking the right metrics at each stage of the user journey will help you to identify possible bottlenecks that keep users from moving from the first to the final stage. It’s vital to focus on real-time data and use it to analyze and optimize your app’s performance.


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