App Marketing: A Three-Phase Approach For Launching Your First Title
Whether you're getting ready to launch your first app or your hundredth app, today’s hyper-competitive app market requires great marketing. Unfortunately, the requirements for successful launches in this day and age can often overwhelm developers, especially on their first launch.
To make a launch more manageable, app developers should approach it as a three-stage process: alpha / pre-launch, soft launch, and full launch. Successful app releases depend on the developer’s ability to plan, target, and promote through each of these stages.
Let's take a look at each stage and a few of the critical actions you should take to make sure you give your app the greatest chance for success.
Find your target audience
Most developers know that they need a well-defined target audience, but still fail to track the target in all their activities. Gameplay testing is obvious, but what about assets like marketing art and promo videos? These can also be tested early against your desired audience. It helps to look at how bigger, more established competitors do their marketing, too.
Test with friends and family
As you develop a minimum viable product, you’ll need a small pool of testers -- usually other developers and closed control groups -- to validate each feature. Developers often use more than one tool for this. For instance, when testing with non-technical players, Testflight is great for iOS, while Google Play Developer Console has an alpha feature for Android. Cross-platform distribution can be accomplished with Hockeyapp and Unity Dev Cloud, but these may require more technical knowledge from the end user.
Prepare for the community you need to succeed
A community forms when people converge around what excites them, so give them something to be excited about. Set up a domain and landing page, for your curious first adopters. Post regular updates about the launch. Find groups on social media for people with common interests related to your app and actively engage with them. Create a dedicated email for support, or use ticket management tools like Zendesk or Freshdesk.
Define success metrics
Build your strategies around success metrics like retention, sessions per day or ARPU. For example, developers need to focus heavily on growth the first few days after launch. How many users do you need in order to conclude that your promotion campaign is working? Metrics tell you how to calibrate.
Choose your soft launch countries
Choosing a country for soft launch used to be obvious: Canada. Now that soft launches have become more expensive and apps have gone global, choosing where to soft launch should factor in price, audience and desired scale. Many developers now opt for countries like the Philippines and India, where English is widely spoken and CPI rates are low.
Optimize your app store page
App installs at no cost are every developer’s dream. Improve discoverability and increase organic installs by having these on your app store page: relevant keywords, a brief but compelling 2-3 line description, a preview trailer, and high quality screenshots. Tools like StoreMaven are highly recommended for A/B testing your assets.
Contact Google / Apple for featuring
A feature can boost your downloads from practically nothing to 18,000 in a day. Developers with contacts inside Google and Apple should reach out early to notify the editorial teams of their upcoming game. View this like a press pitch, but vastly more important. Devs without editorial contacts should seek help through their personal networks, or hunt down the public email addresses of the editorial teams.
Build buzz with press / streamers
An app in pre-launch rarely gets coverage, but the goal during this phase is to build a network, not to get published. Reaching out early and introducing yourself and your app will make getting coverage for the actual launch easier later on. A simple, straightforward pitch is enough, and should cover these points: who you are, what your app does, and what makes it unique.
Plan updates around user feedback
Take the pulse of the conversation surrounding your app by using tools like Appbot to collect and collate app reviews and ratings. You can also set up Google Alerts to catch app-breaking bugs as users find them. User sentiment gives direction for future updates, so it’s important to have a method in place for gathering them.
Target specific audiences for paid UA
As excitement from the initial launch wears off, installs will gradually trend downward. This is usually when developers start shopping for paid UA options. But before you start mentally taking a chunk out of your budget, you should know who your quality users are. For instance, you may have users who have longer session lengths and higher engagement rates than most. Figure out what they like and where they live. These are the types of people you want to target for paid user campaigns.
Pay a lot of attention to user support
Developers can’t predict how the app will behave for every single user. Create a FAQ for concerns that can be quickly resolved, and if you have the budget and audience scale, hire a community manager to monitor conversations and deal with answering support tickets.
Launching an app is a tricky process. But with a well-developed understanding of what users care about and proactive community engagement before and after launch, any developer can give their apps a good chance of taking off.