Developing an awesome app is hard work, but when it’s finally launched into the market, that’s where the real work begins. Many app developers and app entrepreneurs know how to create an app, but they have no idea how to advertise an app. The truth is, the mobile app market is highly competitive and advertising apps properly can be extremely difficult – especially when you are competing against established players with huge marketing budgets.

It’s easy to envision the end result – millions of users downloading the app and telling their friends about it; but how to do you get there? How do you advertise an app? Even knowing where to start is a challenge, especially when your marketing budget is low or non-existent.

In this post, we want to explore exactly what it takes to advertise apps the right way; getting your idea in front of the consumers who will most benefit from it and persuading them to download it. To get the best advice possible, we turned to several experienced app entrepreneurs, app marketers and marketing experts and asked them – what is the key to marketing and advertising apps?

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How To Advertise An App – The Must Do’s

It’s always nice to try out cool marketing tactics like contests, giveaways and other out-of-the-box ideas – but none of these methods are effective if a few app marketing basics have not been established. More specifically, every app startup needs to: build an associated website, optimize for App Store rankings (ASO), and optimize for Search Engine rankings (SEO).

Andrew Glantz, founder of GiftAMeal, suggested the following – “There are several ‘must-dos’ when marketing apps. You need to ensure that your app is easily discoverable with valuable keywords, have preview app screens that accurately capture the value of your app to potential users, and provide a compelling app description.”

The way your app performs in the App Store is extremely important. Apps that are featured receive considerably more downloads than those that are not; and those that show up first for related keywords receive considerably more downloads than those that are ranked in lower positions. Not only does your app description need to be written with a persuasive and consumer-forward tone – it also needs to cover ASO basics to ensure that it is visible to potential users.

Stav Tishler, Head of Marketing Communications at Lightricks gave the following advice, “SEO – that’s how people find your apps online. If you’re buried all the way on page 13 of a Google search result, will anyone ever find you? Does anyone even click to the second page of the SERP? I don’t know if I ever have.”

SEO is competitive, and ranking highly for valuable keywords includes many factors, such as: on-page optimizations, links from high authority websites and the website’s relevancy to the keyword. Furthermore, SEO is a long-term strategy – but establishing the app’s website early on gives startups an advantage; allowing them to generate organic and free online traffic. Paid ads on the other hand, can allow a startup to receive traffic to their website immediately. Since advertisers must pay for each click however, the benefits of paid ads end once the advertising budget has run out. When it comes to the must-dos of advertising apps, ASO and SEO give startups the ability to level the playing field with more established competitors.

Figuring out how to advertise your app on search engines with the right keywords can be challenging. Adrien Caiazzo, Marketing Director of Narraly (parent company of Flixup.io) says, “We use solutions like www.thetool.io and www.appannie.com to find the best keywords for our app, and also compare those with our competitors’ keywords. Before we could afford other paid avenues, finding strategic keywords was the best way we could get people to find our app.”

Caiazzo also added the following advice for app advertising must-dos, “Make sure the app is functional, as early adopters are incredibly valuable. And use your networks. Friends, old coworkers and family are more likely to download and rate your app than new users. If your app is very innovative; post it to different websites such as www.launchingnext.com or www.producthunt.com. These offer great visibility, and many of the users are passionate about tech, so they give helpful (albeit direct) advice.”

Mobile App Advertising – Establishing Authority

Publishing high quality content has become a leading way of advertising apps and marketing online businesses. Consumers are aware that competition exists in every industry and often, it is the credibility factor that makes them choose one solution over another. Furthermore, each piece of new content a startup publishes becomes another marketing asset; giving the business an additional avenue to connect with consumers. Content however, is extremely competitive as well. The quality of information you are putting out there is much more important than the quantity.

If you want to know how to advertise an app the right way with content, look at Mint.com for inspiration. Before Mint.com was even launched, the founding team already had a target customer in mind – young professionals. To reach them, they focused on their finance blog, MintLife. By publishing strong content, they were able to build themselves to the largest financial blog online. When Mint.com was launched, they already had a direct link to young professionals – their blog already had the market’s attention.

Eric Chiang, Marketing Lead at GooseChase Adventures says, “The most effective way we’ve been able to market our app in the recent months has been to create content showcasing how users are engaging with our app; instead of focusing on content that simply just shows how the app works. In general, potential investors might be interested in hearing about the technology and innovation behind your product – but your target demographic, the people who you’re actually trying to sell to? They only care about how your app will improve their life.”

Brit Armour, Director of Marketing at Kibii says, “Maintaining a blog will help you establish brand awareness and visibility. Most importantly, it allows you to gain trust and credibility by connecting with your audience on a deeper level. You need to appeal to your audience’s emotions. To be considered a thought leader, you must provide extreme value and provide consumers with the expert information that they seek. Content marketing is something I invest a large amount of time into. You can promote your app and its features as much as you want, but if your audience doesn’t resonate with your brand, they won’t give you a second thought.”

How To Advertise An App Through Communities

Like marketing other types of businesses, mobile application advertising requires a strong engagement with your target market – and there’s no better way to engage than social media.

advertise app through social media - lyft facebook feed

Lyft for instance, which has always competed against the larger rideshare company Uber, uses social media to really engage with their drivers and build user loyalty. Lyft’s CMO, Kira Wampler says, “While rival Uber is an efficient delivery service, Lyft is seeking to differentiate itself by offering a combination of ‘humanity and technology.” Social media offers the perfect opportunity for them to bring in the humanity aspect of interaction with their users. As a result, their social media page is filled with awesome customer photos, comments from drivers and passengers, driving stories and other content that engages fans and followers.

Regarding social media, Tishler answered, “Specifically for our apps, which are all about being creative, we use community-oriented social tools: Facebook and Instagram Live, Facebook groups, subreddits, and any new tool available to create a community. This allows us to provide a place for users or potential users to ask questions, get inspired and engage in a community of like-minded individuals.”

Creating Media Relationships through PR

The way your startup is introduced by the media will play heavily on how consumers perceive your brand and app. When advertising apps, it’s important that the media is not only talking about you, but that they are mentioning your business in a positive light. Media relations requires finding journalists and media sources that cover products and software in your industry, and reaching out to them with a newsworthy story. Here’s the thing – if a media source is worth it’s weight, they probably receive dozens of pitches from startups each and every day. For your pitch to be effective, you must be offering them a quality story – not just another ‘app feature’ opportunity. Nobody wants to talk about another new app – but a startup that just received a high level of app funding? Well, that’s a story worth writing about.

To take advantage of media relationships early on, you may want to consider hiring a PR agency. Tishler points out, “Find a PR company. It’s expensive, but they tend to work. And if they don’t, you’ll know early on and you can find a new one.”

It can also be extremely beneficial to focus on building relationships with social influencers. These are individuals that are within your industry that influence the market through social media – whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or another platform. A single mention from the right influencer can instantly lead to thousands of downloads of your application and can have positive lingering effects when advertising apps.

Establishing Great Feedback – Reviews

Even if you know exactly how to advertise an app and implement every trick and hack; if users come across your app in the app store and your reviews are bad, they won’t download it – especially if it’s a paid app. User trust is built with 20% of what you say about your business, and 80% of what other consumers say about your app.

Whatever strategy you use for advertising your app, make sure to start establishing your reviews early on. Invite people from your personal network to use your app and ask them to leave a review. Incentivize users to leave reviews, offering them free credits or other rewards. Remind them to rate your app with the occasional popup notification.

Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics says, “With a surplus of good reviews, the sky’s the limit. The app with the most five-star ratings is going to hit the top of the search page quicker than those that are lesser reviewed. Having a good rating is all about having a functional app, that does what it says it’s going to do and brings excitement to the user. Asking for a review in a witty way could be just what you need. Being persistent is good, but being clever is better.”

Advertising Apps By Thinking Outside The Box

As mentioned, marketing apps can be difficult due to the sheer amount of competition that you will likely face. Sometimes, startups need to think outside of the box to make sure their solution is visible to their audience. Tinder for example, went straight to the “party” schools to market their application. They pitched the app to sororities and signed up sorors on the spot. They leveraged the participation of these sorority women to persuade the campus’ men to sign up.

GiftAMeal also does on-site advertising. Glantz remarked, “We also physically advertise our app at our partner restaurants. We put out table-tents and window decals at participating restaurants to encourage customers to download and user our app.”

How important is it to think outside the box when marketing apps? Caiazzo of Narraly says, “I try to spend a third of my day on out-of-the-box strategy planning. I think the real questions should be: how do entrepreneurs brighten their creative process to find out-of-the-box ideas? For me, that includes meeting and talking to people, reading articles, brainstorming with colleagues or other companies, and studying other businesses that use creative marketing techniques.”

The key to knowing how to advertise an app like a master is to test your marketing techniques on a small scale before betting it all on one horse. Focus on the ‘must-dos’ first: creating a strong website with on-site optimization and ensuring that your app description is optimized for ranking highly in the app store. Then move to establish yourself on social media, build media relationships and generate positive customer reviews. If the competition is thick, use out-of-the-box methods to reach your consumers directly or to stand out against competing brands.

Marketing apps can be challenging, but fortunately, we know exactly what it takes to create a winning marketing strategy. Contact us today to setup a free consultation with one of our expert startup consultants!

Do you have an out-of-the-box method for advertising apps? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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