How to Promote a new Mobile Application on a Budget in 2018

Brook Zimmatore | February 8, 2018

App promotion on Budget

The most daunting moment in app development is when the developers, their executives and Board (depending on company size) realizes that their mobile app marketing strategy may now effectually drain all available funds for the project.

Massive has worked with dozens of app developers and investors and have noticed a very similar pattern. It usually goes like this.

  • Excitement about the app and how disruptive it is;
  • Incredible new features and technology integrated – “this is a winner!”;
  • Great staff behind the app, all willing and dedicated to the cause;
  • App goes into Beta and bugs are ironed out;
  • Everyone sits down to work out how to make it the next top trending app on the marketplace;
  • Fear sets in as feedback shows how much it is going to cost in marketing, paid ads, affiliates and partnerships;
  • Morale drops and the sluggish months turn into years – no one is getting paid.

Did I call it? Well don’t feel alone. Thousands of companies and private app developers go through this when faced with with the task of promoting their mobile app.

The Common Mistakes

I first want to say here that we know how much technology-magic an app development team can create. It is actually quite incredible. Function, Design, Usability, Experience. These guys have it down.

However, the visionaries involved in such a task may also form a sort of self-congratulatory bubble around themselves which can be harmful to the future marketing of the app and the necessary promotion efforts required prior to and after Beta. The assumption that it will just become a viral success is overnight is putting it in the hands of the “Almighty”. The idea some celebrity will tweet about it and it will explode is dependance on others.

The simple mindset is; there hundreds of millions of people out there trying to make their voice heard on the internet and if you don’t aggressively get out there and promote your app, no one will.

Here’s a simple program you can implement immediately. Turn it into a checklist, assign some people to run it and push it hard!

Focus on one geographic market first

A common mistake is trying to hit too many geographic locations at once. Besides the problem of language in marketing and promotion design, digital uses can change a lot from one country to another, as do promotional best-practices. Define the geography first and then align all PR, marketing, media, ads to those locations only.

Contact specialized websites

Your application is online and it is now to market and promote it! There are sites dedicated to displaying mobile applications which is the first step to talk about your new app. Look online for communities, forums, app market discussion sites, app review sites, list them all out and contact their authors or sign up. Get straight to the point; describe your app, the company, your team and anything that could help them identify your approach. Try to personalize your message to the author, community, submission location. Don’t copy and paste generic descriptions or send bulk mail introductions (to authors). Make it personal, witty, interesting. This can be quite tedious but remember you are asking these people to spend several hours analyzing your application. In addition, this can lead to constructive and valuable exchanges, free or very low budget marketing and natural permeation of your name on search results.

Massive has had great success with this process and has resulted in completely free features on apps across many platforms.

Target your audience using Mainstream Media

When starting in public relations in 2008 we had a few early tech startup companies looking for creative ways to promote their web apps. Our team came up with the idea to contact journalists who had technology columns in the printed press. Looking back, I think it was a bit superfluous: first because they have less of digital culture and were therefore less likely to respond. However, the results were pretty amazing. Printed newspapers would mention our clients from the perspective of news and back then resulted in great direct marketing.

Today we still have these relationships. Hundreds of journalists across just as many media locations, but now they are ALL online. The point is, your marketing team should start making friends in high places long before the app is complete. If the app is ready to be promoted now, then all is not lost. Hit Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and more and find your media contacts. Don’t try pitch them a promotional story, pitch them a NEWS story surrounding the purpose of your app. Even a game app can have something unique about it which can be newsworthy.

Don’t buy in to the app review websites

Thinking that you can get immediate attention buy paying app review sites to give your app a good rating is a waste of money. The app review market is saturated and you can just pay up to get a 5 star review, no honest feedback and attempt to prop yourself.

Our analysis shows that these sites give little no traffic to your app and have terrible conversion rates. Tens of thousands of apps are submitted every year. All can be manicured to look good on these sites but it is just money down the drain in terms of ROI or subscriptions.

Social networks and app marketing

You probably have a plan for this in place. Social networks can be free and/or low-cost effective solution for app marketing. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious essential platforms to consider in your promotion program.

As social networks offer the possibility to launch targeted advertising at low cost it will be important to include wit, humor, inspiration etc to your message. This attracts. People are on social media to be entertained. You can get inspiration from many sources in designing this, or you can ask us.

Tip: On Facebook choose to show your ad on mobile devices and limit the publication in the ad management system for your application only. Once you have created your ad, it will be displayed immediately to thousands of potential users. Nevertheless difficult to measure the effectiveness of such a campaign. But given the amounts involved, it is somewhat risky. Finally, remember that Twitter has just launched the same system.

Enter contests

There are several app contests which allow publishers, authors or developers submit their app to a “judge panel” and an audience which allow for “the people” to vote and reward the best of them. This provides good visibility, brings app downloads (even if just by the community), can build new partner contacts and — all for free!

Be creative

Invent fun contests to win promotion codes, design a story about your application and set the stage via social networks, create a treasure hunt, a funny video etc. There are hundreds of PR ideas to attract people while building a brand.

Keep in touch with new/existing users

Keep a steady eye on the comments, ensure that people can contact you easily and quickly respond to every email good or bad. Consider the remarks made an update as a bug is reported and tabulate these. Leave community messages. Open a twitter support channel, be strong on Reddit and your facebook group. Respond to hate with wit but maintain humbleness. In short, show that you are always there and that you care about users.

One human response from a company is always remembered. It is a powerful tool which will make a big impression in the long run.

Cross-marketing & partnerships

If you have several apps, here is an opportunity to promote each other. One can reasonably say that a person who bought one app from you and uses it, will be interested in another of your creations. Place a small advertisement in your app or have within your app menu “Other apps you might like”. App A redirects to App B and vice versa. Be careful to make clear that your suggested download looks different to banner ads and popups, which get commonly ignored.

Next, ask yourself, “Do I have any friendly relations with other developers or app companies?”. If so, get on the phone quick. Ask about cross-promotional app options. Get your app on their apps as suggestions, work out a revenue share, offer a joint media media campaign, get involved in good old-fashioned business arrangements to benefit both parties. It works a charm.

Good luck! Feel free to leave feedback or questions below.

CEO / Co-Founder
Brook Zimmatore is the Co-Founder & CEO at Massive.