The 33-Point Ultimate Post-Launch App Checklist
OH YEAH! You just published your app in the App Store. Weeks of preparation. You poured blood, sweat and tears over your latest creation.
The Universe is oozing your name, because tomorrow morning your app goes live in the App Store. We’re all rooting for you, you know.
But… what’s next? You’ve worked so hard to get this far, but the road is far from over. What are next steps you can take to make your app a success?
I’ve gathered 33 points, 33 tasks you can do after your app launches.
You can start many of them before you actually launch, and do many others in the months after your first contact with the App Store.
Several of them will increase your app’s impact, spread its message. Others will simply have you double back on steps you already took, to make sure they’re working smoothly.
Almost every point on this checklist is worthy of it’s own article, resource or course. You can base an entire marketing campaign on each of parts of the checklist.
Even if your app launched a long time ago, you might want to revisit parts of the checklist to squeeze out a few extra app installs or to dig up ideas for a new marketing campaign.
Ready? This is the checklist, with extensive explanations further below.
- Don’t Just Start Promoting Your App As It’s Launching
- Register Your App’s Social Pages And Accounts
- Do A User Experience Test
- Build Influencer Connections
- Get Some Local Coverage (Instead Of Taking Over The World)
- A/B Test Your App Icon, Screenshots And Description
- Join Forums, Networks And Communities In Your Niche
- Add Push Notifications To Your App
- Submit Your App To Lists
- Create A User Activation Campaign
- Add Attribution Tags To Your Conversion Funnel
- Are You Even Measuring, Bro?
- Create An App Landing Page
- Make A Sales Or Explainer Video
- Fix Bugs (A No-Brainer?)
- Start A Blog And Provide Value
- Properly (Re-)Keyword Your App
- Focus On High Quality User Acquisition
- Leverage Any Social Media Impact You Already Have
- Take Feedback And Reviews Very Seriously
- Identify Your True 10, 100, 1000 Fans
- Add a Facebook Ad Pixel To Your App (And Everywhere Else)
- Properly Rename Your App
- Add A Behavior-Based Rating Prompt
- Localize Your App’s Meta Data
- Blackmail Your Friends Into Installing And Reviewing Your App
- Start A Paid Advertising Campaign
- Do Your App Store Optimization (ASO)
- Make Something People Want
- Create A Press Kit
- Get Your App Featured By Apple
- Revisit All Post-Launch Tasks
- Stick To It
Let’s do this!
Quick tip: consider posting your app on a beta or product list platform, such as BetaPage.co.
1. Don’t Just Start Promoting Your App As It’s Launching
This should actually be point minus-1 on your checklist: don’t just start promoting your app when it’s ready! Too many indie app developers “forget” to do marketing and start reaching out to influencers too late.
App marketing starts long before your app is published in the App Store. Why? First and foremost, it takes time to build up exposure. Marketing isn’t a spigot you open, and app installs don’t just come pouring in.
Even with paid advertising, which can be regarded as fast-burning fuel (as opposed to the slow burn of say, content marketing), you still have to make meaningful connections and deliberately plan a campaign.
In a sense it’s no different from developing — doing the coding — because you design, plan and execute a marketing campaign just like you would sketch out a feature before building it.
2. Register Your App’s Social Pages And Accounts
Do this as early as possible. Register your app’s pages and accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, YouTube, and so on. You might even want to “reserve” your app’s name in the App Store, before you publish it.
Make sure you register your app’s domain name, for its landing page, too. Chances are a good top-level domain, like .com, is already taken, so you might want to look into the popular .co and .io domains too. Usually, a “modifier” for your app’s name is still available like “get” + your app name.
Why? It pays to be the first (in this case). Favorable handles are usually in short supply! Keep in mind that it’s usually against a service’s terms of service to “hoard” usernames, so make sure you only register for an account you’re actually going to use in the short term.
Get complementary access to my course, Zero to App Store, and learn how you can build a real-time chat app with Firebase and Swift!
3. Do A User Experience Test
User Experience Testing is one of those aspects of UI/UX design that’s hugely undervalued. Why go over a graphic design you painstakingly planned, built, and developed?
Well… there’s a chance users and customers of your app don’t exactly “get” a particular part of your app. It could turn out app users use your app differently than you expected. And that’s OK, provided you find out with a user experience test.
See it as a source of behavioral value, just like feedback from an app review, but then feedback you’re gathering by watching over a test participants shoulder while they use your app.
How do you make a successful user experience test?
- First, remind yourself that a successful experiment is one that provides meaningful data, and it isn’t a test to prove your app doesn’t have “mistakes” — in experimenting, there are no mistakes.
- Second, make a list of actions you want your test participant to take. Be directive, but not too specific. Good example: “Create a new to-do”, bad example: “Create a new to-do by tapping on the top-left button, then fill in the form, then tap Submit.” You want to test usability and intuition, not the ability to follow specific directions.
- Third, set up a camera and microphone in your testing room. A webcam that monitors a subject’s face and registers voice is OK. Always tell test participants they’re being recorded. Personally, I prefer to not be in the room with the test participant, as it tends to skew results.
- Fourth, invite a few testers to perform the tasks you set out and record what they do in the app, what their face looks like when they do it, and what they say. During the test, ask them what they’re doing, ask them to explain why they’re doing it like that, but make sure they understand to not justify what they’re doing. Test participants have a tendency to over-justify actions, because they’re watched.
- Fifth and last, take your test results, watch the recordings and consolidate them into two actionable list: no-brainers and low-hanging fruit.
Based on your user experience test you can improve your app. The no-brainers left you, as the app maker, shocked that your test participants didn’t “get” how to use that feature or interaction, which you thought was super simple.
The low-hanging fruits are changes, based on the test, that are easy to implement and have a high impact on your app’s usability. You also might want to read “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.
4. Build Influencer Connections
Talk about no-brainers! Networking is hugely underestimated in app marketing land.
Let’s talk about virality for a moment, the holy grail in app marketing. We all want to build a “viral” app, but many of us don’t understand what virality really is. Virality is simply the spreading of an idea, a virus, value, in an exponential way. You want your app to spread among the populus as a flesh-eating, zombie-converting, mankind-eradicating supervirus. OK?
Killer viruses need two things: a solid number of foundational hosts, and a way to spread.
That foundation of hosts is, in your app marketing campaign, the number of influencers you manage to build a relationship with before you launch your app. The “way to spread” is your message, its appeal to your target audience, and the transportation vehicle.
Can influencers share your message with a Share button, a pre-formatted tweet, in a way that makes it worthwhile for them to share?
Building influencer connections makes your message more likely to spread, because you’re increasing your network and at the same time you’re priming it to be more susceptible for your message when the time comes to release it.
Make a list of influencers in your niche or around the theme of your app. Popular game reviewers, influential food bloggers, the no. 1 astrophysicist — you name it. Get to know their materials and content, and figure out what it is they do. No one likes a freeloader. What’s in it for them? Provide value, make a conversation, jab, jab, jab, right hook.
It’s all virology.
5. Get Some Local Coverage (Instead Of Taking Over The World)
In our macro-economy it’s easy to focus your app marketing efforts on the world as a whole. The App Store isn’t bound by borders, after all.
As an indie app maker you have limited resources and focusing on a canvas that’s big may spread your message too thin. Focusing on one country at a time, for instance with an outreach or paid ads campaign, is a goal big enough.
There’s a second benefit to hyperfocus on locality: it’s easier to get to “crucial mass”. Does your town or city have a local crazy person? Everyone knows that person, right? Always lurks about on the same spot, perhaps always shouting the same crazy message about government surveillance or their favorite religion.
Be like that crazy person. Get in touch with your local newspapers and tell them about your app, ask them to do a review or an interview. Put up a written advert in the local shopping mall. Many local organizations have newspapers and similar broadcast methods, and you might be able to piggy-back their exposure. Chances are they’re struggling to bring the news, anyway.
It’s very unsexy, I know, but you’re forgetting that a macro-economy isn’t much different from a micro-economy (except for scale). The chances of your neighbor being in your target audience is the same as a person halfway across the world, except your neighbor is easier to reach.
Reach, exposure and real-world contact is all you need at this point. So let’s go low-tech for a second, instead of fussing over your next Facebook Ad campaign.
6. A/B Test Your App Icon, Screenshots And Description
A/B testing, or “multivariate testing” as it’s called, is the practice of trying two or more versions of a particular item and seeing which of the two performs better.
The item can be anything: your app icon, screenshots and captions, app descriptions, call-to-action labels, etc. The performance goal is usually the same: how many (more) users install your app?
I think A/B testing is overrated and often regarded as a silver bullet. It isn’t, it’s just a way to back your design and marketing decisions with data. Data you probably could come up with yourself, had you thought a bit longer about it.
Before you start to A/B test variables in your app marketing campaign, ask yourself this: “Which 20 tests can I not do, and still get their results about 80% right?”
- Your App Store screenshots need 3-5 word captions that explain their main benefits to a potential customer.
- Your app’s description text works probably better if you write it in the format of: main benefit, user testimonials, call to action, longer explanation text, another call to action.
- Your app’s icon should be memorable, high-contrasting and similar to the current trend (i.e. flat design). Illustrations work better than photo graphics. Don’t use pastel colors, but work with contrasting primary palettes like blue-red, green-yellow and black-white.
Moreover, look up any A/B test results you can find. Chances are you need basic input and app ideas, not actual elaborate tests. Many of us app developers share what worked, and what didn’t work, and you can pick the fruits of that labor without actually doing it yourself.
Then, and only then, can you start your own A/B tests.
7. Join Forums, Networks And Communities In Your Niche
Content marketing! It’s becoming a thing right now, because many app developers don’t have the capital or margins to afford a > $4 cost-per-install.
Just like influencer outreach, content marketing is a slow-burning marketing method. It takes time to build and it takes time to pay dividents. Nevertheless, it’s a very powerful method.
Content builds trust, and trust builds loyalty. With an ad you have less than a second to make an impression on a smartphone user, whereas with content you have minutes, perhaps even hours, to build a relationship with potential customers.
What better way to connect with people, than to provide value? Check out forums, networks and communities in your niche or around the topics of your app. Sign in on the forum and join in on conversations already happening.
Don’t just post links to your blog or to your app’s landing page. It’s an increasingly annoying practice on sites such as Quora, Reddit or particular Facebook Groups. The rules of the game are: you provide value first, and you only post information (via a link to your blog) when it’s relevant.
This means you need a blog and you need to write about relevant topics and content, and only then can you link to your own content when it’s relevant.
There’s a big difference between advertising and content marketing. The former is active and based on direct attention, the latter is passive and based on trust and loyalty.
Moreover, have a little faith in yourself. You won’t lose someone if you don’t post a link to your blog. Chances are they like your content and come back. Trust and loyalty can’t be built when you ask for it. It’s perhaps hard to commit to, but it’s a great long-term strategy.
8. Add Push Notifications To Your App
Push notifications are great way to increase engagement in your app. If you don’t have a way to send push notifications to your app’s users, you should consider adding the feature in your next app update.
You can use push notifications for several purposes:
- To send out a ping, when new information is available in your app, like a blog, a video, or an update
- To connect users of your app with each other, in a chat or networked way
- As a feature, for instance for reminders or updates on an in-app event
The TED video app sends notifications based on my preferences, and if there’s an interesting new video available. The Trello apps sends notifications when a task is due. The Stripe app sends a notification when a new payment has been made. The Telegram app sends me a push notification when I receive a new incoming message.
The most direct way you should use push notifications is to update with new content. Don’t use push notifications to advertise — it’s not allowed by Apple — and it quickly erodes your app’s userbase from within.
In this increasingly distracting age, app users allow for a tiny bit of wiggle room and forgiveness when it comes to unwanted messaging. You don’t want to take chances with push, because if you lose that push permission, it’ll stay lost forever.
Instead, think about ways push notifications can make the lives of your user’s better–not just your own life.
9. Submit Your App To Lists
Lists! The internet is essentially one big list, one catalog of inter-related content. Have you considered adding your app to one of the many lists on the internet?
- Startup lists, like BetaList
- ZEEF lists, like this one
- Curated lists, like Product Hunt
- App review sites, like Appadvice
With these lists, keep in mind that it’s always quality over quantity. It’s much more valuable to build a meaningful relationship with 5 sites, than to send out a generic blast email to 100+ websites.
Think about it like this: it takes time for you to assess whether a review website, or curated forum, is worthwile for you to pursue.
Do they have access to your target audience? Do they review your type of apps? Are they active, or is it just another affiliate or content arbitrage website? Just as that takes time for you, it takes time for a website to assess whether your app is worth reviewing.
The better the match, the higher quality app installs you get, and the more valuable your app becomes. All it takes is time, quality and attention.
10. Create A User Activation Campaign
Pro tip: disregard App Store Optimization for now. Only spend 5 minutes on your App Store page. Yeah, I’m not kidding!
If I had a choice, I would rather have potential app users reach my app’s landing page than my App Store page. Instead of choosing to send traffic to my App Store page, with ASO and everything, I would opt to send them to my landing page.
User activation. See, it’s all in the details. Compared to my App Store page, how much more can I create on my app’s landing page? I have total control: app images, calls-to-action, user testimonals and tweets, the option to add forms and pop-ups. On my App Store page I can write just a bit of text, add a screenshot, and that’s it…
On my website, my app’s landing page, I can build an elaborate hook and tie it into my app’s user activation campaign. What’s that? It’s a fancy name for turning a web visitor into a subscriber into an app user.
Take a look at the landing page for Growth. See any app install buttons on that page? No. The entire page funnels into a visitor leaving their email address, so I can get in touch with them.
That’s everything user activation is all about. You create a compelling message and a way to opt-in, and using the email address you build the relationship with that user. You provide value, explain what your app is about, who you are, and what your brand is.
Effectively, you spread your app’s marketing message out over a few days instead of a few moments. Moreover, you get multiple shots (called jabs) before you go in for the install (called a hook).
What could your activation campaign look like?
- Create your app’s landing page
- Create an email sequence that’s automatically sent to a new subscriber, for instance with ConvertKit
- Connect the landing page to the email sequence, via an email signup form
Let the sequence do the heavy lifting for you: provide value around the topics of your app, then mention your app, then add some direct sales copy to the sequence.
11. Add Attribution Tags To Your Conversion Funnel
You’re already using attribution, right?
Attribution in marketing simply means knowing where that lead came from. Websites, lists, social media, your ad campaign — they all bring in new leads, new potential customers for your app. You need to know which lead came from where, in order to assess the profitability of each of your channels.
When you figure out that a disproportionate amount of users comes through Facebook, and not so many reach you via Twitter, you’re going to focus your efforts on Facebook of course!
The only way to know for sure, is with attribution. First, get into the habit of adding Google’s UTM tags to every link you post to your website. They create “Campaigns” in Google Analytics, so you can track the analytics of your website.
Then, if you’re working with Facebook Ads, make sure you have the Facebook SDK installed in your app. With the IDFA, Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers, you can find out where exactly your users came from (in regards to your campaign, of course).
In App Analytics, inside iTunes Connect for iOS apps, you can use the “Sources” tab to get insights into attribution of your app installs. Referring websites and campaigns show up, as well as specific app page impressions and app installs from these campaigns. You can even generate a special campaign URL, in a similar fashion to UTM tags, to track specific web links.
12. Are You Even Measuring, Bro?
Speaking about attribution, are you even using analytics, bro? Analytics provide a terrific insight in your app user’s usage behavior.
Analytics serve as the foundation you build your app optimization upon, and it should be a staple in any marketing campaign.
Most analytics packages provide these metrics out of the box:
- Amount of app installs, sessions, and specific to date ranges and localities
- Properties of your app user’s devices, for instance iOS version and iPhone model
- Time per session, time of day, crashes, and other minutiae
Moreover, you can track specific user actions in aggregate in your apps. This is where it gets interesting, because you can effectively perform quantitive user testing (see point 3) on-the-fly. Test for:
- Particular actions in your app, like opening a specific UI screen or adding a to-do
- Connect user behavior to purchase data, so you can profile users that are more likely to spend money on In-App Purchases based on other common factors
- Track user movement and behavior across multiple of your apps or websites, connecting them to inbound attribution (see point 11)
Adding analytics to your app is trivial. Many tools like Google Analytics for Apps already provide metrics out of the box, and you only have to add specific actions to track. Paid tools like Localytics, Kissmetrics and Mixpanel provide compound metrics such as:
- Customer LTV
- User retention and churn
- User engagement
Measuring is knowing! Let’s go.
Get complementary access to my course, Zero to App Store, and learn how you can build a real-time chat app with Firebase and Swift!
13. Create An App Landing Page
Don’t just rely on your App Store app page to convert leads into app users. In order to make the most of your presence on the internet, on social media, and on outreach blogs, you need to have an app landing page.
With many turn-key tools, such as LeadPages, Strikingly and Unbounce you can create well-converting landing pages based on templates. If you’d rather have more control over your app landing page, I’d use a premium WordPress theme such as ThemeX by Themeco.
In its most minimal form, your app landing page should have:
- A title and a headline, outlining your app’s main benefit
- A short paragraph explaining what your app is, what it does, and who it’s for
- A few short “benefit blurbs”, an image and a paragraph of text outlining several of your app’s unique selling points or benefits
- A video of your app, or screenshots
- A call-to-action, be it “Install app” or “Sign-up for a free tour” — make a hook!
Moreover, you can add much more to your online web presence:
- Blog articles! This is paramount for content marketing and web-based outreach campaigns. Users want to see your website is alive, and there’s no better way to do that than to provide value in consistent blog articles.
- User testimonials or tweets, to add a bit of credibility and social proof to your app.
- Text and images on the app’s founders, the way it came into existence, or cool anecdotes from the early days in your parents basement. Storytelling is a great way to built trust, loyalty, and make a connection with your audience.
Don’t stare yourself blind on your App Store app page. Make a landing page, too.
14. Make A Sales Or Explainer Video
A sales or explainer video is a great way to get potential customers to pay attention to your app.
It’s suitable for many channels: your app’s landing page, your App Store page, Facebook Ads, Groups and Pages, YouTube pre-rolls and channel videos, etcetera.
A sales video isn’t much different from a sales page, but the medium is entirely different of course. With a video you can direct much of the attention a potential user gives you, because it’s effectively a constant stream of information.
You will want to include the same elements as on your sales page (see point 13), but in a different format. It’s important to deliver a hook, or a reason to continue to watch, in the first 5 to 10 seconds of the video. The longer a user keeps watching, the likelier they are to watch the entire video.
Videos for your App Store page have to follow a few rules Apple sets. It doesn’t leave much wiggle room, but still allows for an effective method of promoting your app: voice over screenshots.
It’s incredibly easy to build: you just record someone using your app with Screenflow (directly recording the iPhone screen) and then create a voice-over outlining the main benefit of your app, and its features. Don’t make it longer than 30 seconds.
YouTube pre-rolls, a landing page featured video, etc. leave more room for creativity. Take for instance the popular explainer video format, in which a voice-over provides an explanation over hand-drawn illustrations and sketches. Several online businesses, including Fiverr gigs, can create those videos for every budget.
Videos are a great way to sell your app, because it’s a very tight medium in which you have total control over both audio and video. Deliver a right hook, a call-to-action, by the end of the video.
If you’ve explained the benefits, answered the “What’s in it for me?” question and given basic information about your app, you’re pretty much solid when it comes to a high-converting sales message.
15. Fix Bugs (A No-Brainer?)
No one likes an app that doesn’t work, and crashes the moment you try it. Apple’s Review Team isn’t so strict for no reason: you need only publish bug-free apps!
Quality Assurance should be part of your development workflow. Test your apps in an automated or structured way before you publish it, using action scripts and a dedicated tester. This way, you squash bugs before they make it into your production app.
Unfortunately, sometimes bugs still sneak in and wreak havoc on your customers. It’s a great way to have a communication channel other than your app’s reviews for users to give you feedback and comments. You don’t want an angry user to take it out on you with a 1-star review and a snarky comment.
Instead, create a Message Center in your app to get in touch with customers before anything happens. When a bug appears, or the customer gets less happy, they know how to reach you.
From a technical perspective, you can even automate bug recovery. When your app crashes, the next time the user opens the app, you redirect the user to your Message Center and apologize for the inconvenience.
16. Start A Blog And Provide Value
Even though this is part of content marketing, and mentioned earlier, this checklist point deserves its own explanation.
Content marketing is hot, and you should start a blog. It’s not to tell prospect customers about your app, but to provide value, which in turn attracts new customers to your app.
Think of a blog as providing value around your app. Some blog ideas:
- Lifehacks, resources to maximize your work output, and tools for the hard-working career builder. If your app has something to do with productivity, this is a great blog theme.
- A question-and-answers style blog, either answering direct questions about your app, or answering industry-related questions. You might even steal a few of your competitor’s customers by providing better support!
- Curated content. Gather blogs from competitors, write your own thoughts about them, and publish that as curated content. Many apps and blogs built their userbases merely by republishing what’s already out there.
Now that you’re actually building a full-fledged website, and not just an app, you might as well increase your web presence with the following techniques:
- Guest blogging. It’s a great way to build your readership into different themes and markets. Guest blogging is simple: you write a blog post, pitch it to another website in your niche, and ask if they want to publish it.
- Create content upgrades and lead magnets. A lead magnet is a “bribe” you offer to a reader in return for their email address. The lead magnet can be anything: a PDF, a coupon, a report, or access to your curated content. This provides value to your customer, and in return you can send them your outreach and activation campaigns. A content upgrade is effectively a lead magnet, but it’s mixed with the content instead of provided separately. If you look closely in this article, you might even find our content upgrade…
- Start an ambassador program. Yeah, I know, it sounds cheesy, but it works! This ties into point 21, about your true fans. Which app users are absolutely raving about everything you publish? Put them in a Facebook Group, give them special access to your app’s beta build and ask them to do outreach for you in return.
Your app’s landing page, blog and social media presence open up a world of possibilities for marketing. It’s awesome!
17. Properly (Re-)Keyword Your App
Keywords are very important for App Store Optimization, no doubt. When it comes to picking the right keywords for your app, you can be passive and active about it.
Actively picking keywords means you use a tool like AppAnnie to sniff out search keywords your competitors use. How are getting users to their apps, through App Store search? Use those exact same keywords, and you might show up in those search results too.
Passively picking keywords means you turn those keywords on their heads. Instead of choosing keywords up-front, you simply watch for what keywords your app is found in the App Store search results page. You then add those keywords to your app’s meta data, provided the search keyword makes sense to add.
Picking keywords in an active way works well if you’re starting out in the App Store. You then simply don’t have any data to work with, yet. When data is coming in, you can refine your keywords based on the search queries users use in the App Store search.
Keywords also have a hidden benefit. They’re actual-use words, which means these are the words your potential customers use to get a message or query across. This is very important for your marketing message: Which words are users using to describe your app?
It may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many app developers only use App Store Optimization keywords to improve their rankings. You’re literally throwing away a treasure trove.
Let’s say you have an Italian dinner recipe app, based in the United States, and you think your users search for it with the query “italian recipes” when in fact they’re searching for “food ideas”.
It then makes sense to add “food ideas” as a headline or slogan to your app’s title, and add the words “italian recipes food ideas dinner” to your app’s meta data. You wouldn’t have found about that without passively watching your app’s search keywords.
18. Focus On High Quality User Acquisition
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Sounds familiar? It’s true for app installs and user acquisition, too.
Which would you rather have? A global marketing presence for your app or a small amount of loyal users?
I bet you said “global marketing presence”, because it means more installs for your app and better short-term gains. But… it’s wrong! I’d choose a small number of loyal users any time of the day over a global marketing presence.
Do you know the popular saying “Niche down till it hurts?” It applies to marketing too. You want to get super specific in the early days of your app, because it ensures the highest quality of users. Sure, ultimately we all want to branch out to a global brand. Is that really the goal right now, though?
You need to start applying a technique called leapfrogging (see point 21). In it, you first define the smallest marketing step possible: get 1 fan.
Just one fan. One whole fan. One more than zero. That’s it. From zero to one! Getting one fan is easy. You call up your friends, your family, your co-workers (see point 26) and tell them about your app. If one of them turns out liking it so much they start using it regularly, that’s your first fan.
Then, you 10x your marketing effort: you change tactics. This time, you don’t want one fan at a time, you want 10! How are you going to get 10 fans at a time? Social media outreach perhaps, or publishing on a channel that’s seen by more than one person.
Then, you 10x again. How can you get a hundred fans at once? Then, you 10x again. How can you reach 1.000 fans at once?
The leapfrogging is not exactly the strategy here, it’s the strong focus on high quality users. You can’t go from 0 to a 1000 users, even if you use paid advertising or manage to create a viral app on your first try, because most of those users don’t stick.
They don’t stick because you haven’t verified whether they’re actually high quality users of your app, and therefore you can’t keep them because your app’s back-end operations are lacking.
You can only tailor your app for one or two specific types of users, and ultimately you’ll lose the users that were interested in the first place but didn’t stick around for the long-term. App marketing isn’t only a long-term game per se, but even in the short-term you’ll want to focus on the areas where your actions generate maximum output.
For now, that’s working yourself gradually upwards, in a stair-step approach, until you’ve successfully nurtured those 1.000 true fans.
19. Leverage Any Social Media Impact You Already Have
When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur and indie app maker, it sometimes seems as if the whole world is against you. You’ve got nothing: no app, no userbase, no product, and no influence.
Although your first months, even years, of online venturing may seem like a constant struggle, you’ve got more going for you than you think. You just need to work a little bit harder than you thought, to dig it up.
Let’s look at a few treasure troves you didn’t know you had.
- Facebook Friends. How many do you have? Most of them you probably aren’t in touch with anymore, but still, you can reach them, right? +500.
- Twitter Followers. Although you got a bunch through the infamous follow-unfollow method, these are still people that can pay attention to what you do.
- Facebook Groups. Are you in a few? Most of them are dormant, I know, but some of them can be pretty active and can serve as a good breeding ground for your marketing message.
- Email Contacts. Yeah, how many messages are in your Gmail inbox. 20.000? 100.000? I’m pretty sure there are some interesting people in there, to reach out to.
These are just four examples, but I bet you can find more if you think in a similar direction as these examples: people did reach out to you, so you can reach out to them too!
The key here is: do not send out a blast broadcast! You want to address each of your contacts individually at this stage. The temptation is big to send out a blast on each of these channels, because you think it’ll have a high impact.
Instead of posting a tweet, start writing personal messages to each of your followers. Send out personalized emails to people in your contacts list. Send a Facebook message to prominent members of Facebook Groups you’re in.
You’ll have a higher impact and ultimately a higher conversion rate, and higher quality end-users, when you spend a little more time connecting with your contacts. It takes more time, sure, but that’s the goal after all: if you don’t want to spend time, you need money to buy app install ads.
You can increase your impact, though. Don’t just ask your contacts to try and install your app. Direct them to a specific landing page, one that explains who you are and what they are doing here in addition to the normal landing page elements (title, headline, benefits, CTA).
Instead of trying to get your contact to sign up for your app (a 1x action), ask them to refer your app to a few friends that might be interested in trying your app (a 10x action). You can take this any way you want: have a pre-formatted tweet ready on the page, or in your email, or even give out free beers to your friend who refers the most customers.
In case you’re curious: this strategy banks on human nature. First and foremost, we like to see our peers (you!) succeed. Second, we want to be valuable to our own peers (your friend’s friends). Third and last: we like you, so we can’t say no!
20. Take Feedback And Reviews Very Seriously
In the unfortunate case that negative feedback reaches your App Store page, and its reviews, you should take feedback very seriously.
It’s logical of course that good customer support means happier customers, but good app reviews have another by-effect. More than 60% of potential app customers check out reviews for your app, and low-star app ratings significantly decrease your app’s lead-to-install conversion rate.
In case a bad review hits your App Store page, it’s a good idea to follow up with that customer. You’ll want to decrease the chances of a customer negatively commenting on your app by creating an in-app Message Center and support email address on your website.
App users don’t notice those support centers unless they need it, so you’ll want to make sure they know about it before support is needed. You don’t want to spend time and effort on building a support center, so when push comes to shove, your unhappy user still takes a dump on your app reviews because they didn’t know you had a support center.
21. Identify Your True 10, 100, 1000 Fans
As explain in point 18, you can use the leapfrogging technique to reach your 10, 100 and 1000 true fans.
In-between the steps you change your marketing approach, and leverage your existing userbase, to reach the new milestone and increasingly make bigger leaps.
The term “1000 true fans” comes from an essay by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. In the essay he states that as an artist, producer, designer or author you only need 1.000 true fans to make a living. It’s the same for app makers.
“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”
How can 1000 fans support you? Let’s say your customer life-time value, in your app, is somewhere between $ 10 and $ 100. This means that, given that fans stay with you for a year, you will make between $ 10.000 and $ 100.000 from your userbase.
The low-end is enough to recoup your initial investment in the app, and the high-end means making a good living. I think it’s easier to make money and build a business as an app maker, compared to photographers and artisans, so these figures are modest.
Curious? Read the essay, and it’s various valuable comments by readers, here.
22. Add a Facebook Ad Pixel To Your App (And Everywhere Else)
At a certain point in the building and growing of your app, you will want to use Facebook Ads. It’s an incredibly effective medium to generate traffic to your app (or your website) and it’s economic, too.
In order to make the most of Facebook Ads you need to “pixel” your website’s audience, and your app’s audience.
This literally happens through a pixel: a 1×1 image you add to your website. The image is hosted with Facebook and thanks to a little code magic and unbaked cookies, Facebook can now tell you which Facebook user just visited your website. (Privacy at its finest!)
In your app, the mechanism works similarly. If you install the Facebook SDK in your app, you can immediately start building up an audience with Facebook Ads. Do it now, because it might come in handy later.
Facebook Ads can be used to “cold” target an audience, based on interests like Page Likes and behavior within Facebook itself. As an advertiser, you get to tap into that pool of profile data, but it isn’t always the most effective: cold traffic doesn’t know your app or your brand yet!
With the pixeled audience you can create a look-alike audience. Facebook generates a pool of users that is similar to the user group you pixeled. This helps you to send targeted ads without having to spend much time on manual targeting.
The pixeled audience is most effective when you use it as the entire audience for your ad. Every user that used your app or visited your website, or a segment of this group, will see your Facebook ad. This allows for some very effective, highly specialized targeting.
Want to make a purchase offer to current users of your app, for instance to upgrade? Done. Want to show your new app to users of your previous app? Done. Want to pull in potential customers who are still on the fence about upgrading? Done.
So, add that pixel, add that audience, and let it fill up. It’ll be a goldmine over time.
23. Properly Rename Your App
Just like re-keywording your app, you might want to re-title your app too.
It’s no good to actually change your app’s title in a major way, i.e. from “Fruit” to “Vegetable”, but you might want to consider the keywords in your app’s title.
Apple doesn’t allow adding keywords to your app’s title, but you can add a headline or slogan. This slogan can of course include keywords.
Let’s say you named your app “Tortellini”. After a few months in the App Store you found out users search for your app using the keywords “food italian dinner recipe ideas”.
It then makes sense to rename your app to “Tortellini – Italian dinner recipe ideas”. Easy, right?
24. Add A Behavior-Based Rating Prompt
When your app just launches you’re probably on the hunt for positive ratings and reviews for your apps. Don’t pay for reviews! It’s highly frowned upon, technically illegal, and it’ll hurt your app in the long term.
Instead, have actual users of your app send in those reviews (crazy, eh?). Many of those users wouldn’t think about leaving a review, even though they like your app, because the review process isn’t streamlined and takes actual effort to go through.
Instead, build a rating prompt in your app. Don’t show it when a user opens the app for the first time, but let it pop up once the user completes a set of actions in your app.
If your app includes rewards, such as achieving a game level or trophy, you might want to show a rating prompt after this positive event. Research shows users are more likely to leave a high-star review after they’ve completed a positive action in your app, probably because they’re happier or more satisfied at that point.
Several tools, such as AppTentive, Branch and Intercom, can help you install rating prompts in your apps.
25. Localize Your App’s Meta Data
It’s important to localize your app’s data, for two reasons:
- Smartphone users are more likely to search for apps in their own native language
- Not everyone in your target audience, depending on your country and culture, will speak perfect English
Localizing your app’s meta data, i.e. translating your app’s title, description and keywords into another language, doesn’t only increase your overall downloads but also makes it possible for you to reach an audience you didn’t reach before.
You can of course take localization a step further by translating your entire app to a new language. How much time this takes depends on your app and how much on-screen text and in-app content you have.
26. Blackmail Your Friends Into Installing And Reviewing Your App
Who doesn’t like a good blackmail campaign? No, I’m kidding of course — there’s no need to dig up dirt on your friends when you can just ask them nicely to install and review your app.
This checklist already touched upon the value of 1000 true fans, and finding persons to reach out to, but finding friends to rate has another hidden benefit.
Your app’s ratings only show up if you have 5 or more ratings. This counter resets with each update you send. Many app developers I know have made it a routine to ask their closest friends to rate their app when a new update comes out, to reduce the “downtime” from not having ratings show up in the App Store.
27. Start A Paid Advertising Campaign
Facebook Ads are awesome. With the new Search Ads opportunities in the App Store, paid advertising for apps takes a surge and hopefully becomes cheaper too.
You can roughly divide the audience types for an advertising campaign in three types: cold, warm, and hot. A cold audience hasn’t had any contact with you, a warm audience knows your brand but doesn’t have had enough contact with you yet (moreover, hasn’t bought anything yet) and a hot audience is generally “ready to buy.”
All Facebook Ads, and most other ads, have a creative: an image that captures the attention of Facebook users that scroll by. They have a compelling message too, and a call-to-action. This action for App Install ads is usually to install your app (o, rly?) but you can create different ads too: Lead Ads capture email addresses, Like Ads generate page likes, and Click Ads simply let users click on the ad to go to your website.
One of the most important aspects of an ad is its Relevance Score. It’s an organic question, but it greatly affects your ad spend and cost-per-action. How relevant is your app for its audience? Negative feedback on your app, a low amount of click-throughs and a low amount of social actions affect your ad relevance negatively. Many click-throughs, positive feedback and a higher number of social actions based on your app generally end up as a higher relevance score.
Facebook Ads deserve their own blog article — heck, deserve their own course! — but for now, know that it’s probably a good idea to spend a modest budget on acquiring users through paid advertising channels when you’ve moved past the first months of your app launch.
28. Do Your App Store Optimization (ASO)
App Store Optimization! Who doesn’t do it!?
Well… ASO is important, but not as important as you think. You can be as efficient as you want, but if your app isn’t effective, you’re not going anywhere.
“Efficiency” is usually explained as “climbing the ladder”, whereas “effectiveness” is explained as “putting the ladder against the right wall.” You get the point!
Many app developers solely rely on App Store Optimization as their marketing campaign, when all strategies and launch points on this page can be used to drive more downloads, and higher quality installs to your apps.
App Store Optimization is still, however, a solid avenue of success. It consists of:
- Optimizing your app’s title, its icon, and keywords
- Optimizing your app’s screenshots and screenshot captions
- Optimizing your app’s description, including key benefits, testimonials, awards, and a “what, how, why” text
- Localizing your app’s meta data
- Managing your app’s ranking and reviews, both positive and negative
A large number of tools and resources can help you increase your app’s rating through App Store Optimization, including AppAnnie, SensorTower, Branch, Localytics and AppTentive.
Get complementary access to my course, Zero to App Store, and learn how you can build a real-time chat app with Firebase and Swift!
29. Make Something People Want
Wait, what!? We’re 29 points in this 33-point checklist and you’re now telling me to build something people want? Impeccable timing…
No, really, it’s good advice. I’m assuming you set out to build something people want, or need, and that you’re gaining initial traction with your original app idea. If not, then you’re in for a treat, because apps that aren’t used because no one wants them generally become app rot.
Making something people want is all about gathering and listening to feedback. Take for instance The App Launch Plan course here on LearnAppMaking, which explains in great detail how to launch an app idea without actually building an app.
In it, you learn how to create a value proposition, position it, and then garner feedback from your initial target audience. Based on the feedback you get, you adjust or persist your app ideas.
This ties directly into “what people want” or “what people need.” I think app marketing isn’t knowing exactly what to do, but more like knowing how to find out what to do. Use the tools you have, the little feedback you can work on, and built onto that.
Launching is a cool word, but it’s also mostly associated with rockets. Rockets generally launch in a straight slightly curved line. They don’t change course much! When you launch your app, you need to change your course, and be nimble and quick on your feet. It’s the only way to survive.
Look at it as bringing a boat from rough seas to shore. You don’t want to go for the coast in a straight line, because you’ll break your approach (and your boat) on the first big wave you hit head on. Instead, you’ll want to move across the wave lines because the surface is smoothest there. Spotting those smooth lines is paramount to your app’s success.
30. Create A Press Kit
How many times have I interviewed an app developer, asked for app assets, and got back a 10×10 pixel photograph with zero out of 10 JPG compression quality?
I mean, someone even sent me a PDF photo of his iPad, with the app on screen, which he’d put in a photocopier… (In his defence, it wasn’t for an app interview, but it was still pretty stupid.)
Grow up, be professional, create a press kit. This is what’s in there:
- A high-resolution set of pictures of your app’s founders, photographed professionally in a way that expresses the personalities of the founders. Double points for versatile photos (i.e. not Christmas-themed).
- A decent amount of app screenshots, showing key component and interfaces of the app.
- A report on your app’s stats, usage profiles, downloads, etc.
- A general report and description on the app. What does it do? Who is it for? Why should I download it?
- A brochure, report, lead-magnet style, that a reporter or interviewer can provide to his audience to give extra value. Sneaky content marketing!
- A set of links to previous press coverage
Providing a press kit is a double-edged knife. It makes the job of the interviewer or reporter much easier, because he doesn’t have to ask basic questions and can rely on background information for coverage.
Moreover, you, as the entrepreneur, have more control over what people write about you and you leave less to the guesswork of the coverage author.
31. Get Your App Featured By Apple
Why don’t you get your app featured by Apple? It’s a sure-fire way to get a lot of exposure for your app (and fast).
Of course, Apple only features a very small high-quality apps in the iOS and Mac App Store. How do you increase your chances of getting selected?
Steve Young, from AppMasters, has a solid workflow of getting featured:
- Build a great app — which is harder than it sounds. Apple tends to pick favorites: apps using the latest iOS SDKs like HomeKit and SiriKit, and apps that follow a certain design aesthetic and style.
- Find a contact person. You’re looking for an “App Store manager” job title, on LinkedIn. This is just ordinary networking, in which it pays to know a guy (or gal) who knows a guy. Moreover, this is true for any kind of influencer marketing. Ready to get TechCrunched?
- Next, find their email address and/or contact information. It helps to have a name, Twitter handle, personal or professional blog, etcetera. I use a Chrome plugin called “Email Hunter” for sniffing out email addresses. You’ll want to build up a profile of information about a potential contact person, so you can tailor your pitch to their interests and expertise.
- Write a compelling email. Now’s the time to learn how to pitch! Make it short, actionable, leverage any social proof or taco points you have, and make a solid argument about why you think your app should be featured. Paradoxically, it’s not about the app…
- Wait… you’re probably required to fill out a few forms, then wait up until your app is featured. You’re most likely to not hear from Apple at this point, so make sure to check out the App Store regularly.
You can of course get featured by any website, blog or news outlet. Apple isn’t the only cat up the foodchain, there are many more features worth your while.
32. Revisit All Post-Launch Tasks
Point 32 on this list is one of introspection. Once you’ve managed to go through all points on this checklist, you will probably notice there’s a synergy between many of them.
Your blog interacts with your social media campaign, and your outreach campaign may land you a few features. Pitching helps when trying to get coverage on a blog, a podcast, or even when you want someone to post your pre-filled tweet.
This is what marketing is all about. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of people. The internet without the people doesn’t exist, we’re simply all humans staring at a Mac or PC screen… This means that the biggest difference you can make is the one you can’t literally see: value.
Build a high quality app and provide value to those who need it. That’s perhaps the best marketing strategy of all.
Once you’ve worked your way through this checklist, revisit it once in a while. Many of the campaigns here can be scaled, improved, and bound together to create a greater impact.
33. Stick To It
Before you go, one last piece of advice. Stick to it. Much of what you try today won’t work, but if you keep trying and improving with every iteration, you will succeed tomorrow.
Marketing takes time. Don’t just quit your Facebook Ad campaign after 24 hours because no one clicked. Don’t quit content marketing because no one visits your blog. Don’t abandon your app because no one downloads it.
Take a deep breath, get a coffee, and try again.
Do you know what the Survivor Bias is? It’s the story survivors tell about their successes, the reasons for their survival. It’s how all those “7 Things Billionaires Do Every Day” blog articles came into existence.
Failures, broke entrepreneurs, failed business owners probably did the exact same things as the billionaires did — but you won’t hear about them, because they never made it to the front page. Survivor Bias.
You know the one thing successful people don’t do? Giving up. So stick to it!
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