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This article was originally written for ReadWrite.com but it was declined because “it didn’t fit their needs at the moment”. It’s disappointing to be rejected, but at least it means I’m putting myself out there. I still think it’s a great article so here it is in all its glory. Hopefully it’ll fit your needs because that’s all that really matters.
And if you find it useful, consider sharing it :) Thank you.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LAUNCHING A MOBILE APP
Your mobile app is ready to go. You’ve developed, tested, and possibly spent thousands of dollars on it to make sure it’s up to today’s mobile app consumer standards. Great! Now you’re ready to push it into the wild, to publish it on the marketplace (or marketplaces) of your choice. Then all you’ve got to do after that is roll in all the money you’re going to be making. Right?
Here’s the problem: in July 2015 there were 1.6 million apps on Google Play and 1.5 million apps on Apple’s App Store (source: Statista.com) and those numbers are only set to grow. So how exactly do you expect your app to be seen by potential customers when it’s drowning in a sea of apps being released every day?
You’ve got to have a proper launch plan. Without one, your app will be downloaded a couple of times at best and then head straight for the dirty back shelves to join the rest of the apps dying a slow, quiet, extremely expensive death.
Luckily for you, we’ve designed the ultimate, 5-step launch plan for your mobile app. Follow this step-by-step guide and your awesome app will surely be where it’s supposed to be: on millions of smartphones, making everybody’s lives that much better.
#1: Set Quantifiable Goals
In order for your launch to be successful you need to make sure you know what success looks like. For this reason it is especially important, before even thinking of launching, to figure out what success means to you.
These goals need to be tangible, quantifiable, and measurable. “Be successful” is none of these things, and therefore makes for a very weak goal. Instead decide what amount of installs you are looking for, what revenue you aim to make, and what star rating you wish to achieve. These are only a few of the possible goals you can define. If, for example, your mobile app is a game, you might want to figure out how long each play session should be and then make sure you can track that.
After launch, you will want to measure actual data and compare that to your goals. Once your goals are achieved you will know your app launch was successful.
#2: Content Marketing
This one would take too long to fully explain in this article, but the short of it is that you need to have an organic presence out there. This includes:
- Social Media: Having your app set up with its own social media accounts provides a whole array of benefits. You can build a following for the app before you even launch, answer questions and keep fans up-to-date. After launch, you can use these accounts to release information on updates, provide support to users, link to blog posts and issue mini-press-releases. If you’re unsure what social media websites your app should be on, start with Twitter and Facebook. If your app has visual appeal, try Pinterest and Instagram. If it requires a few video tutorials to explain the various features, set up a YouTube account and upload there.
- Dedicated Website: A website with a blog (for development and/or news) is indispensable nowadays. This involves quite a bit of work but the high reward is simply not something you can afford to ignore. If the app is a simple utility app you might just want to add a new page to your own website instead, to avoid the extra work and cost of running a new website for each of your apps. But if your app can be called a business, you should definitely not skimp on building something dedicated. Pre-launch make sure all pages include marketing copy and all the information and links needed for users to successfully understand what your app does, where they can download it, and what they can do if they have problems. Do not launch until you’ve got all your sales copy written, polished, and finalized.
Videos: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is invaluable. Even a simple video can do wonders to explain to potential installers what your app does and how it does it better than everybody else. Stick that video on your app’s dedicated website’s home page and watch the views climb.
#3. Get The Word Out There
Any launch (whether it’s a game, an app, or a startup) can be sure to enjoy success if it can make use of the ripple effect that industry influencers create. Your goal is to get journalists and bloggers to try out your app and then talk about it on their own websites and blogs. Keep in mind that it’s not just tech and mobile bloggers that you should talk to here; bloggers and journalists in your target market will also work.
These are people with thousands of followers. Loyal followers read these blogs because they want to know all about “the next best thing”. If you can position your own app into at least one of these blogs you will automatically be seen as that next big thing. This exposure will ripple outwards as more people download your app, talk about it on their own blogs, incite more people to download your app, and so on…
Getting to these influencers takes a lot of work but it’s highly rewarding. Try getting to them a few weeks before launch so they can have some time to play around with your app and get any answers they might need to make an informed decision over the usefulness of your app.
Word of warning: This momentum slows down over time. As the ripple travels outwards, the influence each blogger commands gets smaller and smaller until it fizzles out. On the other hand, if it hits another influencer you will get a significant signal boost. Be prepared.
#4. Paid Advertising
Organic content, as explained in #3, will do wonders for customer acquisition and downloads, but it’s not reliable in terms of projections. Some posts or videos might do very well, some not so much. In order to level the ups and downs of organic content (and to provide a little boost to that initial lag in momentum) you will want to use paid advertising for the first couple of weeks post-launch.
For best results go with Google AdWords and Facebook ads. These are highly targetable so you can be extremely specific over what demographic will get to see your ads. Being more specific increases your click-through rate (CTR) and avoids watering down your customer acquisition percentages by flooding your website with uninterested visitors.
#5. Encourage Feedback And Provide Support
Reach out to your users (either via your app itself, or through social media) and ask for feedback and reviews. Not only do better-reviewed apps get more downloads but it also shows that you care about what your users think about your app.
Those first few reviews are invaluable to you. If they’re good reviews then you can create a sort of snowball effect that will encourage more downloads and more reviews. If they’re bad reviews you are being given an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with your app and release an update before you reach the point of no return.
Have you ever downloaded an app with a one-star rating and no response from the developer? Yeah, no-one has.
Don’t let that be you. Be there for your users. If someone asks you a question, answer it as quickly and as honestly as possible. And don’t get too defensive. If someone doesn’t like a feature in your app you have one of two options:
- Write it off as the user not being in your target market, apologize, explain why the feature exists, and carry on with your life. Or,
- Understand what’s wrong with the feature, apologize, fix it, and release a blog post or (at the very least) a tweet saying the issue has been fixed.
Never, at any point in time, get into an argument with a user over a bad review. You cannot win and you’ll only end up looking worse for it. You’re the professional here and you should act like it.
So there you have it, the ultimate 5-step guide to launching your mobile app. Remember, a bad launch can break your app before it has gotten a chance to shine. You’ve worked way too hard on that app for it to fizzle out and die, so go back to the drawing board and use this guide to give your app the launch it deserves.