How to Market and Promote your Games and Apps, Part 3/4

Felipe Laso Marsetti
Learn how to market your iPhone and iPad apps!

Learn how to market your iPhone and iPad apps!

This is a post by iOS Tutorial Team Member Felipe Laso, an iOS developer working at Lextech Global Services.

Welcome back to our epic 4-part series on marketing your iOS apps!

In the first part of the series, we gave some ideas of things you can do during the pre-development and development phases to make sure you’re on the right track, and increase the chances of success for your app.

In this second part of the series, we gave you a lot of tips of things you can do when your app is released, from setting the launch date to sending a press release and more.

But what happens now that your app has been out for a few months? Is it dead? Should you move on to another project?

Not at all, with proper promotion and care your app can keep generating passive income for a long time!

In this third part of the series, we are going to focus on things you can do to keep interest in your app high and boost sales. Keep reading to find out how!

1) Updating Your App

The most obvious strategy to continue interest in your app is to update it! Here are some reasons why updates are a good idea:

  • Customers expect it. These days your users expect your app to be periodically updated with bug fixes, new features, etc. If you don’t release updates, it may lead to unsatisfied customers or poor reviews.
  • Potential good exposure. When a major new feature in iOS comes out (such as Retina Display or iCloud), if you can move quickly to introduce relevant new features into your app it might be a good opportunity for free exposure. Blogs are often looking for examples of apps that utilize new technology to point their readers to – and Apple is more likely to feature apps that take advantages of the new technologies/device capabilities.
  • Possible increased sales. Releasing an update can result in increased sales as users are reminded about your app as they download the update, and in the long run as your app improves in quality and capability.

Of course, the big tradeoff of making updates to apps is the time and energy it takes. Right now Apple does not have a way to charge for updates to your apps, so it is not as easy to monetize as creating a new app is. There are some good discussions of the subject going around, such as this one.

The best apps to update tend to be non-game apps that you’re “in for the long haul” with, that are selling well on the store and have plenty of room to grow in terms of features and potential new users.

2) Effectively Using Mailing Lists

As mentioned in part one, a mailing list is one of the most cost-effective and powerful techniques you can use for marketing. A lot of people will gladly sign up for a mailing list when they like a product, to find out when similar products become available in the future.

About a third of our survey respondents are currently using mailing lists for their apps/companies:

“I let people know about [my mailing list] in the app, and I give a free ebook in return. That ebook is actually a compilation of material from a blog I made several years ago so it didn’t take me long to write, and it’s truly useful to people. So that gives people a reason to sign up for the list.” – Matthijs Hollemans

The reason we mention mailing lists in this part of the series is because if used properly, having subscribers is another great tool to extend the life of your app.

Think about a few examples for a second, I’m sure some (if not most) of you have purchased something online. It could be Amazon, Ebay, Victoria’s Secret, GameStop, Best Buy, Apple, etc.

When you created an account, did you notice the little check box that asked you if you wanted to receive news and info on products and discounts? How hard was it to tick that box for you? A few seconds at most!

But think about all of the good offers, news and discounts you’ve received thanks to this!

The fellas over at Code School are always letting me know of discounts, new products and even promo codes I can use at checkout for a discount. Amazon sends me emails every now and then on products I might be interested in at a highly discounted price.

Most of the time I disregard the emails, but quite a few times I’ve been surprised with a product I’ve been dying for, or with an excellent discount for my next purchase. What does this mean for them? More sales :D

Now take this example and apply it to your product. How will your customers know of a Christmas sale you are having? The release of your latest app on iTunes? An update with great new features?

They can’t unless you let them know!

“Subscribing is an option when you sign up to play the multiplayer game.” – Phil Hassey

A few of your potential customers will find you on the AppStore or on other sites, most will not. Don’t assume that people will find all of the information you put out there just because you submitted an update to your product or lowered its price.

By allowing users to subscribe to your newsletter, you can make sure this information gets to your customers and the people interested in YOUR products. It also keeps your product fresh in people’s minds – they’re more likely to then check out the updates or recommend your app to their friends.

You don’t need to be very tech savvy to do this on your own. There’s plenty of plugins and services that allow you to have subscribers and to incorporate that into your website or services. Heck even Twitter and Facebook are what I would consider subscriber-friendly.

By having a person follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook, you automatically establish a connection with them. Make use of all of these opportunities and make sure you have a way for you to communicate with potential customers.

Of course getting people to sign up isn’t always easy. Most consider newsletters as spam. Here are some tips on getting people to actually sign up:

  • Brief description. Succinctly tell them what the newsletter is about and what the benefits of subscribing are. 1-2 lines at most, people don’t want to waste time reading a long description.
  • Give something. Offer something free and valuable in return for signing up. For an app, maybe you could give a special unlock or reward in the app itself?
  • Make it easy. It should be super easy to sign up – for an app, the users should just have to enter their email address and tap “Submit”. The more info you ask for, the less likely they are to sign up.
  • Promise no spam. Promise not to send more than 1 email a month (and make sure you abide by this promise!) People are nervous about signing up for a newsletter that they’ll get spammed, so don’t be that guy ;]
  • Promise not so share. Promise not to share the user’s email address with 3rd parties (and of course, don’t do so). Easy promise to make as indies ;]
  • Consider sending regularly. It is sometimes advantageous to send a newsletter on a regular basis, as long as you can provide valuable content each time. This way you have a more steady relationship with your customers rather than only a periodic “why’d I get this strange email” blast.

Remembering one of our mantras throughout the series, put many eggs in many baskets. Subscriptions are only one of many ways in which you can keep attracting new customers while retaining existing ones for months to come.

3) Effectively Using Cross Promotion

We’ve talked about cross promoting apps in previous parts of the series. Let’s take things even further now and get some feedback from our survey respondents as well as tips on being successful when cross promoting your products.

Over half of all respondents said they cross promote their apps. This is a very healthy number, and makes sense considering it’s a low cost technique with high degrees of success.

“Yes, I heavily cross promote. All my apps have an alert view that’s shown upon launch. It downloads the alert message from a server, and the alert has 2 buttons (‘Close’ and ‘Sure!’). If you press Sure, it automatically opens a URL that I choose (the URL is also downloaded from my server, so I can easily change the popups). I have this popup system in all my games, and it’s worked out amazing.” – Anonymous

Cross promotion is an excellent tool, whether it’s for your own apps or another developer’s apps.

How do you cross promote? There are dozens of different ways you can cross promote, not only from within your app but via your website or social pages as well. Here’s some ideas on how to do this:

  • Blog post or RSS feed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • From within your apps via pop ups, news feeds, etc.
  • Via other developer’s websites or apps
  • Through exchange of ad space on websites or apps
  • Emails and Newsletters
Cross Promotion of Math Ninja in Wild Fables

Cross Promotion of Math Ninja in Wild Fables

Let’s start by discussing cross promoting in your own apps. Note this isn’t the same as adding ads – cross promotion is all about adding an easy way for users to see your other apps, in an attractive and appealing way.

To do this, you should add a button somewhere in your app that transitions to a screen that shows your other apps. You should take care to make these screens as beautiful and attractive as possible, to invite easy and fun browsing by your customers.

You might want to consider storing this information on a web server so it’s easy to update the cross promotion pages in your apps when thing change.

The nice thing about cross promotion is there’s no extra cost to doing this, other than a few extra days of development. It becomes more and more effective the more apps you have in the App Store, and the more popular they are.

If a customer likes one of your apps, chances are they will like your other apps as well, so make it as easy as possible for the users to find out about the others. Many times, I’ve missed great apps by the same developer because I never looked up their iTunes page.

Don’t assume that just because your apps are on the App Store, everyone will find them!

“We cross promoted by having a “News” feature in an existing app announce the new app. It worked very well. For a professional app, we had to make sure it was easy to see, but did not interfere with the workings of the app in any way.” – Survey Respondent

Alternatively, you can cross promote apps or products not belonging to you. If you know developers you can get in touch with and “negotiate” promoting each other’s products, by all means do so.

For example, if I have a very popular recipes app and developer ABC has a very robust website with user-submitted recipes. How about using their recipes on your app with a mention and link to their site? In return you get more recipes and an existing user base that will make your app seem active and popular from the get go.

Better yet, how about doing something like what Mass Effect 3 and Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning did recently. Whichever demo you downloaded and played would let you unlock exclusive goodies for the other game.

I certainly knew about Mass Effect 3 but I’d never heard of Kingdoms of Amalur. This just shows you how important and useful cross promotion can be.

Now imagine how many of these people downloaded the Kingdoms of Amalur demo just to unlock something in Mass Effect 3, ended up enjoying the demo and purchased the game as a result. Instant win, instant increase in sales and instant “coolness” effect via a rarely used (yet truly creative) cross promotion tool.

4) Websites, Twitter, and Facebook, Oh My!

Earlier in our series we mentioned how important it is to have a website. Guess what – it’s just as important to have a Facebook page and Twitter account as well!

“I have all 3 (Facebook, Twitter, and website). Facebook is by FAR the most effective. I’ve got over 70K people now, and it’s so easy to interact with fans. It’s much easier than twitter because you can write more, and you can also easily embed pictures and videos. More people have Facebook too.” -Anonymous

Each of these avenues provides a different “feel” and benefits:

  • Facebook works really well for apps because pretty much everyone is on it. It takes very little effort for someone to “like” an app, and if they do they will see updates on your page in their news feed. It’s a great way to share news and easily interact with your customers.
  • Twitter has a nice 1-on-1 feel to it with @ messages, and works particularly well for a tech-savvy audience. If you do use Twitter, be sure not to spam. Provide relevant content in your tweets that people will find interesting, so you don’t lose their attention.
  • A website is great because it’s often the first thing people find when they search for your app. Make sure it has a good demo of your app, is attractive, and has a prominent and easy button they can click to find your app in the App Store.

“I have a web page and blog and it’s one of those small things that result in a handful of new customers each month.” – Matthijs Hollemans

Reverse Chord Finder Pro

Handy Link: If you want to make a really professional looking website don’t have the expertise to do so, checkout Square Space. It’s a cool and unique web hosting serve that helps you create a very robust, professional looking website in no time!

Whichever social tool you choose be sure to remain active and up to date. It’s very frustrating as a customer to visit a Facebook or Twitter page of a product I’m looking into, only to find that it hasn’t been updated in six months. People will notice and it’s little things like these that detract from new/return customers.

Where To Go From Here?

So far in this series, we’ve taken a look at all three major stages of development, gotten feedback from the wonderful community of developers and creators, and given a lot of tips on what you can do to help market and promote your apps.

The fourth and final part of the series is a sort of appendix or epilogue, and focuses on sharing tools, websites and tips from our respondents. It also contains some sales and marketing stats. Check it out!

If you enjoyed this post, you should definitely check out Jeremy Olson’s App Making Course – it’s a great online video course that focuses on the design & marketing side of making apps, and has a ton of great advice.

A very big THANK YOU for your patience and continued support and be sure to leave your feedback, comments and discussions in the forums below!


This is a post by iOS Tutorial Team Member Felipe Laso, an iOS developer working at Lextech Global Services.

Felipe Laso Marsetti

Felipe Laso is an iOS developer working at Lextech Global Services. He’s also an aspiring game designer/programmer. You can follow him on Twitter as @airjordan12345 or on his blog.

User Comments

1 Comment

  • Really good article. I would add that smoothreviews.com is a good way for developers to get reviews at app launch.
    Cori

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