How to Market Your App Before Launching on the App Store

Smartphone users spend approximately 2 hours on mobile apps each day; yet about 50% of those individuals download no new mobile apps per month.
Smartphone users spend approximately 2 hours on mobile apps each day; yet about 50% of those individuals download no new mobile apps per month. Though it typically takes only a few minutes or less to download a new app, the relatively low frequency with which smartphone users download new apps suggests that downloading a new app can be a big commitment for smartphone users. Once individuals find the set of apps that they need to fulfill their daily needs, they typically remain loyal to those apps until a new need arises that prompts them to revisit the App Store to conduct a new search.

When met with the challenge of competing for a user’s attention on the App Store in the midst of a rising supply of apps for users to choose from, it is essential to strategically position your product for success right from the get-go. If you wait until you officially launch your app on the App Store to begin marketing your app, it will be far too late to generate the hype surrounding the launch that you need to optimize your chance of success. While there are some components of your go-to-market strategy that will need to be executed post-launch, here are a few marketing channels that are important for you to begin establishing several months prior to the public launch of your mobile application.

Content Marketing

In advance of launch, it is important to start generating content on a blog or website to position yourself as a content expert in the space. First, you should consider setting up a Medium or WordPress blog for the company, where you post full blog style articles that are tied to the problem inspiring your development of the app and broad content related to the industry that you are entering. By building out content highlighting the problem you are solving and detailing the industry landscape, it will help to increase user interest in your solution once you launch your app to the public. Seeing how people interact with your blog content can additionally help you to gauge user interest in the problem you are trying to solve. Posting thoughtful blog content on a recurring basis can additionally help you to build a following as the founder and help you to a) increase downloads at the time of launch and b) build credibility to attract PR attention.

When building out a content calendar leading up to launch, try to keep the day of the week and publication time of your blog posts fairly consistent. Initially try to publish on your blog at least once or twice per week. When you publish on Medium, add the post to the metered paywall, include five relevant tags before publishing each post, and make sure each post has an eye-catching image. Each time that you publish on Medium, you might consider both republishing the entire article on your personal LinkedIn page if you are the company’s founder, in addition to linking to the post on Facebook, Twitter, and the company’s LinkedIn page. Beyond writing blog posts, you might also consider creating short videos that detail both the problem and eventually the solution that you are trying to solve. These videos could be published on the company’s YouTube channel approximately 1–3 times per week.

App Store Optimization

Approximately 90% of individuals who use smartphones leverage the search features on the App Store to find apps of interest. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your app is easily searchable when people are looking for a solution to the problem that your app addresses. There are several things that contribute to search effectiveness on the App Store, such as the name of the app, the description and subtitle of the app, the app keywords, and user ratings/reviews. In order to ensure that people can find your product when you launch on the App Store, it is important to make sure that your app has the right keywords that help it to rise to the top of the search results when individuals search a term related to the service that your app provides. Including keywords in the app description can yield a 10.3% increase in the likelihood of ranking. Successfully ranked apps are typically structured as the app name, and then a colon followed by the short product description including keywords. The entire title should be limited to 50 characters. In order to figure out the types of keywords to include, take a look at competitor product descriptions and user reviews of competitor products on the App Store. Additionally, it may help to prepare a few different descriptions that you rotate depending on the time of year and to upload a video to the App Store. Additionally, it is very important to ensure that your app is correctly categorized upon launch.

Social Media Marketing

Given that approximately 90% of app users are on two or more social media platforms, it is helpful to invest in the development of a few social media channels prior to launch. You should try to remain active in pushing out content across channels on a daily basis and additionally leveraging these platforms as a means of creating a dialogue with users to help increase user loyalty and subsequent downloads at the time of launch. These platforms will give you the opportunity to share small app teasers to enhance the curiosity of individuals and entice them to download the app for exploration once you launch publicly. You might consider setting up a Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram account, YouTube page, and LinkedIn company page. You should initially aim to Tweet at least 3–5 times per day, post on Facebook and Instagram once per day, and post longer form videos on YouTube and articles on LinkedIn at least once per week. The personal LinkedIn pages of all founding team members should also be up to date prior to launch.

Landing Page

Through setting up a website landing page in advance of launching your app on the App Store, it can help you to gauge user interest by measuring website visits, clicks, number of email subscribers, and sign ups. It could also provide a platform that allows you to test different pricing or subscription models, even if the registration button clicks through to an email subscriber page pre-app launch. When shaping the landing page, consider adding details about the value-add of the app, the functionality of the app, and why users should download it upon launch. Beyond providing a means of collecting emails to build out a subscriber list and providing a low-cost proof of concept, the landing page should also provide any details necessary for a reporter to cover the app launch.

Email Marketing

A few months prior to launch is a great time to start collecting emails through your landing page. Email marketing can be very powerful pre-launch, as it provides a platform through which you can communicate with your target consumer directly and ensure that certain information winds up in their email inbox. By providing useful content surrounding the problem you are trying to solve and slowly introducing teasers as to how the app you are building will solve that problem, you can build a loyal follower base and leverage this to increase downloads when you are ready to launch. When implementing email marketing, it is helpful to leverage Smart Links to link the email opener to the appropriate App Store, given that 70% of emails are now opened on mobile devices.

Public Relations

Prior to publicly launching your app, it is important to have several public relations leads set up who have agreed to cover the launch of the app. In advance of conducting outreach, it is helpful to put together a media list that includes a) the publications you are targeting and b) the name and contact information of the journalist who covers the targeted type of material for that publication. The media list should include a combination of top tier publications and smaller blogs. The media list might be organized in a spreadsheet with five columns: column 1 = publication name, column 2 = journalist name, column 3 = journalist email, column 4 = journalist Twitter handle, column 5 = journalist LinkedIn. Once the media list is compiled, it will be important to write a PR pitch. This initial pitch will serve as a template and will need to be altered slightly depending on which specific journalist you are targeting. The pitch to each individual on your media list should address the following questions:

1) Who are you (as the company founder)?

2) Why are you reaching out to this person and why are they the best fit to write your piece?

3) What does the app do and why is it important?

4) How can the PR contact get in touch with you?

Additionally, it is helpful to include a 15–30 second video demo of the app and to include the full name of the individual you are reaching out to in the email subject line to capture their attention. Many individuals will not reply to the first email, given how many emails they receive on a daily basis. Try reaching out to each contact up to three times with three-day windows in between each outreach attempt to ensure they see your message. Continue building your media list as you conduct outreach.

While it is important to do an extensive marketing push across channels once you publicly launch your app, it is crucial to start marketing far in advance of launch to put yourself in the best possible position to maximize downloads upon launch. There are significant set up costs typically associated with these marketing channels at the onset of getting them off the ground, so it is important to set them up far in advance of launch. This will allow you to build some initial momentum and start building out a follower base before you need to generate significant traction within a short time window surrounding the launch of your app.


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