App Development – The Marketing

This is my final App Development post prior to launch. All of my work over the past 6 months is finally coming to fruition and I’ll soon get to see my App in the wild. It truly is the most exciting time in the App development life cycle.

Before I begin this post I should point out that marketing is the area that I’m weakest in. I get a huge kick out of developing Apps and games solo because it gives me a taste of all aspects of product creation. Code, Artwork, Sounds, and to some extent game design are all scientific disciplines that I can approach in a methodical way and learn (through practice). For some reason marketing alludes me. It’s a mine field and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of science behind it. It appears on the surface to be some kind of dark art. Nevertheless, its a crucial aspect of creating your own Apps and as such, deserves attention.

This post is very much about experimentation and guess-work. My experience with marketing is limited and previous attempts have resulted, pretty much unanimously, in failure. You should, therefore, take it all with a pinch of salt, at least until I write my numbers post.

Marketing *must* be part of your strategy from the very beginning of your App project. You should be teasing you App as soon as you are able to. You need to build momentum, and a fan base, well before the product launches. My plan was to tie initial marketing into this series of posts. I figured I could provide an insight into App development at the same time as promoting my App. Only time will tell whether or not this has been successful.

In addition to this, I’ve tweeted about my App, talked to people about it, demoed it, and generally tried to engage as many people as possible. Getting people involved is a good way to create an early user base and encourages viral marketing. If you hide your App away until the very last minute, it is highly likely to flop upon launch.

With my App know (by a handful of a people at least) I now need a burst of promotion at launch. I need to make a splash. Having developed games in the past, my opinion is that app development marketing isn’t quite the same. With game development I would probably have placed preview builds in the hands of reviewers by now. I don’t think that makes sense with an App. People just don’t get as excited for Apps (especially when they’re only partially completed). This makes my launch activity even more important.

Here are the steps I’m planning/underway with…

Submit Coffee Cellar to Apple

When I submitted my App to Apple, I set a launch date 4 weeks in the future. I guessed, based on previous experience, that Apple would take around 2 weeks to approve my App. I then allowed an additional 2 weeks on top of this to generate my launch marketing.

I had a bit of a panic shortly after doing this because of the “new releases” list. There was some confusion over whether you need to launch as soon as Apple approve your App in order to appear in the new releases list. This list is important because it helps drive initial traction. Its the only area of the App store that every App will appear at the top of (on launch day).

In the end Justine pointed me to her excellent blog post on the subject. Thankfully my original plan will still work. I can launch my App weeks after Apple approve it and still appear in the new release list on launch day. phew!

Gather contacts

Marketing doesn’t really work like this. You don’t spray at a list of contacts you don’t know. You should focus on building relationships with members of the press. That said, we all have to start somewhere and the only method I currently have at my disposal is through cold contacts (that is, contacting press without request and without knowing them).

For Coffee Cellar, I’ve highlighted a number of publications.

  1. Coffee Blogs
  2. Lifestyle Blogs
  3. National Newspapers
  4. Food Magazines
  5. iPhone Magazines
  6. App review sites

You’ll notice that App review sites is down at the bottom of the list. This is by design. Coffee Cellar is a niche App. Its for coffee lovers and people who want to get into coffee. As a result, I feel that focussing on this type of outlet is more important than focussing on App review sites.

My Contact Spreadsheet

I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that spreadsheets are the tools of the trade for marketing peeps. I figured its as good a way as any to collect my contacts and store notes about them.

I’m not going to share my contacts list with you, not because I’m mean but because, as I understand it, its a bit of a no-no. Instead, I’ll share the template I’m using.

I have the following columns…

  • Name – The name of the contact/publication
  • Type – The classification of the contact (Website, Blog, Magazine, Newspaper, etc)
  • Website – The website address
  • Twitter – A twitter username if they have one
  • Email – The email address of either the contact or publication (A real contact is obviously preferable to a generic address)
  • Notes – Any notes on the contact
  • Status – Current status of my actions (e.g. Email sent, replied, no reply, featured etc)
  • Code – The promo code sent (Just so that I can keep track of them to prevent sending the same one twice)

All obvious stuff I know but someone may find it useful.

Website

I decided against creating a standalone website for now. If the App does well then I absolutely plan on investing the time to create a fairly meaty portal (integrated with the App). For now, I’m adding a page to my existing website.

I am going a step further though. My website has long been overdue for a redesign. I liked its overall structure but it was starting to look sloppy. I started creating a new design some time ago and decided to accelerate this to tie in with my App launch, and in fact, that’s what you are looking at now – my redesigned site.

The new design is an evolution rather than a revolution but I hope it will present my App in a slightly smarter light. You can check out the current Coffee Cellar page here.

A trailer

I tend to produce trailers for my games because its the done thing. Its a good way to visually demonstrate to players, not only the features of your game, but also how to use it.

I’m not sure how much this applies to an App. I suppose it’s the same but I’m just not sure how much time its worth investing in it. I have a little bit of spare time between now and launch so perhaps I’ll spend a day looking into this and see if I can produce something I’m happy with.

Contact the press

Coffee Cellar has already been approved and this is my primary reason for holding back the release date. I want to allow time for the press to react to my requests. They’re flooded with requests on a daily basis and I assume it will take some time for them to even see my email, let along write a review/feature.

In terms of how to contact the press. I think you have to use the best method you can find. Face-to-face has to be best, followed by twitter (or a social networking site), followed by email.

The point here is that you are looking for the most direct means of getting the attention of the publication you are targeting. We live in an extremely connected world and I’m not sure that email is the best form of contact anymore.

I’ll be sending out details of my App along with a promo code to each of the contacts I have identified. Crucially, promo codes can be use to download your App even if you hold off the launch. This means that my contacts can play with the App before anyone else and hopefully this “exclusivity” will help.

In addition to this, I can also send a firm release date to them since Apple have already approved my App.

There are lots of posts giving you an idea of how to write emails to reviewers and the press. Here are some general points I’ll be following…

  1. Keep it short
  2. Be personable
  3. Speak in plain english (By that I mean, don’t try to blind the contact with technical terms or b*llsh*t!)
  4. Include screenshots to grab attention
  5. Get help (nothing wrong with having someone you trust read over it)

Beta testers

My Beta testers proved a huge help in shaping my App and getting it to the point it is now. My hope is that they will become advocates for my App. Perhaps they’ll help spread the word and champion its launch. I’m not yet sure how well this will work but I have my fingers crossed.

Everyone you talk to about your App or get involved in its creation is a potential customer. This may sounds- ruthless but you really do need all the help you can get.

Launch Day

Coffee Cellar will be in the App Store on Wednesday 17th August.

I think I once read somewhere that launching on Wednesday is a good idea. I have no idea if this really works but there does seem to be a general consensus that Apple are more likely to spot you (since they feature Apps on a Thursday). I’m not sure how much truth there is in this but marketing is tough enough, and launching on Wednesday certainly won’t do any harm.

I’m hoping that by launch day some of my contacts will have written articles/reviews/tweets about the launch, or at least that some will be incoming. This will be down to the success of the items I’ve highlighted above.

Post Launch activities

Marketing doesn’t stop when the App is live. You need to continue to court the media, request reviews, and get people excited. Other Apps have proved that missing the boat at launch doesn’t necessarily have to mean the death of your App.

I don’t have specific activities planned yet but this is something I’ll be working on (and I’ll share on this blog).

Conclusion

I hope you found this post at least a little bit useful, even if it just pointed out the obvious and helped to consolidate it in your mind. Only time will tell if its successful (I’ll reveal the results in my numbers post).

Coffee Cellar launches on Wednesday 17th August. I’ll write a numbers post a week after that, a postmortem shortly after, and culminate in a project wrap-up.

Wish me luck!

(Coffe loyalty card image courtesy of psd)

Part 1 – Doing it properly
Part 2 – The Design Document
Part 3 – The Wireframes
Part 4 – The Artwork
Part 5a -The Code (Xcode, GIT, and Core Data)
Part 5b – The Code (Coffee sharing and Camera functionality)
Part 5c – The Code (A change in workflow)
Part 6 – The testing
Part 7 – The Final Artwork
Part 8 – The Marketing (You are here)
Part 9 – The Launch
Part 10 – The Numbers
Part 11 – The Postmortem
(Bonus) Part 12 – A review of the process

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write these interesting blog posts. I like them and read them from time to time.

    Your coffee app is a niche product as you pointed out. What price do you have in mind compared to an app targeting a broader audience?

    Regards – Henry

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for the kind words Henry – glad you’re enjoying the posts.

    I’m currently planning on launching Coffee Cellar at £1.99 ($2.99).

    I don’t want to go in too high but at the same, as its a niche project, I need to be weary of selling to cheap. Comparable lifestyle Apps seem to be at a similar price point.

    I’m happy to hear opinions though.

  3. I don’t like selling for the lowest price if I thought about it a great deal. And doing a niche product calls for a higher price, too. It looks as if the app doesn’t fill an urgent need, it’s more something that’s nice to have, so that the price can’t be too high. I think your price point sounds about right. Now you just have to let those coffee lovers know about your (hopefully) great app. :o)

  4. “I’m hoping that by launch day some of my contacts will have written articles/reviews/tweets about the launch…”

    This sounds risky: You don’t want the articles to appear before your app is downloadable. People might not come back to check again. In my experience, a good review gives a peak of two days in your downloads. By then it has disappeared from the frontpage and looses its exposure.

  5. Chris says:

    @GamePlayInc

    You’re right of course. Actually I’ve found that the press themselves hold of on writing about the article until the App is out.

    However, the time I allowed pre-release enabled me to court the press and have them ready to release articles.

    Anyway, I’ll save my conclusions until my sales post and post-mortem :)

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