iPhone apps- Marketing 101

The new Apple iPhoneImage by Victor Svensson via Flickr

Since two people I know are now professional iPhone developers, I’ve taken a bit of a closer look at the app store, the iPhone and the marketing of your app. There are a few things which I find interesting;
1) Its essentially a walled garden, distribution is exclusively through the app store, so Apple owns the customer contact.
2) First mover advantage was important. If you could get there first with an OK app in front of many rabid Mac fans you were guaranteed of making some money.
3) There is a real problem with the pricing model (if you’re a developer). in order to get into the top sellers bracket people try to get as many sales as possible, so developers keep their prices real low ($0.99). This is a doubled edged sword that you need to decrease your price to make sales, but then the revenues don’t actually mean much. Unfortunately you have to sell a lot of content in order to keep yourself happy with that.
4) It’s a groundbreaking device; it can tell where you are, connect to the internet, do crazy things associated with motion. This opens up the scope considerably wrt development.
5) The barriers to entry are so low (the SDK is available and most tech literate ish people could build something). With this low barrier to entry many people are putting their content up there, so its hard to cut through the clutter. If you look at how many apps are on the store its heading towards a hockeystick curve; end of December there were 10,000 apps, mid-March 25,000 and a week ago 33,000.

So how do you cut through the clutter. In order of importance;
1) it seems lame to even say it, but have differentiated content. Don’t have the same knockoff app that everyone else has- create some new exciting IP. Without a good product you’re sunk.
2) PR and reviews are key. Most developers don’t have a lot of money to advertise what they’re doing, so get the word out there and get people to review your content. Make up a good story about yourself to put in your bio (everybody loves the scrappy underdog, and the iPhone is pretty sexy at the moment) use these to make a character out of yourself and your dream of creating. Leverage these stories to push your app not only to the usual game and app websites, but also reach out to other avenues. If your game is about football, contact football sites or send it to the Sports pages. The more you can communicate about your game the better it is. Here is a list of possible reviewers

3) Google. Use Adwords to get out there and get traffic to your site. Start off small (your studio name & game name), build up your negative keywords and carry on adding new terms. This is a great case study of how it can work.
4) Have a trial/Lite version. This is classic coming from the casual gaming world, where the “try before you buy” model is an established way of getting people hooked on your content. Your timing in launching your Lite model has to be good (you don’t want to cannibalize full version sales), but it can definitely boost your sales.
5) Have a website that showcases your app (buy the domain name, so that it will assist you with natural search). Don’t mess up the basics; have well written copy, good screenshots, a video, and any 3rd party reviews/recommendations well displayed on your page, with a prominent BUY ME call to action.
6) Crosspromote your new app from your current app. If you already have a pool of users who are using your app, use them to promote your new app. I don’t see anyone selling these spaces to other app developers, but there must be an ad business in this.
7) Localise what you’re doing. The app store is big in Germany and other non-English countries too. Localised content always works better than English for a local market.
8) White label your app. I put this one last because people may not want to “prostitute” their development. Putting a skin on something (e.g. Coca-Cola on the loading screen) can have Coke sponsor your development so they can distribute it.

There were some interesting comments on this post about how you could better promote your app;
1) LOLerApps is having a competition around creating Youtube videos around their content. This should create some interesting buzz
2)MattJDrake came up with a failsafe method of ensuring that you get frequent promotion. The only part of the app store that you can control is the new releases. So if you release often, you will get pushed up the rankings and get more eyeballs on you. Easy and effective

Using these tips will get ensure that you differentiate yourself from the mass of people who are selling a ripped off version of BejeweledRelated articles by Zemanta

7 replies on “iPhone apps- Marketing 101”

when you bid on Google, you can have broad match keywords (e.g. if you bid on shoes you can have your ad shoe on red shoes, tennis shoes & butterfly shoes). if you're only selling kids shoes you may want to add some negative keywords (like adult, big, teenage) to your ad to ensure that you don't bid on irrelevant terms and waste your ad money

Excellent post – I’ve been selling apps on the app store since last July and standing out has become more and more challenging.I generally agree with your points, except I do need to point out that since Apple controls the entire app store experience one thing turns out to be the most important thing. That is placement in the lists for each category (top 100, new release, new and notable).Every bit of promotion I have attempted has been overshadowed by the placements my apps happen to have on these lists. And the only one developers have any control over is the release date list.That is, the best way to drive sales is to constantly improve the app and get an update published at least once a month. Better to push updates out every week or two if possible.This is because every time a developer publishes an update the app goes back to the top of the release date list. At any rate, something to keep in mind.

@LOLerAppsthis looks like a cool innovative idea. will you share some results when the competition is over, i’d love to see what the results are.@MattJDrakegood idea. I’ll add it as an update to this post

Hi Brendan,Definitely will let you know how things work out. After just one week of promoting it, we already have our first submission, which is pretty cool. There’s still about 2 months left, so by this rate, we hope to get a lot of people involved and a lot of exposure as a result.We’re also coming out with another app soon, so maybe some cross promotion between apps would help us too. Thanks again for putting our update on your post 🙂

A video that's professionally produced really adds to your website. DIY videos usually detract from the image of your business; they just don't look or sound like the real thing. There is a company in Iowa that specializes in videos for iPhone apps,

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