Making For Mobile Part Two: Application Marketing Strategies
In my earlier Making For Mobile article, I detailed how to make an application and make it different from what the competition are doing. The application marketplaces are crammed full of applications and there are many applications vying for the same market. If we want something to be successful, we need to do something different to the competition. Now that we have an application that fills a role, how do we get the news out there in the wild?
It's All In A Name
As my editor is always telling me, it must start with a great title and description. It's crucial to the application; the title needs to tell potential customers what your application is about. It should be short, easy to spell, remember and be unique. It ought to reflect the nature of your application: calling your on-train seat finder application “Bob The Awesome Unstoppable Seat Finder” is not a great idea because whilst people may find it under “seat finder,” it'll be buried under plenty of other applications. For the description, anything after the first twenty five characters is fluff when it comes to the search as this doesn't appear. Remember this by avoiding duplicating your title and you'll maximise your hits. The description also gives you the chance to showcase the application to customers and you only have a few seconds to make an impact. Make it count! Good things to include in the description are the key features or benefit of the application; if you have some positive reviews, here's a great place to put them.
To many people, the icon is as important as the title. Many people are visual and will be drawn to the look and color of the icon. A badly drawn, ugly, improperly colored icon will turn people off at first glance and it won't matter how amazing the application is. The icon also needs to fit in place on customers' devices; follow the Google style guidelines. Your icon doesn't need to be especially elaborate or complicated, but if it looks out of place on a homescreen, people aren't going to install it or worse: install it, remove it and give you a bad rating! Some other tips include not including words as a rule of thumb, because these can be difficult to read on a small icon. One or two characters can work well, depending on the context.
Screenshots and Video
My next tip concerns the screenshots and video of the application. If you've drawn the user in to taking a more detailed look at the application, here's your chance to impress! But please do not fall into the all-too-common trap of taking a screenshot of the applications' splashscreen or logo: this is a completely wasted opportunity! Instead, use the application screenshots to show off your beautifully designed application. Annotating the screenshot to help me figure out what's going on is fine, and sometimes is a very good thing, but keep it simple and use few words. No essays in tiny fonts. I recommend using the screenshots to highlight the most popular and needed features.
For a video, keep it informative and relevant. Don't cobble together a thirty second clip, most of which consists of the splashscreen fading in and out; no thank you. Nor should you make it too long either, the video wants to be a sampler of the application.
With so many applications on the Google Play Store, the category is less important than the name, description, icon and images. It can be important as some potential customers do look through the categories, but unless your application has been very successful it'll usually appear buried in these lists. Nevertheless, check where other applications are that might be considered similar to your own and pitch accordingly. If there are a few categories that work for your application, slot it into a less competitive category.
Reviews, Ratings and Awards
Humans like to listen to the opinion and advice of others. In the case of your shiny new application, this is “social proof,” that is, what other people think of the application! It includes ratings, reviews and we hope one day, awards too. Getting those first few ratings and reviews will have a big impact on how well the application scores on the Play Store. You want high ratings, of course, so by all means encourage users to give you a five star rating but by the same token, don't do it too often! If every minute I'm asked to give the application a five star rating I'm going to uninstall it.
Reviews are just as important as ratings, but they should be genuine. There are ways to encourage your reviews to go into detail; one is by asking and another is by engaging with users. These reviews constitute a chunk of evidence that potential customers will use to decide if they're going to download the application or not, but users will also judge how responsive the developer is. You are going to get poor ratings and bad reviews – don't let it ruin your life and don't accuse the user of being stupid through not understanding how your application works. Instead, if a user is struggling, offer to help, to refund, and take onboard the criticism so that you can improve the application (or the description). I would strongly recommend responding to as many negative reviews as you can, because you'll learn more from a handful disgruntled customers than you ever will from many happy customers!
Something else to slip into this section is not to underestimate the power of replying to a reviewer to explain that a given feature is in the list of “coming soon,” but if you promise something, deliver – and if at all possible, give an idea of timescales!
You may also use an application review service too, we here at Android Social Media run such a thing: we'll honestly assess your application and promote it.
There are several ways to sell your application down the free route, free with adverts, paid or fremium routes. Users are drawn to a free download and splitting your application into free and paid versions is an option. If you do this, I would recommend making your free version supported by adverts rather than making it time limited; you'll gain better exposure this way. A successful technique is to offer core functionality free of charge and offer an inexpensive upgrade to premium, which will unlock some of the more advanced features.
Offering the basic application free of charge but providing customers with paid-for in-app upgrades is called “fremium” and this is supposed to be the most profitable. Once a user loves an application, he or she is far happier to pay for additional content within the application but writing from personal experience, many fremium titles annoy me and usually have a short time on my devices!
A great way to build awareness is to experiment with prices – offer special offers and promotions (this works very well if you have more than one application) and take a look to see how other competitors sell their applications. Holiday sale promotions are a great way to introduce the application to new users and as the major Android blogs pick up on these, they'll also help generate more hits on your website.
Real World Marketing
My article so far has concentrated on marketing strategies closely associated with Google Play, but let's not forget that there's a real world out there. It's important that your article appears in Google Play Store searches but there are other ways to promote the app. One of the most obvious is using your website; use the “Available in Google Play Store” link. Announce updates via a blog post and again include the link. And remember that the massive Android blogging community is your friend; if you're running a sale or have released a major update, let us know. We'll tell the world on your behalf.
There are also email marketing ideas, pay-per-click, social media, blogging and Reddit sites too. Make sure you and your business is on Google+ if you're selling into the Google Play Store and whatever you do, don't make every other update be “buy my app” as that's a real turn off for many potential customers.
Wrapping it all up, I would say that designing and building your application is less than half the battle. Actually getting it out to the audience is more important. Many developers and coders are great coders but marketing is a whole new ball game.