It might sound strange, but you should actually start marketing your app before you even think about submitting it to the App Store or Google Play Store. It may even help you decide that it isn’t an app worth building.
How can you do that, you ask? It might seem counterintuitive to market something that isn’t technically on the market yet, but the key is to build interest and get feedback before you officially launch.
Here are 7 ways you can market your new app before it is even in review.
1. Create a Video
The first thing you should do is create a video showcasing what your app can do. Hopefully, the video shows off the best of the alpha version of your app, and not the crashes and bugs!
Make the video as polished as you can, stressing why the app is useful and why no other app will fit people’s needs as well as yours will.
Here are a few tips for your video:
- Show your face! People want to see you, so talk to your audience with at least a headshot video.
- Have others talk about your app. If your friends have tried and loved it, let them tell their story.
- Show as much of how your app works as you can, with a witty narrative to help the audience along.
You can create a video with just your mockup to pitch to the press to see if you should continue building the app. Here’s a video of an app that I was considering building:
I used this to show some friends and actually pitch reporters (see #5).
2. Get Beta Testers From PreApps
You have heard about PreApps, haven’t you? They are a sponsor of the podcast. =)
If not, you should know that it is a destination for people to discover exclusive new apps before they’re launched. Through PreApps, you can…
- Get an established base of users who will download your app when it goes live
- Find more bugs
- Beta test, beta test, beta test
When I was launching oSnap, I got roughly 30 email addresses for beta testers. I also put these emails into my list so that I could let them know when the app was released in the App Store.
3. Dig Through App Store Reviews
A lot of times I feel like I need to come up with all the features in my head, but the market data is already there in the form of App Store reviews.
Above is a screenshot of Camera+ on Sensor Tower. You can sort the reviews based on date, number of stars, release version, and country.
Shifting through the App Store reviews, you can discover the features that customers love the most and areas where the app is lacking.
If you want to learn more about how you can mine for features in the App Store reviews and ratings, then check out the interview I did with the founders of Applause Apps.
Checking the App Store as you develop helps you:
- Scope out the competition to see what users want
- Find out who the best of the best are
- Learn what works and what flops
4. Ask Experts for Feedback
Found a competing app that you really dig, and you wish you could take some time to talk to its developer? Believe it or not, developers themselves are pretty sociable, for the most part, and ready to help newbies out. So, find an expert, and pitch him or her your app for feedback. You’d be surprised what you can learn that way!
I’ve been on several Clarity calls with developers who were seeking my advice on a particular app. It’s a great way to get real feedback from those who are focused in your niche or who have done the one thing that you are seeking to do.
5. Pitch Reporters
This may seem counter intuitive, but once you have a mockup or working protoype of the app, you can start pitching the app to see what reporters think about it.
It is best to have a relationship with a reporter before utilizing this strategy.
After I had a video (of a working protoype) in place I reached out to a few reporters I had received coverage from and asked them for their brutal feedback.
Here’s the email I sent to Zach Epstein, Editor at BGR, and he gave me some valuable insights.
After I got his feedback and others, I decided not to move forward with my app idea.
Pitching reporters while you develop your app also helps you refine the feature set and figure out what’s really going to resonate from a PR angle.
This was a tip I got from my friend, Roderic Andrews of Lixao.
6. Run Facebook Ads
You’re reaching the home stretch, and your app is going to ship out soon. Now’s the time to run some Facebook ads to generate more buzz. Facebook ads help you increase your userbase by an order of magnitude, because of the wide reach the social network has.
Use your Facebook Ads to testing marketing copy.
See what copy gets users to click and then eventually sign up to learn more about the app. In this phase of the development, it’s more important to get as much data as you can so you set yourself up for success when it’s finally time to launch.
7. Post on Forums and Social Media
Last, but certainly not least, you should post on forums. Websites like TouchArcade have forums for upcoming games and apps, so get yourself involved in them to build up even more interest in your apps. You can even run contests and give away promo codes.
Social media helps, too, because you can get your message out through a trickle down (or flood) effect. You tweet, people retweet you, and then those Twitter folks retweet, and you have no idea how far your message can go. It’s a great way to turn up the heat just before your app launches!
It’s best to start interacting with influencers and reporters to get a sense of what they like to share or write about. I generally share the content of my “targeted reporters” and mention them in my tweets. I also continue to share their content after I’ve received press coverage.
Think of your strategy as if you’re trying to build a long-term relationship, not just a one night stand.
There you go, 7 easy steps you can take to pre-market your app. Marketing your app in advance helps you validate your app idea, get critical user feedback, and gain a dedicated group of users who will buy or download your app when it launches.
What other ideas do you have for pre-marketing your app? Let us know in the comments!
Now I run an app marketing agency where we’ve helped 28 clients get featured by Apple, 5X downloads with ASO, and get coverage on Techcrunch, Mashable, Venture Beat and other major publications. I also write about apps on The Next Web, Entrepreneur.com, and on my blog AppMasters.co.
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