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7 horrible mistakes

Are you struggling to understand why nobody will reply to your emails when you inquire about getting an Apple feature?

Do you think you’re doing everything right, but you still can’t seem to nab that blessed spot in the Apple Featured Apps section of the App Store?

First of all, let’s face a fact: it’s not easy to get an Apple feature. With that said, it is very easy to make a mistake that leads to you not getting featured. We’re going to take a look at seven horrible mistakes you might be making when you try to get featured by Apple.

1. You’re trying to get your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) an Apple feature

When it comes to its featured apps, Apple is picky. They want to feature the best of the best, so you need to make sure you’re developing an app that not only meets, but exceeds, the user’s expectations. While launching with your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) might be a great way to start getting your app into people’s hands, that won’t get you an Apple feature.

One client I worked with tried this strategy. She had the barebones skeleton of her app, and what she had was really well done. The problem is, it only had a handful of features and little to no advanced iOS technologies were being utilized.

A few months down the road, she had fleshed her app out and added quite a few essential features to it. We made sure the app was well-polished, and since the iPhone 6s had recently been released, made sure she made use of 3D Touch Quick Actions, Peek, and Pop within her app.

Once we’d gone well beyond the MVP stage, she pitched Apple again. This time, Cupertino bit hard on her app and she was featured on the App Store within a week.

The key takeaway here is to make sure your app is as close to complete and fully functional as you can imagine it. When you can’t dream up any crucial new features, and when you’ve made sure that you have incorporated any appropriate use of the latest iOS software technologies, that’s a good time to pitch Apple.

2. You aren’t submitting the best possible app to Apple

It doesn’t matter how well your app solves a particular problem for the user, if it isn’t the best it possibly can be, you aren’t likely to see an Apple feature. While we always encourage our clients to ask the App Store Business Manager for feedback on the app, you don’t want that constructive criticism to be Stop the app from crashing.

One of our clients pitched an app for an Apple feature, knowing full well there was a critical bug when the app was used on older iOS devices, like the iPhone 4S. His thought was, Nobody at Apple is still going to be kicking around such an old device.

Lo and behold, this particular App Store Business Manager not only had an iPhone 4S in his household, but used it regularly. He tested our client’s app on the older handset, and quickly discovered the bug. So much for that Apple feature.

Make sure you submit something that’s not only polished in terms of aesthetics, but as free of bugs and quirks as you can get it. I hate repeating myself, but Apple only features the best of the best. If your app still has bugs, it just isn’t there yet.

3. You’re keeping sub-standard graphics in your App Store listing

In a previous article, I gave you a sneak peek into one phase of how the App Store Editorial Team narrows the field of apps being considered for an Apple Feature. Remember this tidbit?

Editors scan through all possible sources and preselect what’s new, updated and worth the attention. All those apps are represented by the icon on a large grid. Then the editor truncates the list. Just by watching icons and names, the editor removes all icons which doesn’t match the quality level expected by Apple. Next, the editor removes a bunch of apps based on their screenshots which represent how the app works. Poor graphics, messy UI, misspelled screenshots and more are all reasons to delete the app from the list of potential candidates.

If your app has succumbed to any of these graphics problems, you need to fix them before you even think about emailing an App Store Business Manager. Even if your app with poor graphics gets passed along from the Business Manager to the Editorial Team (it won’t), it won’t make it past the first phase of elimination.

4. You aren’t emailing the right people at Apple

Great app, fantastic graphics, and you’ve fleshed out as many features as you can imagine your software needing. Now you’re ready to email Apple and pitch yourself and your app, so you go straight to the top (or near the top), right?

Wrong. Emailing Tim Cook, Jony Ives, or Craig Federighi won’t improve your chances of getting featured by Apple one iota. I’ve seen people try this, and they end up just being frustrated and bitter that nobody replies to their emails. Face it, folks, the executive team at Apple tends to have very little to do with the inner workings of the App Store, so you aren’t going to the right folks.

You need to carefully find the right person, someone who actually interacts with the App Store directly. In most cases, that person is going to be an App Store Business Manager. You should email an App Store Business Manager in the United States, Canada, as well as whatever regional App Store covers the country you live in.

5. You’re emailing too many people at Apple

One of our past clients who we helped try to get featured by Apple disregarded our advice on who to contact, and how persistent to be. Yes, you need to be doggedly persistent when it comes to getting featured, but this guy emailed 26 Apple employees. The end result was that he got a reply … telling him to stop emailing Apple.

At the most, you should email three people at Apple. A U.S. App Store Business Manager, an App Store Business Manager for the Canadian market, and a regional App Store Business Manager for the country or region in which you live.

As a bonus tip, you should track your emails so you know whether they’ve been opened (and how many times). You can find some excellent ideas for how to do that in our article on the email tools you should be using for PR.

6. You don’t fill out their spreadsheet fast enough

When Apple does reply to your featured app pitch, they’ll typically send you a spreadsheet to fill out, outlining your app’s roadmap. If you sit on this email for too long, you’re making a horrible mistake. App Store Business Managers have short attention spans, because new and improved apps are coming out all the time.

If you don’t send the spreadsheet back within 24 hours, your chances of getting an Apple feature drop significantly. When you receive that fabled spreadsheet, act quickly. Don’t rush through it, but definitely try to return it to the contact before the end of the day.

7. You’ve waited too long after your app’s official launch

Your soft launch went great, and you had your official launch a month ago. Now that you’ve built up your metrics, this is a great time to pitch Apple for a feature, right?

Umm, no.

Apple not only wants to feature the best of the best, but they favor newer apps. They don’t want stale, old hat apps. They want the latest and greatest, so they’re going to favor those apps that either haven’t launched officially yet, or have just launched. If you want to build up metrics, do that during soft launch. Once you’ve officially launched your app on the U.S. App Store, the clock is ticking and you need to act swiftly to pitch your great app to Apple for the coveted feature.

In closing

If you’ve made one or more of these mistakes, don’t be embarrassed. Enough people have made them for me to figure it’s a good idea to point them out, so you aren’t alone. Just learn from your mistakes, keep trying, and keep building better apps.

Jeff Butts

Jeff is the general manager at AppMasters, responsible for client care and overseeing all of the content you read here. Jeff has a deep background in technology journalism and public relations, along with teaching experience with writers and technology majors alike. He's also a penultimate geek, into everything from LotR and Dr. Who to Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.

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