Wednesday, 9 May 2012

"Yes you do need to market your apps!" A Marketer's Manifesto for the App Business

As you may have guessed this blog covers marketing for apps. The title is derived from the first common mistake of app developers - expecting your app to "go viral" is not a marketing strategy. If your app does go viral and you make a billion dollars then good luck to you, you probably don't need to read this blog. That is unless you're a potential investor in other apps, in which case you do need to read this blog because marketing apps is going to become the biggest single challenge for app developers in the future. So just to be safe, everyone with any involvement in apps should read this blog.

Firstly let's establish something - you do need to market you apps. I'm sorry to say it but with the hundreds of thousands of apps (and growing) cluttering up the various app markets, the chances of someone stumbling across your app, and then being so enraptured that they want to tell everyone they know (and being influential enough for them to listen) is pretty remote. Angry Birds was a bit of a one off... and even then it took Rovio 6 years to become an overnight success.

Looking at this another way, let's imagine you've just invented a new shampoo. You think it's the greatest shampoo ever. Your chemists are modern day alchemists and your testing reveals that it's secret ingredients and excellent packaging design mean that it will make you a fortune. So you put it on the shelf in a big supermarket along side the big brands. And you wait, but your shampoo doesn't sell... people keep buying the big brands despite the fact they're more expensive and not as good as your work of perfumed, silk-hair-producing genius. Why? As we as consumers know, people buy things they know about from companies they've heard of. And more than that, we forget things easily, so we are repeatedly reminded about those things by those companies. As you can guess it's pretty tough selling pretty much any kind of consumer product in the physical world.

It works the same way in the market for apps... but unlike a supermarket where there's maybe a couple of dozen similar products, in the apps markets there may be thousands, maybe tens of thousands. And considering that it's relatively easy to make those apps (there seems to be an endless stream of 14 year old millionaire app developers out there), there's a constant stream of new apps out to swamp your app. So how do you stand out? And how do you retain the awareness of the app-consuming public. That's where the app world can learn something from the physical world.... ie. Marketing.

But here's the problem... it's devilishly hard to market well on a low (or no) budget - unlike normal consumer products the app world is more challenging and marketing is very much in its infancy. Those same developments that made it possible for you to make an app in your bedroom in your own time, made it possible for everyone to do the same, and if you're making apps in your bedroom, chances are you don't have a lot of money to spend on marketing. So what can you do? Note: Doing nothing and waiting for people to find your app is not an answer.

If you're reading this looking for all the answers I'm sorry to disappoint you... I don't pretend to have all the answers... it's just as new to me as anyone else. But I have a lot of experience of marketing under my belt and figure I can spot a good idea when I see one. So along with dispensing some general marketing advice that applies to shampoo and apps, I'll also keep a lookout for new ideas and start-ups who are developing ways to make marketing apps easier and cheaper. The aim of this blog is to become a storehouse of information, discussion and debate about how ordinary app developers can get their apps seen and sold. With luck over time we can put together some best practices amongst successful companies who built success on something more than blind luck... practices that can be shared with anyone who is interested. I have no idea how far this will go, but I get the feeling this could be in an interesting journey.


  1. I think that adding infrastructure to the app to help it get viral
    something like buzzdoes add-on that helped my app gain many new quality users with using my own user base through viral marketing can be very helpful

    1. Agreed, anything that allows users to pass the word onto other potential users is going to help (provided your product is good, otherwise it does the opposite!) It just reduces the effort required to pass the word and find your app.