As of early October 2014, there were more mobile devices on the planet than people. Considering that mobile phones only date to 1973 and smartphones only date to about 2007, that’s an insanely rapid growth rate — and it’s affecting everything.
Comedian Aziz Ansari has a section in his new book about how people now lead “real lives” (with their families, friends, and work obligations) and “phone lives” (with the content on their devices). Those lives aren’t the same.
For most people, this “phone life” is centered around apps. Most companies, products, services, and organizations have apps — as of July 2015, there were about 1.6 million Android apps available, and about 1.5 million in Apple’s store.
At this point, we should understand a couple of different concepts:
- Mobile technology and connectivity is pervasive
- Many people interact with companies on mobile via apps
- There’s a ton of apps being made every day, so it’s hard to stand out in that environment
Let’s say you’re reading this as a small business owner or marketing manager, right? You know mobile is important — the three things most people never leave home without are their wallet, keys, and phone, and the only way a company can directly interact with a consumer is via the last one — but you’re not sure how exactly to stand out.
You have an app — but there’s 1.6 million apps, for Pete’s sake! Who’s going to download yours? And how are you going to market it?
Step 1: Understanding how people typically find apps
This will vary by industry or the service you provided, but recent research from Think with Google offers some insights. Namely:
- 25% of app users discover an app through search
- Search ads are also one of the more effective formats, with the types of search ads leading to app download looking like this:
OK, so … search (SEO) and search ads (PPC) are clearly important. But what if you don’t have a strong PPC budget or the ability to bring in an SEO expert? At that point, social media — typically free and possible to get attention if you think a bit outside the box — becomes an important resource for mobile app marketing. And for social to work properly, you’ll need content (otherwise, what else are you sharing?).
At this point, the ecosystem for mobile app marketing looks like:
- Social Media
- Content Marketing
You should be seeing by now that mobile app marketing is essentially a holistic digital experience — which explains why so many companies create apps without a plan for marketing them (because it can seem overwhelming in the midst of other day-to-day tasks) or why half of companies still didn’t have an app in early 2014 (again, seems like a daunting process).
We can make this process easier for you — yes, it’s complex and holistic, but it starts with one important element, and that’s our Step 2.
Step 2: Understand your value and how that could be conveyed in an app
You might have seen this graphic in other posts or presentations, and we apologize for the brief curse word, but here goes:
Many companies get confused here, and think what they sell is their product or service. No. In fact, you sell what your product can do for someone’s life. That applies whether you work in plumber routing apps, health care apps, productivity apps, or gaming apps. You’re not actually selling the product; you’re selling the value of the product/service in the life of the end customer.
All marketing — but especially app marketing, which is a very crowded world — starts from understanding your value, figuring out a story around the value, and then finding ways to tell that story to a consumer. In terms of apps, the root of the story you’re telling is simple: if you download this app, this value will always be with you so long as you have your phone. (Which for most people is all the time.)
You can brainstorm this, white-board this, or take any other collaborative team approach that’s best for your organization — but the most important steps to begin any mobile app marketing process are:
- Understanding your value
- Figuring out stories around that value
- Determining how to tell those stories
- Applying that out across different mediums and approaches
Step 3: Embracing the holistic digital package
If you look above, our focal points to get your app out into the world are going to be:
- Search ads/PPC
- Social Media
- Content Marketing
We’re going to start with the value prop. Let’s say you make an app that helps small businesses schedule technicians out to customers (electricians, plumbers, cable repair, etc.)
You start with value points, such as:
- Makes people’s lives easier
- Customers can track where their tech is / understand how their appointment is being affected
- Stores customer info that the tech can access (value for the business)
- Potentially has invoicing capabilities
Once you’ve outlined the points of value, you need to determine how to fit them within the holistic digital ecosystem.
For SEO, you need a certain degree of technical functionality around keywords, headers, density, titles, and page data. But you also need to do keyword research and understand terms people are actually searching that might lead them to your app. Those are your target keywords. There’s no point in targeting “scheduling solutions” if everyone and their mother is Googling “scheduling apps,” right?
For search ads/PPC, again you need an idea about keyword search volume and about keyword conversion rates; you can find this information via Google itself (Keyword Planner) or via a host of third-party sites such as WordStream. You also need to figure out how to convey your value in a short search ad. Search ads are huge in the travel app community, for example. Let’s say someone is looking for a hotel room in Cincinnati and gets an ad for your app. If they travel a lot but Cincinnati is just one stop, they’ll probably ignore your ad if it seems like it’s very Cincinnati-focused. But if it seems universally relevant (“easy room finds for business travelers on short notice”), they’ll probably download it. Language is important to PPC as much as functionality is.
For social media, remember the first word: social. It’s not about selling like crazy or pushing product. Again it comes back to value. What’s the value of your app and how can you convey that? And if people are talking about or discussing needs relative to what your app can do … jump in the convos. This is called “social listening” and it can work. People get very busy and don’t always have time to research every ideal app for the challenges they’re trying to solve. If you appear in a Twitter convo and solve a problem for them, most people will give your app a look.
For content marketing, again: value. It’s not about pushing out reams and reams of content. It’s about figuring out who might want your app and writing/designing content they would likely be interested in. You’ll whiff sometimes, sure — no one bats 1.000 on content marketing anywhere — but the surest path to failure is overproducing just to “have a lot of content.” A lot of content doesn’t help at all unless it’s targeted on who might actually want your app.
We haven’t even touched yet on e-mail marketing, and that’s another large component of getting your app in front of people — especially if your company’s marketing team as a whole has embraced e-mail and developed a mostly robust list.
By this point, you might be a bit overwhelmed by the different tactics you can employ to stand out in a crowded App Store. That’s where we come in. We tend to work with companies who have an app but are unclear how to market it (nationwide, that’s about 40 percent of companies per most surveys). If you’re in that boat, give us a call or contact us today — we’ll see where your value lies (in concert with you) and then come up with the best holistic approach to get your app in front of people successfully and at a reasonable price.