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App Marketing 101: Introduction to iPhone App Marketing

384px-texas_business_101svgThe gold rush to sell iPhone apps is on and you’ve created (or want to create) the next blockbuster iPhone app. You see dollar signs and want a part of this explosive new business opportunity. Beyond just posting your app on Apple’s Appstore you may be wondering what else is needed to successfully sell your app? In short, lots! With 40,000+ apps now being hosted on Apple’s AppStore, the days of simply tossing your app on Apple’s site and hoping to gain fame and fortune are in decline.

If you have aspirations to make more than a little spending money from your iPhone app then you must develop a marketing plan and apply tried-and-true marketing principles to your sales strategy. For example, as you wrote your iPhone app did you take some thought to determine who your target market is and how you will message to them in a way that they immediately understand the value of your app? Do you understand how to price your app for maximum success? Have you spent some time to formulate a marketing plan that will create a strong following of satisfied customers?

Marketing for iPhone apps is similar to marketing other online software products, although the marketing tools available have expanded in recent years especially in the area of social media. The steps are still the same: develop a product that your customers need (iPhone app), create and deliver a strong marketing message to attract a following, and continue to develop new products and upgrades to retain existing customers.

When you understand that marketing is a process that incorporates these fundamental steps you will be able to perform them to increase sales success for your iPhone app. For many iPhone app developers an understanding of the necessary marketing steps to increase exposure for iPhone app(s) is something new to them. Whether you are just starting out as a first time developer or have created and posted a number of apps for sale, you’ll want to take a closer look at marketing if you desire to move beyond being a casual developer and seller of iPhone apps to a successful marketer of your own best-selling brand.

Step 1: Understand Your App’s Unique Value and Message It

What sets your iPhone app apart from all your competitors? Let’s face it. There are lots of competitors with similar apps. You have to come up with ways to be unique. There are three key questions that you should attempt to answer as you define your iPhone app’s unique value. The answers to these questions become the pillars of your marketing process and should be incorporated in your marketing plan to the best of your ability:

  1. What’s unique about your iPhone app? List all the features, graphics, sounds, functions that are unique to your app. This list will help you develop a marketing message for your app and keep you focused during app development.
  2. Who is your target audience? Who will buy your app and who do you really want to sell to? Are you focused on the teenage market? Do you have a business app geared to a specific type of profession? Understanding your audience will help you develop a targeted marketing plan.
  3. Who are your competitors? Are you going up against a large game developer or a business program? Knowing your competitors will help you define strategies to compete against the big boys.

The answer to these questions forms the basis of your marketing message.

Step 2: Deliver Your Message to your Targeted Audience

Demand for your app is created when you help a prospective customer see that you have a solution to their problem or you pique their curiosity. The demand for most products is already there; it’s just a matter of you creating a message that resonates with that audience and gets them to notice you.

Delivering your message happens when you create powerful descriptions and visuals for your app on the AppStore and on your app’s own web site. You must think in terms of showcasing your app on the AppStore and on a corresponding web site. The web site can be used to show videos of your app, provide additional screen shots and other content. Always display a “buy now” button prominently on your own site that directs the buyer to your app on the AppStore.

Social media marketing (SMM) can help you generate buzz for your app. Long before you launch the sale of your app you can be visiting and blogging to audiences that share an interest in your type of app. This interest can be converted to buyers once your app is launched. Take a look at using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social media tools to help get the word out about your app.

Step 3: Price Your iPhone App Effectively for Maximum Success

Much has been said about pricing your iPhone app. The strategy of pricing your app at $.99 to gain entry into the Top 100 category is becoming more difficult because of all the apps already posted to the App Store.

A better approach is to review the competition to get a feel for the price ranges for similar apps. If your app has strong features (go back to your list of unique features from step 1) then don’t be afraid to price the app at a higher price than $.99. Achieving break-even at $.99 is a lot harder than you may think unless you are one of the lucky few who hit a grand slam first at bat.
Starting at a little higher price gives you some room to discount and try some promotions to test out where your app will sell well. People will pay for quality and as more business-related apps become available their prices will reflect their value.

Step 4: Implement a Brief Marketing Plan for Your App

With the right message and the right audience combined with the right marketing tools and methods, you can create marketing campaigns that will be extremely effective in reaching your ideal audience. Your marketing plan does not to be lengthy but it needs to define what steps you will use to reach your defined audience. In short, your plan should include a clearly defined marketing message, a description of your ideal target audience, campaigns definitions (product reviews, press release and promotions) so that you have a roadmap of what you want to happen before your app hits the App Store.

Regardless of where you are at in the development process of your app you need to spend some time looking at how you want to market your iPhone app. The days of “hoping for the best” when selling your iPhone app are gone. Your marketing efforts should work in lockstep with your development efforts. Your sales results will improve through marketing and you just might come back to write another app, perhaps a best-selling blockbuster app!

Author: Jeff Hughes
Creator and Instructor of “Intro to Marketing iPhone Apps” available at http://www.xcelme.com

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Jeff Hughes
Jeff Hughes has over 17 years experience marketing software products to consumer and enterprise markets. Hughes is an avid iPod/iPod Touch and iPhone user and is the creator of the sellout course Intro to Marketing iPhones Apps
Connect with Jeff Hughes // email // www // twitter // linkedin


  • Kara

    Thanks Jeff, by now there are more than 300,000 apps – as an iPhone app developer myself one of our app ranked in Top 5 for weeks and after spending 4 months of working hard and spending lot on marketing ended up getting hit by 70% piracy. I would highly recommend any app owner to implement anti piracy within their product – it is a lesson learnt the hard way.

    • Dr Mleyva1818

      How would an app developer implement an anti piracy with our product?

  • http://www.surf-oahu.com Cory

    Having a website for your app is another essential thing for marketing your app. Check out this wordpress theme that allows you to get a stunning site up for your app in minutes: http://appifywp.com

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    Great article. Marketing is indeed becoming increasingly important and even vital sometimes for the success of an app. Hope to see more of your insights.

  • Kevin

    Thanks Jeff for the great article. Check out this site that has all the information you need to create your own apps. http://www.iphoneappprogramming.net

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    Rather actually! The audio-book versions are iTunes’ best selling language product, but
    the question is, how can we generate similar success with our apps. Your
    article is certainly helpful Jeff – and most appreciated.

     

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  • http://twitter.com/TimMasterson Tim Masterson

    http://www.appmadness.net is having an app tournament.  You can enter your apps there to get exposure.  If your app wins then it gets put on it’s wall of fame.  The August 2011 tournament is free to enter.

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    http://www.innovatty.com/twitter/IDRTG/index.php IDRTG is the largest Twitter group for indie developers. Members promote each other to get the maximum exposure on Twitter. New members are joining everyday.

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    Great tips, but I’d think that app marketing, especially going forward, is also going to require both offline marketing and more traditional forms of internet and social media marketing.  The market is quickly becoming saturated, so it’s getting harder to differentiate one’s app.

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  • http://maketheapp.com/ Ramy Khuffash

    Really great article, most people seem to forget that people need to know about their app in order to download it.

  • http://twitter.com/SaltSlasher Matt Spencer

    I think this is the crash course for those who need to remember the basics. This covers everything they will teach you in a marketing class at the College, in a nutshell. Not to mention the realization of current trends in the apple market.

    I do think many people get excited and go face first thinking this game is easy. But in reality the reason it is easy for some is cause they know what they are doing and had a game plan. Even great ideas will get shunned down by the fact that you suck at marketing and don’t have a website or a good looking page on iTunes.

    I have hand fulls of ideas, but working on the market strategy on them is actually more harder than the actual creation. But this page did give me some good info about pre-market buzz, I hadn’t thought of getting someone else to review it! Now i got several places to submit my app to, to see if they like it!

  • http://twitter.com/SaltSlasher Matt Spencer

    I think this is the crash course for those who need to remember the basics. This covers everything they will teach you in a marketing class at the College, in a nutshell. Not to mention the realization of current trends in the apple market.

    I do think many people get excited and go face first thinking this game is easy. But in reality the reason it is easy for some is cause they know what they are doing and had a game plan. Even great ideas will get shunned down by the fact that you suck at marketing and don’t have a website or a good looking page on iTunes.

    I have hand fulls of ideas, but working on the market strategy on them is actually more harder than the actual creation. But this page did give me some good info about pre-market buzz, I hadn’t thought of getting someone else to review it! Now i got several places to submit my app to, to see if they like it!

  • http://www.dotcominfoway.com/blog/how-to-identify-the-proficient-iphone-apps-marketing-company Jhon Williams

    Every steps is clearly mentioned, most of the app users hunts for free usage. But when the price blows in their eyes, they will suddenly exit. So in my opinion giving free trail version will satisfy the users and customers of iPhone App. This technique will be helpful for iPhone App marketing. Anyhow jeff, thanks for the nice share.

    • http://twitter.com/SelliPhoneApps JeffHughes

      Thanks for your comments! I’m amazed that I still get comments on this article since it was posted so long ago… :)

    • http://twitter.com/SelliPhoneApps JeffHughes

      Thanks for your comments. I’m amazed that I still get comments on this article since it was posted so long ago. :)

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  • Deborah

    Just came across this and it is very helpful, we are Ilmac Ltd a business who creates Apps for parents to use for capturing baby and childrens progress and we are making some great headway in getting our product into the market rather than just on the Apps Store and this has been a good help. Thanks

  • Jesse Anthony

    This was a helpful article for marketing and pricing strategy, although my app’s(Skate Proof Movie) is a bit of a unique one since it’s a movie app that’s free and has in app purchases.

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  • Jan-Jaap

    Thank you for your help. I read your book, which I have received as a present, and I can advise this to everyone! It explains very clearly the different steps to take.

  • Shawn Antonio

    Jeff do you still assist other in marketing apps? If so I would like to discuss the details with you. My app is called wireless mouse in the App Store! Take a look when you get an opportunity and give me your thoughts. It’s been doing great but I’d like more of the world to experience the amazing features it has. Thanks for your time. My email is listed in the App Store. -Shawn Antonio

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