Marketing is an integral part of the development process. Therefore, developers should be empowered to learn marketing concepts and understand why it is important to ensure that the principles of the company and product brand are communicated properly. Putting together the right marketing plan and having marketing materials in place before launching the application can be the difference between a polished, deliberate brand presence in the App Store and a confused, disjointed message sent to customers.
The first step in marketing is to build a great app and believe in its worth. Each development company should ask itself, “Can we build the best app possible, and does it have a unique enough angle to make it marketable?”
Development companies need to be able to explain their apps’ quality, uniqueness, and usefulness through a positioning statement. Marketing ideas should be developed in parallel with technical development to avoid missing potent material that can be used to market the app when it launches.
Although a novel idea can certainly jumpstart the marketing effort, it is not necessary for the app idea to be completely new and groundbreaking for it to be successful. However, developers must strive to create the best app of all the apps in the App Store that perform that particular function, and they must also market it well. Many companies have succeeded that way, by studying what was available in the App Store and then developing an app that did a better job of meeting user needs. Because many apps are inexpensive, it is not unusual for customers to purchase apps that are similar to ones they already own, especially if the new ones are better than the old ones.
Savvy developers make it a point to collect feedback from customers. They listen to customer concerns and adjust or add to their apps accordingly. Beta testing (testing the app with users while it is in development) is a useful method for garnering feedback from a small set of users regarding design, functionality, or usability, which can be used to improve the product before launching.
Timing the launch of the product is a key component of good marketing. A launch can be timed to coincide with events that lead users to need the app and generate sales — for example, launching the app during an influential technology conference. Customers also tend to purchase certain types of apps at difference times of the year: recipe apps around the holidays and study guide apps during the school year, among other apps that meet time-oriented needs.
Understanding the competition is a “must” for good marketing. App developers need to stay in touch with what their competitors are building and how they are marketing their apps. To analyze their products against the competition’s products, many companies use the SWOT method to determine the following about a product:
* Strengths: the qualities of the app that can be used to market it.
* Weaknesses: the aspects of the app that are inadequate when compared to competitors.
* Opportunities: external factors that can help increase sales, generate “buzz,” or provide similar advantages.
* Threats: external factors that could hamper successful achievement of the goals for the app.
Polish is the secret weapon in a great marketing initiative. Polishing takes time, but developers must also be fast to keep up with the speed at which technology moves. Many factors contribute to a polished image in the App Store, especially how the brand is portrayed. This includes the company name, the product name, length of the name, number of syllables, logo colors, logo font, and other factors that contribute to building trust with customers so they will try the app.
When a company builds good brand loyalty, customers will trust the company’s products and download new apps sight unseen. To build this trust, a company must demonstrate consistency, entertainment value, economic value, utility, or other qualities that make a customer love the company’s apps more than other apps. Loyal customers also spread the word to others about their favorite apps; their third-party endorsement is a powerful marketing tool and is critical for marketing.
A pricing strategy is another key factor in the marketing plan. In the App Store, pricing an app at $0.99 is definitely not the way to make an app stand out–there are too many apps at that price. Developers should not pick an arbitrary price point; instead, they should build good software and charge for it appropriately.
If a developer builds an excellent app, positions it well, and has polished the brand to step up the app in the App Store, then paid advertisements will not be needed to create buzz and drive sales. Many successful developers have realized that paying for traditional advertising is not cost effective when selling apps to large audiences. App developers instead seek to highlight their products in free media coverage, such as blogs, talk radio, and social media. Sometimes, paying for advertisements can be effective if balanced properly with free promotion in other media.
Successful app developers know their audience well; they take the time to research their potential customers and their needs. When they market or advertise their apps, they attempt to motivate users to take an immediate action–for example, providing an e-mail address to receive updates. The customer is engaged, and the company can take advantage of an opportunity to collect metrics about the users. This direct line to customers is used both to market the product and to stimulate customers to spread the word.
Staying in touch with the core audience and fans before, during, and after a product launch is another important for app developers. They need to stay engaged with customers and nurture a growing, thriving community of excited users.
Apple can have a huge impact on the success of apps. There are no ground rules for persuading Apple to pick a particular product when it showcases apps in its advertisements and websites. Successful developers suggest focusing on developing a spectacular app that is built to Apple’s design and quality standards, getting lots of users to download it, and keeping them happy.
Successful sellers of apps know that preparation leading up to the launch is critical. They engage the press three months in advance, spend a small amount on very target advertisements, send out e-mails the week before launch, post on forums, get interviews with media publications, develop their social media presence, and contribute to blog conversations.
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