A key step sometimes overlooked when developing iPad and iPhone apps is coming up with ways to market your app. It'd be great if the keys to success revolved around writing good code and having a nice interface, but if the public doesn't known your app is out there, it won't be successful.
So how do you go about marketing your app? You don't need a huge budget to fill competing products with advertisements for your app, and in fact, you may not want to deal with ads at all. Luckily, there are a number of low cost ways to market your app and try to win out in the battle for app supremacy.
1. Develop a Clean, Bug-Free and Marketable App
The best way to market your app is to have an audience for your app. So step one for being successful is to have a unique app, or at least a unique spin on a common theme. The best boost you can give your app is for there to be a reason for people to download it. Beyond this, make sure you do the proper testing and release a clean version of the app. Your first peak in sales will come when your app is initially released, and you want these downloaders to be greeted by a clean product so you can get good initial customer reviews.
2. Write a Good Description For Your App
I can't count the number of times I've seen an app for sale that has a one or two line description that barely tells the customer anything about the app. Sure, you can attach screenshots, but you want to close the sale with your words. Make sure you detail key features and write a description that will compel the customer to hit the download button. Take a look at successful apps in your category and see how they use the description field to market themselves. If you are a poor writer, you might think about hiring someone to write this text for you.
Another neat trick you can do with the description field is to mention your direct competition, especially the successful competition. "This app is similar to _____, which also does _____." This could help your app come up in more search results.
3. Change the Release Date of Your App
The release date of your app usually defaults to the date you submitted it to the app store. But after your app is reviewed and accepted, you can (and should!) change it to the date it is made available on the app store. This will get it listed on the iPad and iPhone's "new app" lists, which can help drive some initial sales.
This is something you can only do for your initial release, so don't try it when you release a patch. But it is definitely worth doing because it gives your app some free advertising on the app store.
4. Offer a Free Version
If you aren't depending on in-app advertisements or a freemium model to monetize your app, think about offering a "lite" or "free" version of your app. This version should contain a link to the premium version and should contain enough key features that the customer knows what they'll be purchasing, but leaving out enough that they'll actually want to open their virtual wallets.
5. Get Reviewed
You don't need to hire a PR agency to write and send out a press release. Search your app's topic in Google and find relevant newspaper columns and blogs you can target with a press release. And be sure to mention that promo codes are available for those who would like to review the app. This is the most basic form of marketing, and it can also have the most bang for your buck. If you can get your app mentioned in an article by a site like Mashable or TechCrunch, you'll not only see a boost in downloads, you'll also see other review sites follow their lead.
Do not pay for reviews. I was honestly surprised the first time I sent out a round of PR emails only to find a number of iPhone/iPad review sites wanted to charge me to review my app. One site even asked for a thousand dollars to review the app. If a site can't make money by posting your review, it means the site doesn't have enough readers. Which, in turn, means it is a waste of money to pay for the review.
6. Have an Online Leaderboard and Achievements
The strength of Apple's Game Center and third-party leaderboards like OpenFeint is their ability to create a buzz around your app. If you've developed a game or some other app that can utilize leaderboards and/or achievements, it can be a key marketing component to add them to your app. Not only can this lead to more friend-to-friend referrals, but you could also find your app listed on the leaderboard's new app list, which can also drive sales.
7. Free for a Day
Don't bother with websites that offer to list your free app for the day, do it yourself. You'd be surprised at the number of sites that want to charge quite outrageous fees to be listed, and there is some concern that some of the downloads these sites generate aren't genuine.
Just changing the price tag of your app to free will be enough to generate a boost in downloads, which in turn can help gain you those all-so-important customer reviews and start the ball rolling on friend-to-friend referrals. And if your app takes advantage of online leaderboards and achievements, the boost to your user base can be very important.
8. Don't Go Overboard on Advertisements
As I mentioned above, you don't need to spend a bucket of money to have a successful marketing plan. In fact, banking on ads can be a bit of a gamble. You are likely to spend several times your app's price just to get a single download, and the only surefire way for this to pay off in the end is to get your app listed among the top downloads for the day. Being in the top downloads list for your category is the ultimate goal of any marketing plan, and being in that list will bring in a lot of downloads, but trying to get there through advertising can be a very expensive proposition with no guarantee that it will be successful.
9. Play With Your App's Price Point
Getting your app priced right can be crucial in driving sales. After all, an app that is priced at $4.99 when competitors are going for $.99 will be a hard sale no matter if it is well reviewed. But at the same time, if you can get half the downloads at $4.99 as you can at $.99, you are bringing in more money in the long run.
If you've priced your app at above $.99, don't be afraid to play around with the price a bit to find out what the download volumes are at different prices. And price reductions can lead to their own bit of marketing thanks to sites like AppShopper.com. These sites publish price changes, which can lead to a boost in sales if you drop your price. Everyone loves a sale!
10. Get Social
This can be especially important if you have a niche product. Getting in touch with your audience can be a great way to grow your customer base. Facebook and Twitter are great places to start, but don't ignore the various discussion forums. If you've developed an RPG aid that helps people with rolling dice and keeping track of character statistics, look for a discussion forum dedicated to role-playing games. If your app is centered around recipes for people with specialized dietary restrictions, reach out on the web and find communities centered around these people.
11. Have a Professional Website
You don't need to spend a ton of money on a website. In fact, a standard Wordpress theme can be perfectly fine. What you don't want is a website that looks like it was developed by a first-time web developer sometime in the early 1990s. Your website's quality will give people an idea on what type of quality to expect from your app, so if your website is hastily thrown together and looks ragged, your audience won't expect much from your app.
12. Make a YouTube Video
Do you have a game? Or a really cool and entertaining app? Along with utilizing social media sites, developers have taken to YouTube to help market their apps. And in many cases, it has worked out very well. Not only can YouTube help you demo your product to your audience, but it is another avenue that offers the opportunity for your app to go viral.