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Promoting Your App on a Limited Budget

After days, weeks or months of painstaking coding, testing, recoding and retesting you’ve done it. Your app is finished. It works great. Has an intuitive UX, excellent and innovative functionality and it serves a clear market need. You’ve built it and the downloads and customers will come. Right? Well, no. The best app in the world will struggle to be successful if people simply don’t know it exists. This is as true for the independent developer as it is for a large company. After all, the app market is incredibly competitive. There are around 130,000 apps released each month. With each user having approximately 80 apps installed on their phone, only 9 of which they use on a daily basis, you can easily see how the numbers can be against you. The only way to break through all this noise is to market your app. 

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But how can a cash strapped developer possibly hope to compete with big businesses that have endless budgets and teams of marketing experts? Thankfully, money is not the only thing that speaks when it comes to effective app marketing. What can matter more is your strategy and how you execute it. 

The first step is getting the basics right. This naturally starts with the app. Before you embark on any marketing you need to be certain that the user experience is the best it can be. Early negative reviews have the capacity to completely sink an app. If you are uncertain, err on the side of caution. Provide your app to friends to test and give yourself time to iron out any kinks before you launch. 

The next step is very basic optimization. You need to use relevant and searchable keywords in the name and description of your app. No less important is including high-quality creatives that represent your app. After all, the app store product page is your shop window. If you’ve got a potential customer to that stage you do not want to put them off with shoddy imagery or poorly written copy. Describe the app in the most compelling and credible way you can. Get them excited to try it. However, do try to keep the tone on the side of professionalism. You do not want to raise a red flag that all is not what it seems. 

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Next, it’s about leveraging your network and free communication channels. 

People often underestimate the impact of word of mouth. While it’s unlikely to get you to a million downloads a day, promoting your app among your network, at events and to anyone who will listen, is a completely free way to start the download ball rolling. If you’ve built a great app, the good reviews and recommendations will follow. People may also be inclined to share the app with friends and colleagues – doing the hard yards for you. 

If you want your word of mouth campaign, or indeed, any of your marketing efforts to succeed, you need to ensure that every channel you use promotes and reinforces your apps selling points. This is where a lot of mistakes are made. App developers can be guilty of neglecting their website or failing to align its messaging and branding with how they present themselves in an app store. The same rules about compelling, optimised and professional content and imagery in the store also applies to your website or any landing page linked to your app or company. 

Promoting your app directly through social media channels can be a tricky beast. There is a balance to be struck between leveraging as many channels as possible while also ensuring you maintain the quality and frequency of your content. With limited resources, it makes sense to target where your core user base is most likely to be concentrated. In terms of how you promote your app, do keep in mind that a completely sales-focused approach is likely to alienate users. Generally, your priority is engagement. Give your audience a reason to read your Tweets, watch your TikToks or listen to your LinkedIn tutorials. If you get them engaged, then there is every opportunity to get them to follow your links to download your app. 

Each of your channels also presents a way to listen to your customers. Although reviews can be the most direct feedback, equally as important is identifying potential reasons people don’t download the app in the first place. This may mean the way you present or describe your app isn’t hitting the mark or you’re focusing on the wrong channels. Looking at browsing behaviour on your website or other channels can provide invaluable data. However, don’t be afraid to ask directly. This means talking to both customers that are happily using your app to see what sold it for them and also those that aren’t fans of the show. You can then test what you learn by modifying how you communicate your app. If it makes a positive impact you know you’re on the right track. Similarly, if it fails to move the needle, you can go back and see what else you can tweak. 

Everything I’ve outlined above is the basics of app promotion. Execute it well and it’ll give your app a fighting chance of making its mark. However, there are no silver bullets. Promoting an app, even on a sizable budget is hard work. Any business or individual that promises a solution which is a quick fix, hack or shortcut is, if I’m being charitable, being misleading. What technology can do is substantially lessen your workload and improve your odds dramatically. There are numerous platforms, many of which are free, that can help you coordinate your social media engagement. Website building tools are also inexpensive and there is a wealth of free SEO and ASO optimization tutorials available online that can help you upskill. There is also, of course, ASO optimization platforms. It is never too early to research technology platforms that could work for your app – even if your budget is severely constrained. The act of researching your options can give you useful industry knowledge and contacts as well as a better understanding of the value of different approaches. It also lays the foundation for quickly onboarding a solution should your app take off and speedy scaling is needed. And success is ultimately what you should be aiming for. It may seem a tall order to beat out the millions of apps on the market, however, the truth is the vast majority of them won’t have even done half of the most basic things I’ve listed in this article. With hard work, perseverance and a bit of luck, you can give your app the best possible chance of success.

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