Top 10 Tips For App Store Success – Combining PR and Marketing to Get Results

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James Kaye has over 15 years of B2B and B2C marketing experience, 10 of which has been spent working at an international level within the mobile sector.  He is one of the founders and Directors of the specialist PR and marketing agency Dimoso.  Recently, we had a chance to hear him give an incredible talk about how to give your app the best chance of success by combining PR and marketing to deliver results at the First App Promotion Summit, held last Summer in London. James gave a very energetic talk which really showed the breadth and depth of his knowledge of all things app marketing, combined with the traditional insights of an experienced marketer and PR guru.  We are now able to share audio recordings of the talk as well as transcription.  James covered some of the following items:

  • How The ‘App Store Funnel’ Works
  • What The App Store Owners Are Looking For
  • How To Reach  Key Media

We have the audio of “TOP 10 TIPS FOR APP STORE SUCCESS” talk here:

The “TOP 10 TIPS FOR APP STORE SUCCESS” is available below on slideshare:

Here’s the full text of the talk below:

James Kaye: Okay. I’ve got a lot to get through in 15 minutes so it’s a bit of a trek. Very quickly, we’re an integrated PR and marketing agency. I say we’re kind of app launch consultants. It’s encouraging to me already that the three people who’ve preceded me have said a few things that I’m going to say and that’s going to help me get through my slides a bit quicker. So excuse me in advance if there’s a small amount of crossover in anything you’ve heard before.

But as they say, great minds think alike. So I’m going to give a very quick overview of the app stores and from my experiences, give you very surface level top ten things that we talk to people about. And if there are things I can’t go into in more detail, grab me in one of the breaks and I’m happy talk to you about anything you want a bit more.

So, blimey, that’s a lot of apps. We’ve already gone into that, but the app store: 900,000 apps, which is a bewildering amount. It’s heading for a million. That’s iOS, Android is also catching up. We’ve covered that before. Fifty billion apps have been downloaded on iOS and 48 billion on android, so there’s parroting. Android is going to overtake it soon.

And just recent research came out last week from [Junipo], which is quite interesting, saying that there’s going to be a significant rise in app downloads, from 80 billion at the moment to 160 billion in 2017.

Richard, you’ve already covered this, but this is another stat from [Distomo] that came out recently for people who ask me how many apps do they need to get to top 25, top 50. Everyone is always focused on how they’ve reached the top of the charts.

You can see here, and this definitely has a bearing on how much people need to spend on advertising as well, which people are going to cover later today, is how expensive it’s becoming if people want to have a significant chance of getting in the top 25 or top 50. Richard said earlier he’s about 70,000 US visitors per day you need for a free app. And then, for a paid app, it’s about 4,000, so it’s significantly less.

App marketing: where’s the love? And I say that not because I want more work but because app marketing is, unfortunately, an afterthought for many people. It’s not something that people are taking seriously enough. A recent survey by App Flood, who are owned by Papaya Mobile, which is owned by 11,000 developers, ranging from small medium to large, just questioned, “How much budget have you got set aside for app marketing? Do you specialize a PR agency?”

And interestingly enough, 78% had allocated $5,000 or less to marketing. Only 9% of small developers have used a specialist PR agency. Small to medium are 18%, so that’s more. So what are the main challenges facing people at the moment? It’s my favorite quote, “Hope is not strategy.” Unfortunately, in what I do, I see far too much hope. People are saying, “I hope it’s going to do well. I hope people are going to like it. I hope it’s going to succeed.” Hope doesn’t work. That’s why I always say that to people. Sorry if I sound very negative. I don’t want to sound negative, but I have to paint a realistic picture to people.

The odds are against you. Quoting Distimo for the past two weeks, 2% of the top 250 developers on iOS and 3% of the top 250 developers are Android are new. So that shows you the dominance of these established developers and the success they’re having on the app stores. Marketing is still an afterthought, like I said.

The barrier to entry continues rising, in terms of costs and in terms of quality. I’m going to talk a lot about quality today in the short time I’ve got. Consumers are fickle; that goes into what we said earlier. Consumers just rush past; they make very snap judgments on your icon, on your name, on very superficial things. As well as if they recognize it, or they move on and make a decision.

Small developers are lacking core skills. We’re coming up against that a lot now. Without self promoting, I did write an article this week on pocketgamer.biz that you can take a look at. I’ve highlighted the five skills that developers need if they’re going to succeed in app marketing. It’s quite frightening the amount of things developers need to take on if they’re going to succeed.

Lack of app marketing expertise, not that, once again, I do something amazing or black magic, but there’s not a huge amount of people giving good guidance to people. So I’ve got a few resources I’ll point to that will help you out.

Also large companies. I worked at the Daily Mirror for nine months and I worked on their mobile app. And the interesting thing I see with large companies [Inaudible 00:05:00], is that there isn’t one single person in the organization that can actually know what to do and can bring it all together. So you’re seeing they have different agencies, they have an SEO agency, they have a PR agency, they do the submission themselves, and there isn’t that one internal facilitator that, A, knows better practice or, B, knows what can be done to take it forward.

Huge amount of apps appearing all the time and, unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. There’s no secret success here. Nobody here today is going to tell you the secret to success. However, I’m going to zoom through my tips now because I’ve probably got around ten minutes left.

Quality, the number one thing that seems blindingly obvious, but my God, have I seen a lot of bad apps in my time, as well as people have here. I get sent terrible apps to work with and very nice people come to us, but I’m not going to take money off anybody if I think the app hasn’t got a chance at success. It’s an irresponsible thing to do. Anyone in my line of work shouldn’t be doing it. But also, quality is important.

Look at Flurry, here. I don’t know if you can see this, but this is about app retention. This is about your apps percentage of keeping someone over a period of a year, basically. You can see already after month 1, you’re down to 38% of people. So very quickly.

Another trick people are going to talk about today is retaining customers. Benchmarking, already been spoken about today here. I’ve met so many developers that develop in a vacuum. It’s astonishing! I sit in a room of people and I say, “Okay, what about this, this and this,” and the amount of people who don’t know who their competitors are, which seems obvious, but unfortunately, people don’t do it enough.

I have to say these things. Be unique and be different. Once again, it may seem obvious but people don’t do that. That’s tied into benchmarking as well.

Testing and getting feedback: developers are testing in a vacuum. People often don’t give them frank advice, don’t tell them things to be done. Once again, it’s quite hard to get people that can give you constructive criticism for your app. We do that for people. We give them pages and pages of things they should be doing, but that’s something else.

You’ve got to stand out in order to secure reviews. I’ll cover media later. Customers can smell a rat. We’re in a reviews-led culture here. Ultimately, you live or die by your review score on the app store. It’s what people are saying about you. If you’re bad, and you pay your way to the top of the app store, you’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. All your doing is your engineering your own downfall. You’re going to zoom to the top, get loads of one-star reviews, people are going to say you’re terrible and you’re going to sink back down again.

So that’s why quality must reign at all times. Customers are savvy; they know good from bad. Apple and Google, I’ll talk about them in a minute. They love quality and polish. Apple and Google, that’s what they’re looking for. I’ll address that in a minute in a slide.

Tip two, very quickly: have a strategy. Once again, I deal with too many people who don’t have a strategy. I’ve thrown loads of questions up there. I’ve got loads more. But write yourself a checklist. What is my app doing? What’s my launch plan? What’s my post-launch plan?

Too many people are focused on the initial spike, or the initial launch, and not enough people really give thought to the fact that there’s a long tail. This is a long game. I don’t like to use the marathon-sprint argument, but it’s very much the case. Especially freemium, so many people are asking “What features are you adding?” “I don’t know, really.” People don’t know. It’s quite shocking. It may seem obvious, once again.

App store funnel, I’ve gone through this before with the ASO and the conversion. When I work with customers, we imagine you’re taking the customer through a series of gateways. You’re basically leading them through a series of decisions that result in download. Once they’re inside the app it’s slightly different. That’s, “Okay, how am I going to get them to spend money?”

As far as we’re concerned, it’s about the user reading or hearing about your app. Then they’re going to search for your app on the app store, potentially they’ll search for something with a key word that you’re going to appear in.

ASO has already been spoken about here. That’s using keywords, tools that I’ll address in another slide. Then your app turns up in search. Great. Then, once again, it’s been covered here so I won’t get into too much depth, user [00:09:10]. Very superficial. What’s the name, maybe what it does, what are the reviews, does it look any good? How good is the icon?

Once again, very, very snap decisions customers are making. The interests, they click on the app for more, they read descriptions, browse screenshots and hopefully you get some results with download.

First impressions count, once again, being alluded to today, but I’m pleased that everyone is hammering these points home because people don’t always think about them, or don’t have the ability. Customers make snap decisions, I’ve already said. Good screenshots.

Videos are very important. Video, you said earlier, was good for the metadata inside Android, but it’s incredibly important for reviews and the media we deal with. And I’ll talk about that in a second as well.

Icon, we spend a lot of time with customers going through iterations of their icon and at the end, I’ll show you some resources where I’ve got links to some really fantastic best practice app icons.

The name: the name should be clear. There are several arguments here: should the name be really cool and snappy and different and unique? Yes, in ways. Apparently, they make quite a good job of it, having a name that didn’t necessarily immediately relate to what they do. But we tend to say to people, “Try to have your name give an indication of what the app does to someone. They’re just scanning and they’ll make a snap judgment.”

It’s hard to read this, but this is from Barbara Holbroook, who’s editor in chief at AppCraver. This is about videos. I always use this quote. It says, “It’s unfortunate, but I don’t have enough time to download and test every app that comes out. A video takes just seconds to watch and can be the difference to whether an app gets a longer look.”

That for the media, but it equally applies to the customer as well. Video is definitely one of, if not the most important tools for securing views and for securing customer downloads.

Also, here is just from Interbrand, going back to names here. Some of you can’t see it. It says, “The bottom line: imperfect app names force shoppers to work harder, and that will mean fewer downloads. For all the time you put into developing an app, isn’t the name is worth the added effort?”

Halfway through, but I’ll zoom up. Understand what makes the app store owners tick. We talk to app developers and Google. There aren’t huge secrets here. It really goes back to quality. Even if you’re a big brand, if the app is crap, they’re not going to bother with it. But they do have some slightly different motivations, I’ve seen.

Apple sells hardware. Apple in the business of moving hardware and this means that they want your app, by and large to showcase the talents of their device: the retina display, the game center, the capabilities of the hardware. That’s something that turns Apple on quite a lot.

Apple are king-makers. What I meant by that is Apple, you’ll go them, they’ll say, “Yeah, that looks great. We’ll feature it. We’ll take a bet on it.” They will make your app, or they will help boost your app up front at the initial launch stage. Apple likes accessibility, including multiple languages.

Google can’t stand lazy iOS ports, their very rankled back buttons, all the rest of it. Don’t make Google feel like they’re second best. Google will measure it. I think Google generally likes you to refine your app, and then they like you to see your average reviews and scores, and then come back and see whether it’s going to be featured.

Amazon: new and emerging, but the devices are not as powerful. Obviously, with the accessibility of the 7-inch form factor, and cheaper devices, they’re is a huge flood of new people coming into the app stores. But these devices are not as powerful. So there’s an opportunity there.

Don’t forget Samsung. Samsung embeds the app store on every single device that ships. Build a relationship with Samsung. They’re worth talking to. As such, I’m not going to go through it now. Get to grips with it. There are tools out there on the market. We do ASO for people as well. Certainly people like search, man, app codes. You do have to invest time in it. It is a bit of an art. It’s quite technical and mathematical. I would say you need to know what you’re doing and get someone who knows what they’re doing.

Spread the word. This is the media side of things. This is about 50% of our time, we deal with. We deal a lot with the optimization aspect, getting the app to the store, getting in a good position. Then it comes to launching. What are things you’ve got to do to get a good launch?

One, have a media plan. Obviously, if you work with an agency like us, we create the plan. But that’s targeting your media, who you’re going to speak to, what you’re going to say to those people that is very important and very precise.

Get your timing right. What I mean by that is this is really an iOS thing. So many people with the media want to get it reviewed and their app will be approved by Apple and just go live. “Oh, I didn’t realize.” You don’t have to make your app live immediately. Part of the whole media process is setting your app to go live at a date much farther in the future, get approved, and then you just make it live on the day you want to, so you can control that. You get allocated promo codes and you can give those promo codes out to the media.

Also, if you’re going to have promo codes in the media, do not draw down all 50 of your promo codes at once. Only do them on a case by case basis. Otherwise you’re just going to waste them all.

Be clear and concise, to the point. If you communicate to Apple, if you communicate to the media, you’ve got two to three lines to tell them what your app does. That’s all. Don’t waffle, don’t talk rubbish, just tell them very clearly what it does and why your app is the best. Then they’ll take notice, hopefully.

Build a list of your target media. We’ve got a list of 800 media we speak to and reach out to on our list. And then there’s a smaller core and then we build lots of different verticals. There are parent bloggers, mommy bloggers, tech sites, sports journalists. It really depends on what your app does.

Understand the media. Understand the fact that what they’re looking for is for you to be concise with them. They’re not going to come back to you, necessarily. Do not bug them. Do not drive them crazy. Every day some of the top sites they get 150 requests to review their app. Don’t drive them nuts; they hate it. If they’re going to review you, if they’re interested, you will hear back. There are little ways you can bug them. I won’t go into them, but if you want, ask me in the break. I’ll be happy to tell you.

There are no guarantees in the media, I’d love to tell you to get best friends with them, but go on. If your app is good and unique and you’ve got a gut feeling chance it’s going to get covered, you’re at the mercy of them. There’s no secret, magic way to get reviews.

You can go onto forums, such as TouchArcade. If you’ve got a game, there are ways you can help spread the word yourself.

Brands: it goes back to what I said earlier, if you’re a brand in the room and you’re launching an app, you’ve got your own touch point. You should exhaustively be analyzing, “What’s every single touch point I’ve got with the customer, and how do I use it?” Whether it’s point of sale, your website, newsletters, whatever it is. It’s important you do that as a brand. Brands, once again, don’t always do that.

App store editorial support is the Holy Grail. It’s even been said before. But very view people get it, and it’s very hard. They are no guarantees. If you submit to Apple, chances are that you won’t hear back from them and you’ll go back there Thursday and you’ll suddenly see your app appearing in New and Noteworthy. If you get featured in Editors Choice, which is an absolute dream, they’ll ask you for artwork before hand. That gives you an indicator. But that’s very unusual.

Very quickly on this: websites are still great. Don’t ignore websites; they’re great for SEOs as well. A lot of people just focus on the app store. You can integrate your website, videos, and social media, along with links to reviews.

YouTube is really important. The second biggest search engine in the world. Don’t forget that. Video is very powerful. You can use YouTube in itself as an SEO tool. Also, linking back with an Android has been spoken about already.

Social media. I can talk about social media at length, but once again, people are getting very sophisticated in terms of management, analytics. That’s something else that you can do yourself but its not that cap that developers are having to wear.

Number eight: mobile advertising is going to be covered a lot today, so I’m not going to go into depth. But, largely, things I say to clients about mobile advertising: one, there is a ridiculous amount of networks and acquisition methods. James, I had your diagram on here that you put out a few months ago on the map of all the mobile ad networks, which is bewildering. You can get that from Mobi affiliates.

CPA, cost per download, real time bidding that’s coming, blind networks, premium networks. It’s bewildering for the average developer. Only really works for freemium. If you’re looking for ROI, if you’re looking to make money back, which many people are, unless it’s a brand awareness app or utility app. It generally doesn’t work for freemium apps. Don’t try this at home, I say this to people.

If you can, use a planning and buying agency. There are specialist agencies out there. MCSearch Mobile, SOMO, Fetch, I’m just talking about the guys in London. But they do manage the campaigns for you because it’s becoming so horribly complicated.

Product has got to be good. Once again, if it’s crap you’ll get all the downloads in the world, but you’re going to lose customers quickly. Prepare to spend big. Unfortunately, that dovetails into what I said earlier. Seventy-five thousand downloads a day equates to about $1 to $3 in customer acquisition costs. You can do the math in your head. It’s a frightening amount of money people have to spend to get themselves up in the charts.

Being in it for the long game, I’ve said already. Testing, tweaking are very important. Understanding your numbers: analytics, customer insight metrics. It’s not the hat developers are having to wear. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for them. They just want to focus on making good apps, good games or whatever it is. Then someone is saying to them, “Actually, you’ve got to be really good at analytics.”

Last two. Get cross promoting. If you’ve got a lot of apps out there, use your apps to cross promote other apps. Story Toys, which you can’t see very well, are great guys. These guys do kids books. They are fantastic, creating app store within their app, which doesn’t contravene Apple guidelines, by the way.

And very cleverly, although this may disappear with iOS 7, whenever they have a new app out, they update all their existing apps and use the message to tell everybody about the new app that’s out there. They use the update mechanism as a marketing tool.

Finally, tip ten: Knowledge is power. This goes into Richard earlier. You can see here, tracking app performance is absolutely key, we always say to people. I’m shocked by how many people don’t put in-app analytic, like Flurry, into their apps. But, really, just going through here, Flurry or something like it, will look at what’s going on inside your apps, if you haven’t used it. And then App Annie, Disto and App Figures, you’re tracking what’s going on in the app stores.

So inside and outside your app, you should have a very clear view of what’s happening, [Inaudible 00:19:10] and other things. And that’s going to be determinant for lifetime value.

And then Google alerts track media coverage. I’ve overshot my time. But, very quickly, what does this mean? Quality. Sorry to sound boring. Hopefully, other people will say that today. If you’ve got a successful app in this room, I’m pretty damn sure your app is a very good one and it’s a very quality app. Customers know good from bad. The bar is rising, like I’ve said, in terms of quality and in terms of cost, including engaging specialists, in terms of agencies or advertising budgets.

App promotions are an evolving art, not a dark art. There are some nuances. Hopefully the things I’ve highlighted today will show you the areas of consideration that people have to undertake if they’re going to have success in the app store. First impressions count. Brands have the advantage of existing channels that should be utilized. Brands, one again, milk your existing channels. You do not have to spend a lot of money. You’ve got customers already.

Being in it for the long haul, like I’ve said, don’t be in it for the initial spike. Work with experts. It sounds like I’m trying to get myself work but I’m not. Whether you’re for ASO, PR, media planning, or buying, there are people out there that will deal with different parts of press to make your app a success. Certainly with small or medium developers, it’s increasingly hard to do it themselves. Unfortunately, there’s no one solution for success or magic bullet, like I said earlier.

Finally if you want more of what I’ve said today, on Flipboard I’ve created the ultimate app marketing resource guide. You an subscribe to it. That’s all the links I’ve taken for the last 2 years that I’ve loved. Everything from app icon design, to other stuff, you can go read that. That’s other people’s stuff. If you want to be featured in that come speak to me, send me an email. I’ll gladly link you to an article. Almost done.

I’ve written the top ten tips for marketing your app on Glossy. Go to Glossy.com and you can see a lot of what I’ve said today. Thank you. I’m sorry I’ve overshot my time. Grab me in the coffee break. Thank you.

You can find more coverage of App Promotion Summit here